With 2 weeks left of this incredible journey, here’s a look at some of our experiences this summer.
With 2 weeks left of this incredible journey, here’s a look at some of our experiences this summer.
Megan: “Today we’re going to have you each come up to the tree one-by-one and press your fingers into the ink pad before putting your finger prints on the tree. Your finger prints will cover the tree to make the leaves. Each of our finger prints is different. Not one is alike. Just like each one of you is completely unique, but together you each make up an important part of your school. What would a tree be without it’s leaves? What would St. Martin’s be without you?”
Translator: “Hmm. Each finger print is different? Oh yes. Well, I don’t think these children have ever seen their finger prints before but now they will! (continued translation)”
Me (in my head): “…What? They’ve never seen their finger print before?!”
And you could tell. Each kid came up and very carefully and delicately put their fingers on the ink pad, usually forgetting which one they had already stamped. They looked at their hands in wonder and gently one-by-one the bare tree on the sheet of paper became full of red and blue leaves (hey, it’s the only colors we had). It was an incredible time for many reasons. One, because these kids don’t feel like an important part of their school or important in general. But for one hour a week they get to be the center of attention and today they learned that God made each one of them completely different and unique. Two, because watching kids see their finger print for the first time at 9-14 years old is mind blowing and three, because it was pouring rain and so we got to use a classroom (I had never been in a Ugandan classroom before).
“For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body,and each member belongs to all the others.6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.” Romans 12:4-6 (NIV)
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.” Psalm 139: 13-14 (NIV)
“I have often said that man’s unhappiness springs from one thing alone, his incapacity to stay quietly in one room. Imprisonment is such a horrific punishment. That is why the pleasure of being alone is incomprehensible.”- Blaise Pascal
Like clockwork, I woke up at 6:30 this morning. I will be the only one awake (with the exception of Charles, the faithful gate keeper) for the next two hours. I don’t mind this quiet time to myself as the sun comes up. It gives me time to read, write, and pray. It is also the only time I will have to myself for the rest of the day. At home I don’t get up in the morning and have two hours of complete aloneness and silence. So, I’ve been learning a lot during the past seven weeks of this. Things like…
“This was my moment to look for the kind of healing and peace that can only come from solitude.” Eat, Pray, Love
Today Megan and I sat in Simprosa’s tiny sewing workshop and started an art therapy session with her and three women she employs. I played some music off my iPhone and they went to town creating their “life lines”. This is a great first day exercise because it allows Megan and I to see what seasons or events each girl considers important in her own life, where her life has been, and where she sees it going.
I like going out to the schools and working with kids, but there’s something really nice about sitting face to face, undistracted, with a few women. I found myself savoring it. Soaking in every word off their lips and emotion to come across their faces. Observing the scars on their bodies. A bullet wound on Christine’s leg, the knife cut across Judith’s eyebrow, the burns on Jackie’s arms. There was something really special about this day for me. It was the first day I felt like I was doing what my heart really longed to do.
We each took a turn sharing, which if you grow up a middle-class American, is like preparing yourself for a big slap across the face. When you ramble off a few white girl issues and then hear four stories of incomprehensible pain and suffering (although there was one short, isolated line in Christine’s drawing that represented a brief period of happiness in her life) you wish that you had just bit your tongue.
Christine was abducted by the LRA when she was 8 years old. She lived in the bush most of her life and gave birth to two children there. She was shot in the leg during her first pregnancy. She has no parents. She has no husband. She and her children live in town with some friends but she said she feels stranded in Gulu. She works at Simprosa’s trying to make enough money to pay for her children’s school fees and she feels strange and insecure sending her children to school when she has never been educated herself.
Jackie and her father (who died) were abducted when she was 12 years old. She was given to a soldier to be his wife. She gave birth to a child in the bush. She drew a picture of herself climbing up mountains with a baby on her back. She and her husband escaped and lived together for a while but he left her and the baby, so now she lives with her mother. She leaves her mother’s house at 6 in the morning and bikes to work, which is a 3-4 hour commute each way!
Judith was abducted when she was 14 years old. She was in the bush for 5 years before she and three other girls escaped. Her commanding officer would pray with them and told them that if they ever wanted to escape they would have to surrender everything to God. When she decided to escape she was in Sudan and walked for two weeks to reach Uganda. Life was extremely difficult when she returned for she was now 19 with little education and no family to return to. She was feeling suicidal and received counseling from an NGO in Gulu, which helped her find hope and a purpose. She wants to help counsel other people. For a season life got better, she married and had babies. She found herself being taken care of, but then her husband was arrested and now life is a struggle again. But Judith said she continues to surrender everything to God and seeks His provision each day.
I brought into discussion how God never promises to save us from suffering, but He does save us through suffering. He refines us, making us new, if we let Him. They aren’t alone in the things they’ve experienced and God will use them to help other people who are enduring the same thing. It’s not easy to reflect on lives that have been full of pain. God never intended or wanted them to face abduction, rape, death, or poverty but there is a lot of evil in the world and horrible things happen to good people. I encouraged them to continue surrendering their daily struggles to God because He says that his plans for us are good ones: plans of prosperity, hope, and restoration. But yeah..so, these are the ladies I’ll be hanging with every Monday morning. If you pray, you can pray that Megan and I lead them well and that God speaks through us. You can pray that the activities we do will be beneficial in their healing processes and that they just feel free to let go and have fun (which is extremely important and is best for the soul, in my opinion).
I have a million thoughts and feelings. My head and heart are so full they might explode. Life is so hot and cold here. I’m either running around like crazy or embracing silence and solitude. I’m either on top of the world from an awesome day of work or I’m having a mental breakdown. I’m either I’m stuffing my face with fried French toast or eating one scoop of rice and making friends with the growly creature in my stomach. I’m either feeling in love with this place (particularly during boda rides out to the village) or counting down the days until I’m home.
BUT I wouldn’t change it for the world! I’m learning and growing more than I thought possible. I can’t wait to see how life continues to change and be effected by the things I’ve seen and people I’ve met here in Uganda when I’m back in Des Moines, Iowa, USA. God is so good. All the glory and power to Him forever and ever.
Hello friends, family, people of central Iowa, acquaintances, bargain busters, etc.
We are having a garage sale to raise $$$ for our journey to Uganda and we need YOUR help. I know you are all dying to know how you can be active participants, so here are the important details:
Whatever doesn’t sell will be donated to Joppa or Goodwill unless other arrangements are made.
Thank you SO SO much for supporting us in this exciting adventure. Our appreciation is truly unending!
If you need to reach us:
We can’t wait to meet these beautiful ladies!
Within the next week or so, we will officially be half way to meeting our goal! And what a convenient time for this Kony Campaign to blow up. Now everyone knows what we are talking about! If you are interested in supporting our work in Uganda you can send a tax deductible donation made out to Child Voice International to the following address:
Clayton and Taylor Boeyink
2901 Ingersoll Ave. Apt 10
Des Moines, IA 50312
Child Voice International
PO Box 579
Durham, NH 03824
Just make sure to include our names somewhere!
Other ways you can participate:
–Garage Sale Fundraiser! If you have items you would like to donate to this (it will be in April) please contact us at 515-864-8855.
–Art Supply Drive: Starting March 26th, boxes will be set around Grand View’s campus for students and faculty to drop in new or used art supplies for me to take to Uganda and use for the art therapy sessions and leave there for the girls to use. If you are not a student, but would like to donate feel free to contact us at 515-864-8855!
*Also, if you read my last post, please check out Invisible Children’s website for their Critique page. They answer a lot of questions many of you (obviously, myself included) have.
The night of March 5th I watched the Kony 2012 video launched by Invisible Children. I had seen much of the footage before. The LRA and child soldiers are not new news to me. This is something I have been heartbroken over for quite awhile (thus the reason our summer will be spent in Uganda this year) and the fact this war has been going on for as long as I have been alive astonishes me. The video is inspiring. It’s objective is to get young people rah-rah about this cause and it does an excellent job at doing just that. Do I believe that youth around the world can accomplish their “task” to make Joseph Kony a household name and get policy makers to pay more attention to what is happening in central Africa? You bet I do. Kony and the LRA need to be finished once and for all. I am in total agreement with that. I have always been a fan of Invisible Children. I have a sticker on my laptop to prove it. However, as someone who sees herself potentially living in Africa someday and married to a guy who lives and breathes Africa-anything, I had to listen to those who were in opposition to Invisible Children’s movement. And I have to say, there are some really convicting points that humbled me and need to be brought to light.
I believe that Invisible Children is well-intentioned and frankly, I would be more upset if I had watched their documentary years ago and found that they had done nothing despite all they had seen and experienced in Uganda. I am all for drawing attention to the LRA and letting policy makers know we care and don’t want to stand idly by any longer. But here is why I am weary of IC’s strategy:
Oversimplifying the issue: in the video, the founder of IC tells his young son that Kony is a bad guy and he must go. Daddy will work on making sure he is caught. He states, “if we succeed, we change the course of human history.” Such a humble undertaking! Simply, a long socioeconomic and political conflict that has lasted 25+ years and engaged multiple states and actors has been reduced to a story of the good vs bad guy. And if a three-year-old can understand it, so can you. You don’t have to learn anything about the children, Uganda, or Africa. You just have to make calls, put up flyers, sings songs, and you will liberate a poor, forgotten, and invisible people (http://innovateafrica.tumblr.com/). Kony may be the top dog, but he is not alone. Al-Quaeda didn’t stop operating at the death of Bin Laden. Even if all these child soldiers, many of whom are now adults, are freed, I highly doubt they will be innocent angels who will go back to school, settle down and have families. They have been killing, maiming, raping, taking drugs, etc. They are going to have severe mental and developmental issues. They can’t just go back into their communities. Even once Kony is gone, there will still be a huge mess. The awareness of the LRA and the killing of Kony won’t bring healing or sustainability to individuals and communities.
Here come the white people to save us: Again, I would like to state that IC is well-intentioned and so are the people who purchase their posters and t-shirts and stand up for this cause. However, it does have a very Messianic, white-saviour undertone to it all. If Joseph Kony is captured it will be like “YAY! WEdid it! Look at what we did for these people. We changed their lives for them. Thanks Angelina Jolie for your celebrity endorsement!” (Should we really be focusing on celebrities and trendiness over intelligent analysis?)
“I will do anything I can do stop him,” says the founder of Invisible Children to Jacob. WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING OR PEOPLE WILL KEEP DYING! I have totally said this and felt this way. The instinct we have as Westerners to use our resources to help others is a good one. But should we really “do something” without understanding the conflict inside and out? The risk of doing more harm than good is often too high. What if we partnered with the people the conflict actually affects? Where in the video are the Ugandan agencies at work? Where in the video is Jacob’s perspective? Do you think Jacob was ever told that he has strength to overcome his own past and help his people? Or did he need these nice white guys he met to solve his problems for him? What if the founder of IC had just been a listening ear with Jacob in that intense moment where he describes the killing of his brother? He may have been inspired to do something, but nothing that he or his organization can ever do will help Jacob (and kids like him) heal from his experiences . That may sound harsh and even cynically cruel to some, but I think it’s important to recognize that true compassion occurs when we don’t fight or dismiss sadness. I understand that when my friend tells me about something horrible she experienced, I don’t take her problem and try to fix it for her. I encourage her. I love her. I become her number one fan. I don’t fight her battles for her. Wouldn’t that take away her dignity? How is this any different? Well, as Americans we have more resources and money to help! This might be true but…
Where are their homies at?: Invisible Children’s US staff is comprised exclusively of Americans, as is the entire Board. How do you represent Uganda (which isn’t even currently terrorized by the LRA anymore since they’ve moved westward, by the way!) and not have Ugandans in leadership? Couldn’t the organization find a single Ugandan? An African? Did it even think about that? I understand that IC’s main audience is American and its focus is on American action. However, when your work and consequence affect a different group of people than your target audience, you must make it a priority to engage the voices of the affected population in a real and meaningful way (http://innovateafrica.tumblr.com/). I am sure there are society leaders in Africa who have opinions and ideas on how to solve the issues at hand. Everyone in Africa knows about Joseph Kony and the children in his army are certainly not invisible to them. While many Africans can’t gain access to platforms through which to speak to those in power,there is a big difference between claiming to speak for someone “without a voice” and standing alongside those who want to change their own communities. So is IC focused on advocating for Ugandan children or advocating for how they feel about Ugandan children?
I think that Americans have a role to play in this issue and apparently that time is now (10 to 20-ish years late). Invisible Children is getting overwhelmed with support and it isn’t a bad thing but I wish we could let go of the “owner/diver” mentality behind this and instead have a “partner/ally” mentality. Africans raise your voice! Don’t let us drown it out.
**Aaaand if you want to support me financially as I spend the summer doing art therapy workshops in Uganda with formerly abducted ladies, I’d be ever so grateful to you for the opportunity to partner with those beautiful women as they work to heal, build confidence, and prepare to go back to their communities!
With 10 weeks left until we head out we have $6,800 to go! Please consider donating and stay tuned for information on some fundraisers we will be putting on!
The area of northern Uganda, especially the area in which we will be working, is home to the worst LRA attacks in history. Some of you may not know or know little about the LRA. For those who are interested in knowing more, this video created by Invisible Children gives a brief overview of the LRA’s history. I encourage you all to watch it. After all, the LRA is the whole reason behind why we are going. It’s leaders are still active, the majority of it’s “troops” remain abducted children and the members who have returned or escaped need a lot of help…and hope.