As we drove down the narrow dirt “road” the vehicle heaved and hopped over the ruts perhaps begging us not to push it any further. While rains helped to keep the dust at bay, they also served to create ruts and pot holes that proved a challenge for our Toyota Noah MPV. I was mesmerized by the surrounding bush lands dotted by small to medium-sized trees, bushes and tall grasses of this part of Uganda. I couldn’t help but wonder what this land was like 15 or 20 years ago.
This was the ground-zero launching point for a man named Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. They ranged and raged through the Northern part of Uganda making their sinister raids on villages. Thatched-roofed huts were burned, women were raped, and children were forced to kill or maim their own parents. Kony’s army consisted of child-soldiers who were forged in the fires of their own villages and anesthetized by the killing. It’s been reported that there are hundreds of unmarked mass graves in the landscape of Kitgum.
In order to save their lives, the people fled their homes and populated a small camp nearby. Thousands fled to that little camp. Childless mothers and orphaned children stained with anguish tried to make a life in the camp. Fathers with mutilated limbs and crushed hearts turned to the local mubisi (banana alcohol) to numb the pain.
Kony was pushed out of the region (some think he’s still alive perhaps in South Sudan or Congo or C.A.R) and the people in the camp began to repopulate their abandoned villages. Drunkenness was the order of the day together with not-so-pent-up anger that often found release within the home. Even today, some claim that Uganda is “the drunkest place on earth”. The men who remained took their choice of as many “wives” as they wanted.
My mind was snapped from it’s wondering about the past as we arrived at a neat little clearing in the middle of bush. It was teeming with people and these people were dressed smartly in bright colors and they were dancing and singing. The women were waving white handkerchiefs and raising their voices in the high and piercing song of rejoicing common to their culture. They smiled. The children cautiously approached us with extended hands and kneeling as a sign of respect. You can still see the visible marks of the pain and suffering of the past as they are carried around in some of the scared bodies of those who’ve returned home to start their lives again. But that’s not the prime memory today. Today these people are remembering that four years ago on this weekend Good News reigned in this place. You see, today is a day of celebration. Four years ago they heard and believed the Gospel.
Here, in the midst of this land of death and despair, drunkenness and debauchery, there is a thriving local church. Many have been spiritually born again and are alive in a way that they’ve never known. Peter, one of the men serving as an elder now testified that he used to be a drunk…so much so that he couldn’t keep clothes on because he was so skinny they’d just fall off. His wife quickly added that he used to abuse her and neglect his children. They sat there together and rejoiced as they listened to the teaching of God’s Word.
I don’t mean to make it sound like everything is perfect here. It’s not. There is poverty. There are all kinds of expressions of evil. Even this weekend that was marked by so much celebration saw people come who appeared to be under the domination of the devil in demon-possession. But there is hope where there was none. There is life where death reigned.
And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Cor. 6:11).
Some of you have supported the work of Spread of Grace Ministries around the world, and I am really very grateful. There is still much to do including here in Kitgum-Matididi. We would like to open a training institute in Kitgum. That can be started for $10,000 which will include training and resources such as The MacArthur Study Bible, MacArthur Systematic Theology, etc for students. If you are willing to underwrite the work of SGM in Kitgum-Matididi, please visit Spreadofgrace.org to find out how!
You can read this report about the horrors under Kony here
Here is the account of child soldier in the LRA