Gulu ~ Uganda

After first learning of their plight in 1997, I was privileged a few years later to visit some of the most abused, forgotten, desperate people in the world. I believed there was no future for them unless God provided a miracle. God’s mercy was revealed in the most impossible of circumstances.
Joseph Kony, kingpin and proclaimed spirit medium of the deceptively named Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has led a rebellion against the Ugandan government since 1987, sweeping into villages, kidnapping children and forcing them to become child soldiers. He twisted Scriptures in an attempt to validate his rebellion which served to drive those devastated further away from the Lord Jesus Christ who we know to be compassionate and loving.  I prayed if there be any way I could be used to bring the His truth to any of these broken children to offer them hope and to know of the love of our great and just God that He would show me.  Ten years after praying that prayer, He did
Gulu District is one district in northern Uganda where, tragically thousands of children were raped, tortured, burned, mutilated, kidnapped, massacred, enslaved and forced to become child soldiers. Many other human rights violations during the many years of the LRAs existence were inflicted upon them.   Children were forced to kill family members and neighbors and were then offered the “choice” to become child soldiers or die.  
Finally, in July 2007, tenuous peace negotiations began between the LRA and the government, allowing them to return home, some of these former soldiers were now young adults. At the time of my visit they were just returning to their villages to try to rebuild their lives in their home villages after a childhood lost. 
The Ugandan government had formed Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps along main roads throughout the northern districts. The military was better able to protect the population from residual LRA attacks in these camps more successfully than if returnees lived in their ancestral villages scattered throughout the bush country. There were 53 IDP camps in Gulu with each representing about 10 villages. Typical housing in an IDP camp consists of a mud hut with dirt floors, a thatched roof and almost nothing inside, also the staple design for most villages in Gulu.
Most of the child soldiers are now grown with children of their own. Most have no education or job skills. It was my heart’s desire to work through In His Grace Ministries (IHGM) to help equip them with supplies to begin their lives anew and with their own Bibles wherein they can learn that God rescues the poor from those too strong for them (Psalm 35:10), and nothing can separate them from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 8:39) As they travel throughout Gulu making their way home, the Word of God with its message of love, hope and healing in Christ will go with them spreading the good news even further.
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me
to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken hearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison
to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...”
Isaiah 61:1-2a NKJ V
The above verse in Isaiah came to me three times in the same week.  The third was spoken by Ugandan Pastor Stephen Kibirango, speaking at a fundraising dinner for Children’s Heritage Foundation (CHF) to open opportunities to help with the needs of thousands of orphans inUganda
My friends, John and Suzi Kenyon, founders of CHF partnered with Pastor Stephen who ran a school in central Uganda, which housed several hundred orphans as well as facilitated education for the local community.  This school is home to many children who have lost their parents mostly to AIDS and malaria. 
After hearing the verse I knew the Lord was directing me to go. Arraignments were made for me to stay with Pastor and his wife and then travel to Gulu in the north seeking pastors who minister to the orphans of the LRA, endeavoring to find ways to assist them on a long-term basis.
The spiritual oppression seemed palpable when our team of four arrived.  The following day we visited one of the 53 IDP camps.  We saw many adults who walked several miles each day to their former villages to work their fields and then return to the camp at night for protection.  In doing this it was necessary for them to leave their small children behind during this time. 
I saw babies taking care of babies.  One small girl three, perhaps four years old, had an infant tied on her back with a makeshift cloth that wound over the baby and around the front of the girl and there tied to hold the baby securely.  The baby was crying, but there was little the girl could do; she was taking care of her sister to the best of her ability.  Older children, perhaps seven to eight years old were watching over them.  About 85% of the adults were gone, the rest were at market beside the camp where they would sell their vegetables, sugar cane, fish, and clothing.
As I watched the children I prayed the Lord would provide a porridge program and proper care from qualified adults. Perhaps one of the mothers could be paid to stay in the camp and make and serve the porridge, ensuring the children would have at least one meal during the day.  Perhaps another mother could work as a day care provider in lieu of going to the fields, relieving four-year-olds of this job.  Funding these positions would be temporary since the IDP camp residents would hopefully be returning to their villages within a few years.  A pastor from the church within the IDP camp planned to look into these possibilities, but the needs of his congregation are equally as great with hunger and health issues.  Yet here the residents still find hope in Christ.
We continued our camp tour where I met a young woman.  She looked at me with hopeless eyes as she held her infant daughter.  She had another daughter somewhere else around the camp.  This young mother had been abducted years before and forced to marry one of the LRA guerrillas (undoubtedly abducted himself some time prior).  They had had two children, but now he was dead and her future was dismal.
Pastor Stephen Kibirango made arrangements to have the older daughter, and other children to come and stay at Victor’s Junior Christian School (VJCS) that he directs through True Vine Christian Ministries, International in Mukono, which is east ofKampala.  Through True Vine Christian Ministries in conjuction with CHF, IHGM supports two children on a monthly basis.  One, a bright girl from Gulu whose parents are too poor to care for her and the other a charming boy from Mukono who lost his parents to HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Plans were made to facilitate humanitarian aid through a shipping cargo container full of donated items. How
ever, after much planning and preparing, and as the time drew near to ship some of the final elements simply would not come together. We realized the Lord was leading elsewhere with the funds gained in this. The Lord was going to answer my prayer and get His word to these people. Bibles would enable the pastors to teach the people as they return to their villages and God would give them new hope. He would empower them through His Holy Spirit. Christ renews and rebuilds lives. 
IHGM has distributed over 2,500 Bibles in several languages in 11 countries. We have also had the blessing of teaching at the National Women's Conferences in Lira and Soroti as well as seminars in Gulu, Lugazi and Mukono. The inexpressible joy of the people drawing nearer to God is overwhelming. We knew this was what the Lord had planned all along. It is the word of God that will transform lives and give hope. These dear people had lived through horrors and saw evil face to face. They knew the wickedness of man’s heart to a degree many of us will never know. They knew there was a God who brought them through and they wanted to know Him. He would provide their needs. They needed His word.  He provided and is providing.