Okay, be warned: this is a long blog post. But, hey. You're probably on Christmas break anyway. And, you could just as easily spend the next few minutes of your life watching nothing on TV. So, set your DVR and get comfy.
Many know that when I began Sweet Sleep I was working for Nashville’s then mayor, Bill Purcell. I loved my job because of the people I worked with and also because of the respect I had for my boss, Mr. Mayor. I was keen on my job for another reason: it was where the power of the people came to a climax; it was where the action was. If something was happening in the city, I had the opportunity to hear about it early on. Granted, I’m sure I was clueless of what went on behind all the closed doors, but being the people watcher that I am, I at least felt like I had the inside pulse of big issues effecting the city.
I liked the knowledge of all this so much that I entertained ideas of how I could continue the behind the scenes politics once the Mayor’s second term ended. That was, at least, until I went to Moldova and saw, firsthand, the behind the scenes of what was happening in the world. It changed my life forever.
As God began to mold my life in a new direction, I found myself soaking up information on international issues concerning human beings, especially the littlest ones. I remember talking to my well educated friends about sex-trafficking and then having them come back to me months, even years later, saying, “Hey, aren’t you the one who was telling me about trafficking? I just read something about this. I had no idea this was happening…”
Some may find this statement shocking while others will nod in agreement. Over the years, as I’ve shared what I know about the sufferings of children—of orphans in particular, I know, I understand, many haven’t really heard anything I’ve said. That’s not at all an indictment. It’s just what happens when a person hears about something so terrible, so inhumane, that they literally just don’t know how to process the information. My feeling is that most of us, myself included, live in a bubble with no idea of what is happening to the world outside. And how could we? In a nation where a boy who flies off in a foil balloon (or doesn’t) makes headlines for weeks, how can we possibly begin to know what “real” news might be?
I say all of this because of what I’ve learned and experienced over the last nine months. Earlier this year Sweet Sleep was told about an emergency need for beds/bedding for some children in the northern Uganda region of Gulu. These were children who were the victims of a war which had endured their entire lifetimes. Commonly referred to as “night commuters”, “child soldiers” or “invisible children”. Night commuters because they left their villages each day at dusk to walk miles to a location which could help keep them “safe” from the rebels. Child soldiers because those children whose villages were attacked at night were forced to kill or be killed and then abducted by the rebels and trained to become child soldiers in their army called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Invisible children because to most of the world, these children are in fact, invisible.
I knew this horror existed because years ago somebody told this “well educated” girl about their plight; yet I was unable to grasp the situation. Perhaps it was because it was happening so far away and I didn’t know what to do or because it was the first time I’d heard about such a thing or perhaps maybe even because my life was too busy. However, this story caught up with me earlier this year as I sat in a screening of a new documentary telling about the war and the current situation of Africa’s longest running war. I was shocked at my own lack of awareness. It was March 2009 and I was just learning that the LRA had walked away from peace talks in April 2008 with the possibility of leaving Uganda, but also with the promise of “shocking the world with the amount of blood that would be shed.” As I continued to sit in my seat, barely breathing, my little eyeballs tried to tell my stunned brain of how the LRA kept its word. On December 25, 2008 the LRA viciously attacked a village in the Congo; killing at will and abducting whatever child or strong, healthy man they chose to.
That night was the beginning of God showing me more of His plan for our ministry. In the months which have followed I’ve been trying to educate myself on this senseless war. I’ve spoken to so many who, like me, have no idea what I’m talking of and I’m sure, have walked away without any real sense of what they’ve heard.
This afternoon, while resting in my room in Gulu, Uganda, I finished reading the most informative, insightful book I’ve read yet: “First Kill Your Family” by Peter Eichstaedt. As a journalist and also a man who some would consider to be the foremost expert on the war and the effects of war on human suffering, Peter has studied, traveled and written about nearly every tumultuous region of the world. I’ve been struggling with my lack of education which could have led to quick action. However, Peter’s words made me feel slightly better today. I share them with you now to allow yourself the opportunity to move past the feelings of ignorance or lack of knowledge about this atrocity so that you can move more quickly into action.
“ When I first landed in Uganda in August 2005, I had never heard of the Lord’s Resistance Army. I had been warned that travel to the northern part of the country was dangerous, but it was not something I would have to worry about because I wouldn’t need to go there. That warning had made me curious. The north was terra incognita, the unknown world.
Shortly after my first trip to the north, I was staggered by the fact that a war could have gone on for twenty-two years and claimed so many lives, many of them children’s, and it wasn’t general knowledge outside Uganda. I am, after all, a journalist. I follow the news because it is my job, but also because I like it. I like knowing about the world, it is my world as well as everyone else’s. but few in the West had ever heard of this war or the rebel army that was conducting it.”
Let this be your newsflash and decide today to move to action. Action doesn’t have to mean you abandon your world as you know it. Action just means you know of this and you help give voice to these children. Action means you pray for them. Many of you have already moved into action because you’ve helped to provide the beds and the hope which we share along with them. Continue your action with me…there are hundreds of thousands of children here who need what our ministry can bring them….sleep, sweetly.
I’m grateful for each of you and the work we do, together.
See you in the next blog,