Jen, Gary, Josephine, and I all traveled to Gulu (Northern Uganda) from Sunday to Tuesday. It was definitely a journey with many stops along the way. Gulu and the surrounding bush are areas that have been hard hit in the past from warfare. So many suffer in ways I cannot even imagine. I was privileged with the opportunity to travel into the bush of Africa and help Jen deliver the mats, mattresses, blankets, mosquito nets, and Bibles. The first sub-county we visited, the people had been waiting since 7 am and it was 1 pm before we arrived. They had walked very far distances and waited so patiently. As we were able to hand out these items with the help of ARC, the hope in the children's eyes were unbelievable. It was like some innocence was restored in their lives that had been robbed from them so early in life. The elderly women of the community could have easily been in their 70s and 80s, yet had walked these orphan children they care for here in order to get them beds, Bibles, and mosquito nets.
One family gave us the privilege of seeing their home (a mud hut) and allowing us to help them set up their beds. The children joyfully laid down and began flipping through their Bibles. The woman was so grateful and kept hugging us. We continued on that day by traveling to another sub-county. Here some of the women and children had been waiting since 8 am and it was now 4 pm. Their testimony of coming all this way shows just how much they love and care for their children, even though many time the children are not related to them. The sense of family and caring for each other is so great here.
Today was our 3rd day in Gulu and Jen had a few meetings with partner organizations to meet with. One in particular was World Vision. They work with children that were abducted by the LRA at very young ages. The lives they were forced to leave are horrifying and seem unspeakable at times it seems. We met several boys or I guess I should say young men...who had been abducted and many of whom had been shot during the warfare...years later...they are just now having surgery to try and repair the physical wounds to their bodies, but how do you begin to heal their emotional wounds? Partnering with this organization and providing a bed for these children are just part of what wonderful things Jen and Sweet Sleep are able to do.
Sitting at dinner tonight with Jen and Gary, we begin to discuss the past few days and the impact it has had on all of us. You want everyone to know about these children and their life experiences because it can become real. Jen was sharing how it seems to be more difficult to raise the money to give these children Bibles with their bedding. I guess some don't view it as a necessity in life. A story told today by a woman at World Vision helps bring this into perspective...she spoke of a child who was fearful of the night time. So many of these children have experienced true terror in their past in that the LRA might could have abducted or harmed them...they fear night and sleep. The child was holding a Bible as he laid down to sleep when the woman asked him if he could read his Bible? The child replied "No I cannot read it...but when I lay down next to it...I know it keeps me safe." Every child should have the chance for the feeling of safety and God's love...the chance for true innocence...it is so hard as an American to realize that many children were robbed of this chance so early in life. Bibles are a key component of Sweet Sleep...a child with a new bed and a new Bible can begin to know God's protection and love! Thank you Sweet Sleep for all you do and the opportunity you've given me :)