“Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it.”
1 Peter 2:11, Message
This weekend Rachel, Eric (one of our house uncles), and I got to know the Ugandan public transportation system as we headed up north for three days. The taxis and busses here are readily available, and also hot, sweaty, and crowded, with long, bumpy roads across the stunning countryside. The man at the post office told us that this first stretch to Lira would take only 5 hours, but it is closer to a 7-hour ride typically. The postal bus ride, which carries people and Ugandan mail, turned into a 10-hour experience, due to many people bribing the conductor for a personal stop outside their village. We passed baboons and watched Michael Learns to Rock: Paint My Love and Greatest Hits” karaoke on repeat, an 80’s music extravaganza. After heading out east to Tororo, a town next to Kenya, we drove north to Lira, arriving after dark and needing an affordable place to stay since we had planned on sleeping further north in Gulu. A modern day Good Samaritan heard us asking around town for a safe and affordable place to stay, and drove us to a cheap hostel for the night, on the outskirts of Lira town (free breakfast, and only about $10 per night).
I was delighted to visit Otino Waa on Sunday morning, which is an orphanage that is connected with the people of Vintage Faith, my church in Santa Cruz. Many of the children were visiting family members for holiday, but a kind social worker named Emmanuel gave us an excellent tour. I was impressed by how people’s generosity from the U.S. (in money and relationships and time on service trips) has made a powerful, practical impact. The orphans have come from all over Uganda, and many were formerly abducted by the LRA or greatly impacted by its reign of terror. Now they have a home with a Ugandan housemother, medical care, an excellent education that also provides vocational opportunities like beekeeping and woodworking, fun opportunities like debating other schools and playing football (a.k.a. soccer), and an opportunity to know Jesus and heal from the past. I was blessed to see this organization and the hope, joy, and generosity of the children and staff that we met.
We caught a taxi to Gulu later on, and visited a former street boy who graduated from the Street Child Project. Calvin showed us his art around town, in a café and sidewalk mural, and told us that he is employed as much as possible, and working to earn extra money for art supplies. I imagined seeing the boys I know now in a few years, grown up and living life on their own, and am full of hope for each of them.
That night was spent in Karuma with Restoration Gateway (RG), an orphanage out in the bush. We had to travel late at night out to the village by the time our bus arrived, and gratefully escaped meeting any armed robbers or animals (they have leopards, elephants, lions, hippos, pythons, etc.. since their extensive property borders the Karuma Wildlife Reserve). We also crossed a raging Nile river just before arriving- a bridge where bus companies up until the 1990s would occasionally sacrifice an entire bus full to appease the river spirits. Thank you Jesus that the Ugandan government has outlawed this practice!
We stayed at RG because last week as I was getting ready for the day, I felt a strong pull by the Holy Spirit to wear my Westmont College track shirt. That is how I met Sarah, a woman who is working with RG and whose brother went to Westmont (God’s kingdom is so huge!). The staff fed and encouraged us, and we learned about the current condition of human sacrifice in Uganda- children are stolen from villages and streets and used by witch doctors for ritual sacrifices. For example, a new building will be constructed, and to appease the spirits with blood, a witch doctor will kidnap a child, make them work all day on the site, and push them off the roof or dispose of their life in another way. It is evil. We have a savior, Jesus, who gave His life and blood so we do not have to die and can be close with God, no matter what we have done in our lives. And these demon gods are not worthy of people’s praise, and certainly not their blood. It makes me sick to know that this is a reality here- our boys know friends who have gone missing due to child sacrifice.
People have learned about ways to protect children from being targeted. Piercings and circumcision help because the child sacrificed is supposed to be free from any scars or piercings. Girls at RG have pierced ears and wear a piece of grass in them to make their protection visible. Boys in Christian homes are circumcised as infants, to avoid the demonic worship that accompanies the male initiation ritual later in life, and this also can help protect them from a witch doctor if they are captured.
Check out this amazing Jesse J music video of RG:
Check out this documentary on the power of prayer in Uganda:
We returned to Jinja the next morning, after touring RG with Sarah, meeting many of the children and some fulltime missionaries, and keeping our eyes peeled for hippos, leopards, and the like out on this wildlife reserve. Traveling across Uganda made me appreciate the beauty of this country- jungle vines, rolling plains, sugarcane and pineapple and sunflower fields, giant Nile crossings, and signs advertising the local rhino population. World Vision is an organization that I have seen signs for in every part of this country, and the locals respect them as well. The most obvious representation of the former LRA violence up north that I observed was a sign in a field warning against touching any foreign objects. This sign was constructed to warn people about the landmines left over from former violence, which are scattered in open fields and cause deaths and the loss of limbs each year.
I stopped in Kampala with Rachel and Eric to pay a visit to the market for some live roosters, a crate of sodas, and other holiday food items. Rachel’s family adopted a boy from Kampala this year, and was giving his family a gift from their nephew. We arrived laden with gifts, and were welcomed into their home in the slums- five people live in a room the size of my bathroom at home, with stacked beds and no air conditioning in the eighty-degree weather. They were so grateful for the gifts, shaking our hands again and again, and I admired their Christmas decorations- a simple, short string of lights is all they can afford. It makes you pause before complaining about other situations after such an experience.
I am grateful to be back in Jinja- God taught me a great deal on this trip up north! I will be traveling home to California in less than a week on December 18th (arriving on the 19th) and will be adjusting to the 11-hour time difference for a few days. I look forward to sharing more about this trip with you all!
To God be the glory,
Lindsey ( :
Lindsey ( :