Saturday, August 28, 2010

Child Soldier No More

As you picture your life, are there things you've done that cause you to think "I couldn't possibly forgive myself" or "could God really love and forgive me after I ____?"
Get rid of the "victim mentality"--I want to tell you that God is a God of restoration. Don't believe me? Then keep reading, and perhaps you'll change your mind...
In the 1980's here in Uganda, the LRA began kidnapping children and forcing them to be child soldiers. And it is still happening, as I type this. :/ These children are robbed of their innocence. Of their dignity. They're forced to do atrocious acts--even to their own family members. To quote a former child soldier (featured in a Watoto video), "They (LRA) force you to kill. If you don't, you're killed..."
Somehow God brings beauty out of all this. Watoto is a church here in Kampala (founded by a Canadian husband/wife), and they are also doing incredible work in Gulu, Uganda. They're working so hard to restore lives of people who were affected by the LRA.
[I'm begging you to watch this video. It will explain the atrocities of the war, but it also contains a hope factor...]
This past Thursday evening, I witnessed one of the most powerful things I've seen in a long while. I went to Watoto church with a few friends, and we saw performances from Restore Tour: Child Soldier No More <---click for their website.
We saw a group of people acting out the story of the LRA--when the soldiers raid villages and snatch up the innocent citizens. But these weren't actors up on the stage....these were actual individuals who had been abducted by the LRA.
Watoto's website explains the Restore Tour 2010:
"It's the story of Northern Uganda and her community of children, women, and men thrust into the middle of conflict and used to do horrific acts towards their fellow countrymen. Children kidnapped and forced to be weapons of war, women torn from their families--mutilated, stripped of their dignity, and used as sex slaves. Men left despondent and desperate...their stories would break the hardest of hearts.
Through pulsating music, dance, drama, and multimedia, the stories will challenge your community to get involved to make a real difference in their lives."
The Lord has restored these individuals, and they are leaving on a 6-month tour to share their stories with the world. They'll be in the U.S. so go to their website and find out where you can see the Restore Tour. It will rock your world, and I'm not saying that lightly. Watch the trailer here...
I rarely cry in public. But as I watched former child soldiers worshipping God, the tears started streaming down my face. They have been through hell on earth. Yet, they shared Thursday evening "we have's the solution to this problem." I watched them individually step forward to the front of the stage and proclaim, "I forgive Joseph Kony for what he has done" and "I forgive the men who brutally murdered my family in front of my own eyes" and even "I forgive myself for what I was told to do" (which they said is possibly the hardest person to forgive...)
Then, they joined hands and started praising God with the words from Chris Tomlin's song:
"Into the darkness you shine. Out of the ashes we rise. There's no one like You, none like You! Our God is greater, our God is stronger; God, you are higher than any other..."
[During a rehearsal for the Restore Tour. Photo credit: Watoto]
Be encouraged that no matter what you've gone through, God can restore you and use your testimony to affect others. I am so excited for all the lives that will be impacted by this tour!
What breaks my heart is that the LRA is still on the move (I believe they're in the Sudan or the Congo). Innocent lives are being destroyed tonight, so please please please pray for these children and the people who are being affected.
As a Ugandan man shared in a Watoto video that I just watched,
"Uganda is a beautiful country, but the world needs to know that this country is badly in need of healing."


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Heather Cunningham said...

Ashley, just wanted to let you know that I read this post and looked up the schedule, not expecting the Restore Tour to be coming any closer than NY. I was shocked to see that they'll be coming to my old church in PA! I'm seeing them this Saturday. Thank you for telling people about it!

MrsMike said...

pst I left an award for you on my blog! (you dont have to pass it on, but I did want to award it to you <3)