November 7th, 2016, my husband and I flew to Uganda in hopes of deepening the validation of Nankunda, my second up and coming novel. After two and a half weeks of living in the countryside of a slightly desolate district called Luwero, we returned with heavy hearts and more stories than we could bear. How do you come back to a perfect American home after holding the hands of women who had endured the loss of four children or looking into the eyes of men who had been held at gunpoint? How do you leave the smiling faces of children who have lost one or more parent? Who call you mom because they haven't seen their mother in over a year?
These are questions Sebastian and I have yet to face. In the meantime, I believe the number one job I have is to share with my friends and family about the atrocities and hardships of this country plagued by wars. I pray that as you read this blog, your heart will be moved into to action to help us as we intend to continue helping those who stole our hearts and are in great need. Hopefully you take the time to follow this series as I talk about the great tragedies and wondrous beauties of Uganda. My prayer is that you fall in love with these beautiful people as I share videos, pictures and stories of them. They are ready to be heard. Will you take the time to listen?
It was already dark by the time Sebastian and I got off the plane. We searched through the short line of escorts. It didn't take long to find our own. Pastor Alex, short, sharp and ready to change the world, held a sign with our names scribbled on it and raced up to meet us. Having had so much correspondence on Facebook, it felt as though we were meeting an old friend. Tagging along for the journey were two other pastors, Pastor Emmanuel, our humble driver who opened his home to us a couple of times and became a great inspiration and friend, and Pastor Fred, a tall and (at first) quiet man who quickly became a confidant, a partner in the Lord's work, a mentor, and a very dear friend. And thus our journey began.
We drove from the Entebbe airport to the capital of the country, Kampala, where we would stay for one night before our two hour journey to Luwero District where we stayed for the majority of our trip. From the get go, Alex began to share with me loads of facts about the wars. Here are the basics. In the recent years, there have been three wars: The Northern War, The Kony War, and the War that brought the current president into power. Both the Northern War and the Kony War happened in the same area around the same time. As you hopefully know, the second book I am working on (Nankunda) is about the Kony War. Alex, who knew this full well, had no hesitations about providing me with as much information as possible. But how much can you really learn during one car drive while you're jet lagged?
A couple days later, we sat in the the living room of our hosts' house in Luwero as both Alex and Fred shared more information with us about the Kony War. The strong African sun was shinning through the windows as we ate our meals. Without hesitation, the men told us how Kony had cut someone's mouth off.
At one point, Pastor Fred read a piece of my story. After reading the prologue (which you can find on this blog) he put it down and said, "This is very good. The writing is very complex and I can't understand all of it which means it is strong English, but there is one problem. Kony didn't just kill people, it was much worse than that." He proceeded to list out a number of things Kony did, feel free to skip the list:
I don't even think that's the full list. I'll never forget the moment when they shared some extra information about the truth of the war and then started laughing as they said I could never put that information in my book or share it because people would die if the information was ever talked about. As I think back to this moment, I still get the same feelings as I did then. I want to cry and laugh at the same time, because...well, what else can I do? I don't have to create a fictional story, these people already live in a story that is full of danger and suspense. All I have to do is recount the details of their lives.
At first I thought that I should be careful. I didn't want to overstep any boundaries and I was touching a lot of recent scars that people were still dealing with. However, the more I talked to people, the more I discovered that they wanted to share. Moreover, they wanted us to share! For years they have been suffering from wars, poverty and disease. Sebastian and I were the first Muzungos (White People) in their land and that meant hope. Well, actually that meant money. But it meant money for school fees to make it to secondary school or money for medicine for a dying child suffering from malaria. It meant that maybe someone living on the other side of the world who could enjoy sleeping in a bed instead of on a tarp on the hard floor with seven brothers and sisters in the only room which is a about the size of a large bathroom in a house made of mud which is just waiting to collapse on top of them any day, might be able to help them.
Originally, the plan was for us to spend about two days in each city and then move. By the end of our trek, we were to end up in the place where the Kony War had taken place. As it was, unforeseeable events prevented us from making our full journey. Instead, we stayed in the Luwero District. At first it was a disappointment, but in time, all four of us (Sebastian, Pastor Fred, Pastor Alex, and myself) came to see and understand that it was all apart of God's divine plan...