I stared at the bullet mark in her arm and the straight emotionless but beautiful face as she shared of being stolen from her home at twelve years of age. No, they did not take her twin sister, because her brother begged for her, but one person had to be the sacrifice. They didn’t trust her to not run away, however, so they brought her back to her home and killed her mother in front of her to give her shame. This was the least of the heart-throbbing truths that she and the five other ex-captives told, but still it left a weight the size of the bowling ball that I accidentally dropped when bowling against my Grandfather in my stomach. How can she say it without emotion?
The war that started around 1986 devastated Northern Uganda. It still has not officially stopped. How did I never hear about this? When Museveni took over the Ugandan government, Western Uganda and Northern Uganda began their conflict. A man named Joseph Kony and his sister started a rebellion movement called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) to take the government back for the North. His way of doing it, however, consisted of stealing children from several villages in the North to either form part of the army, be the wives of the soldiers, or both. Stories of the atrocities the LRA’s actions include rape, murder, cutting off lips to make people in a perpetual “smile”, cutting off noses, and other forms of torture that have the name of Kony rivaling the evil dripping from the name of Hitler.
The hurt did not stop just with these acts, unfortunately. Because of hateful thing that the LRA was known for, on return to their villages and homes, these women were met with contempt, fear, and rejection. Their community did not know how to respond to them, how to help them heal, how to heal themselves.
Despite the evil that these women have lived through, however, here they are standing in front of me as a testimony of their strength and God’s grace. Instead of seeing the death and the evil, I saw the smiles on their faces as they interacted with each other. Instead of the broken community that they had to consider their own, I saw the community that they had formed in Amani (the project that taught them to sew and helped them form a healing group). Instead of the wounded skin and torn hearts, I saw the beautiful creativity that went into every bag, card, and necklace that they made. Truly God makes all things new!