I normally have a rule that I don’t write until a day or two after our bush trips as I’m usually too raw and unprocessed if I hit the keys to quickly.
But this time I’ll just put up a caution sign as I wrote this as a means TO process the everyday while on the ground and in the dirt…
I can feel a few drops of rain. First on the top of my head, then my face. They start falling faster but I don’t flinch. None of us do. I’m with my Pastor in the bush and we’re speaking to a man who’s son we rescued from the army. The father’s eyes are sad. So sad. And hopeless. I tell him how much we love his boy and a few stories to try and make him smile but nothing works.
“All of our boys in the village are joining the army. Maybe mine was rescued but our village has lost it’s sons.”
The rain continues to fall but the weight of the mans words stops us on the street. Immediately my mind gets thinking… How do we rescue them? All of them. Or at least give them an alternative.
Many of the boys in the village join the army out of “lack of vision” or “restlessness”. In our area many boys, aged 10-18, are not in school. They have long days and sleepless nights due to running from conflict and rebel attacks. Soldiers often come into the village by day and the young boys are forced to be porters for them, carrying water or artillery etc. With nothing better to do, they watch a power struggle of gun=authority.
With no real vision for their own life and a confused version of “life to the top” they often willingly join the army. It’s not long after they often confess their regret but it’s to late, enrolment is hard to break free from.
We have a primary school but we haven’t yet finished our 3rd school block that will move us into secondary schooling and a vision for the idle young men…
We’d just arrived in the village maybe 15 minutes before the stories had started saturating our hearts.
And so the week began and it was on to making dinner in the smoke filled kitchen, when two men interrupted our program to greet us.
The one had been abducted with his wife and children the Saturday before and had escaped. With hands tied behind their backs, they couldn’t risk the unknowing fate of death or rape so the man and his family ran and ran and finally hid all night in the river. The flowing, gushing, powerful river. They now live thankful to have made it through that raid but the man confessed utter hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.
Maybe it’s a tad heavy. But sadly, this isn’t the half of it.
The entire village has story after story and we catch a small window into their lives Monday- Friday.
How can we let them live like this?
I was asked the last time I was in the bush, “Where are all the missionaries? Does your country not send them out anymore?” Uhhhh. Heart drop.
You are not forgotten! You are not alone!
That night I zipped up my sleeping bag and pulled the cover up to my eyes. More often than not the rats crawl on you at night and I don’t mind them getting my feet but my face— bleh, that’s when it becomes a bit much! (Did I mention we’re calling all those missionaries? ;) )
Every night, though believing for peace, we semi plan for a raid. You carefully pack up your stuff and memorize where the importants are: flashlight, skirt, bra, protein bars.
Nights are the biggie here. I’ve fallen asleep many times to the sound of gunfire, but I’ve never been in a night-time raid. I couldn’t imagine anything more inconvenient.
All week, once again, we slept soundly and are always happy to wake up in our beds and not under a tree. Most of the village fled to the bush, but this week like last… our team stayed put. However, this time, so did our Congo family. “We feel safe with you here.”
Keeping a constant ear out for safety reports, they’ve said there were outbreaks of conflict yesterday and this morning just outside the village, everyone’s on deck, as were we. Our version is slightly different though… Conference time! It’s such a humbling and beautiful time calling the village for “War Prevention/ de-traumatization” classes. Haha. Aka: “Bringing heaven- 101” or “Developing Authority to Stop Wars” We’re just as much students as we are teachers.
In these classes though, reality hits. It was a good idea in America but it’s life and death here. They NEED Jesus to come. They’re sick, starving, severely traumatized and in NEED a savior. So glad we have the perfect one. You could feel the hunger in the room.
We got rocked, they got rocked. Everyone got fed. It was great.
By the end of the week I’ve more than come up with a strategy for the boys. Through prayer, conversations, more conversations and interviews, we’ve put together a new prevention program for the young men of the village.
The “Leadership League” we call it.
What better way to give boys a hope and a vision then to empower them with the opportunity to do what they love most. And what do they love most? Futball (AKA: Soccer)
That’s right, we’ve started a soccer league.
Every boy enrolled will get a jersey, shoes and a super water bottle. Along with a guaranteed dream team, they will be required to learn basic reading and writing (as we keep putting together plans for secondary school) and attendance to discipleship courses.
We may not be able to stop them from being abducted but we can give them a reason to hold off being enrolled.
We already found our captain who couldn’t have been more excited. “You want to hire me to play futball?!?! This is the best idea you could think of” –haha. Of course it is.
So now! If you’re interested, we need two things: One, obvious sponsors for jersey’s (We’ll buy the immediate ones in Congo) BUUUUUT, if anyone wants to sponsor a team!! When I’m back in the west I would LOVE to get our boys awesome looking jersey’s and soccer bags!! Including shin guards, socks—the works.
“Without vision, the people perish” Literally.
Help our boys get balls, not guns!
Well, still working on a tag line ; )
(Along with that, though not quite as sorted is a girls Volleyball League we’ve started developing on paper. It will have a similar goal, though rather than gun prevention we aim to decrease rape and abduction/recruitment of girls to be young wives or sex slaves.)