“And then they took everything I had...”
“I saw many who were beheaded when I went to see my village...”
“They burned my house. My cousins were inside…”
“They raided our village and went off with my brother…I followed him to bring him back…but I couldn’t”
The stories poured out this weekend in our sessions in the bush. Travelling over 6 hours over the road that thrashes you like a ragdoll in a drying machine, when at last we arrived in my most favorite place in the entire world-- the war torn bush, formally known as the “Red Zone”.
It was late when our car finally rolled over the last rocks before stopping between three mud huts and small wooden house. Though dark out, everyone seemed to still recognize my blonde pony tail and calls of “Sandra, Sandra!” came from every which angle. Including, (in her own way) my very thrilled puppy who showed her love by doing her best not to knock me over with her excitement that I had returned home.
Bliss! In an instant (that was anything less than sudden) I feel like I entered another world. Our beautiful village that we’ve been traveling to for the past 4 years has been ridden with war for roughly two decades. In future trips it’ll seem like second nature, but having been away for so long I notice the differences more clearly right now.
- For instance, cooking over charcoal, in a dark, smoky hut with chickens and rats scurrying at your feet, not the same as running down the road to Trader Joe’s and popping dinner on the stove.
- Latrines in the middle of the night. Still not fun.
- Freezing cold shower, absolute perfection after not having bathed in days.
- A granola bar can absolutely change your life.
- Cuts on your body quickly make you question if you hit something wrong or ticked off a rat in the middle of the night.
- And of course, a soccer match in the most beautiful valley with young men who have laid down arms to pick up futball cleats, beats the World Cup any day.
I’m obsessed with our boys. And our students. And our mamas! It’s just a whole lot of happy out there.
We have our beautiful Justice Rising psychologist with us right now, Dr. Sarah, as I like to call her in public. She’s actually a real live genius and did basic trauma counseling with about 50 leaders in our community as well as our Leadership League (our boys) and the Justice Rising teachers. It was incredible and so powerful to see people grabbing hold of freedom. Like a light switch turning on in their heads, it’s as if for the first time in their lives, they were laying hold of a new truth that acted as healing balm for their hearts. So beautiful!
Tears filled my eyes several times as people shared their stories. Kind of like a listening circle, individuals would share painful moments and Sarah would work her magic and we’d invite Jesus. It was beautiful but I can hardly imagine the stories we heard. Wearing our professional hats you nod and listen, trying not to look shocked in order to “normalize what they’re going through” and assure them their trauma symptoms don’t make them crazy. But everything inside of me aches for humanity. Oh Jesus how we need you! Our source of hope, joy and the only thing I can understand for a future for a place with such a history of pain.
At night we’d debrief and dream a little, imagining other war zones that could use this freedom. Though we process and cry and lean on Jesus to carry the pain that’s too heavy for our own strength, I still can’t help but get excited. There’s so much he can do. The way he takes our pain and sculpts it, I am blown away by my perfect savior who’s faithfulness exceeds every “rumor”.
Trying to end my ramblings, I think where I get stuck the most is how can I communicate properly what’s really happened here.
In times when hearing horrific stories, the kind that make your stomach turn and your head spin, becomes my daily routine… how do I hear their story and not stand impacted alone? How do I turn it around for others to see, that others too may have compassion that turns to action to bring a worldwide movement of peace? I haven’t yet figured it out.
I guess until then you get my wrestlings during the late night when I should be in bed, but rather I’m blogging…
Blogging and drinking tea.
Back in Goma and all week long we’d been imagining and dreaming for the time we’d get milk to put in our clean water tea-even fake milk. It’s heaven! Normally I’d think powdered milk is kind of gross, not now though! Amazing how the simple things turn into extravagance so quickly when they are absent.
Peace, in times of war.
Joy, after so much sorrow, or powdered milk when comfort food is rare. :)