I pray you all are well! Firstly, i would like to show my appreciation to all those who have showered me with encouragement through many emails, comments and text messages over the last couple of weeks. Though many miles away I can feel your love and know that our Lord is hearing and answering your prayers. Thank you so much!
I awoke this morning to what sounded like a handful of deranged cows in a frenzy. I knew that today was the day we would give away 2 oxen to 4 different villages in the district. It was not an uncommon noise here in Pader and it lacked the certain peculiarity that would be worthy of pulling me out of bed. Until I heard Terry yell from the next room, "Curtis come look, I think the oxen are having sex!". I climbed out of bed and gazed out my tiny window to see this spectacle in which Terry was referring to. I will spare you the details and try to refrain from posting a picture...but, tis' the season i guess! I then heard Reverend Kenneth scream from the porch of the community center. "Curtis, you must castrate the male oxen today!"... I wasn't aware emasculating livestock was a part of my job description... I should probably review my contract again.
I have officially hit the 2.5 week mark and my love for Pader and it's people is growing each day. On the exterior, you would never believe Pader was one of the most targeted districts by the LRA in northern Uganda. It has been incredibly difficult to even attempt to fathom the atrocities that occurred right here on the very soil that i stand. Less than two years ago, the children of Pader knew that when the sun began to sink in the west it was time to find a good place to hide until dawn. Approximately 66,000 children were kidnapped over the course of the war and it makes me sick to my stomach to think about.
Prior to my arrival, i had envisioned the residual effects of the war in the north to be enormously conspicuous. I imagined bullet shells dispersed in the sand, charred vehicles, mass graves and despondent faces. When the rebels were driven out by the UPDF, many of the immediate relief NGO's soon followed leaving a lot of confusion in the hearts of the people. After two years of relative peace, the traces of war are now less tangible(/visible) here in Pader. Fear, mistrust, trepidation, resentment, addiction, abuse, shame; these are just a few of the challenges that are hindering the people of northern Uganda from emerging from the shadow of war. Unfortunately, many of these tragic issues can be easily concealed behind a smile. Please continue to join with me in prayer for the healing and reconciliation of children and families affected by this conflict. Pray too for an end to the conflict and peace in the regions the LRA has now inhabited like South Sudan, Democratic of Congo, and Central African Republic.
Over the last month E.I. has done a needs assessment for the people of Pader and found that the most prevalent demand was oxen and ox-plows for farming. Over the last week we have been running seminars in different villages on ox-plowing in an attempt to empower the people into a state of independence and sustainability. Before the war, many owned livestock and were self-sustainable in terms of agriculture and farming. When the villages arrived here at the community center to receive their new oxen (2 for each village) the joy was so evident in their bright faces.
I just finished reading a wonderful book called "Following Jesus Through The Eye of the Needle" by a personal friend and former sunday school teacher of mine Kent Annan. I was completely lost in this book and found it to be very relevant to where I am right now in my walk with God. Please please please... if you get a chance... Read this book! Here is a short compelling paragraph that hit home with me in Kents chapter on Revelations.
"Globalization has important efficiency advantages but also helps us evade the discomfort of knowing the people we do commerce with (to our advantage). And it's not that personal connection necessarily precludes exploitation, but at least when it's personal the exploiter has more chance of understanding and changing - or at minimum might feel how much the exploiting costs his or her own soul." - K.A.
Onto "Mere Christianity" by C.S. now!
I threw on my cleats and walked, with ball in hand, through a handful of small villages over to the local soccer pitch in town. In each village I was greeted by a dozen naked children each yelling "Mizungu Hi!" (meaning Hello White Person!). My response always seems to get a good laugh, "Acholi Hi!" Upon arriving at the field I had this strange feeling that I was the center of attention. A minute later, i realized that yes, i was in fact the center of attention. All eyes were on me as I approached a number of young adults to see if they wanted to kick the ball around. Next thing I knew we had a couple dozen guys and were playing a full field game. The field was unlike any i've ever played on. Cow paddies the size of an average cowboy hat were dispersed like land mines across the red sanded, remotely flush surface. The ball often got lost in waist-tall grass that had inhabited the four corners of the field. We had an amazing time and I was very happy to meet a bunch of guys my age. We are now playing soccer every day at 5 pm before the sun sets with almost 200 locals watching from the sidelines! My friend and colleague Francis tells me that they think i am a very hard and serious footballer! (serious and hard... thats good right?!) Pray for me as I interact with my new friends that God would love through me in a huge way.
Well, I must be going. I am heading to Gulu this weekend for a bit of a retreat which should be nice!
I will post some more pictures sometime this week!
I love you all,
p.s. I find it easier to be a Leaf fan down here... A lot less heartache and ridicule!