For many who ponder the issues of Africa, the thought of a solution to any single problem can be overwhelming. From issues surrounding diseases, high mortality rate, and development, to issues surrounding politics, religion, and wars, it often seems to me that a deep change is required to fix it all. This change, I often think, will require some sort of fresh start where the African mind can be healed from its past traumas. Included in this healing is also a complete transformation where each African truly sees his or her neighbor as valuable, important, and uncompromisingly deserving of good and capable of good. This transformation will also require a genuine action on the part of the African to purser good and actually do good, live out the good, and embody the good. From a Christian perspective, I think of a complete renewal of the African soul and a decisive movement toward God. But is all this a dream?
Three weeks ago, as part of my study, my cohort was in Northern Uganda for about fourteen days. In Northern Uganda, in the Gulu district, we learned a lot about one of the civil wars – the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) War – that had devastated this part of Uganda. I encourage you to read about it on the internet. We learned that the war ended just fifteen years ago and although the guns are down, the effects of the war are still brutally felt. My goal is not to discuss the causes of the war or what could have been done to prevent it or what went wrong. Other qualified experts have written about it. But I want to give a shout-out to the men and women who are present in Gulu who are participating in what I call the Lord’s restorative work.
Upon our arrival, we had the opportunity of meeting and hear from Pamela Judith Angwech, the executive director of Gulu Women’s Economic Development & Globalization (GWED-G). Her life story alone is a testimony of what one brave woman can do to change the course of history. I place her in the ranks of the great African mothers who deeply care about their children and will go to every length to provide for and keep their children in the state of uttermost well-being. Part of her work is the Role Model Men Program that is changing the very fabric of family dynamics in Northern Uganda such that there is healing and restoration of what was once broken. We also visited Through Art Keep Smiling (TAKS). It was hard to get enough of bubbling David. His smile and mannerisms will make you want to become an artist. But David doesn’t just do art. He does art with healing, recovery, and restoration of culture, values, and morals of the downtrodden and forgotten as the telos. There is also YolRed, an organization that has the vision of ensuring that severely traumatized young people of Northern Uganda live just, peaceful, and productive lives. Space will not allow me to mention other grassroots organizations like Amani Uganda and more who have taken the time to understand the needs of their people and come up with very effective solutions to dire challenges.
As I listened to these women and men speak about their stories, their passions, and their hopes for themselves, their works, and the next generation, I realized that I was not dreaming. Yes, the work is hard and many of these heroes bear the scars of their work, but great work continues to be done. Comfortingly, for them, it is not just great work. It is the Lord’s work being done for his glory and praise in a very redemptive way.