Listening, Loving and Letting Jesus Heal
BY KIM PETERSON
Kony 2012. Posters. Internet blogs. National news. It all becomes so real as I look into the eyes of the young man beside me. I have shared meals with him, sat beside him in a game of Uno and heard him laugh. My daughter has been teaching him guitar and my son played on his team in a soccer game. Yet what he experienced as one of Uganda’s “Invisible Children” and in his 3 years in Kony’s army is beyond anything we can imagine. Paul (all names of Kobwin children have been changed) was only 10 when he was abducted by Kony’s soldiers. That is just one year younger than my son Micah. He was beaten, starved and made to carry a gun and kill. And that is only the beginning of the story. “What does that do to a boy of 10?” I wonder. “What would that do to my son?” And the most important question. “What do I possibly have to offer to this young man?” So I sat with him in my inadequacy. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We had come to Kobwin Children’s Center to bring God’s love and healing to the children there. Kobwin was started with the vision of providing care and education for those coming out of Kony’s army. Often after children escape or are released from Kony, they are not welcomed back into their families or communities. Without education or a support system, life can be close to impossible for these traumatized kids. Kobwin was the compassionate response of the leaders of New Hope to the needs of these children. For 11 years my husband and I had met with people in counseling situations and led them to Jesus for hope and healing. Why did this seem so different? We came to Kobwin with a team of people. Because we knew it was often hard for children to open up painful memories, we had brought with us Chris and Rachel and Leslie, artists from New York City. Together with Constance Dobbs, a New Hope Missionary involved with Kobwin since its beginning, we had put together a program to facilitate getting to the heart of the children. Our desire was that each child feel known, loved and led to Jesus, as they were willing, for comfort and healing. So the artists had put together various art projects to help the children open their hearts.The staff, led by Manager Ikwarit Charles, had agreed to let us take up a week of school to work with the children. The first two days we led the staff through the same process that we would later lead the children through. We had them draw out the path of a day in which something good happened, complete with pictures and colors representing the emotions of that day. The next day we repeated the process with a day something very bad happened. Then we had the staff members share their stories to each other. It was an amazing time as we saw the staff reach out and care for each other as the difficult stories were shared. We also had the privilege of bringing Jesus into some of the painful memories and see healing happen. Now that the staff were prepared for what we were going to do, the last 3 days of the week we repeated the process with the children. Every child created a drawing of the path of their good and bad days and every child sat with a staff member to tell them about both. As the children were willing, they were either prayed for or led in a prayer to Jesus for healing and comfort. It was amazing to see the tears stop and faces brighten as Jesus touched their hearts. There was Donna and Sarah who were abducted to be ‘wives’ of Kony. Sarah’s body still bore the marks of the witchcraft done to her. There was Alice who was in the army 3 years, the stories she told were almost unbearable. Part of her body was missing because of a grenade thrown at her ‘just for fun’ by some of the soldiers.The effect of these experiences have haunted her many nights. There was Jacob, Ronnie and Abraham in the bush with Kony for years before escaping, each with stories worse than the last. And then there was Paul.
Why did this young man touch our hearts so? Was it because he had been so young when he was taken? Was it the fact that he spoke very little English and no Iteso, the local language? He was trapped without a way to express the things he held inside. Or was it his wonderful smile, perhaps his gentleness with the younger children. And then there was the singing. He and some of the other boys would wake up at 4 or 5 AM to pray and sing in their hut. Since our hut was next to his, we often heard his strong voice singing praises in the darkness. Could Jesus lead him out of his loneliness and pain that the enemy was using to hold him captive?
Isaiah 49:24-25 addresses this question. The prophet Isaiah asks the question “Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce?” Perhaps Isaiah was looking at the hopelessness of Israel’s situation in captivity, just as we were looking at Paul’s impossible situation. Can such pain really be healed? Can a person really forgive someone who has tortured them? Can the enemy’s chains be broken off? God answers this question in verse 24. He affirms he CAN free the captives. He says, “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.”
So with that assurance we stepped out in faith with Paul and many of the other abductees. Although we were truly inadequate, we were with JESUS who was more than adequate. We sat with them. We listened to them. And then we did the only thing that would truly save them out of their darkness and captivity. We led them to Jesus for Him to touch their hearts and bring healing. And as He promised, He healed.
Later, as we sat and listened to the testimony time in the families, our hearts were blessed over and over as the children shared how God had touched them that week. Faces were bright and smiles wide as they told how God had met and healed them. We felt like the little boy who brought his loaves and fish to Jesus. Though it felt like we had done so little, God had multiplied it many times over. And the best part was the singing. Led by Paul and his brothers, the children clapped and sang and danced out of their joy over what God had done. And Paul was singing in the light.