August 8, 2010

Uganda Trip 3- Does a skirt fill my stomach?

Once in Karamoja, our first priority was to spend some quality time with the missionaries there. Terrill and Amber are working with the Ik and are currently without team.

Hello? Anyone out there ready to become team? Hello? I’ll let you just think about it and you can get back to me.


Get back to me.

Moving on.

We felt very lonely at times when we lived there. But who doesn’t? When you don’t have postal service, and at times no phone service and never internet- it’s easy to feel alone and isolated. We think of our friends a lot and pray for them even more. So we were intent to spend some quality time together with “Team Kaabong-ish”. We spent the afternoon getting settled, unpacking and visiting. Terrill’s sister was visiting, and our friends Tom and Jean Reed came up from the south with a new “Team Karamoja” guy named Ryan. We were quite the band of mzungus (or outsiders/”whites” depending on your translation).

Soon it was time to visit with old Karamajong friends. “Akoro” is something you hear daily in Karamoja. It means hunger. You become very familiar with this word. Very very familiar with it. Many times, during harvest for example, it is said even when it’s not entirely meant. It almost becomes habit. It’s complicated to explain really... But it’s there.

We went to visit a village near our old home. We have many friends in this village, and due to its relative proximity to town we were used to the people of this village typically doing well even when those further out suffered.

When we reached there it was empty of cattle save one or two sick cows in the corral. Everyone was somber and quiet and begging was minimal- which is uncharacteristic.

Granary= Edula (ed-oo-la)

Harvest has been very bad for the past three years, and this year there has been very little rain. This particular village had run out of food in February. The granaries (which looks like huge baskets about 6 feet tall) were all empty. There had been heavy looting the year after we left. Again, it’s all so complicated.

A society that is built around cattle, and which uses the gun to protect and raid for more cattle, becomes disarmed, so there is less raiding and fighting/gunfire. This is a good thing. Things were more secure than they had ever been when we lived there... The cattle is then guarded by the army, but is then raided by the “enemies” who still have guns, so now the cattle loving people are left with no cattle, or guns. They are left with nothing of their life savings. They have no protection. Which means in times of severe hunger in the past there was at least milk and blood from the cows (cows are bled but not killed in these instances). The looting had been severe, and our friends had their pots and pans stolen and homes set on fire in some areas.

To say they were somber was an understatement. To say they were hungry was an understatement. It’s like watching a child grow. When you see a child every day it’s hard to see how they change. Not having seen our friends in two years we could see the change very distinctly. Hunger. Real hunger. Hunger that breaks your heart and makes you never want to eat again.

In the past someone would say, “Akoro!”, and if it was a friend or someone I was building a relationship with I would trade them or give them some beads or a skirt perhaps depending on our relationship, then they would be incredibly happy. At the end of this week, I gave an elder’s wife, who I had some relationship with, a skirt AND a shirt. Considering the small amount of luggage I was afforded, and that any gift really signified a relationship for me, this gift was a big deal. To me. She just stared at me in disgust and said, “Does a skirt fill my stomach?”

Point taken.

It was good to see you too after these two years.

Akoro is a real thing.

Many people asked if our visit was just great and if it was a joy to be back in Karamoja. It’s complicated. It’s heartbreaking and I shed many tears for my friends who are suffering. Karamoja is a breathtaking and beautiful place, but no one can prepare you for its intensity. No one can prepare you for aggressive begging and the level of need all around you.

It can drain you. A visit is no different. Our first day or two drained me. I was overjoyed at seeing people we loved, but also overwhelmed at suffering I can have no control over (I know that God is in control. I know the "Bible" answers. But I'm talking about real feelings, while "on the ground" there).

I won’t tie this post together neatly. Because there is no good way to tie it up.

But I will end the way I started, with a genuine call for help. To those real prayer warriors out there: Please pray for our friends in Karamoja. That the believers would be encouraged to seek the Lord even when their bodies seem to fail them, and when society pushes them in other directions. Pray that they would have harvest this year. Pray for rain and they would give all glory to God.

And please pray for our friends Terrill and Amber. Knowing how to take care of yourself while loving those around you is a difficult line to find. They seem to have found it better than I ever did. But just the same, your prayers make a difference in the lives of missionaries who really do leave their mothers and fathers behind. Missionaries who turn away from worldly comfort to love and pour into a people who in the end, often times, only say, “Is that all you had to give?”

Pray that they would be encouraged. Pray that they would have team. Soon.

Your prayers matter.


P.S. There are other teams in Karamoja now that you can follow and be praying for. Look on the right hand side under links that start with Karamoja. One team just recently moved to Karamoja and had a baby! You can pray for all teams on the field!  Congratulations Williams clan!!

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