You might hear “Restore Tour” and wonder, restored from what? That’s an excellent question. As I determine how far to back up into the history that precedes this Watoto Tour I have decided not to assume you are familiar with the civil war of northern Uganda. Oh God, help me as I try to summarize this, because I’m a lousy historian.
The Acholi people in northern Uganda were once a peaceful community where the children were safe to play and walk on the streets. Children were happy and they felt life was very good. Unfortunately, that way of life was devastated by Joseph Kony. He claimed to be asked by God to begin the war to overthrow the government so he could establish a new one based on the ten commandments and he expected the Acholi community to help him.
The government also expected the Acholi people to assist them in resisting Kony whose ideas were wrought with contradiction. When the people alerted the government that Kony’s troops were coming, Kony got angry and retaliated on the community with his army: the Lord’s Resistence Army, aka, LRA. To build his troops he said God told him to use the children because they are innocent and will be willing to serve God. He abducted children from their homes. He tortured them, murdered many, brainwashed them and forced them to kill or be killed.
The personal accounts are horrendous. He stripped them of their humanity and turned them into machines. He often would make them either kill a family member or watch one die so they could have no reason or hope to escape because after their crime no one but Kony would receive them. Please have the courage to picture an eleven year old child enduring these horrors. The girls were forced into sex slavery for the men. Babies were a burden and thrown into trees repeatedly until they died. Children of the communities were terrified of being abducted so they became night commuters. They’d walk ten miles to the nearest village where they could sleep safely in a school or church, then walk home in the morning. This activity endured for twenty years. It stopped in Uganda only five years ago. Kony has not been caught. He is suspected to be in Sudan actively preparing his next move. The problem is on a simmer.
The Ugandan government’s way of helping during the crisis years was to gather up the Acholi peole and create a camp for them, like a concentration camp. It was horrible for the people. The family disintegrated there. They were handed out food, shelter and barely the basics but not given work or a reason to believe their lives had purpose. The camps became a crime scene. The men became drunkards. The children were not disciplined. Women were raped. Aids ran rampant through the camps. Many died leaving thousands of orphans. The people suffered.
20,000 children were abducted and forced to become soldiers.
I’ve read several books giving accounts of differing perspectives on what happened in Northern Uganda. But nothing had as much impact on me as this presentation of the Restore Tour by the former child soldiers and victims of the horrors that occurred. There are 26 children involved in this tour and all of them have either been abducted, forced to be soldiers, or orphaned by the war and Aids. I encourage you to visit www.watoto.com and learn more about the efforts to rescue, raise and rebuild Uganda. Please find their tour schedule and either book their tour for your church, or find a way to go where they are performing. (my friends in Arizona, they will be in Chandler this month!)
I believe what I have just shared requires a full twenty four hours to digest. My next post will explore the content of the Restore Tour and some of the peronal accounts of what these children who came to my home and slept in my children’s beds have endured. But most importantly, I will describe how with the love of Jesus and the helping hands of his followers, they are being restored.