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In Gulu: City of Sorrow and Hope

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A Word from Curt

The word is resilient.

It’s a major characteristic of the African heroes I rub shoulders with daily.

 

Key Prayer Need:  Pray for a blessing for  our teammates and leaders Bob and Nancy Calvert as they travel to American for their son Zach’s college graduation and wedding.

 

I’m staying in Gulu, Uganda tonight.

Pizza and AC at the Bomah Hotel.  Such a blessing after a week UpCountry.

I called DeDe in Entebbe.  “Do you know why I have the AC turned to 18 degrees celsius?”

She knew the answer.  “Because it won’t go to 17.”

Thanks to all who prayed fervently for our week.  God is up to good things in our region and we’re excited about sharing it with you.

 

This story tells about the resilience of a city.  Even a region.  Especially a people called the Acholi.

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Gulu on the Move

Bouncing along on a northern Uganda road, it’s hard to miss the color.

Parades of brightly-dressed children walking home from school.

We’re north of Gulu in the heart of Acholi land.

Africa is a land of brightness.

No mild colors here.* Pastels are passe here.

 

Every school has its uniform colors. As the kilometers pass, we go from lavender to teal to bright red.

The children wave as we pass. They appear to have no worries or fears.

It wasn’t always so.

Gulu was in the heart of the civil war between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the Government.

Joseph Kony. The LRA.

The Lord’s Resistance Army. Never has a group been more misnamed.

Don’t associate the Lord with the vile and violent acts this militia carried out.

 

And sadly this Acholi-populated army inflicted death and mutliation on its own people.

The worst part of the LRA’s atrocities was the kidnapping of child soldiers. Rebel squads would slip into villages at night and kill, rape, and plunder.

Part of their plunder was the taking of children and teens. They were brainwashed and manipulated into cold-blooded killers.

Child soldiers. What a terrible oxymoron. The two words should never appear in one sentence.

Child soldiers. Their future and innocence taken away.

At one time, an estimated 25,000 children would pour in Gulu town to escape the LRA’s nightime raids.

They were called Night Children.

Seeking shelter wherever they could.

*   *   *

Not so for these colorfully-dressed schoolchildren of today.

They are the next generation after the Night Children.

The children of the children who lived in fear.

That prior generation was robbed.

This generation is living in hope.

And a big part of they and their family’s hope is built on education.

That’s why there’s such a long line of schoolchildren.

And that’s why the statue stands in the midst of Gulu town.

Gulu Statue RoundaboutIt’s not exactly beautiful. It stands in the middle of a roundabout next to a clock. The statue’s base is plastered with ads and polticals signs.

The statue is actually made of sheet metal. A close inspection reveals hammer marks, dents, and discolouration.

But the spirit it represents is strong.  Resilience.

The median of the roundabout is unkempt.

But the statue stands out.

Two children stand behind a huge stacks of books. The books are large. We’d call them tomes or coffee table books.

The book on top is opened.

The two children are reading.

We can assume they are in school.

They are not night children. They live in peace and freedom and this allows them to get an education.

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Education is not the answer to everything.

I firmly believe spiritual matters take priority.

But this doesn’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

Education lifts up a culture.

It provides opprotunities.

It widens a world view.

It adds color to a person’s world.

Transferring a black and white image into the bright colors of Africa.

May it ever be so.

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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