I’ve learned now that there are stories even the most broken are terrified of telling.
Everyone – including the impoverished and burdened of Africa – has their highlight reel they’ve chosen to display in front of their reality.
This week I was taken behind that and led to people with a story that has taken me deeper into the heart of Africa than I ever really wanted to go. I am wrecked. I am devastated.
But I don’t feel hopeless.
In fact, I feel convicted, bold, and ready to fight for every tear and heart that is a part of this story.
I spent a day in the life of a girl named Lillian. I arrived before the sun came up and experienced her awakening. To see this is just different; it affects you in a visceral kind of way. It makes it very real and impossible to ignore.
Lillian was one of the disposables. She wasn’t worth the LRA killing her five years ago when they slaughtered her parents and brothers. The rebels left five-year-old Lillian to die alone. She IS the least, the last. She’s part of the community of throwaways left behind in the wake of the LRA, physically unable to resettle, and with nowhere to go and no one to go home to.
There’s something remarkable about this one though.
It seems unreal, but even within this community of brokenness and the helpless, she is alone.
Lillian is ostracized, laughed at, discriminated against. She smells constantly of urine because of internal deformities and is discriminated against at school, where, if allowed to attend, she would only be in second grade. Often, Lillian is forced to sleep in an unfinished hut, where she cries herself to sleep because she is so alone. When I first looked into Lillian’s eyes, I saw emptiness. I saw resignation.
Lillian and I made the arduous walk to receive a bed. Step by step, I watched a determined ten-year-old fighting for herself, holding onto some level of dignity and dreams of tomorrow.
I have never been more proud to stand beside someone as I was on those red dirt roads of Uganda.
I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now, when the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the Truth.John 16:12-13
I tell stories of hope, love, and redemption being taken to the hurting children in Africa. It’s a beautiful story really. But this week I saw everything behind the scenes. I watched Lillian drag her new bed into her hut. She laid her head down for sleep and in that, there was hope. I saw there can be peace.
It didn’t fix her problems for me to be there or for us to provide a bed, but we started the process of recovery.
These stories aren’t intended to be easy or simple. Love and sacrifice hurt. But from pain comes redemption, restoration, and rebirth.
Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day. For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.2 Corinthians 4:16-17
For the first time, the healing is allowing the stories to be told. Graphic stories. Impassioned stories. From those stories is escaping independence, freedom, and restoration. As these stories are told, and hearts and minds are mended, those affected by the evils of the past are finding the strength to stand on their own two feet.
I am going to listen. And I am going to share their stories.
I can help Lillian. We can all help others like Lillian. While it’s bound to hurt, it isn’t difficult. It doesn’t take talent, or skill, or very much money. It takes your heart. You just have to allow it to capture your imagination. Let it make you think bigger than what you are, to something so small as an individual child in Africa, or Cambodia, or China. It’s just so easy. But it takes us all. And you have to take the first step. Because they cannot. And they’re waiting for you.