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Uganda, the LRA, and Invisible Children — Repost

This is an older post, but I have decided to post it again because it is a very current subject.  This post includes what is going on in Uganda, what the LRA is, and how you can help through the organization called Invisible Children.  Most of this was written by a guest blogger, Chris Rosenberry.  Please read, learn, and then help.  It is so easy and can be done right through this blog.  Thanks!

Two weekends ago, I started a segment called “Why Weekends” in which I want to look at problems in the world that we, as inhabitants of our planet, are all responsible to be a part of changing.  I do believe the Christians should be motivated by the love of God to make a difference in light of these issues, but I also think it is something for everyone to work on no matter what you believe.  The first one was about extreme poverty in the world and one way to be a part of the solution (give it a read if you haven’t Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision-Part 1).  I intended to get to Part 2 this week becauase I was sick over the weekend, but another solution to an extreme poverty related issue presented itself to me and I wanted to move on it.

“How You Can Be the Change” will be an occasional segment for opportunities that come up to offer you ways to “be the change” that the world needs with minimal effort on your part.  Part of this will be to include “experts” when I can to give you first hand information and experiences from other people.  Today I was able to do that.

I have asked my friend, Chris Rosenberry, to write and tell you about an organization called “Invisible Children.”  If that sounds familiar it might be because it is on your computer screen right now.  Look to the left of the page.  There is a widget called “Social Vibe”.  This is a way for you to raise money and support for charities by just watching ads online.  That is all you have to do.  You only have to sacrafice a couple of minutes.  So easy!  I have chosen Invisible Children for my charity because what they do is awesome and what they are fighting is awful.  Instead of me telling you about it, I will let Chris give tell you about his experiences with the organization and about why it is so important to him.

Chris went to North Greenville College with me for a little while (Go Mounties!).  He is now the Youth and Arts pastor at The Refuge in Hilton Head, SC.  He is the husband of but one wife and the father of three.  Chris has a passion for social justice, obscure music, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Okay, take over Chris.

Five years ago my eyes were opened to an unseen tragedy that would change my life, and the lives of my family, forever.  I had just begun working as a youth pastor in Hilton Head, SC and was looking for ways to get my students involved in missions projects which we could support without getting in a van or on a plane.  In my research, I found a video, backed by the Killers’ song “All These Things That I’ve Done” (an instant selling point), where high school and college aged students were giving up the comforts of their beds to sleep in fields and parking lots, writing letters, and trying to make people aware of one of the greatest disasters of their generation.

For well over 20 years a war has been waging in East Africa, in the nation of Uganda.  This war, a civil war, began as a well supported uprising within the Acholi people, the people of Northern Uganda, against the nation’s government.  But when its leader was exiled and a new leader, named Joseph Kony, attempted to take control of the rebellion by creating his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) support dwindled.  With little support from his own people, Kony and the LRA resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight as part of the LRA.

Since Kony took control of the rebellion, thousands of children have been abducted and thousands have lost their innocence and their lives.  It is estimated that currently 90% of the LRA is made up of children, and that over the years as many as 66,000 children have been abducted.  It is also estimated that over the course of the war, over 1.8 million Northern Ugandans have been forced into Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps) as a way of minimizing the casualties of this war.  And though about 900,000 of these people have been allowed to return to their homes, there are still almost 1 million people living in IDP camps where approximately 1,000 people die every week.

The war in Northern Uganda, which has now also spread to Congo and other East African nations, has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today.  What is worse, is that for many many years this crisis was completely invisible to the outside world.  That is, until 3 film students from San Diego got on a plane and discovered what was to become their life’s work.  They came home with footage of children walking for miles each night to find a safe place to sleep, footage of the Acholi people living in fear of the LRA, and footage of aid workers asking for help.  They also came home with a mission, and shortly thereafter released their footage as a documentary film entitled Invisible Children: Rough Cut.  This film was the genesis of an organization that would commit itself to ending the war in Uganda, restoring the Acholi people, and helping to make the universe of East Africa a safe and thriving place for children to grow up.  That organization is called Invisible Children.

Since that first film, which was released in 2003,  Invisible Children has seen much change in Northern Uganda.  Schools have been rebuilt, peace has been as close as a signature way, children feel safe to sleep in their own homes, laws have been passed in the United States to aid Uganda in the capture of Joseph Kony, and hope seems very much alive.  But the work is not complete.  Joseph Kony and the LRA are still at large.  They continue to terrorize the people of East Africa, with most of their focus on the nation of Congo, and they continue to abduct, abuse, and enslave children, but Invisible Children will not give up.

Since my first encounter with Invisible Children n 2006 my family and youth group have seen, and been a part of, some of the major changes in Uganda.  We have slept in fields for days, we have been to Washington to enlist the help of our government, we have told the story of these children whats seems to be a thousand times, and we have seen our own lives changed for the better.  It is truly amazing what happens when put others before ourselves, when we take care of our neighbor, even if our neighbor is halfway across the globe.  Our involvement has taught me the depths of what the Apostle James calls pure religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

There are times when we say to ourselves, “Someone else will take care of that problem” or “That is not my problem,” but what I have learned is that there are those who do not have voices of their own, who cannot speak up and ask for help, who do not have the power or influence to affect change, and therefore it is the job of those of us who have a voice to speak up, to act, to not rest until justice has been found..  The cause of Invisible Children has shown me my voice, my students’ voices, my wife’s voice, and even the voices of my small children.  We will not rest until there is peace and restoration in East Africa, and we pray that you will join us.

For more information, ways to get involved, media resources, or ways to donate to the cause please visit Invisible Children.

 

Back to Joe:

Don’t forget, you can EASILY help Invisible Children make a difference by just clicking on the widget to your left and watching some ads.  Come on.  It is simple.  Then go to the website and find out other ways to help, like Chris said.

Make a difference.  Be the change.

Don’t forget to become an email subscriber. Updates will be sent automatically to your inbox!  If Chris blogging brought you here, please check out my other posts.

Performancing Metrics

 

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Poverty: An Imbalance of Opportunity

Today I have the honor of a guest blogger. 

I guess the process started a year or so ago, but my friend, Joey Espinosa, felt led to pack his life and family up and move to the lower part of South Carolina to Allendale County, which is a part of the Corridor of Shame.  Allendale is, per capita, the poorest part of the state.  He was living in the upstate and the children’s pastor of my church.  God moved him in the direction of going to live out his faith and restart a Boys and Girls Club in Allendale.  The whole story is amazing, and you can find out more on his blog, Mission: Allendale.  Additionally he has another blog about faith and parenting called A Different Way.

When we think about poverty, we have to move beyond considering the lack of resources. Generational poverty is also about the lack of opportunities.

Our Basic Desire

Years ago, when I had a “real” job, my co-workers and I were having a discussion about a war going on in another part of the world. It was a divided group, with some very strong opinions from both ends of the political spectrum. As you can imagine, the conversation was going nowhere fast.

After trying to stay out of the fracas, I felt like I had to say something, to redirect the issue. “You know what I think about? That there is some dad in that country with kids my age. He really doesn’t care about which side is right or wrong. He’s just trying to provide for his family, so his kids can grow up safe, healthy, and educated.”

No matter what social status you are in, everyone has the  common bond of wanting a chance. For some of us, it’s the opportunity to buy  more and better stuff. For others, it’s the opportunity for a more fulfilling  job, or a way to better use their gifts. And for many  people in the world (including the USA), they
merely want opportunities to obtain basic needs for their families, like food,  shelter, and health care.

When I pause and reflect, something just isn’t right about many of the imbalances  we see. And it’s not so much the imbalance of consumable resources, but the  imbalance of opportunities.

Imbalance of Opportunities

This past summer, a few high school students from Greenville  lived with a friend in the Allendale area, and they also spent a handful of  nights with us.

Late in July, one of the boys came to me in the morning and calmly informed me that his ear hurt. I told him that it would probably feel  better later. But my wife (the compassionate mom) knew what it was: an ear infection.

After trying to contact his mom (unsuccessfully) and trying to figure out if he had insurance or Medicaid (“I don’t know”), my wife took him to a local clinic.

Joanna explained to the medical staff the situation, and he received the attention he needed. The payment was based on a sliding scale, and was a trivial amount (for us).

But the part that stood out was having to pay $8 for the prescription drug amoxicillin. Why did this irk us? Because in Greenville, this drug would be free at a Publix pharmacy.

So, in the most under-resourced part of the state (Allendale), people pay $8 or more for a particular medicine. And in one of the wealthiest areas in the state (Greenville), you can get it for free.

Opportunities in Education

How many more advanced placement (AP) classes do you think are available in the average school in Greenville or Columbia, compared to Allendale? Surely there are children with above-average intelligence and motivation in this area.

How are kids going to consistently develop relationships of trust with educators in this school district, with the highest teacher turnover ratio, and where half of the schools have new principals in 2011?

We are seeing a negative trend of the imbalance in many areas. Not only have suburban schools gained advantages over urban ones, but they tend to hoard these advantages. Under-resourced schools become more under-resourced, comparatively.

“I Desire Mercy, Not Sacrifice”

I am not pushing for socialism or communism. I’m not proposing mandatory wealth distribution. But I am saying that our hearts need to be stirred and softened. We need to be moved to take action when we see the scarcity of opportunity in areas of generational poverty.

Consider what your life would be like if you were in their shoes. What resources would you need? What opportunities?

Try not to think of those in poverty as a group, as in “What they need is . . .” Consider the individuals, the families. For, however much of little that you have, there is always someone else worse off, who just needs a chance.

Related Links

They’re Baaack!

What’s Our Ultimate Purpose in Allendale?

So, what do you think?  I believe there is STRONG biblical evidence that when it is all said and done, what we are going to be judged most for in the end is what we did concerning those less fortunate, specicially the extreme poor, those in generational poverty because of a lack of opportunities, orphans, and widows.  We have “pet sins” in the Amercan Church.  We like to pick on premarital sex, drunkedness, and homosexuality…but we leave out what it seems the God holds more important, taking care of each other.  Never donating time and money to helping give those in need a hand up is not often talked about as a sin, but it is.  Throughout the Old and New Testament, this is one thing that comes up more than anything else.  How did you treat the poor, widows, orphans.  What did you do about it?

I am not suggesting that everyone do what Joey and his family did, but you need to do something.  Donate some time (not just money) to a cause for those in generational poverty.  Pray about it.  Find something.  Do it.  And then see if you don’t start to see God start to change you.

Performancing Metrics

 

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Uganda, the LRA, and Invisible Children

 

Two weekends ago, I started a segment called “Why Weekends” in which I want to look at problems in the world that we, as inhabitants of our planet, are all responsible to be a part of changing.  I do believe the Christians should be motivated by the love of God to make a difference in light of these issues, but I also think it is something for everyone to work on no matter what you believe.  The first one was about extreme poverty in the world and one way to be a part of the solution (give it a read if you haven’t Why Weekends–Why and WorldVision-Part 1).  I intended to get to Part 2 this week becauase I was sick over the weekend, but another solution to an extreme poverty related issue presented itself to me and I wanted to move on it.

“How You Can Be the Change” will be an occasional segment for opportunities that come up to offer you ways to “be the change” that the world needs with minimal effort on your part.  Part of this will be to include “experts” when I can to give you first hand information and experiences from other people.  Today I was able to do that.

I have asked my friend, Chris Rosenberry, to write and tell you about an organization called “Invisible Children.”  If that sounds familiar it might be because it is on your computer screen right now.  Look to the left of the page.  There is a widget called “Social Vibe”.  This is a way for you to raise money and support for charities by just watching ads online.  That is all you have to do.  You only have to sacrafice a couple of minutes.  So easy!  I have chosen Invisible Children for my charity because what they do is awesome and what they are fighting is awful.  Instead of me telling you about it, I will let Chris give tell you about his experiences with the organization and about why it is so important to him.

Chris went to North Greenville College with me for a little while (Go Mounties!).  He is now the Youth and Arts pastor at The Refuge in Hilton Head, SC.  He is the husband of but one wife and the father of three.  Chris has a passion for social justice, obscure music, and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Okay, take over Chris.

Five years ago my eyes were opened to an unseen tragedy that would change my life, and the lives of my family, forever.  I had just begun working as a youth pastor in Hilton Head, SC and was looking for ways to get my students involved in missions projects which we could support without getting in a van or on a plane.  In my research, I found a video, backed by the Killers’ song “All These Things That I’ve Done” (an instant selling point), where high school and college aged students were giving up the comforts of their beds to sleep in fields and parking lots, writing letters, and trying to make people aware of one of the greatest disasters of their generation.

For well over 20 years a war has been waging in East Africa, in the nation of Uganda.  This war, a civil war, began as a well supported uprising within the Acholi people, the people of Northern Uganda, against the nation’s government.  But when its leader was exiled and a new leader, named Joseph Kony, attempted to take control of the rebellion by creating his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) support dwindled.  With little support from his own people, Kony and the LRA resorted to abducting children and forcing them to fight as part of the LRA.

Since Kony took control of the rebellion, thousands of children have been abducted and thousands have lost their innocence and their lives.  It is estimated that currently 90% of the LRA is made up of children, and that over the years as many as 66,000 children have been abducted.  It is also estimated that over the course of the war, over 1.8 million Northern Ugandans have been forced into Internally Displaced Camps (IDP camps) as a way of minimizing the casualties of this war.  And though about 900,000 of these people have been allowed to return to their homes, there are still almost 1 million people living in IDP camps where approximately 1,000 people die every week.

The war in Northern Uganda, which has now also spread to Congo and other East African nations, has been called the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today.  What is worse, is that for many many years this crisis was completely invisible to the outside world.  That is, until 3 film students from San Diego got on a plane and discovered what was to become their life’s work.  They came home with footage of children walking for miles each night to find a safe place to sleep, footage of the Acholi people living in fear of the LRA, and footage of aid workers asking for help.  They also came home with a mission, and shortly thereafter released their footage as a documentary film entitled Invisible Children: Rough Cut.  This film was the genesis of an organization that would commit itself to ending the war in Uganda, restoring the Acholi people, and helping to make the universe of East Africa a safe and thriving place for children to grow up.  That organization is called Invisible Children.

Since that first film, which was released in 2003,  Invisible Children has seen much change in Northern Uganda.  Schools have been rebuilt, peace has been as close as a signature way, children feel safe to sleep in their own homes, laws have been passed in the United States to aid Uganda in the capture of Joseph Kony, and hope seems very much alive.  But the work is not complete.  Joseph Kony and the LRA are still at large.  They continue to terrorize the people of East Africa, with most of their focus on the nation of Congo, and they continue to abduct, abuse, and enslave children, but Invisible Children will not give up.

Since my first encounter with Invisible Children n 2006 my family and youth group have seen, and been a part of, some of the major changes in Uganda.  We have slept in fields for days, we have been to Washington to enlist the help of our government, we have told the story of these children whats seems to be a thousand times, and we have seen our own lives changed for the better.  It is truly amazing what happens when put others before ourselves, when we take care of our neighbor, even if our neighbor is halfway across the globe.  Our involvement has taught me the depths of what the Apostle James calls pure religion:

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

There are times when we say to ourselves, “Someone else will take care of that problem” or “That is not my problem,” but what I have learned is that there are those who do not have voices of their own, who cannot speak up and ask for help, who do not have the power or influence to affect change, and therefore it is the job of those of us who have a voice to speak up, to act, to not rest until justice has been found..  The cause of Invisible Children has shown me my voice, my students’ voices, my wife’s voice, and even the voices of my small children.  We will not rest until there is peace and restoration in East Africa, and we pray that you will join us.

For more information, ways to get involved, media resources, or ways to donate to the cause please visit Invisible Children.

Back to Joe:

Don’t forget, you can EASILY help Invisible Children make a difference by just clicking on the widget to your left and watching some ads.  Come on.  It is simple.  Then go to the website and find out other ways to help, like Chris said.

Make a difference.  Be the change.

Don’t forget to become an email subscriber. Updates will be sent automatically to your inbox!  If Chris blogging brought you here, please check out my other posts.

Performancing Metrics

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,