Written by Ashley Nirmalnath (above, 2nd from the right) during the January 2017 WorldRace team trip to the ChildVoice Lukome Center in northern Uganda.

Uganda, a nation healing from deep traumatic suffering. A nation where 50% of its population is under the age of 15 because of previous massacres. A nation where everyone lived in constant fear of the rebel soldiers from the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) just 10 years ago. A nation where survivors recall terrors during the night. A nation where daughters were taken as child brides, women and children raped, husbands slaughtered with machetes in front of their families, kids handed guns and forced to shoot their parents, and thousands of people displaced from their villages and loved ones. 

The war may have ended but the suffering has not. 

Grace shares parts of her story in the book Enduring the Night, a collection of survivors’ stories from ChildVoice International (the organization I partnered with this last month).

"I was digging in the garden with my brother Peter and my parents when the rebels came. They tried to cut my legs with the panga so I couldn't resist, but I kept jumping up to miss their swing. I remember my father yelling, pleading with me to listen to the rebels so they would not cut me. I fell to the ground and they started beating me with sugar canes. There was a lot of mud, so I forced my head deeper into the ground to avoid the major blows. After they beat me, they picked me up and I moved with them to Gulu town, carrying heavy loads for them for a week. On the seventh day a helicopter came, and I saw my chance. I moved next to a boy who was hiding from the soldiers too. I remember our eyes met just before the rebels shot him. His body blew apart, pieces hitting me, his blood staining me. It was my first time to see this kind of death but it wouldn't be my last. I was 10 years old. There were seven rebels and 40 children. I decided to take my chances and run, or I would end up like that boy. I ran all the way home that day. I ran from my captors into the safety of my family's arms. But I soon found out that I would never again be free." 

Grace's story continues with many horrific details including many kinds of abuse and losing her parents and siblings. However, Grace's story is full of redemption. She lives to tell her story and continues to give God the glory for the physical, emotional, and spiritual healing that has taken place through forgiveness.

The Ugandan people suffer from post-traumatic stress as they are scarred with horrific memories. Yet, the Ugandan people are strong, brave, kind, and filled with joy I cannot begin to describe in words. 

Hope is alive here

I can feel it in the crisp morning air as the sun rises and unfamiliar birds sing their melodic songs in the distance while the sunbeams reflect bold colors into my brick hut. I can't help but smile as I am awakened by God’s love for this nation every morning. Even so, I see hope radiate from the people. I can feel it when they lock eyes with me and smile. I feel it when I hold the children and they giggle in my arms. I feel it in times of worship when the people dance and lift their voices to praise God. 

While waiting in line at the hospital as one of my teammates was getting tested for malaria, I met a lovely Ugandan woman named Lucy. She told me stories of her kids and how her family fled out of the village to Kampala during the war to seek refuge from the LRA. Unfortunately, she also carries some deep scars from the horrors she experienced. She told me she can never forget the evil that she saw because of how traumatic it was. When I asked her how she is able to still smile she said, "God is with me and I learned how to forgive." 

Forgive: (verb)

Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.

No longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake). Cancel (a debt).

Forgiveness is not always easy yet it holds the power for freedom. Forgiveness allows the shackles to fall and deep healing to take place. How many of us are trapped in bondage because we have yet to forgive the people who have hurt us the most? It is impossible for the garden of your heart to bloom when bitterness and anger have taken root. 

The Ugandan people carry relentless joy despite the atrocities they have faced because of the forgiveness they have chosen to walk in daily. During my time there, the Lord brought inner healing into my own heart. The Ugandan people have reminded me the power in forgiveness and I am leaving the bush surrendering people and deep wounds unto the Lord. Leaving Uganda, I am also reminded that forgiveness and healing is a process. Yet, the Holy Spirit is faithful in navigating our healing and freedom from the lies we believed for so long through our pain. I am expectant for full restoration while embracing truths over myself. This journey of forgiveness is not always easy but like the Ugandans have shown me, "Joy comes in the morning." 

In order to live life to the fullest we must receive the Lord’s forgiveness over our lives and extend it onto others. His grace is enough. Don't stay trapped in bondage any longer when freedom is attainable in this moment. 

My prayer for you reading this is that you would choose to trust the Lord and begin your own journey of forgiveness and healing as the spirit leads you. 

What do you have to lose?

Uganda, you truly are the pearl of Africa. Thank you for awakening my heart and pushing me towards freedom.

Will you join me in prayer for this nation that is still navigating through forgiveness, healing, restoration, and hope?

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”

1 Corinthians 4:7-11

Read more of Ashley’s WorldRace blogs here.