The following post was written by our friend Chloe Jordan who visited Sixty Feet recently with Visiting Orphans. If you haven’t already, check out their site to find out about the exciting trips they have planned for the rest of 2011 and 2012 with Sixty Feet and other ministries in Africa. If you have been wanting to travel to Uganda with Sixty Feet, now is your chance.
It has been exactly 31 days since I walked up to the barren landscape called M. I prayed fervently that day, knowing that I don’t do well with anything or anyone being unjustly detained. It is just one of those things that strikes a chord in my heart, that someone or something intended for one place or purpose is trapped by concrete and iron bars. I always hated those scenes in movies where a character had a mission or appointment and was locked in a hamper or held back by the protagonist. It’s more than just the walls that anger me, but that someone else’s will could be forced upon another.
I laid my hand on that cold, iron door, with this quiet anger. Children! There are so many justifiable reasons to detain someone, a beast, a danger to society, but a child? What great evil might a child have schemed that would require cold, iron bars? It burnt my heart.
They have such beautiful spirits and smiles. I see mothers, fathers, teachers, social workers, nurses, even hip-hop stars in their little eyes. I can’t imagine being at the mercy of a system. I would crumble in helplessness. I even looked to the Lord and told Him that I don’t know if I would be able to profess Him boldly if I were in these prisons; yet that one day I spent at M will change the way I worship for all of eternity.
God is apart from circumstance in their faithful hearts. He is the God who sees them, who knows their names, their laughs, not the God who would allow them to be swept up accidentally and thrown into a rehabilitation center miles from their families. He is the God who gives them hope in and through it. We were all on our knees that day in the holding cell. This is what I wrote later that night.
This morning we prayed as we drove 2 hours to a “child rehabilitation center”, knowing that what the day held would be dark, jolting. After being escorted through a check-in process, we were brought through the facility. A corridor of confinement cells, cement floors and walls, entry rooms where children are put as they arrive for weeks with no clothing and a plastic basin. Running water is a more recent installment to the compound. Barren landscape. 219 kids. 200 boys. 19 girls. I didn’t even know how to begin to process what my eyes were seeing. Wynne made the analogy that they treat these kids as if they were lost pets. When you lose your dog, you call the shelter, which you hope has picked them up on the streets. Most of them will never be reclaimed and are unjustly detained. My friend “K” was walking home one day when a group of young boys came up behind him. They were being chased by police for petty theft, so in the shuffle, “K” was sent to M too, for 2 years. The children had open wounds, untreated sores, and clothes that you would never even let your child wear as pajamas in the States. We throw out clothes with one stain from snack; these children would give up a meal for a bar of soap to scrub their clothes. They will keep them in solitary confinement cells for weeks, months even, to “break them down” for crimes that they either didn’t commit or committed out of desperation.
Passing through cell after cell, we gathered in a concrete room. What happened next was beyond anything I’ve ever tasted or seen. The boys began singing, clapping, and dancing. You could feel the Ugandan beat in your chest. I looked around me and saw boys earnestly raising their hands to the sky; our eyes clinched shut, singing “Let the mercy of the Lord come down. Let the favor of the Lord come down. Let the forgiveness of the Lord come down.” We sank to our knees and raised our hands to the Lord of hosts. One of the boys stood in the center leading each song, praying in Lugandan, pleading on behalf of the children gathered around him on their knees. He is only 17.
God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. I don’t worship on my knees till they ache, sway to the movement of the Spirit, and weep at the taste of His mercy. I never hunger, shower in privacy, know where my parents are, drink water whenever I thirst, entertain myself mindlessly, make a doctor’s appointment at the first sign of a cold, and know that my dreams could be accomplished. These children have no second chance. Many will be held in this cold compound for years, away from their schooling and family, mistreated, and beaten. When they are released, going back to primary school is unfathomable, trade school costs too much.
But then there is Moses.
He visits all 6 centers across Uganda weekly, plays soccer, sees that they receive medical attention, reasons with the system, and creates a second chance. Sixty feet ministries is carrying the Gospel headlong. These centers may never change, the environment may always keep their wounds from healing, and mistreat children, but Moses is seeing to it that they find their families, and hopes to build homes for them to live in after their release. It is only possible through sponsorship and the forming of these homes that this sick cycle will slow, much less end.
Africa is real. God commands us to care for the fatherless, and now I know why. They have no advocate.
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. – Deuteronomy 30