(This post was written by our own Abby Skeans who first served in Uganda with us last summer. She chose to return this year and we are excited to have her on the legal team and working to make a big impact on the lives of more children.
I could not be more thrilled to be in East Africa again for the summer. It doesn’t seem possible that one year has already gone by since I began dabbling in the work of juvenile justice in Uganda with Sixty Feet. But as I look back on the first three weeks of my time back in country, I realize that much has changed in ways which I never expected.
I have often written about the work of justice being a test in patience. That to see true, fruitful lasting change takes decades and because of this, those who are committed to legal development in such places have much required of them–mainly perseverance for little immediate return. However, whenever there is some unexpected, immediate impact made, it should be celebrated.
If you’ve been following this work, you’ll remember the story of Harry. A young man who I met through my work on the J-FASTER session in Masindi, Uganda last August, Harry is a powerful testimony to justice working hand in hand with redemption. He had grown up in troubled circumstances with father who practiced traditional healing. At 16, after the violent murder of his father, Harry willingly took the blame for the act in the place of the guilty party, a family member.
The J-FASTER process changed things for Harry last August and after we had negotiated what I perceived to be a fair sentence for the charge, it was overridden by the magistrate who gave Harry time served and make his release possible in just a matter of days. CJI graciously decided to enroll Harry in their sponsorship programme in Kampala and I was confidant when I left Uganda that Harry’s future could be brighter than his past.
Just before I returned to Uganda a few weeks ago, I received a letter from Harry which asked when I was coming back to Uganda and expressed gratitude for his opportunity to choose a different path. These words brought me to tears as I know that I never actually intend for these kinds of small miracles to happen. Instead, I work to answer the call to do justice through simple acts of obedience and stand amazed when God builds these into life changing actions.
One such moment was when I walked into our compound last week after a long day of work and bumped into Harry gathering supplies on his way to school. I, like you, was amazed to see the transformation in his physical appearance. But what was even more astounding was the joy and hope that I heard in his voice as we spoke about all that had transpired since we last saw each other that last day at the magistrate’s court in Masindi.
He asked me if we could travel back to M4 in the coming weeks so he could give an encouraging word of hope to the prisoners there. I asked him if he really wanted to go back to a place that had so many painful, dark memories. He replied, “Auntie Abigail, I would gladly go back and spend nights there to bring hope to those boys. I was one of them not long ago. I want them to know that God can bring them out on the other side.”
Again, I stood amazed. And all I could say was, “Of course we’ll go back.”