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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Night Commuters & Invisible Children
By Sheri Gordon
03/09/09


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“Mom, I joined a club.”

I look up to see my teenage son holding a black can and wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a gun on the front. Oh wonderful.

As impassioned words tumble from his mouth—Invisible children, Uganda, night commuters, child soldiers—I notice that the barrel of the revolver is not a gun, but rather a video camera. And on the black can is a picture of an African girl, with the words Change for the better.

“And Mom, you have to watch this DVD with me—it’ll break your heart.”

Relief washes over me as I realize that my son has not joined some evil gang, but has become involved in a project that has something to do with children in Uganda, and putting our spare change in a can.

For the next thirty-six minutes, I sit mesmerized, watching unspeakable horrors taking place over 9,000 miles away, in a country no bigger than the state of Oregon.

For two decades, the Republic of Uganda has been paralyzed by the barbaric atrocities committed by Joseph Kony, the guerrilla leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army—LRA. The self-proclaimed messiah of the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda turned on his own people when they lost confidence in him as their leader. In his tyrannical reign, Kony has kidnapped more than 30,000 Ugandan children, ages 5-12, and massacred thousands of the Acholi people.

I sit frozen as I listen to Jacob’s story—abducted by the LRA when he was eleven years old. His brother tried to escape, but the rebel army caught him and killed him with a panga—machete. Jacob does not shed a tear as he tells of watching the rebels cut his brother’s neck. “I tried to cry, but they say when I cry they are going to kill me.”

Every night, thousands and thousands of children, some as young as five years old, leave their rural villages and walk up to ten miles to major urban centers, seeking refuge in abandoned buildings, hospital basements, bus stops…even alleyways. Their families send the children away to protect them from the LRA, who ambush remote villages in the night, stealing the children. If caught, the young boys are trained to be soldiers…the girls are turned into sex slaves for the rebel army.

The images I witness on the DVD are unbelievable. These children, known as “night commuters,” sleep on concrete floors or mats they carry with them. They also carry their own blanket and many go without. Thousands of night commuters fill the bare rooms…literally packed in and lying together like sardines. The pictures on the screen are too horrendous to stomach. I want to hit the fast forward button, but know I must continue to watch.

Having survived another night, at daybreak the children walk back to their villages to help with chores. Some even get to go to school…until dusk begins to fall and the “commute” commences once again.

Those who are abducted are known as the “invisible children.” Invisible because there are no official records of their numbers or ages. Invisible because their own army, the Lord’s Resistance Army, denies their existence. Invisible because the government of Uganda has ignored them. Invisible because they are simply gone.

As the documentary draws to a close, Jacob and another teenage boy are shown again on screen. When asked if he would rather live or die, Jacob’s answer comes quickly. Even though he has escaped from the rebel army, he would rather die. “How are we going to stay in our future? We are only two, no one taking care of us.” And then he sobs…and sobs…and sobs.

The credits roll, and I don’t move. The plea for help comes, and I don’t move. The screen goes black, and I still don’t move.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken these innocent children?!

Silence. God doesn’t provide me with an answer.

I know there is evil in this world. I know that the prince of darkness rules the earth for a time. I know God is victorious in the end. But…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken them?



*************************************************************
Invisible Children, Inc. is a non-profit organization founded by three young men from Southern California. They went to Africa to film a story—they came back determined to make a difference in the world. Please visit www.invisiblechildren.com to hear and see more of the story of the night commuters and child soldiers of Uganda.



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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 03/12/09
A horrific story. My only answer: God hasn't forsaken them. We, His hands, feet, and heart, are too busy with our own concerns to carry out our part of the redemptive plan His Son died to put into place. Excellent writing, and a story that needs to be widely read.
Gregory Kane03/12/09
Great title, a moving story and an uncomfortable theme. I'm not sure how helpful it is to leave the question hanging in the air. It strikes me that a number of people are going to read this piece and want to do something about it. And just sending some coins to a bunch of film-makers isn't maybe the best response. So what can be done for the forgotten victims of the LRA's atrocities? You tell me.
Jan Ackerson 03/13/09
Chilling--written exactly the way a piece like this should be written, without mercy for the reader. I was both educated and moved. I love the open ending, because of course we all search for answers and many times they do not come. Powerful entry!
Mona Purvis03/13/09
Powerful piece about a subject that is so hard to deal with. As Christians, we know how God's heart is broken in this. He gives man free will...look what we do with it? We should be screaming out to Satan! It is his work.
While we may not be in a position to affect these directly, there is always something we can do. We pray, we help those who are in our circle of influence and we tell others about Jesus. He is the answer.
Mona
Joanne Sher 03/14/09
Simply heartbreaking, and such an important lesson we must learn. I was appalled, but blessed by learning of these poor children.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/14/09
As your story shows, so often it is young people with tender hearts who care so much about atrocities to others. May God awaken my own heart to prayer for these lost little ones. I am reminded how Jesus loves the children. Your story is powerful.
Norma-Anne Hough03/15/09
Powerful story. It is so sad that children are used in such an awful way.
Catrina Bradley 03/16/09
Heartbreaking. I feel ashamed that we have it so good while all these children are suffering. Wonderful job telling this horrifying tale; you've got me in tears.
Karlene Jacobsen 03/16/09
Oh, how horrible. This was wonderfully written, drawing me in and wanting to know more.
Chely Roach03/16/09
This is a horrific and humbling truth within this piece...these children are invisible because we allow it. Wonderful, wonderful writing on a gripping subject.Superb.
Connie Dixon03/17/09
Thank you for sharing this unbelievable existence. If this is not a cause to fight for, then what is? Very emotional and compelling. It's time to start doing something to help these kids. (Great writing, too)
Ruth Ann Moore03/17/09
Excellent title. Those poor little souls, and what they have to go through to survive. Thank you for sharing this heart wrenching story.
Laury Hubrich 03/18/09
I love how our kids are so aware of world problems now and want to get involved however they can. Very good piece.
Henry Clemmons03/18/09
Message received! Very well communicated. I like it when a piece involves my soul and spirit as well as my mind. Great job.
Sonya Leigh03/19/09
Congratulations on your placement, and on your EC! Very moving writing and even more moving reality. There is no fairness this side of heaven...but thanks be to God that He sees all and that nothing escapes Him.
Carol Slider 03/19/09
Yet another vivid reminder of how fortunate we are, and how obligated we are to help those who are not so fortunate. Congratulations--very well done!
Sharon Kane03/19/09
Congratulations! Excellent writing. I love the way the Mum was first aghast at the thought of her son joining an evil gang, then lulled into a sense of peace, and then - WHAM - hit right between the eyes! You brought the terrible suffering of these children (and their families) very much to light. Good job.
Holly Westefeld03/19/09
Gripping and heart-breaking.
And the UN is worried about whether we use corporal punishment, make our kids do chores, and "brain-wash" them with our religion. There are much bigger fish to fry.
Charla Diehl 03/19/09
I felt like the MC's mom at the end. Numb. The horrors that happen to innocent kids are heart-wrenching to hear or read about--but thank you for writing this. We all need to be aware of Satan's evil, so at the very least, we can pray.