Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Girl Named Faida

I can’t get this little girl’s beautiful face out of my head. It’s imprinted on my heart. Im not sure of her age as sometimes it’s 11 and sometimes it’s 12. Most children at Village of Hope do not know their birthdates anymore. So…they guess.

See, their moms and dads were murdered in the last few years in the LRA rebel raids against the Acholi people. Some were burned, cut up by machetes, or so much worse. Some were shot or hacked to death by their own children as the rebels made them by threatening to kill them. These are the children at the Village of Hope. Fiada’s parents were killed and she and all 5 of her siblings abducted. But..they escaped!

We are visiting Village of Hope with Bethany Haley, a psychologist who works with African children who have gone through trauma. As we led a room full of these children (most are between 10 and 15 years old now) through a time where they were encouraged to share their stories of trauma, I looked at Fiada and I saw her fidgeting and sweating. I started to tell her it was okay…that she could cry and let go and that’s when the dam broke. Sobs began as her broken heart poured out. I embraced her and held her and told her over and over again how sorry I was. She let me hold her for awhile and then, as her heart broke even deeper through her tears, she ran out of the room. One by one, crying children started leaving in sobs. I didn’t follow her b/c I thought she might need that time, but Bethany followed her. Three of the girls had run to their room and were wailing and sobbing. Bethany sat down on Faida’s bed and it was soaked with her tears.

She was able to gain her composure and returned to the room. By this time, I had started crying. She couldn’t look at me… It hurt, but I’ve been there. She’s angry, broken, so sad. Can you imagine her memories?! Watching her parents killed by a rebel or her own sibling. Having to live in the bush with no clothes for days and no food b/c the rebels have looted their home. Then being abducted and having atrocities done to them, most which they will never speak about. In fact, Faida was not one of the girls who was emotionally able enough to share her story. She’s not ready yet. But hearing her sister share the story and other children share their stories, was just too much and the memories flashed back.

I am forever bonded to her now. After this time of practically the whole room of children crying and pouring their hearts out. We let them talk about their hopes and dreams. Faida hopes to drive a car one day and wants to be a lawyer.

As we finished our heavy emotional day, each child chose a rock to represent their past and burdens and they carried them out onto the land and laid them at the bottom of a cross that had been erected. Although Faida seems too afraid or ashamed to look at me, she wanted to walk with me. She made sure I was beside her at all times.

We laid our burden stones down and took our handkerchiefs where we had drawn our hopes and put them on the top of broken tree branches and carried and swayed them back and fort in the air as we sang all the way back to the school room. Declaring“the glory of the Lord and throwing the devil out of our lives”. These were lyrics from a traditional Acholi song they sing.

Then this morning as I awoke, Fiada had chosen to hold a sign that Bethany had created that read, “I am Beautiful” for a video Bethany was making. She was smiley and giddy. As I approached, she got bashful and Bethany said it’s b/c we’ve bonded. It’s the same “game” you play with someone who you do not know if they will love you back or afraid you will lose them.

Before I left the Village of Hope today I had known all week that I was supposed to give Faida this silver promise ring I have worn for the past 10 years. It has the scripture, “I am my Beloveds and my Beloved is mine” written on it in Hebrew. I gave it to her and through an interpreter told her what it meant. I told her that I had fallen in love with her and I began to break into tears saying that if I could be her mother I would. I promised to sponsor her and be her mommy in America. I will help her become a lawyer and will pray for her always. I also promised to return. I told her how sorry I was about what happened to her. She hugged me and held me immediately, thanking me. From that time on, she would not leave my side and did not look away when I looked at her. I truly saw a new hope, a new light in her eyes. There seemed to be less sadness and less anger.
Honestly, I really would be her mom. I don’t know how it could happen for many reasons whilch I will not get into in this email.

But I’m hooked and do not think I can ever stay away from Uganda and from this tragedy that has played out here. I certainly cannot stay away from Faida. She needs the love of a mother, even if all I can give at this time is my prayers, letters, money and visits. What breaks my heart the most is that these children do not have mommies and daddies, but I will get into that on another post.

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