"The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing...Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, 'Be strong, do not fear! ...He will come and save you.' Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the dumb sing...They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
These portions of Isaiah 35 speak of a land that was once ravaged and desperate, that was now being restored and rebuilt. They are reminiscent of the area that we are visiting this weekend; a land torn apart by war and plunder and fear. Our driver, Sunde, is from this area, and it is evident that returning to his homeland stirs up much emotion and meaning. He spoke of the horrors that occurred here, and also showed us the mango tree that served as his classroom. He told us that the roads were empty and people would hide in fear of the rebels. These atrocities only ended about 5 years ago, when the insurgents were finally kicked out. Though there is much healing and restoration still needed, it was a living testimony to see people walking and doing business and laughing.
It was a very active day at the Gulu Church of GOD and for our team. Pastor Roy and I helped with a pastor's and leader's conference that hosted nearly 50 participants. Tim Stevenson brought greetings to the congregation in his witty and endearing way; I conducted a hygiene workshop and Roy brought an update from the recent national conference that he attended in Oklahoma City. I could tell that the direct connection through Roy was meaningful to those in attendance. And, of course, there was jubilant praise throughout the day!
The ladies split up into two teams to go on visits. One group went to see the jjajjas (a grandparent) and the other group went on TAPP visits (Tumani AIDS Prevention Program - Tumani means Hope). They brought each one that they visited a package with gifts and food. These visits mean so much to those who are being visited, as they rarely receive visitors, and it was obvious that they had a great impact on our team members as well.
Dinner and devotions under the generator-fed light bulb hung from the rafter rounded out our busy day, after which we headed back to our hotel for a well-deserved rest (once the booming dance-party music next door ended around midnight!)
- Keith McEntire