The story of Karamoja from my lenses.

There scriptures that make sense in one place and in others it seems not to be making sense. Ever been in a place where God drops a word in your heart and you feel like its a bad joke? Well, that is the place am talking about. Where you even look for a most appropriate one that might fit the place and circumstances better. God is not like us. If we are keen to His admonition and leading we will not miss what He is saying.

The first time I was at Karamoja God was very specific on the following scripture Philippians 2:3-5
[3]Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
[4]Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. The Humbled and Exalted Christ
[5]Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, with emphasis on ‘ but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself’. Wow, it is very easy to esteem our bosses and people in authority as better than ourselves, on the other hand it sounds like God just dropped the wrong text for the said people.

You see, Karamoja is one forgotten community, infact you wonder what would be better than me in them? It is really hard to be in my shoes. Then I felt conflicted, I thought, maybe God the word right for this place would be, feed my sheep. It would make sense and atleast easy to relate. Why ask me to esteem them better than myself. Need I remind you that these people would need me for their basics? I at first battled with it, I felt like its not God speaking to me.

As time went by, the word kept coming and reminding me; Grace let each esteem others better than himself! Why now? I was in a place I was just settling in Uganda, the group we were doing global Issues program with, were from different cultures and orientation, and then Kenjong’ was glaring at me.I had alot in my bucket to handle, why would God ask me such to do such a tough thing.

Previously, I had a shadow idea on how Karamoja looks like and what to expect on bare minimum. I looked for words or something that would help me to come to the level of these people. Well, I took most of the time at the back seat. It was safer there. I didn’t know what to do or say. I would gaze at these wonderful people speechlessly. In my queiteness I saw contented people, full of life, genuine laughter and joy unspeakable. I couldn’t help but wonder, what makes them happy and full of joy while all around would require a gloomy face?

Then and then, I discovered there is something am missing they have. The scripture that God dropped in me was slowly and surely making sense. My perspective changed, I couldn’t come into terms why people who are in dire need could afford a smile. All along I thought God was done with them, how would they emit joy when they couldn’t afford two meals a day? Sometimes they go with none at all. How could they afford a smile while they can’t access education, healthcare? How were they doing it? Me on the other side I was thinking of how I need to progress in my career or make more money! Sad it is! Then I realised why I ought to esteem them higher than myself.

I went home a changed person, the things I thought I needed faded away. And I knew I needed a kind of rest and peace that only God gives. The realisation that there are so many things the world has taught us that we can’t do without its a lie. We have been on the bait, we think we can’t live without internet and calls. But why are Karamoja people existing and moreover living a fulfilled life? What am I missing? Why don’t they worry about fashion? Infact there men sometimes walk half naked and have nothing to worry.

In the recent week I visited Karamoja regions for supervision and support to our missionaries. Once again in anticipation I thought it was season for rat as a delicacy. As it is my norm, every time I make trip to the mission field my heart is open. Anything is possible. I remember on our first day as we were visiting a couple missionaries who are settled in Moroto. When in Karamoja two things are constant either looking down if not so, look to Jesus up and above.

Why look to Jesus? On instances you will meet old men wearing a shirt and shuka that is loosely hang and exposing private parts of their body. I kept thinking its not true until I came into contact with one. Wait until our missionary share their ordeal as they offer them services at the health centre. They assure us, its possible to get used. On the other hand, my head and heart can’t come to terms.

Why look down? In my curiosity I learnt that this community do not believe in use of toilets. Why? They say, when poop is accumulated it smells more than when scattered, if not so they are spreading the fertilizer. This explains why you have to keep looking down while you are walking in the villages. Does God love these people? Yes He does. Does He care for them? Yes He does. Is there hope for a better future? Ooh yes am confident.

This recent visit, I looked around the villages and I know that theres so much hope, the future can only get better. It may not happen overnight but sooner than later we are making progress. Where I come from, once upon a time we were in the same shambles as Karamoja is. But when I look around today I see major developments, permanent structures, good road, vast education opportunities. This is a reminder that Karamoja too will evolve.

What won my heart during this visit is an ongoing structure of the church. The stuck am seated on, the above photo offered a shelter to the church of Lotirir. Under this tree, close to two years ago, we danced, led people to Christ, did counselling sessions, and showed Jesus movie to hundreds of Lotirir community. It had a coolant shade, people would raise their voices in honour of their maker. Fellowship, prayers, communion would happen under this tree. As we speak the tree was cut to pave way for development. It broke my heart!

You see, when God is in the big picture we need not worry. The current tree under which saints meet doesn’t offer a good shade like the former. This has made the community to come together and raise a structure. It is a beautiful thing to see church gaining roots. Church without walls is getting walls, soon they will have a place they can meet and share the word. Even in the strains, it has not hindered them to do the needful.

We, on the other side we are much bothered, our church does not have the latest sound. Or maybe the pulpit is not the current one, if not so, what clothes to wear as the choir. The simplicity in this place is breathtaking, no pressure. Did I forget to say a shower is a luxury? Being clean translates to smart. They are unbothered about current trends. The IG and keyboard warrior is alien. While we are trying to stay at bay with the constant war on social media. There concern is grazing, weeding and ofcourse brewing booze.😁😁

As we were seated a few kilometres from the town, the clouds starts getting heavy. Then our host says, we forgot gumboots. Wow, I was on light sandles. This meant, anything is possible. If the heavens opened up, this would translate to a long stretch walking bare feet. I enjoy such moments, when all is rendered futile and you become like them. Just a teaser of how life is for a Karamajong who has to face this kind of life daily. Somethings are better understood upon experience. What better way than to be on their shoes for a moment.

Well, thanks to God the heavens didn’t open up and we were able to get to the guest house safe and sound, no shenanigans.. It is quite true that cattle raiding is very rampant in this town. And retaliation is the order of the day. In the course of our discussion one guy says, if am to speak about cases of insecurity we might spend a whole night and not finish the ordeals that have dominated the region. The most shocking one was how young boys are taking up unhumane acts. You see, we learn alot by observing. Young boys have learnt how to use bow and arrow.

What this has turned out to be is really sad. They have embarked on aiming at people who are using bodaboda rides. Most times they hide under the culvert. Their joy is to see someone fall off the bodaboda and drop dead. I was dumpfounded, that moment when all you desire is to be back home. I couldn’t help but wonder who will deliver this community from such ugly games. To a commoner, that is normal and okay. Infact they think its a game.

Many innocent lives are lost in the process. And no one bothers to seek justice. In the course of time I have realised my experiences are crafting an activist in me. Seeing injustices happening and no one is acting makes me want to shout on top of my voice. When I look at the many kilometers expectant mother’s have to walk to get services my heart stops. Seeing facilities in deplorable conditions and none is bothered has not left me the same.

Karamoja is one of the places that keeps stirring emotions and action point for me. Am not Ugandan, but my heart desires to see a better Uganda. It has been my home for as long us I can remember. It remains close to my heart. In here, I got great covenant friends who make my stay worthwhile.

What am I saying? There is hope in Karamoja. We have a role to play whatsover. They are part of this great nation, they have right to enjoy basic services and have a meaningful livelihood. They deserve better. Infact they even vote for representation in the parliament. As the body of Christ we have to pull up our socks and reach out with intentions.

Some shoes in one of the waste place. The ones when we are asked to give out in random act of kindness? they end up in waste bins.😚😚

Looking on the photo above, I was taken aback. I saw myself, how I am quick to package some of my clothes that have been on my wardrobe without use.. Do I take time to think through what would be their dire need or its a dumping affairs? Sad but true. Am guilty as charged. Does it end there? No, not at all. We have a role to play. I and you, we need to wake and smell the coffee. Be an advocate in your sphere of influence. If we all gave concerted effort we can achieve alot. If we wait for government to do it. It may never be forthcoming.

On becoming fearless. Faith over fear. Till all have heard. Do not forsake mercy and truth. The kingdom of God first. Even this will pass.

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