Wading in that half-awake state of bliss; relaxation and a mind moving slowly, like a stroll in a park. Aware, but not alert, not worried for the day or for life, just present in time. And in this semi-consciousness, I thought about children.
(Look at my last three blogs- of course I was thinking about children!)
God put these clear commands to care for widows and orphans, to not oppress the poor, and to welcome the alien. Its from Old Testament to New- part of God's character and regulations for religion for the conservative, the practical acts of living out a faith-relationship for the liberal. No one gets to back out, no one gets exempted from these commands.
In my dream-state I thought of what this world would look like if we all (and I mean all Christians, not all countries, not all governments, not all communities: just Christian people) did this well.
What would that do to gangs?
What would that do to pimps?
What would that do to drug dealers?
What would that do to human trafficking rings?
What would that do to child-abductors?
What if there were no lonely, hurting children? What if there were no homeless youth, and emotional traumas were being healed well with love and community? What if the vulnerable were protected? What if those with mental health problems found help early on, and a supportive community in their neighborhood? What if the abused were advocated for? What if the broken-hearted were bound-up? What if children without good parental figures found them in the Church? Found a family within the Church? What if? What if?
What if the Church was a physical expression of Christ's love? What if Christians lived out grace, forgiveness, acceptance and adoption?
Well, then the world would change. Entire communities would transform. Children would grow up with love, support and help. And those children would become teenagers who reject violence, and abuse of substances. Then those youth wouldn't have negative peer groups because they found positive ones. Youth into adults.
We all grow up.
The senseless war in Northern Uganda has now migrated into DRC, it began nearly two decades ago, but the timing of the start of the war and the kidnapping of children has never been agreed upon. For those abducted as children, they are now grown. Having been kidnapped in childhood and tortured, manipulated and forced for around 20 years, you would see the face and size of an adult. They are now the oppressors, perpetrating what they were raised in upon others. Reinforcing violence, terror and war for a reason they don't know and can't fathom; it is just their life now. If you were to see them now, armed, in fatigues, and ready to kill you would attack back. But if you saw them at age 6 or 7, you would have pity. You would want to rescue them. They all used to be children.
The people you see in your own community, those people who scare you, anger you, make your blood pressure rise and give your heart some exercise- they used to be children, too. What horror were they raised in? What have they struggled with all their lives? What monsters have they come up against?
I was awed as I read Romeo Dallaire's writing on child soldiers throughout the world. The tactics used by war lards, militia commanders and abductors is the same process most gangs use to induct new members.
The tactics used to brain-wash child soldiers to become killing machines are the same principles that gang leaders utilize to secure new gang members.
Means of terror, manipulation and coercion are how pimps and drug lords keep people oppressed, too. What is happening in the jungles of Congo and Cambodia occur in North American cities daily. And it is happening to children, or to those who didn't have good supports at children; making them vulnerable and susceptible.
It all starts with children. Defending, helping, supporting, loving and advocating for children.
The first time I journeyed to North Uganda I interviewed former child soldiers. I distinctly remember a beautiful, strong girl who had been abducted at the age of 9.
At 9 years old she had lived through war: that is third grade in North America.
But, she escaped!
She was alive because she escaped.
She is not now a killing machine, brain-washed body because she escaped. She doesn't inflict terror on others because she managed to leave. She wasn't aiding in abducting more children because she had managed to get out.
How can the Church help more children escape?
Grace Hope. That was the girl's name, the girl who escaped the LRA and Joseph Kony. And she smiled at me when we talked, told me of her hopes for her future, how well she is doing in school and pointed to the boy she has a crush on. Not just alive, but with a future, with dreams. Because she escaped.
And Grace and Hope are the response to rescue children in any community where violence, poverty, neglect and abuse threaten them and their future. By grace, and by hope. If it's the same principles used to control, to indoctrinate, then the same response is required, no matter what country.
Forgiveness, love, family - these all require Grace. Hope is the only answer I know to mental illness, to war, to atrocities. And what hope do we have? The same that raises people back from the dead and can transform a killer into an advocate: Jesus Christ.
This is why it is the Church that must reach out to the vulnerable; to orphans, because only the Church has grace and hope.
Let us help rescue children.