Doomsday goes to East Africa
Updated: Mar 24, 2019
Last summer (July, 2018) I had the honor of going on a trip to Uganda and South Sudan with an organization called Far Reaching Ministries (FRM). We did a wide variety of activities supporting organizations that were already well-established in their communities. The last couple of years, our donation from the Elkhorn Relay has been made to FRM towards a program they have in South Sudan feeding children in the schools of the region. It amounts to over 16,000 kids and the number is growing! Providing many of the kids their only meal of the day. Because of a civil war, the country is undergoing a man-made famine and it is the children who suffer.
Our trip was down to the last few days and we were staying right in the region where these children were being fed but we had yet to meet them! One evening, our trip leader asked if we would be willing to forego seeing the hippos in the Nile to go visit one of the schools in the feeding program. We said a resounding "YES!!!" That is something I will never regret - seizing the opportunity to move past just feeling that twinge of compassion when I see pictures on a blog to actually shaking their hands, making music with them, and simply being with them.
The article below is written by our very gifted friend, Amanda Twilegar, from my perspective. Check out her website, Looking for the North Star, here.
Thanks for taking the time to share in my experiences and for racing with us. We would not be able to make these donations without your sweat on the race course!
Grimy and jet lagged, five Oregon natives stepped off the airplane in Entebbe, Uganda, and into thick humidity. A sea of vans and boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) swarmed the roads. The blair of car horns filled our ears, and our eyes drank in the bright colors and patterns of the culture. After flying over thousands of miles of land and sea, and through numerous time zones, we were a mere four hours from our desired destination, Masindi. We would spend the first part of our trip at a place called Canaan Farm.
Leaving the traffic and bustling noise of Entebbe behind us, we spend the night at a FRM guest house in the capital of Kampala before heading to Masindi. Leaving Kampala, we eventually began to see the rural farm lands that surround the growing town of Masindi. Agriculture and cattle are the main resources of this area. Crooked fields, pitted roads, and clustered huts stretched around us. But as we finally turned onto the red dirt road that lead to Canaan Farm, we were immediately struck by its beauty and order.
This farm, located on a 500 acre plot of land, began years ago as a few fishing ponds and a handful of small buildings. It has transformed into a place of healing and refuge for victims fleeing the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).Since 1987, this terrorist group, led by Joseph Kony, has carried out atrocities in Northern Uganda and neighboring countries. The LRA is responsible for the mass murder of 100,000 civilians, and the abduction of 30,000 children whom were forced into becoming child soldiers or sex slaves. Over a million people were displaced from their homes, villages and communities in the height of terror the LRA inflicted.
Richard and Suzan, who own and run Canaan farm, saw the great need of those who were displaced, wounded, orphaned, and widowed. Other humanitarian groups began to work with them, and within a few years the farm evolved. Besides crops of passion fruit, corn, and sunflowers, and chickens, goats and cows, it now houses a medical clinic, primary school, adult literacy and tailoring school, and church. Richard and Suzan’s goal is to provide a place of healing, education, and discipleship. Those who come to the farm learn from Richard how to tend after animals, farm, and make a living taking care of the land. The women who complete the tailoring school, graduate with the ability to read and owning a new sewing machine.
There is passion for excellence that is evident even in the care and knowledge Richard shows towards the soil, in how he treats his animals, in how he plows his fields. There is deep hope that brims over in the way Duncan, once an orphaned refugee, now an “adopted” son to Richard and Suzan, gently wraps baby tendrils of passion fruit around wire. On this farm, healing is being sown into the land and hearts of the people. The broken, scarred ground of the refugee’s soul is slowly rejuvenating, physically, mentally, and spiritually. In this land where the people have beheld such darkness and devastation, there is a way forward.
During our time there, we worked with a primary school close to the farm, in an impoverished community. In the courtyard of the school, we were greeted by a crowd of children of all ages, smiling widely and offering us their gift of song and dance. We brought supplies and taught in class rooms with dirt floors. Some classes held 50 children, others up to 175, all seated in rows on the floor. None of them had ever seen bubbles before. One of the members of our team brought hundreds of little bottles of bubbles for her 6th grade class. The ages ranged between 11 and 20, and yet the children shrieked with joy and pure delight over the simple magic of it. On the third day, we were able to provide all of the children with backpacks crammed full of supplies. For most of them, they received their first pair of shoes and underwear that day, along with notebooks, a long sleeve shirt, mosquito net and blanket. Within those backpacks was the gift of dignity. Their eyes shone with excitement and pride as they slipped on shoes and pulled long sleeve shirts over tattered rags. A sea of children, clothed in new, red shirts, danced and sang their way back to the village that afternoon.
For the second half of our visit, we traveled by van four hours north to Nimule. Five of us unfolded our bodies from the vehicle and inhaled the heat of South Sudan. Nimule is a town that has experienced violence first hand and is under constant threat from the civil war. Everywhere one looked the evidence of suffering is clear. It was in the faces of the young and old. In the land, though by the Nile river, even the grass seemed dry, the shrubs and trees stunted. And yet it was here that the chaplains of Far Reaching Ministries had taken up their post. In the midst of dusty roads and huts stands a fortress which resembles a castle. Within the fortress walls the chaplains of the SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) are trained by FRM and live in their compound while awaiting orders from their superiors. The villagers trickle in and out throughout the day to draw clean water from the well, and children play in the courtyard.
Change is stirring here. The chaplains who join FRM are from all different tribes. Hatred and war has been passed down as an inheritance from generation to generation. But as each man has become a new creation through a relationship with Christ, the old prejudices have dissolved. Now men who should be enemies from tribal conflicts, are brothers. Through the chaplaincy, they are learning for the first time that women and children are to be valued. In the face of danger from attacking rebel forces, they are not the first to leave, but last. While waiting for orders, they contribute and invest in the community.
Besides training chaplains to defend the defenseless from the rebel forces and hostile tribes, FRM also provides meals for over 20 schools in the region. They purchase bulk food directly from local farmers. Over 14,000 children receive a bowl filled with posho and beans during the school week. For most of them, it is their only meal of the day. The proceeds from Doomsday Racing went directly towards funding this feeding program. It takes $50,000 a month to provide one meal a day for these schools, less than $4.00 a day to fill a child’s belly.
While there, we were able to take part in the feeding program at one of the local schools. It was a Monday, many of the children had not eaten since Friday, but they greeted us with song and dance. Yet in the quiet minutes while they waited for their food to be served, you could sense their weariness and hunger. There would be no need to clean up afterwards, sweep floors, or toss discarded, half eaten bowls of food. When the children finished their meal, not a grain of rice, or bean could be found. Every last bit of food was consumed.
On one of our last days there, the women of the Dinka tribe outside Nimule invited the women in our group to tea.
We were to meet in the morning under a large, Tamarind tree. Plastic chairs had been placed in a circle. Before we arrived, ladies from the compound had baked treats and supplied the necessary equipment for the women of the village to provide tea for us. They were too poor to provide this themselves, but desired to “bring greetings” to us. In their culture it is considered shameful to not provide tea and biscuits for one’s guests.
What these women wanted was fellowship and time with us. It is a humbling thing to realize that the women of Nimule did not need us to fix anything for them. The greatest gift that we gave and received was found under the Tamarind, in fellowship that didn’t require we speak the same language, and in a communion of tea and biscuits.
And this is why we go, across oceans and countries, because a piece of our heart sits under that tree with the women in Nimule, and with children in the grass, savoring a bowl of posho and beans, and on the dirt floor of a cramped school room. A part of our heart is in Canaan Farm, with Richard and Suzan as they rhythmically sweep away the leaves and flowers that have fallen across the dirt paths, and tend to their farm and the souls they share it with.
These faces and stories are just a small glimpse of the drive and passion behind Doomsday Racing. This is why we run, and when you choose to race with us, you become a part of the story. Your registration fees go towards filling a hungry child’s bowl with a meal. You ensure another child receives the bare essentials so they can continue to learn, laying the foundation for a better future. Your training, your race, and experience goes deeper than yourself. It reaches others across the globe. It changes lives.
If you enjoyed this and would like another story about how lives are touched and how people have suffered, please read this short article on my friend, Duncan, with whom we have served with a few times in Uganda. He is such a beautiful soul and it is an honor to know him!