Let me tell you about the event I was a part of last weekend. I’ll step back a bit to explain the situation. About six years ago, three young guys set off for Africa with a general idea of trying to make a difference, aware of the poverty, war, and displacement but without a real plan in mind. They found a specific situation that was simply heartbreaking:
Uganda’s government has been facing attacks from rebel Joseph Kony for over 20 years, and to maintain an army from the war-weary population, he has taken to abducting children and forcing into his army the ones he doesn’t kill. So not only do you have the war and the poverty, which was bad enough for the people there, but now you have families being torn apart and children manipulated into becoming killing machines.
The three guys knew they had found what they were looking for. They made a documentary with the footage they took and started an organization called Invisible Children, which has grown fairly large, garnering support from thousands of citizens and even some politicians (Sam Brownback), musicians (Switchfoot), and celebrities (Kirsten Dunst). They have held different events to try to raise awareness and to bring an end to the conflict and the use of children soldiers, and they have raised a lot of money to help protect, educate, and support children who have not been abducted but live in constant fear.
On Saturday, April 25, we gathered in 100 cities around the world to symbolically “abduct” ourselves. About 600 showed up for the event by the Arch in St. Louis. There were political ambitions for getting the government involved, but there is also a spiritual element to the conflict – rampant superstitions allow Kony to claim mystical power from the “Holy Spirit,” and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are demonic forces involved trying to protect him from physical harm. Some in our group spent time praying for the situation.
Cities were considered “rescued” when a politician or celebrity figure showed up to voice their support. Many cities were rescued Saturday night (Kansas City was lucky enough to get Switchfoot), and some from those cities drove to nearby unrescued cities to offer support and encouragement – about 12 from Nashville drove through the night and joined us Sunday morning. Many of us left for church, but others stayed until the afternoon when Chris Chamberlain from the Rams came and “rescued” St. Louis.
Chicago still hadn’t been rescued, and some of my friends went up to join them. They ended up being the last city, and their numbers dwindled to a hardy 500 as the week wore on. Chicago’s Oprah was one of the lofty goals from the beginning as a potential rescuer, but they actually got her attention on Friday and got a few minutes on her afternoon show – alerting so many more people to the cause.
Two things: First, Emily looks at it – and I do too – as an encouragement that God can use anyone to make a difference and change the world. These three guys weren’t anyone famous, but they fed their talents and passions into a growing organization that is improving children’s lives (the man who led the St. Louis gathering teaches at a high school but goes to Uganda during the summer to teach children there) and working to improve many more. Don’t limit yourself on what you think God can do with your life!
Second, we could probably have a long discussion about Oprah and what she does with her influence (supposedly there’s some conservative conspiracy about her starting an evil religion or something, but I haven’t taken the time to look into the truth), but I believe that God can step in and use even Oprah to advance his Kingdom and work towards justice.
Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
As it is heaven.