Category: africa

Gulu: The Moving Pictures

I believe I’ve used the word “beautiful” more over the past two weeks to describe what I saw and experienced in Gulu and the Acholi than I have my whole life over. And part of me wishes for a new, better, more powerful – or just different – adjective.

But the truth is, no other word does them justice.

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THE Blog: The Africa that Changed Me

This has been such a difficult blog to write. I want so much to share everything about Gulu and the Acholi people, but feel a need to give you the brightest highlights and keep the rest to myself until it rises to the surface of circumstance. Not because it’s not worth sharing, but because I fear in sharing it without context, it might lose power. I don’t know, but I don’t yet want to take the risk. I am certain, though, that as time moves us forward, stories will be shared as they relate to circumstances and my experience will prove itself something beyond time.

Grace - one of the Women of Hope - with me after the meeting.

Grace – a Women of Hope – with me after the meeting.

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Missing [my other home] Gulu

I can’t recall ever taking so long or expending so much energy and patience to write a blog. But what I want to tell about Gulu – and more specifically about my experience and why I’ll hopefully never be the same – deserves more time, more editing, more energy. I want to give you the best of what they gave me, with as few errors or potholes of distraction as possible. 🙂

Or maybe I’m just an obsessively compulsive perfectionist. Wink, wink.

Either way, until THE blog is ready, I’ll share a few pearls I’ve threaded into a necklace I intend to wear daily.

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I’m so excited to report flights are booked, schedules are being finalized, and I’m finally, Finally, FINALLY (!!) heading to Gulu, Uganda (Africa) September 22 – October 3 to Mocha Club’s Child Mother’s Village of Hope. As many of you know, I’ve been longing to visit Gulu for the last four years, and am convinced that God has saved me for this trip specifically, as I’ll not be going “just to go,” but will be joining the people I and many of you have been supporting and gathering support for in the Village of Hope over the last two years through my artist partnership with Mocha Club.

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My Anthem

I decided to go ahead and make a little home video of it. Not sure why, since that’s not something I typically do. Usually, I just say “Catch it at a live show.” But this song is special. Not just because it’s been waiting to be written for over a year, but because of where it comes from in my own heart.

So I’m going to break my own rules and tell you the story behind it. It begins with the simple fact that , for reasons totally beyond me, God has chosen to graciously (and I mean that) surround me lately with women who have suffered abuse that I can’t fathom. Two of them are particularly close to me; close enough to get under my skin and break my heart in a very personal way. Abuse has always been something I’ve know about. But now I think I’m truly aware. Not just of what happens, but the aftermath. The shame and fear and perfectionism and fear of rejection so many of them live their lives with. This song is as much about them as it is about the two girls I’ve named.

And these two girls are real. Though separated by thousands of miles and twenty years, their stories are the same, and have both changed me.

The first girl is one a friend, Mark, blogged about after returning from a trip to Africa. Hers is actually the story by which God initially broke my heart for those people. She was a five year old who attended the Compassion school in her community. But, as Mark told it, she was unlike any of the other kids in that she rarely smiled and almost never spoke. He learned that it was most likely because, at her young age, she’d already been raped many times, often multiple times each day, on her way to and from school. Five years old.

So, during his week there, Mark took it upon himself to try and earn her trust enough to tell him her name. He spent the week holding her, loving her, smiling and playing with her, and showing her the kind of righteous love Christ meant…the kind that defeats the darkness. And at the end of the week, just before he left, Mark picked her up and asked her once more if she’d tell him her name.

She leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Mercy.”

The second girl is Dusty, a neighbor of mine who was the first to ever earn the title “Amy’s Best Friend.” We played around the neighborhood all the time. From everything I can remember – though, granted, I was five when we moved away, so my memories of her are only so clear – she was one of my only friends. She was always nice. And she always came over to my house. After we moved away, I didn’t see her again until 7th grade. And even then, our reunion only lasted a few months, until she unexpectedly left.

Anyway, I learned a couple weeks ago that she was repeatedly and violently abused by her father. As it turns out, the reason she left school in 7th grade was because she was pregnant. With his child.

When I heard that not two weeks ago, I fell apart. I was angry. At myself for not knowing better (though, at five years old, I couldn’t – and shouldn’t – have known better). At my parents for not kidnapping and then adopting her, and letting her live with good parents. At the system, whose cracks she fell through.

And I started wondering where she is today. Is she still a victim? Has she ever known her true value? Or is shame the only thing she’s ever been able to own? I don’t know.

Stories like these make me want to throw away my guitar, go back to school, and become a human rights activist or a lawyer for Amnesty International or simply a full-time social worker in the States or missionary in Africa.

But God has made abundantly clear that I am most effective operating within the gifts He’s given me. Using the stage and my voice to speak for those who have no stage and won’t be heard.

And so I sing.

“I Wanna Know”
(c)&(p) 2009 Amy Courts (amalia musica, SESAC)

Dusty lived right down the street
With her brother and a dad who beat him blue
And I know he hurt her too

But I couldn’t see the haunting in her eyes
I was too young to recognize
And much too young to do anything
And so I sing

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

Mercy won’t tell you anything she knows
She keeps her secrets close beneath her skin
I know it’s crawling from within

She’s just a child, but carries sordid memories
Of things that I cannot conceive
Or in my darkest nightmares dream

And so I sing, I sing.

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

And now it burns beneath my skin
And I don’t want to let it in
I wish I’d been a better friend
I wish I could go back again
Cause I would fight
I would carry her away
Or I would find the means to stay
Help bear the burden and the shame

It wouldn’t end this way
I wouldn’t let it end this way

For some the sun shines,
We’re the lucky ones
For them the rain fall
Seems like an endless flood

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

**please forgive the homemade and new-out-of-the-box-utterly-unpolished nature of this song. it’s still becoming. just like me.**