Lessons from Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker

As we prepare to leave Uganda, I can’t help but think of the day we spent at Fort Patiko.

One slower day when Laura and I were waiting to hear from villages with decisions about some of our projects, I suggested that Ivan drive us to visit Fort Patiko. Ivan fueled up his van and we set off on the bumpy dirt roads that lead to this somewhat hidden monument. I wish I could adequately describe to you in words the funny looks we got, two mzungu women rolling strong with dreadlocked Ivan in the Rasta Mobile. They were priceless.

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Laura, Ivan, and Alicia rolling strong in the Rasta Mobile

Fort Patiko, also known as Baker’s Fort, is 30 kilometers beyond Gulu on the same road that leads to Pawel. Fort Patiko isn’t an easy place to visit, both because it’s off the beaten path and because it tells the grisly history of East African slave trade.

It is place you won’t forget and a place you’ll wish had never existed. It’s a stunningly beautiful natural rock formation that Trip Advisor shamefully calls “a romantic picnic destination.” I assure you, there is nothing romantic about what happened at Fort Patiko.

For nineteen years East Africans were abducted and taken to Fort Patiko where they were kept in caves, stacked upon one another day and night, until they were “sorted.”

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The cave where the women were chained and kept, forced to live, sleep, and defecate stacked upon one another until they were sorted.

Men were sorted into two groups: healthy and strong and healthy and weak. The healthy and strong men were shackled around their necks and marched for weeks until they reached Egypt where they were sold as slaves.

Those deemed unhealthy or weak were sent to Execution Rock where they were laid down and beheaded with machetes. The places where the machetes struck the rocks can still be seen today. Execution Rock slopes down into a ravine so that the dead bodies and heads were easily rolled into the ravine where lions were kept expressly for the purpose of devouring the bodies.

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Machete marks on Execution Rock

If you were a captured woman, you’d be sorted into two categories: beautiful, healthy, and strong or ugly and/or weak. If you were beautiful, healthy, and strong you’d be shackled around the neck and march for weeks until you reached Egypt where you’d then be sold into slavery. Both the men and the women were only shackled around the necks, not the ankles, so that if you fell sick or weak along the journey or if you tried to escape, one slice of the machete would behead you, instantly separating and then  releasing your body and your head from the chains so that the rest of the line could keep marching.

If you were deemed a weak, ugly, or unhealthy woman, you’d be taken to Execution Rock, beheaded, and then fed to the lions.

Anyone who tried to escape from Fort Patiko faced a firing squad on the edge of the ravine so that when you were shot, your body fell to the lions and was devoured likely before you were even dead.

Samuel Baker, or Sir Samuel Baker as he later became known, was an unlikely abolitionist. He was a mapmaker, a writer, a big game hunter, and an explorer. His goal in Central Africa was to discover and map the source of the Nile. He discovered Lake Albert and discovered that the source of the Nile had ALREADY been discovered. His wife, Lady Florence Baker, travelled with him and in their explorations, they happened upon Fort Patiko and the bloody East African Slave Trade.

Upon discovering the human holding tank and execution ground that was Fort Patiko, the Bakers returned home to England to ask for ships and army personnel to overtake the fort. This was no easy request because Samuel Baker wasn’t looked upon well. He was a widower at the age of 34 and his second wife, Florence, had once been a slave. Samuel Baker had fallen in love with Florence and then escaped with her from a Hungarian slave market. Florence travelled with him everywhere as his wife, but because they’d not had an officially recognized wedding ceremony in England, Queen Victoria refused to even meet Sir Samuel Baker or the woman who would later be given the title Lady.

Sir Samuel Baker was eventually granted ships and man power to return to Uganda and overtake Fort Patiko,with Florence at his side every step of the way. I imagine this was a personal cause for her, having experienced the inhumanity of being bought and sold herself.

It took 2-3 years to defeat the Arabs, set the captive East Africans free, and claim Fort Patiko as a military base for England. The overtaking of Fort Patiko was one of the key factors in ending the East African Slave Trade.

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Sunset at Fort Patiko

Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker continued to live at Fort Patiko for some time after its liberation. Florence was loved by the Luo tribe living in Patiko and was given the Luo name Anyadwe, meaning daughter of the moon for her pale skin and blonde hair. Though she was looked down upon by British royalty, she was known for her charm. She spoke three languages. She rode horses, mules, and camels, and she was handy with a pistol. She was the fierce counterpart to her explorer husband.

Sir Samuel Baker continued his work as a mapmaker, explorer, hunter, writer, and abolitionist. He would go on to be knighted and awarded the gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society.

I’ve visited Fort Patiko twice in my travels to Uganda. Both times have left me horrified and inspired. Horrified by the brutal treatment of humans and inspired by the explorer and his wife, who, when faced with the inhumanity of it all, decided to do something about it.

When you visit Fort Patiko, you can see the marks made by the machetes in Execution Rock, but if you climb high onto a different rock, you can see another mark, a cross, painstakingly carved in stone by Lady Florence Baker.

There are so many lessons to be taken to heart from Fort Patiko and from the Bakers, but it always leaves me thinking about how I want to live my life. I know which kind of mark I hope to leave in the world.

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A Cross Carved by Lady Florence Baker in a Rock at Fort Patiko

 

 

The Underbelly

I wish I could say that the whole of our time in Uganda has been positive, and for the most part it truly has been, but I’d feel untruthful if I omitted the parts where it hasn’t been.

But how do I tell you about the things that regurgitate themselves in my nightmares? How do I talk about what it’s like seeing people beaten in front of my very eyes? How do I talk about feeling like I have rocks in my stomach for the country I so dearly love? How do I talk about the ugly underbelly?

I guess I just swallow the lump in my throat and begin.

Violence against women was brutally thrust in our faces multiple times on this trip. The first, and most horrifying, instance we witnessed involved a young, homeless, seemingly mentally ill girl standing too close to our outdoor table at our hotel restaurant. She wasn’t harming us, bothering us, or even speaking to us when she was chased off and then repeatedly beaten with a metal rod in the hands of the security guard of our hotel. She ran into the street where the security guard chased after her and kept beating her.

It was shocking and brutal and horrible and the scene is one that haunts my nightmares every night, partially because of the brutality of it all, and partially because I’m ashamed to say that I was too stunned to move. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.

I don’t know if shock is why nobody else in the square moved either, but I fear it’s a regular enough occurrence that to the residents of Gulu, it wasn’t shocking at all.

That girl is someone’s daughter. Maybe someone’s sister. Maybe someone’s mother. She is a human.

When the security guard went after her a second time, I asked one of my adult Uganda sons to go and make him stop. The security guard stopped and said he would “just scare her” from now on.

As if that is somehow less terrorizing.

I had heated words with that security guard and then spoke to the hotel manager later that night. The manager assured me it wouldn’t happen again because it was “unprofessional.”

Try inhumane. Or unconscionable. Or barbaric. Or all of the above.

The girl was not beaten again while we were there, at least not in our presence, but the boulder in my stomach tells me that her reprieve ended when we checked out.

The second instance of violence against a woman came while we were in the main market. We were on the third floor and down on the first floor, the food floor, a woman walking with a bag of potatoes was beaten by a man who was yelling words I didn’t understand. I think she was mentally ill as well or perhaps she’d stolen the potatoes. I really don’t know. The whole of the market stopped and to our horror they all laughed and pointed as she was beaten. Even people we know and love in the market stopped to laugh and point.

I’ll never forget the sight of her bag of potatoes breaking open and the sound as each one thudded to the floor, rolling in all different directions.

Nor will I ever forget the sound of hundreds of people laughing as she was beaten. It also comes cackling through in the quiet of night when my subconscious is still trying to process that it actually happened.

There was nothing Laura and I could do from so far away and again my heart broke because she is someone’s daughter. Maybe someone’s sister. Maybe someone’s mother. She is a human.

The third time I became aware of how pervasive violence against women was in a letter/report from the Bungatira beaders, thanking VK for our support. In the letter the Bungatira beaders listed their top five reasons why this paper bead project is of such great importance to them.

Their top 5 reasons were:

1. It allows them to pay for food starts and not starve during famine.

2. It allows them to pay for medical care.

3. It allows them to pay their children’s school fees.

4. It’s a sustainable income source based on something they’re proud to create themselves.

5. It helps prohibit the gender based domestic violence that is a corollary in poverty stricken households.

It’s one thing to see random acts of violence committed to strangers in the city. It’s a completely new set of rocks in my stomach to know it’s a problem for the village women I know and love, who sit on papyrus mats with suckling babies in their laps while they wrap paper bead jewelry because they know having enough money for the basics means they won’t be beaten.

It’s another reason why the Bungatira Beaders and their paper bead jewelry are so important to us.

It’s why we took on a second set of young women beaders, so they can go to school and hopefully not ever experience such violence.

It’s why we love supporting Ivan the painter. He’s changing his community by hiring women, believing in equality, and painting countless images of strong Ugandan women.

It’s why we love Pastor Amos and Mr. Ekanya at New Hope School in Pawel. They rescue refugee children from the hands of violence and show them that there’s another way.

All of these girls and women are someone’s daughters. Some of them are mothers. Some of them are sisters. All of them are human.

Every penny that we invest in them and into their projects esteems them as all of those things and demonstrates that we, too, are daughters and sons, mothers and fathers, and sisters and brothers.

We are all so beautifully human.

A Fallow Year

I, the brownest of brown thumbs, have been planting things in my backyard. I planted strawberries in hanging baskets on my deck. They’re already blushing and I can’t wait to eat them. I planted peas, but they’re too shy to make an appearance yet. I also planted potatoes in a trash can. Yep, in a trash can.

As I’ve planted, I’ve learned about dirt. I learned that you shouldn’t plant strawberries where you’ve recently grown potatoes because the potatoes will have leached necessary nutrients from the ground and your strawberries will die of starvation.

I’ve been thinking about dirt a lot and how farmers would plant for six years and let the ground lay fallow for a year (Exodus 23:10). This was practiced by descendants of tribes of Israel-the descendants of God’s chosen people-and not by other tribes.

Nothing would be planted for a full year. The ground would be left to rest, to be fertilized by animal poop, and to recover the nutrients that were lost. My favorite definition of fallow is, “to be let alone.” I love the idea of just leaving the soil alone, of not touching a single grain, or tilling even a row.

Some years we just have to be let alone.

I don’t know about you, but I just survived that kind of year. A year where I got pooped on a lot and it felt like my very bones were leached dry, a fallow year for sure. So many of us on the board of Vigilante Kindness have been navigating fallowness this year, a year where nothing new was planted, a year of letting the soil sit.

I’m incredibly bad at letting the soil sit. I want to do what I want, when I want, but planting doesn’t work that way and neither does following God. That’s a sure way to kill the things you so desperately want to grow in your garden and in your life.

After a year, the farmers would come and tend to the soil. First they’d pull out masses of overgrown, thorny weeds, removing any remaining thing that would suck water and nutrients away from the new crop. Then they’d till, turning the ground over, breaking it up, letting in light, letting in air. The ground would be noticeably darker than the year before, fertile and ready for seeds.

Vigilantes, I didn’t know how to tell you about this year, how to tell you why I didn’t go to Uganda and why I’ve been quiet. I’ve been laying fallow. Maybe you have, too.

Did you know that the root word for fallow is the same root word for Sabbath and that both mean to rest? So rest I did. I didn’t go to Uganda. I didn’t start any new projects. I said no and I listened when God said no to me, which was difficult because I had some thorny pride that needed to be yanked out by the roots.

But the beauty of leaving a field fallow comes at the end of the year, comes in the recovery of what was lost, and in the eventual green of new growth.

A verse that’s been on repeat in my mind is Hosea 10:12.

“Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.”

Isn’t that just the best news? In the hardest of times, you can wait with expectation because the time for tending to the fallow ground is coming. Your parched bones can stand with buckets at the ready for the Lord to rain down righteousness on you.

The NIV translation says it a little differently:

“Sow with righteousness and reap the fruit of unfailing love.”

In the throes of my horribly hard year, I can say in my soul that I have known and felt the tender, unfailing love of God.

I hope you have, too. If you need a reminder, come on over, I’ll let you pick the best strawberries and I’ll feed you trash can potatoes. I’ll sit with you-dusty, dry, worn out, fallow, utterly lovely you.

I’ll remind you that you’re God’s chosen person, that it’s good and necessary to rest, and that the time will come for you to break ground again.

But Even If He Does Not

I had a record scratch moment today, one of those pauses in time when my jaw drops, my head whips back for a double take, and the record playing in my mind comes to a needle-screeching halt along with everything around me.

Believe it or not, it happened while I was reading the Bible.

Can I let you in on a little secret? Those moments don’t happen often for me, certainly not as frequently as I’d like, most likely because I don’t read the Bible as often as I intend to. Maybe those moments don’t happen to you that often either. Maybe your Bible is a bit dusty or maybe you don’t even read the Bible. Would you hang here with me for a few minutes anyway?

So there I was poking around in Daniel, poking around half-heartedly because I’ve read Daniel a ton of times. I know the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I know the story of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and his giant gold statue that he wanted everyone to bow down to, or else be thrown into a furnace of fire. I know this story, I can even recall the felt figures of the characters stuck on the black Sunday School felt board, while I listened and chewed mouthfuls of graham crackers and tried to figure out just who the hell this king was, thinking he could make everyone bow down to his statue.

In case you weren’t indoctrinated with graham crackers and felt board Bible stories, the basic story is this. King Nebuchadnezzar is power-hungry and wants everyone to worship his gods and bow down to this particular hulking gold image he’s had made. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse because they’re Jews who love God. They’re summoned before the king who succinctly orders them to bow down and worship the statue.

We pick up the story in Daniel 3:16.

16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from your majesty’s hand. 18 But even if He does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Did you catch that? They recognize God’s ability to save them from flames, but the record scratch moment for me comes in the next verse. “But even if He does not, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

image courtesy of reversingverses.com
image courtesy of reversingverses.com

But even if He does not.

I’m overcome by this phrase. I’m not sure how I’ve missed the magnitude of it all these years.

As we enter the Christmas season, my FaceBook feed isn’t filled with holiday cheer. I wish it were different, but right now my feed is stitched with posts from broken mothers who lost their children too soon, posts from friends who are helplessly watching their parents slip into the fog of dementia, posts from friends undergoing massive amounts of chemo and radiation treatments so intense that it’s all they can do to cross off another treatment appointment on their calendars.

I don’t struggle with knowing God is able to deliver us. I know that down to my bones, that God is able to deliver kids from death, to deliver parents from dementia and friends from cancer.

I know He is able.

But sometimes He doesn’t.

And that’s the part that tangles me up in my sheets at night and leaves me awake in the quiet company of only the low hum resonating from the refrigerator.

Sometimes He doesn’t deliver us.

And no crappy platitudes of “Everything happens for a reason,” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle,” can stop the bleeding out from the knifing pain that sometimes He just doesn’t.

I don’t know why. People who pretend to know why God does or doesn’t sweep in for the rescue, well, those people make me want to say strings of bad words.

I will never know why God does or doesn’t step in. In the absence of that knowledge, I’m left with only one choice.

When I’m being scorched by life, I can determine my response. I ache to be like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, to stand with fire licking at my toes and still be able to say that I know God is able to save me, that I believe He will save me, but even if He does not, my heart will remain steadfast.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s response infuriates the king, who demands that the furnace be cranked up seven times higher than usual and that the three men be bound before they’re burned to smithereens.

Once they’re tied up and thrown into the furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar has a record scratch moment of his own. He looks into the furnace and sees a fourth figure that looks like God in the fire with the three men. And the four of them are walking around in the fire, completely impervious to the flames. The king calls Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the furnace and, get this, not a hair is singed. They don’t even smell like fire. The king changes his tune and recognizes that God is God and that it was God who saved the three men.

And while that part is great, the thing that always thrills my heart about this story is that these guys remained with each other their whole lives, including the worst moment. They stood together before the fire, in the fire, and back out of it again.

This season some of us will sit down to dinner and fight back tears looking at an empty chair. Some of us will lay with parents and grandparents and sing sweet lullabies into threads of their memories. Some of us will breathe in and out every day during treatment and breathing alone will be hard enough.

As we stand on the edges of furnaces that feel more than seven times too hot, could we stand together? Could I stand with you and you stand with me? I won’t have any sage words to say or words you might find in a Hallmark card.

I hope to God my words will sound more like these. God is able to deliver. I believe He will. But even if He does not, let us keep standing with truth in our hearts. And if you don’t mind I’ll stand here with you because I know that God is walking in this fire, too.

Doable Things

On my last day in Gulu I saw Sister Rosemary for a few minutes. I hadn’t seen her since my first trip to Uganda-before the story of her life became a best seller and a movie, before she became a world renowned speaker and before Time named her one of the 100 Most Influential people.
Sister Rosemary is an enigma to me. She’s hilarious and down to Earth. She drinks Guinness like a fish. She’s a devout nun. She’s the essence of warmth. And Sister Rosemary gets things done because when she gives you a direction, you follow it.

This is what led my mom and I back to her home at Saint Monica’s Tailoring School on our last day in Gulu. We’d run into Sister Rosemary and some of the good people at Pros for Africa at a cafe in town the day before and Sister Rosemary invited us to visit her. By the time we left the cafe, her invitation had become an agreement that we’d come. And when Sister Rosemary tells me to do something, I drop everything and do it. She’s the kind of woman who inspires equal parts fear and awe in me down in my trembly parts.

On the day we visited, my mom and I found her sitting on the step in front of her house picking out lace to cover the coffin of her cousin who had passed away the day before. Even in her grief, Sister was welcoming and warm and insisted on showing us the pop tab purses that had been made with a donation of soda pop tabs my mom had brought to Uganda to give to Sister Rosemary. 
 After showing us where and how the purses are made, Sister Rosemary gave each of us a purse, an unnecessary and lavish act of generosity considering how much each purse would sell for and how much revenue that would bring to the school. 
We only stayed a few minutes because funeral preparations are elaborate in Uganda, but before we left I told her how much I’d appreciated what she said in her interviews on the girls who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. She thanked me and said, “We must speak of doable things.” She went on to explain that so often we speak of large problems and large solutions, but really we should focus on small things each of us can do to care for each other, to extend kindness, to wash the muck off each other with a little grace.

Sister Rosemary runs a school for women, many of whom were forced to be child brides of LRA soldiers during the terrorizing insurgency led by the warlord Joseph Kony. On campus there’s a sewing school, a culinary school, a health clinic, a restaurant and a host of other opportunities for the women of Uganda to learn life skills. What Sister does is incredible, but she would be the first to tell you, she’s taking one small step at a time, just trying to follow the will of God. When she speaks of doable things, it’s because she’s living them day in and day out.

On the day of our visit, we hugged goodbye and I promised to visit Sister again when I return next year. While my mom and I waited for our boda driver to get us, I ran my hand over my beautiful pop tab purse, a purse sewn of small doable things.  


As I pray for direction for Vigilante Kindness, pray for direction for this upcoming school year, and frankly as I pray for direction for my life as a whole, I’m praying Sister Rosemary’s words and asking God to give me that same heart for doable things.

Maybe you’re overwhelmed by the problems of the world, frustrated in your job, exhausted with worry for your family, or just plain asking for direction. Sweet Vigilantes, let’s commit to speaking of small doable things and then doing them.

Are you with me?

Love and Struggle With Carrie Underwood and Mister Rogers

Leaving Uganda is always bittersweet. I know how fortunate I am to feel at home in two such distinctly different places in the world, I know what a rare gift that is. This trip has been unlike any other, all of our projects going smoothly or taking unexpected turns for the better. My husband likes to remind me that it’s ok, good even, that things went so smoothly.

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For me the biggest challenge has been balancing being a mother, being a daughter, and being true to the beliefs we hold dear within Vigilante Kindness. It was a tightrope walk for me. My prayers were often petitions for grace and wisdom and strength and understanding. My actual prayers were not that eloquent. They were more like, “I’m out of ideas here, God. Can you let me in on the plan?” Or “God, remind me to be kind. Help me understand.” I prayed that one a lot. But do you want to know the prayer I prayed the most? I hope you find this as funny as I do. I’m not even a country music fan, yet over and over again I prayed-and I wish I were making this up-I prayed, “Jesus, take the wheel.” I’m embarrassed to admit it, but it’s true.

There were times on this trip where I was bad at being a mom, bad at being a daughter, or bad at figuring out where to go next with VK. Sometimes I was bad at all three at once and I’d take a quiet moment, most times while I was washing my clothes in the shower, because there’s something about water that makes me think, and I’d say out loud, “Jesus, take the wheel.” Then I’d throw my soapy hands up in the air like I was releasing a steering wheel. No joke.

I’m new to this mothering thing and this year I got to know my boys better, got to see some of their less desirable qualities. They also got to know me better and I’m sure saw some of my less desirable qualities, too. Mix that in a bowl with my shortcomings as a daughter and two cultures that often operate in opposite directions than one another and you’ve got a big lump of mess.

A big beautiful mess.

But over and over again we chose to love each other, to navigate our differences, our disagreements, to build bridges across the chasms created by our cultures.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a quote from Mister Rogers about how the verb love is an active verb, like the verb struggle. Love is a choice we make over and over again. And to love someone as they are in this very moment, perhaps in an ugly mess of a moment, when love is the last thing you want to speak, and yet you dislodge loving words from your throat and speak them anyway, that is love.

I don’t know about you, but isn’t that great news, that in the throes of difficulty we can choose to love? Better yet, in tantrums of our own worst selves, we have people who choose the struggle, choose to love us. Best of all, God chooses every day to love our imperfect, praying in the shower selves.

Moms out there, I don’t know how you do it. I really don’t. This motherhood thing isn’t for sissies. Maybe you’re like me, and you and your kid are unveiling the vulnerable and sometimes messy sides of yourselves. Maybe you aren’t bridging the cultural gaps we’re traversing, but maybe your kid is residing in the very foreign land of Teenager and you aren’t finding common ground. You’re not alone.

In the moments when you’re on empty, borrow Mister Rogers’ words. Choose to struggle for love, choose to struggle in love, choose love. And in the moments when all you can do is throw up your soapy hands and give up the wheel, Carrie Underwood and I are here for you, too.

Hot Nails

I’ve never been part of an Acholi forgiveness ceremony or seen one in action. I don’t know if it’s a practice that still takes place, but even if it’s only a part of history, it leaves me tinged with awe and wonder.
The gist of it is this: if you wrong someone, the person you’ve wronged gets to decide your recompense. Your recompense must be something that requires some sort of sacrifice on your part, but it can’t be something completely unattainable. Costly, but not impossible.

Once appropriate recompense is decided and attained, the offender presents it to the offended in front of the community, and sometimes in front of the entire chiefdom. 

Then it’s done. 

The offense is cancelled out by the recompense made and it’s as if the offense never transpired.

The slate is washed clean.

I’ve been invited to the 93rd birthday party of Uncle Patrick’s father, a highly respected elder. Uncle Patrick is my language tutor from last year. He’s also the father of Lydia, one of our work study scholars, the father of Olive, my current language tutor, and is the only father my kid, Martin, has ever been loved by. Though Patrick is really some sort of older cousin, he claims, loves, and treats Martin as his son. I love Patrick and his family dearly.

Patrick’s invitation was followed by the phrase, “And my father only lives a hundred meters or so from Martin’s biological father, so you may be able to meet him as well.”

After the invitation I was barely able to control my face, let alone my mouthy mouth. I responded that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to attend because I’d already committed to being in another village that day. It was true and I was glad to have a real reason to consider going or not.

Here’s the thing about Martin’s biological dad, he gave Martin up, let him live on the streets and eat garbage. He only phones Martin when he needs something and when Martin isn’t able to help, his dad pulls a full on guilt trip on him and tells Martin that he never wants to help his dear old dad.

So meeting this guy is not #1 on my To Do List. 

I really want to throw rocks at him and say a few choice words. His whole personhood makes me want to spit hot nails.

But from somewhere behind my hot rage, from a better place within me, the Acholi forgiveness ceremony rises up and gently curls around my angry heart.

The person wronged gets to choose the recompense. This man has not wronged me. He owes me nothing. Forgiveness isn’t mine to give. Or to withhold. Ouch.

It’s Martin who was wronged and he’s forgiven his dad a million times over. Martin, along with every kid on the planet, still seeks his dad’s love and approval, something that may never come. It breaks my heart to watch him fall for his dad’s guilt trips every time, but in that same vein there’s a lightness Martin has that I don’t because each time his dad is awful, Martin forgives him freely and without expectation of recompense.

I truly don’t know if I’ll be able to rearrange my other village visit to attend the birthday party, and I surely don’t know that if I do I’ll be able to extend an iota kindness toward Martin’s biological dad, but if nothing else I’m determined to shut my mouthy mouth.

Swallowing those hot nails back down is proving to be painful.