“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58:12
Trafficked as a child, growing up on the streets. Abused, neglected, cold and frightened. That is the reality for many of the young people that Dwelling Places (a Christian NGO) works with in Uganda. A large majority of the children on the streets of Kampala are from the under-developed region of Karamoja in the northeast of Uganda. The Karimojong are a people struggling with poverty, caught up in a circle of violence with their neighbours and holding onto animistic beliefs from their nilotic history that sees them glorifying cattle. Their children arrive in Kampala not just geographically lost and hurting emotionally, but also with a mix of spiritual ideas and a sense of identity that values Karamoja’s aggressive past.
So how do we reach into these young people’s lives with the gospel? We sit with them. On the pavements of Kampala, we sit and get to know them. We share about our own lives, and our reason for working at Dwelling Places. We tell them that we are not just nurses or teachers, that we are Christians and that in Christ, we have found our identity. In our lostness, he found us, and he has found them too.
“I never knew that people could see to the other side of the street,” Emma’s smile lit up the room as she gazed through the thick lenses the optician had given her.
This was her first eye test, aged 11. Her mother lived on the street, and so did she. Already largely responsible for caring for younger siblings, Emma’s life as a young girl on the streets was getting more dangerous as she got older.
When we met her, not only were we able to provide shelter, care and protection, food, clothing, and get her eyes tested, we were able to share with her about Jesus. Her love for the Lord grew as she grew, and her passion for learning extended not only to academia but about her God. At university, despite struggling to fund her studies and living in a tiny room, she held regular Bible studies and prayer groups. Today, the legacy of Dwelling Places staff rescuing this young girl off the streets extends to Emma’s children, now adults themselves, continuing to share about the God they love.