The Hardest Part
By: Donovan McCloskey
The conditions are tough here, y’all. We spent the first week going around and hearing the stories of the refugees. We saw the tough living conditions, the small portions of food, and the hopelessness in the people. I heard a testimony of a 40-year-old man that had to travel 24 days on foot with his grandchildren from South Sudan to Uganda after having 7 major surgeries on his body. I also heard the story of a 16 year old girl that made the decision to flee with her siblings to the refugee camp while her parents were in a different town. Currently she has no idea where her parents are, and the parents have no idea where all their children are. We also heard the testimony of a pastor that found a baby abandoned in a garbage dump no more than 24 hours after she was born. These stories and experiences are just a few of literally thousands. Our goal is to give these people a voice and highlight the stories of hope in this community.
After a while the stories and hopelessness have begun to weigh on me. I desire to understand and help but the deeper I dig into the crisis the more I realize how many problems there are. But even with this situation there is something more challenging that I’ve come across. Something that had me questioning my role here. Something that made me reconsider my team’s mission. Something that made me realize how deep some of the trauma goes.
That something is living in an orphanage and not serving the kids directly. We are staying at an orphanage of 150 kiddos inside the refugee camp and it’s hard to stay focused with what we were sent here to do. We have been sent to give a voice to the refugees through a documentary and not to put a short-term band aid of help on a small group of kids. When the kids see white people living among them, they expect to be played with and loved on. This, to my perspective, has led to an unhealthy relationship with outsiders. The kids become dependent on missionaries to give them worth or attention and then the relationship is cut after the couple weeks of serving are over, leaving the kids in a worse spot then when they started.
But, it is still hard to walk past a group of kids and not want to join in and make them smile. It’s hard to not invest in the older boys that I have been sharing a room with. It’s hard to hear kids waking up in the middle of the night screaming because of the things they have seen from the war and not be the trusted face that calms them down. All of this is especially difficult because I love kids and we are living with them for 3 months. Don’t misunderstand, we aren’t stiff arming kids left and right, making no attempt to show love to them. There is a healthy ministry here in this orphanage but simply giving attention to kids is not the goal. And we understand that our project requires all of our time and we intend to invest in something that can bring lasting change to the whole region.
We desire to create something bigger then what we can individually give. Our aim is to understand what the people are going through, spread awareness of the crisis, and spark motivation to those that need it. We want to help bring encouragement to an entire camp, not just an orphanage. Although our ministry, creating a documentary, looks wildly different than any other ministry that I’ve done, I know it is the ministry that I have been called here to do.
It’s hard to say no to giving attention to the kids in the orphanage, but it would be even harder to turn a blind eye to a nation left voiceless.