Beatrice is her name.
She lived through her own personal 9/11 ---- with no media coverage and no emergency rescue teams dispatched. She suffered unimaginable pain and loss at the hands of terrorists -- in a place where there are no roads leading in and no roads leading out. No hi-jacked planes were used ---- her attackers chose machetes and axes instead.
As she stood before me, sharing her story --- something broke free inside of me --- and the moments moving forward mattered in a whole new way.
Before i share her eight life-changing words ---- i'll honor her by telling her story. You see, she wants her story to be told, she wants it to matter.
It needs to matter.
She was married and had mothered several children. Living in a remote village somewhere in northern Uganda, she had never seen the world beyond the path that led to the river where she gathered water. She knew her native language and the faces of those she shared life with ---- nothing else mattered --- only what was a part of her tree-lined, sky covered, dirt floor world. She could not read or write. She knew nothing of the places beyond her small world.
Her words conveyed she was happy in her village world, her husband was a good man who cared for his family and she deeply loved her children. You could understand the depth of her love for them more from the look in her eye as she spoke of them --- than from her words. When speaking across two languages --- the eyes tell more than the words. Word can deceive --- but not the eyes. She had held her treasures just as dearly as i hold mine. God help her.
One day rebels came upon their peaceful village and brought a form of hell with them. The men of the village were quickly killed ---- for the women and children the end came more slowly.
I hesitate to type what she shared next --- but to honor Beatrice i will.
Some of her children ran and hid. Some of her children were violated in front of her eyes as she was forced to watch. Then their nightmare ended with the blows of the pangas (machetes). But Beatrice was forced to keep breathing the air that had been filled with their screams. God help her.
The women who had shared life with Beatrice in their peaceful village all endured the same ---- and then alongside her, they were stripped of their clothing, beaten, and raped. Then after some time they were tied together and marched through the jungle. They were taken far from their "home"--- and marched to places they had never seen. They were brutalized along the way --- with only a rope around their wrists and each other. Oh God...
Beatrice gave the details of time and events that followed --- but my mind was numb -- i can not remember them all. I was holding my breath wondering how God could bring "beauty from her ashes". But i knew He had --- because she stood in front of me --- and she glowed of His goodness. Only God could do that.
Several days after her nightmare began, the men-monsters decided the women were no longer of use to them they began killing the women. Not willing to "waste a bullet", they used pangas and axes instead. So Beatrice watched as other women were cut down around her. She knelt down and waited. An ax head was sunk into her skull and she hoped for death to come swiftly.
What was happening in the spirit realm around her? How many angels were fighting for her? For surely an unseen battle was raging ---- because she did not die.
She shared that the next day she woke up, in much, much pain. She would not stand or move quickly because of the intense pain she felt radiating from her head and traveling throughout her entire body. But she could open her eyes and began to realize, no one else survived. She lay surrounded by her "sisters of suffering". She envied them --- their eyes were still closed. But she knew wild animals would soon come to devour them and if she did not act quickly, she would be eaten alive. Her mind was fixated on her children, the ones who had hidden from the monsters. During the previous days of grueling marching, she had kept her mind focused on her children. Hoping they were alive, hoping they had not been found. She was frightened for them --- they were little ones --- in the wood alone --- where monster-men marched.
She untied herself from her fallen friends and began crawling. She crawled a long distance, putting as much space as she could between herself and those soon to be consumed --- and then collapsed. A kind family found her and brought her broken, naked, bloody body to their hut. When Beatrice woke the next time, she was in a safe hut, being cared for by a women with kind eyes and gentle hands. The family spoke a different language so communication was strained, but they were kind and Beatrice was safe.
For the next many months (over a year), Beatrice was nursed by this kind women and provided for by this kind man. The children in the home made her ache for her own, but they slowly brought the aroma of hope back into Beatrice's heart, their laughter helped her begin to heal in the silent places of her soul.
Over time, Beatrice began to understand bits of their language and they began to communicate with each other. They asked where she was from --- and Beatrice realized, she had never left her village home so she had no way of knowing how to get back to it. She could not tell them where she was "from" because she had never dreamed she would need to find her way back there -- she had never planned to leave. The countryside here looked vastly different from her home --- she had been forced to march for days with no food. She could not have retraced her steps if her life depended on it. Oh how she was grieved ---- for she knew ---- her childrens' lives might very well depend on her remembering. But she could not.
She had lived in one place all her life ----- and she could not find her way back there.
The name she used to identify her village ---- was in a different language than this families. It was as if ----- her home ----- had sunk into the ground along with the blood of those she had loved. Oh God...
The family she had come to love, began telling her of a mighty God who had saved her and loved her and had chosen "life" for her. They told her of this One who had Created everything around her and in her. They shared with her about this God's Son, who walked as a man on this dirt covered earth because He wanted to share the truth of His Father's love with those who were lost and hurting. She wondered, "if there is such a God of love --- where had he been during the nightmare?" The family explained that the good God had an enemy who was not a god ---- but who caused such pain and suffering. Beatrice shared with us --- that she knew there must be a good God, because of the way this family lived and loved and cared for her. But, she was not willing to accept this God they spoke of because of the pain he had allowed.
She could not stop thinking of her children, they were in her dreams, when she ate she wondered if they were eating, when she slept she wondered where they were laying their heads. Her mother's heart was certain they were alive. It was the hope she clung to.
After many months, the family took her to Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. They had heard that many refugees from northern Uganda had made there way to the capital in hopes of being reunited with lost loved ones. It was Beatrice's only hope of finding her children. The family prayed for her, Beatrice was single-minded --- she had to find her children. She could no longer live in the peaceful hut of her rescuers, and wonder if her children were alive or safe or hungry or hurting. She would rather die trying to find them than live in comfort and wonder.
She lived on the streets of Kampala. She searched daily for her little ones. Many, MANY children roamed the streets and ate from garbage, but years passed and the faces of those she had carried inside her womb were not the faces she found on the streets around her. Those were dark days for her. The God she had been told of ---- surely was a mean God, she thought ---- if he even existed at all.
She began to do whatever was needed for food. She engaged in the oldest profession of ill repute and wrapped her world in decay.
Years passed - dirty, desperate, damned years of pain and loneliness.
Then one day ---- as if in a dream ---- she saw two filthy, pitiful children who had the glimmer of her home in their eyes. She ran to them, and after moments of breath-holding silence --- they remembered her and she knew fully --- they were her treasured ones. She had found them - they had survived. They thought she was a ghost at first - they had seen what had happened to her -- they had come to the city because they felt sure all that had been theirs had been killed. But as she talked to them and touched them, hugged them and held them --- they realized she was real --- and they had been found. Oh God...
She lived with her children then -- on the streets -- and continued to do whatever she had to do to feed them. There were no other options. There was no other choice. She did what she had to do. Period.
Then one day a lady approached her and said she had been watching her for days. She knew she was caring for two children and she asked about the scar that traveled from the top of her head to the top of her neck. Beatrice shared her story as the women shared food with them. The woman asked her if she would like to come work for her to earn money and live in a home off the streets. She explained that Beatrice could make paper beads and be paid for her labor --- and her children would be able to have food everyday and a safe, peaceful place to live.
She came to live at the ministry of "Caring Hands". She made paper beads and jewelry and cared for her children. In time ---- the lady who had rescued her from the streets shared with Beatrice that there was a God who loved her. This same God --- was showing himself to her again --- and she could feel the same peace around this woman as she had felt around the family who cared for her in the far away village to the north. This woman had the same kindness in her eyes.
Beatrice realized, that since her nightmare had begun, the only two safe places she had known --- had both spoken of this good God who loved her.
And so --- she began to listen ---- she began to "hear".
Beatrice ---- now has a small, safe home ---- a job she loves ---- and two healthy, happy children attending school and sleeping in her arms every night.
The evil one ----- is evil.
But GOD is a good, good God.
Beatrice knows the rawness of evil ---- and she knows the goodness of God.
Beatrice shared this story with me as i visited her in Uganda.
Before she told her story of pain and suffering and then rescue and salvation ----- her first words to me were the same words she ended her story with ---- these eight words --- that changed my world ----
"I am Beatrice, ------ much loved daughter of the most High God."
If Beatrice can proclaim this with a twinkle in her eye and a soft smile on her lovely face ----- shouldn't we echo her words?
i had never known the feel of a panga or an ax on my skin. i had lived a life of love and care. My loved ones had not been brutalized and taken from me and i had never known one night of hunger. Yet --- i had never thought of myself in this beautiful, truthful, God-glorifying way.
For too many of us ---- it's either too hot or too cold ---- too much or too little --- to fast or too slow --- we complain because we have to go to work or we complain because we have to stay at home --- we are too busy or we are too bored ---- we grumble over having to cook dinner or we complain that the steak on our plate is over-cooked...
Imagine a week of NO complaints ---- no negative words ---- no seeing the glass half full.
And instead --- repeat the words over and over again ---- I am a much loved daughter of the most High God. (or much loved son of the most High God). And think of Beatrice. Let your heart and mind visit her world so far away.
She is thrilled to go to work everyday and rejoices that her children have a school to walk to. She works long hours and is ecstatic to then walk to the market to prepare food for her children each night. She doesn't have a closet -- but she does have clothes on her back. She lays down at night with two of her children beside her --- under a roof --- surrounded by safe walls and a locked door. She runs her finger along the 10 inch scar on her head and remembers ----- not so much the evil that was done to her ---- but instead --- she remembers the good God who saved her. She seems to glow as she speaks of the ONE who brought beauty from the ashes of her life ---- and humbly whispers ---
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
'For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:35-39 (NIV)
"and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."