I spent much of my time in Uganda alongside my dear friend and brother Patrick Ojera. He has spent much of his life escaping the hardships of war and a broken home, though you could never tell from the smile he wears every day. Patrick is working to restore hope and love to a community who has shared in his hardships…..this is his story:
“Some people might wonder what lead me to have such an interest in helping returning LRA (Lord Resistance Army) victims and the children that are born from the bush. To give an idea, let me share a bit of my story.
I was born in a village in Pader, Northern Uganda probably some time in the year 1982. There are no birth records and no one who can confirm when it was (my great-grandmother can only remember the season). My father was killed by the rebels of 1984, while the present government was rising to power, leaving my mother alone with the responsibility of raising me. She didn’t want that responsibility and went away with another man, leaving me with my great-grandmother. My mother came back in 1996 when she was very sick with HIV/AIDS. I remained with her for months as she slowly wasted away into death. This left a lasting impression on me and made me afraid of getting close to women; particularly African women.
After this, while I was again staying with my great-grandmother, the LRA was attacking many villages in the area, killing people and abducting Youth to help them in their mission. In 1998, when I was about 15 or 16 years old, the LRA raided my village and captured me, tying my hands behind my back and making me walk, carrying LRA supplies on my head for the long journey with the soldiers and other captives to Sudan. During my captivity, my captors forced me, like so many others, to do many things that we do not need to relive over and over again, training me to be a ruthless child soldier.
In April 2004 after 5 and half years with them, I walked away from the LRA, literally, while on night duty one night. Early on, I had lost the hope of ever seeing my great-grandmother again because I was certain she was dead. Without hope of seeing her, I had accepted the life I was living as the only thing left in the world for me. I had been fighting mostly in Southern Sudan against the rebels there who were supported by the Ugandan army. When I was asked to go on the attacks in Uganda, my conscience started bothering me. How could I kill my own people? When it became too much for me to bear and when I learned that I would be granted amnesty for my actions if I turned myself in, I decided to take the chance to get out.
The UPDF (Uganda People Defence Force) turned me over to World Vision for rehabilitation. During my 4 months in the program, I saw my need for God, how hopeless I was without God, and experienced God’s love and forgiveness. I came out of the program partially changed, but still seeking love and comfort because I had no one. My great-grandmother had survived the time I was away and the attacks on our village, but when she heard that I was back, it was too much for her heart and she died before I could even see her again.
I joined a local NGO (Non-governmental Organisation) where I got involved with their ministry programs. As I spent time helping others, the weight of my past decreased until I felt free again. I realized that the grace of God could transform man and promised a brighter destiny. I had decided to give my life to Jesus during rehabilitation and ever since then (upon looking back at what the Lord delivered me from), I have been compelled and moved with a burden for my little young brothers and sisters in Acholi sub region who have been orphaned by rebel insurgency or the HIV/AIDS epidemic, or have been emotionally tortured victims of child abuse.
In 2006, I was given a vision and a deeper passion for former child soldiers and vulnerable children. I kept praying and believing God for the outcome, and then followed God’s prompting when He told me to open an organisation that can provide care, rehabilitation, and education for former child soldiers. I have experienced the pain of being a child soldier and living a life without hope, so who better can guide children back into the hope afterwards?
Recently, I have reached a time of experiencing God’s bountiful blessings. I met and fell in love with a wonderful German lady who is different from women I knew so far and who doesn’t have HIV and we started a Family together. My dream of helping others recover from the nightmare of returning from the LRA is coming true. I seek to bring the hope I discovered to others who, like I did, so desperately need God’s promises and love in order to turn from the demons of their past and face a hopeful future. You can become part of what God is doing; your help through prayer, visits, and donations will change many lives. I hope that you will considering joining me in whatever capacity God calls you to.”
If you would like to be a part of the work God is doing through Patrick, visit www.thirdhopeuganda.org