Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Soldier

Incredibly rich, full of simplicity, wonder and beauty. This is how I would have described my life. On any given day mother cooks, sews and takes care of my younger siblings while pappa heads out to earn his living amongst the other fisherman. The smell of cassava meat and fried plantains follows me as I rise to look after my daily chores. My days begin before the dawn rises but even as I grumble at the early hour, I can’t help but stare in awe at the beauty of the sun beginning to rise over the plains. As I venture out to work in the fields planting crops and feeding the minimal livestock our family owns, the hot equatorial sun beats down on my skin, sweat pours down my face; I smile at the little children running around barefoot, playing in the streets. Completing my first set of chores, I move on to our daily supply of water. Three miles to the nearest water source gives ample time to day dream and bask in the beautiful surroundings of my mother land, Africa. One day, I want to return to school, maybe become a doctor; make a difference in my village. That day life seemed just as it should, but in the blink of an eye everything changed and it would never be the same again. I heard the music blaring from a distance, vehicles approaching rapidly, gunshots and screaming from every direction. One by one, bodies began to fall; I was frozen in terror until I realized I needed to run. I ran, but I didn’t run fast enough. I was captured. On that day my family was killed, villages were burned and I was forced into a life of evil beyond all human comprehension. In an instant, I went from being a child to being a soldier.
Survival. This is how we learned to live in the wake of that day. We were children forced in the name of revolution, to brutalize and pillage communities, along the way kidnapping other children to “enlist” them into the cause. In a fog of dazed reality, side-effects from the things we are forced to take but eventually became accustomed and quite addicted to in order to endure the endless days, we press on. We were numb. We forget what it is like to feel; feel love, feel hurt, feel pain. Those emotions are buried deep, in a place where we ourselves have no idea how to reach. Months and even years pass but the day comes; a miracle has happened and we are freed and the revolution is at a supposed cease-fire. Now we are without a home, without family, without identity. We don’t know where we belong or where we are going. There are camps for children of the war; there are people who care for us, who try and help us overcome what we have seen, what we have lived and what we have done. Is it safe to let them in? Can I trust them? Nightmares plague my sleepless nights. Silence becomes my only security. If I don’t speak then no one will know. No one will have to hear. I long to speak, I want to scream, I desire to cry. But if I do will they still look at me the same? I was a child soldier. I am an orphan. I am God’s child. Do you see me?

I will not leave you as orphans, I will come for you. John 14:18

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