Tag Archives: Uganda

Vengeance Times Seven

lukodi drawingO Lord, pay back our neighbors seven times
for the scorn they have hurled at you.
Psalm 79:12 (NLT)

A year ago our kids, Taylor and Clayton, travelled to Uganda. Taylor put her Art Therapy education to work with young women and children in Lukodi who had been victims of local terrorists calling themselves The Lord’s Resistance Army. Taylor brought home a stack of pictures drawn by children. Mixed among the very child-like images of a soccer match, a church, or tree there were equally child-like images of their homes burning, giant men with guns hovering over them, and dead bodies lying on the ground bleeding. The reality of the horror these children had experienced drawn by their own hands is heart wrenching. My soft-hearted daughter came home with that soft-heart ripped open and the realization that there was a threshold on what she could handle as an Art Therapist.

I am blessed to have lived a life relatively free of tragedy. I cannot, and hope that I will not, ever experience the horrors like those of the women and children of Lukodi, or the horrors Asaph describes in today’s psalm of those who suffered through and witnessed the seige and destruction of both Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple.

Scholars call pslams like today’s an imprecatory psalm. It is the blues on steroids in which the song writer not only expresses their pain, but also their desire for revenge. It is an angry call for vengeance. In Asaph’s lyric scream, he calls for vengeance multiplied seven times. In God’s Message, seven is a special number. It is the number of “completion” and in calling for vengeance times seven Asaph is asking for complete destruction of his enemies. I can only imagine that the hunger for vengeance is a very real, very natural, very human emotion for those who have suffered unspeakable atrocities at the hands of others.

I can’t condemn victims for wanting vengeance. I think it is a very real emotion that needs to be expressed in healthy ways whether that be a crayon drawing, a poem, or a blues song. Yet, this morning as I read Asaph’s call for vengeance times seven I was reminded of Jesus’ response when Peter asked if he should forgive someone seven times to make sure he had completely forgiven the person. “Not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven.”

Taylor’s Senior Show

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The buttons were bustin’ off of Wendy and me as we stopped by the campus of Grandview University to attend the senior art show for our daughter, Taylor. It was fun to join with Grandma Jeanne and our nephew Sam as we shared Taylor’s artwork along with the work of her fellow students.

Taylor’s work was obviously influenced by her experiences in Uganda and the work she and Clayton did with Child Voice International. Wendy and I were struck by the unpretentiousness of her pieces. On our drive home we also talked about Taylor’s willingness to embrace experimentation with different genres and artistic styles that might be foreign to her. Both of our daughters have experienced so much of the world and we like to think that their travels and experiences have allowed their hearts, minds and artistic expressions to be open to diversity in the ways they communicate themselves.

If you are in the area and have the opportunity to stop by, you should slip into the Rasmussen Center (SW corner of E 14th and Boyd in Des Moines) on the campus of Grandview University to see her work!

Grandma Daisy and the Three Things that Last Forever

2012 12 25 Grandma Jeannes Present

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT)

In my mother’s family, my great grandma Daisy was the undisputed matriarch. Divorced during a time when it was both scandalous and humiliating, she refused any money from her ex-husband and determined to raise her five children on her own. Relying on faith, hope, and love, she made ends meet and became a living example to her children and grandchildren. Grandma Daisy died when I was five years old, but her imprint on my family has become clearer to me throughout my life.

When Taylor left for Uganda last summer, I sent with her a box of crayons that I discovered in a tub of family mementoes that languished in my basement. They were Grandma Daisy’s crayons and I figured that Grandma Daisy herself would rather have them being used for art therapy projects in Uganda than gathering dust in my basement.

On Christmas Day, we gave my mother a set of three photographs showing Taylor with some children from Uganda, of a picture colored by a young girl there, and a picture of a woman drawing with Grandma Daisy’s crayons. On the back of the picture was an explanation of the photo triptych. As my mother read about Grandma Daisy’s crayons being sent to Uganda with Taylor she began to weep.

I thought about that moment this morning as I read this amazing chapter. My great Grandma Daisy had little or nothing of earthly value in this life. Her life and her legacy were not about getting more, keeping up appearances, or getting ahead. Her life and legacy were about simple faith, eternal hope and tangible love. I know that, not from having known her personally, but from the testimony and evidence given by her children and grandchildren in countless stories, anecdotes and family treasures.

Today’s chapter says that faith, hope, and love are the only three things that last for eternity. As I watched my mother’s reaction to her gift and the deep meaning it held for her, I caught a glimpse of the truth of it. As New Year’s Day approaches and I weed through bags of trash, piles of broken down cardboard, and a host of new stuff to place in our house, my thoughts are given to the coming year. I’m thinking more than ever about where my time, energy and resources are invested, and about Grandma Daisy’s legacy. I’ve never been one for big new year’s resolutions, but I think this year is about decreasing my investment in a lot of things and increasing my investment in just three.

Art Heals

I have been watching with great interest as my daughter, Taylor, studies Art Therapy at Grandview University. She and her husband, Clayton, returned this past weekend from a summer spent in Gulu, Uganda where she applied Art Therapy techniques with children and adults who have lived through horrors and tragedies that most of us can scarce imagine. Taylor is learning first hand just how powerfully art heals.

For this reason, having finished my last post about Winston Churchill’s many losses and defeats, I want to share one more little known but critical piece to his story. While in the deepest pit of his life when his wife said “I thought he would die of grief,” Churchill discovered that art heals. Paul Johnson writes:

At this moment, providence intervened. By pure chance, his sister-in-law “Goonie” Churchill was painting in watercolor in the garden of Hoe Farm in Surrey, which they had rented jointly. Churchill: “I would like to do that.” She lent him her paints and soon, ambitious as always, he sent for oils and canvases. He loved it. The Scots-Irish master Sir John Lavery, a neighbor, took him in hand, and his dashing wife, Hazel, also a painter, gave him excellent advice. “Don’t hesitate. Dash straight at it. Pile on the paint. Have a go!” He did, with growing relish. He discovered, as other sensible people have done, that painting is not only the best of hobbies but a sure refuge in a time of trouble, for while you are painting you can think of nothing else. Soon misery began to retreat. his mind, his self-respect, his confidence were restored. (Churchill, Paul Johnson, Viking Press)

Painting continued to be a sure refuge for Churchill. He painted the rest of his life and produced a surprisingly impressive body of work.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 29

Praise belongs to the King
Praise belongs to the King (Photo credit: kelsey_lovefusionphoto)

Honor the Lord, you heavenly beings;
    honor the Lord for his glory and strength.
Honor the Lord for the glory of his name.
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Psalm 29:1-2 (NLT)

Every great story has a climax. It’s that pinnacle moment on which everything hinges. In ancient times when the Psalms were arranged in a one volume set, Psalm 29 was arranged to be the climax of the series of songs between Psalm 25 and Psalm 33. Psalm 25 through Psalm 28 are songs of prayer for God’s mercy. Psalm 30 through 33 are songs of praise for God’s rule. Psalm 29 is the climactic song of praise to the God of all creation.

Last night I watched the Olympics as our local girl, Gabby Douglas, won the gold medal for all around gymnastics. In the post event interview the first words out of her mouth were praise to God. This morning I woke to read Taylor’s final blog post from Uganda after a long summer there. Her heart was expressing praise and gratitude for all of the experiences and lessons they’ve learned.

Somedays, events and observations quietly melt into a life lesson. That’s what I’m experiencing this morning. The trinity of watching Gabby praising God, reading Taylor’s grateful blog post, and reading Psalm 29 remind me to make praise the climax of my day today.

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 10

This is a young girl’s drawing from one of Taylor’s Art Therapy sessions in Uganda. She drew a picture of an LRA soldier killing her aunt in front of her.

Their mouths are full of cursing, lies, and threats.
    Trouble and evil are on the tips of their tongues.
They lurk in ambush in the villages,
    waiting to murder innocent people.
    They are always searching for helpless victims.
Like lions crouched in hiding,
    they wait to pounce on the helpless.
Like hunters they capture the helpless
    and drag them away in nets.
Their helpless victims are crushed;
    they fall beneath the strength of the wicked.
Psalm 10:7-10 (NLT) 

God’s Message is not a novel. It is not book to check off your mandatory reading list and then put on a shelf. It is a life-giving guidebook for the journey that grows deeper, richer, more poignant and meaningful the further you travel in life’s journey. I keep reading it and studying it because, while it never changes, I change. The wider my life’s horizon expands with time and experience, the more rich with meaning these chapters become each day.

Even a year ago, today’s chapter would have struck me much differently.

Our daughter, Taylor and her husband, Clayton, have been in Uganda this summer. Taylor is studying Art Therapy, and has been putting her education to work with students and other individuals there. The stories that Taylor has shared on her blog are heart wrenching. The area they are working is the site of some of the worst terror carried out by a group calling themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army.

As I read Psalm 10 this morning, the mental images of the first hand accounts Taylor and Clayton have heard this summer flashed into my mind. The description of the wicked lying in wait like lions ready to pounce on innocent victims could not be a more apt parallel to the stories Taylor has related from the victims of the LRA:

Jackie and her father (who died) were abducted when she was 12 years old. She was given to a soldier to be his wife. She gave birth to a child in the bush. She drew a picture of herself climbing up mountains with a baby on her back. She and her husband escaped and lived together for a while but he left her and the baby, so now she lives with her mother. She leaves her mother’s house at 6 in the morning and bikes to work, which is a 3-4 hour commute each way!

Todays chapter leave me thinking about evil and how it does not change from generation to generation. It’s a nice idea to believe humanistic epithets and pop music lyrics that we will all just get along and live in peace and harmony if we just give peace a chance with a little love in our heart. Yet I’ve yet to find one of these lyrical, idealistic notions that adequately addresses and solves the presence and reality of evil in the human heart and, by extension, in the world at large.

Today I feel like my thoughts are swirling all over the place. I’m thankful for the fact that when my children were young I taught them, but then as they get older they teach me through their own lives, knowledge and experiences. I’m thankful that God’s Message is living and active and constantly meeting me where I happen to be on life’s road. I’m thinking about LRA, terrorism, and evil. My heart is crying out with the Psalmist:

Lord, you know the hopes of the helpless.
    Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
 You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed,
    so mere people can no longer terrify them.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 21

The next day Paul went with us to meet with James, and all the elders of the Jerusalem church were present. After greeting them, Paul gave a detailed account of the things God had accomplished among the Gentiles through his ministry. Acts 21:18-19 (NLT)

I’ve been excited to read the e-mails and blog posts from my daughter, Taylor, and her husband, Clayton, from their three month internship in Uganda. It’s been interesting to read how they are discovering that what we read/hear on this side of the Atlantic does not always connect or completely translate the reality of the situation there:

Clayton and I have felt very privileged to be a part of what CV is doing. They are truly an incredible organization. The girls that graduated from the program and work here in the house speak so highly of it. It’s so hard for me to believe that these precious, giggly, dedicated young women were once child soldiers or wives. Clayton and I came here feeling so versed and knowledgeable of the LRA, Joseph Kony, the war, etc but we found ourselves quickly humbled. Who would have thought that the media would misinform us so much?! 😉 We can tell you all those stories some other time, but we have definitely gained a new perspective. Taylor Boeyink, e-mail 5/19/2012

I just don’t want any of these beautiful, precious ladies to think we’re plucking their stories to wear around our necks like some trophy. And this isn’t about my research project or my degree. It’s not ME. MINE. I. I never want their pain to be a picture for my slideshow or have their home feel like a tourist attraction. Its possible I am way overanalyzing this, but that’s how I feel. It’s one thing to read the stories out of a book and another to look into the eyes of the story teller. Like walking on glass. 

It is easy to see how Aid and ignorance has brought ruin to this place. We, as Westerners, might come to give, but we can also come to stake out our destiny. Ours is a history of dominance. Always the explorer, the colonizer in our blood, and it is hard to run away from when we’ve been so “blessed”. We come with our visions and strategies, our opinions and ideals, and without meaning to, we impose them. We think we know the way and we think we know how to do it better and more efficiently then the next person. And it comforts me to know that Child Voice recognizes this and does everything in its power to NOT follow those footsteps. All the staff here is local and they give local people jobs and truly take into consideration what is best for the girls at their center. Also, I’m not saying Westerners aren’t capable of shedding new light onto something or having good ideas. The depleted and dependent often need a helping hand, but we also need to empower and not overpower. But I’ve seen what a huge transition some of these girls have made and they are really healing and pressing forward. It’s remarkable and makes me so proud to be a part of the work that is being done here. Taylor Boeyink, posted on Gone to Gulu 5/22/2012

In today’s chapter, Paul discovers that the believers and elders in Jerusalem are living in a very different reality than those in the remote provinces of Greece where he’d been traveling and teaching. One gets the sense that the leadership in Jerusalem, while encouraged by Paul’s work, did not completely understand what Paul had been experiencing on his journeys and in the provinces, nor the everyday reality of believers living in Greece.

So often our perspective is framed only by what the camera lets us see, what the writer pens, or what the editor allows in print. It’s quite likely that James and the elders in Jerusalem would have a different perspective if they’d spent some time with the believers in Ephesus or Philippi rather than just listening to Paul’s oral report. “It’s one thing to read stories out of a book [or newspaper or blog post or see them on television or YouTube] and another to look into the eyes of the storyteller.” Very often, there is no substitute for going to see, hear and experience things for yourself.

Following Their Passion. Making a Difference.

One of the most fascinating aspects of being a dad has been watching our girls grow into their own persons and launch on their own paths. Seeds of passion that subtly presented themselves in childhood slowly and beautifully bloom as they step out on their own journey as adults. Having survived the weedy entanglements of adolescence and the arid plain of academia, you begin to see the person they are becoming blossom in amazing ways.

Taylor has always had the heart of an artist. It never presented itself in any kind of clearly focused way when she was young, but it was unmistakably there. When she was deciding on courses of study for college it was always in the background. Her choice was always [fill in the blank] and Art Therapy. My personal favorite combination was Archaeology and Art Therapy. The playwright in me conjured a comical sketch of her sitting with a troubled soul showing them pictures of cave drawings and hieroglyphs. Eventually, she abandoned the various and sundry choices for a primary course of study and stuck with the one constant: Art Therapy.

During her teen years, another seed of passion emerged for Taylor. Becoming aware of the larger world, she would come home from high school with books and dinner time stories of tragic conflicts in Africa. I watched as the unfathomable horror stories of child soldiers in nations like Uganda branded themselves on Taylor’s tender heart. Slowly I began to realize that my meek daughter, the tender artist and healer, was developing a steely passion for helping others and for the world.

Then a boy named Clayton came along. Wendy and I knew that these two young people were going to end up together. We saw it from the beginning. I think every dad feels that unmistakable, gut-wrenching moment when you realize your little girl’s eyes and heart have shifted focus to another man. Not just the wandering glance of infatuation or the unadvisable day-trips of misguided lust, but the unmistakable “this is the man who is taking your place” moment.  I saw it happening before my very eyes. Clayton, the passionate African Studies major and Taylor, the Art Therapist wannabe (foregoing her first year of college to work with handicapped children in Morocco) shocked everyone by choosing to get married far younger than seems wise or culturally acceptable in today’s world. They both had a lot of growing up to do. I’m convinced they were supposed to do it together.

It was last fall when Taylor and Clayton began mentioning a group called Child Voice and a place called Lukodi. Lukodi is a village in Uganda. A few years ago the town was ravaged by the unspeakable atrocities of an evil thug named Kony and his followers, profanely dubbed the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Children were forced to kill their own parents. Little girls were raped, forced to be “brides,” and impregnated. Let’s just say that this post can’t contain the volume of horror thrust upon the people of that small village. In the terrible social aftermath, a group called Child Voice is trying to bring healing and redemption to the survivors and to the town. Taylor and Clayton applied for a summer internship to help in the efforts.

And so, the picture of who our daughter is becoming continues to come into focus. The young girl with the heart of an artist, burdened by the plight of child soldiers is going to Uganda. She will put her Art Therapy studies to work to help and to heal, to love and to learn from victims of suffering that is incomprehensible in our everyday context. Clayton, her husband and partner in passion, is by her side. As happens with work in the third world, their itinerary seems to be changing from day to day. Nevertheless, the two of them are flying out of Chicago today. As I’ve told them many times, I couldn’t be more proud.

It seems like everyday I read or hear stories about disenchanted, entitled, and self-seeking young adults who are aimlessly struggling to find gainful employment and meaningful existence. I’m so grateful for children with passion, talent, faith, love and purpose who are actively doing something to make a positive difference in this world. As I’ve tried to constantly tell them, I couldn’t be more proud.

You can follow their story and their adventures at http://boeyinksinuganda.wordpress.com.