Under Fire in Soroti, Uganda
A little over a year ago I went with a group from my church to visit a god friend of mine who was working in Soroti, Uganda doing mission work. We taught a group of 42 nationals a biblical study methods class. At the time, four missionary families were living there, working on building the church, orphanage, school, and medical facilities that were being planned. A year later those families have had to leave because Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, is attacking Soroti. I’ve been receiving emails from them periodically with updates, and they gave me permission to share them with you. The reports are a compilation from the different families, who are currently staying in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, on the recommendation of the American Consulate there. A great deal of prayer is needed, both for the five missionary families, as well as the young church in Soroti who is having to undergo hardship that few of us will ever experience.
Sunday Aug 31
We have not been able to email as our server in the capitol was shifting locations. On Saturday C. and I went to a group of refugees we are working with. I preached and we had 2 saved. I wanted them to know that the food we were bringing was not from me but from churches and individuals in the States. They gave you all a large round of applause.
Things have digressed here. Last night (Saturday) several were killed by the rebels just across the runway (1/2 mile) from our church and where our refugees are. One of our workers lost a relative and he narrowly escaped. Several of our church members from that area ran from their homes and are now staying in the church.
R. is a young man who lives on our compound and goes to the seminary. Today we were informed that the rebels were in R’s village (about 6 miles away) and that there were about 27 killed including his brother-in-law. Later we got word that his sister was found severely beaten and one of her small children who was also terribly beaten. Their older child (I think about 5) was also killed. The military found her and the child and R. was able to get them to the hospital. I was informed by the head nurse (she also is in our Bible Institute) that they do not have any medication left in the hospital. Thousands are running into Soroti. There were so many I had trouble driving down the street. We will see how the night goes and what tomorrow will bring. Keep praying for us.
Monday Sep 1
I wish I had better news but here goes. This morning on one of the main roads out of town the rebels intercepted a bus. They killed all 20 + people and burned the bus. One of our seminary students mother was said to be on the bus. We are trying to find out if she was.
This afternoon as I was taking C. to Ladies Bible Study we picked us a few of our faithful ladies who were also on their way. They were from Nakatunya, which was about a mile from our home. They said that at that very time the military and rebels were fighting. I dropped them off at the church and went to pick up one of my fellow missionaries. When I arrived at his home I noticed my vehicle temperature gage went to "HOT". After further inspection we found that I had blown a head gasket. This is not a good time to have trouble with a vehicle. The only place to get a head gasket is the capitol. We met with our fellow missionaries tonight and talked about the possibility of having to evacuate. We decided that G’s family and P’s family (new missionaries) should go to the capitol tomorrow to get supplies and my gasket. They will stay over night and we will evaluate the situation from there. This way if we have to get out there will only be four of us and with two small cars we would hopefully be able to make it to Mbale where A. and J. are.
I will be honest with you, I don’t know how many people we have at the church. With the last flood of refugees we have people sleeping under trees and around the sides of the buildings. By the way we are in the rainy season. Last night it rained 2". That does not help the situation at all. Have you ever wondered how a thousand people use the restroom when there is no plumbing? Soroti is ripe for a cholera outbreak.
Please continue to pray for us and our people. I ask C. if she in her wildest imagination ever thought she would be in a situation like this. Never! However, we both want to thank you for allowing us the privilege of representing you here in Uganda. You may ask, "Are you frightened?" Let’s just say that there are times when our faith could be MUCH stronger.
Onward Christian soldiers… is what we need around here. It seems the regular Ugandan army is rather timid in opposing the rebels and vicious attacks within 2 miles of Soroti have recently occurred. One of our young men in the seminary lost several of his family Sunday when rebels slaughtered around 20 in his village. Just now as I am writing a report has come that a Gateway bus on the Lira road was ambushed and burned. Over 30 people have been murdered. There is talk of arming the citizens and raising a militia to help defend the town. Needless to say, there is great fear among the people and combined with the overcrowded conditions and all that goes with that, life is getting a little hectic. Over 150,000 refugees have squeezed into Soroti causing food shortages, price gouging, and a great potential for disease epidemic. We are currently housing, feeding, and providing medicine for 600+ people at our property with more wanting to come in. What to do? That question came up last night when our missionary group came together for supper. With so much going on in the ministry here, it would be very difficult to just pick up and leave. So the general consensus was to sit tight and see what happens. Please be much in prayer for us regarding this. We want to have the mind of God to do the right thing at the right time in the right way.
We have been confronted with one of the greatest ministry opportunity possible. Because of all the rebel activity we cannot go out on visitation but this situation has given us approximately 1000 internally displaced people living on our property. This crazy man (Kony) who is indiscriminately killing these people with his terrorist activities has driven over 150000 people into our town for protection. I feel we are very safe in the town because of the way the people work, i.e. small groups hitting and running on the perimeter of the people. There are a lot of needs here right now, pray for us to have wisdom in meeting them.
Monday Sep 8
There is not a lot to report. All of the missionaries are still in Uganda but away from Soroti. The night before we left the men discovered a rebel plant (they call them a wrecker) in the camp at church. They locked him up in the church and turned him over to the authorities the next morning.
We were extremely tired and slept in till about 7:30 or 8. The feeling that we have abandoned our people had already set in. God is working in our absence as they had in their terms "more than 5 saved" on Sunday. There are reports of fighting on Lira road north of Soroti but Soroti town seems calm for now. We left enough food for several days and are keeping close contact via phone.
Tuesday Sep 9
The rebels started their attack a little after midnight in Soroti. They burned 14 huts and killed on baby. There were solders around our site and all is safe there. The decision to leave seems very good. Please pray for our people right now. They have no where to run.
This morning we were awakened by an early phone call with some distressing news about home. Around 2:00 am the rebels attacked Soroti within about 100 yards of the church. They burned about 14 homes and got within a short distance of three of our missionary’s homes. Praise the Lord all the missionaries had evacuated 3 days earlier. Several of the people have been taken captive and one child was killed that we know of and possibly others. One of the answers to your prayers is that from what I have been told, none of our Christians homes were burnt nor were our people abducted. It was as if God directed the rebels right passed the Christian homes. Needless to say, the people are terrified. We will send more update as we get it.