Monday, 20 April 2009

Canada! Come to the Rescue!

You may have noticed, but I want to make this painfully clear: Uganda is a BIG deal. This is an issue that has enveloped my heart from the night I heard about it, and I boldly suggest that if you will hear about it, you will find yourself involved - and if you are not affected, you have not heard enough. Here is what you need to know right now:

There is a war going on between the Ugandan Government and a man named Joseph Kony. Kony is abducting 8 to 12 year old children from small villages and forcing them to be his militant slaves. Those that he chooses to keep alive have witnessed the merciless slaughter of neighbours, friends and family. Kony uses these children to capture more children, turning them into the savage murderers that they fear so much. If these kids refuse to obey his orders, they are killed without question. It is terrifying to be under the constant threat of attack. It is terrifying to watch the life of someone you know and love taken from them so violently. It is terrifying for the mothers, fathers, siblings and playmates of the children that are captured – because most of those kids will never come back, and none of them will come back the same.

This is a reality that is so far separated from our own that it can be very hard to understand it and let it sink in. But the more you hear, see and read about this, the more it will become real. Let your eyes and your heart be opened to the reality of the world that we usually try to ignore. Stop ignoring them. Rescue them.

In 9 countries 100,000 people will abduct themselves in representation of the children abducted in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan and the Republic of Congo. They will leave their homes and travel to one of 100 cities. In Canada there are sites in Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, and you can find out more information about what the plan is for your specific city by looking it up on the Invisible Children website, or by searching “THE RESCUE (Toronto) OFFICIAL” on facebook and joining their group or event page.

Before The Rescue, it is our duty to contact major media outlets such as CTV, CBC, Global, Canada AM etc as well as people of great cultural influence such as political leaders (like Olivia Chow, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper) as well as celebrities (for example, Michael Cera, Ryan Gosling, Rick Mercer and Feist). These people can come and rescue us by voicing their support for this cause, and helping us to attract national attention to the war in Uganda and the child soldiers that need our help so desperately.

On the day of The Rescue, we will be meeting at a designated spot, representing our home. With us we will bring three family photos, circling ourselves in the picture. We will symbolically leave one photo behind at the home base, and then everyone will walk holding on to a rope in single file for 2-4 kilometres to another destination, representing the LRA Camp. This is our abduction. Once at the camp, we will be prepared to stay the night, writing letters to our political leaders, explaining to them about Uganda, and why we want Joseph Kony arrested. We will include the other two family photos in these letters. In the morning, if our moguls and our media have come to our rescue we pack up camp and head home - BUT if they have NOT come, we are going to stick it out and wait until they do. If our letters, e-mails, phone calls and YouTube videos have not attracted enough attention by the 25th to gain the participation of the media, our persistence may. This story deserves prime time major coverage. These children deserve the attention of not just our nation, but of the entire world.

Please, educate yourself; learn about these kids and what they have gone through – what they are GOING through right now. Get involved, do something. Canada is known for being a country of peacekeepers - here is a chance to be involved in making that peace not just on the political level, but on the real-life practical relief kind of peace. If you can’t commute to one of the cities, you can still participate – donate to the cause through the IC site or write a few letters to influential people in your town or city, or across our country. Make a video and call out your favourite celebrity!

Do something.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Next Step Out

Well, it has been just over a month since this whole journey began. Just over a month ago I sat up with a friend who opened my eyes to the unseen, unknown horrors of our world. He taught me that there are people suffering - people that I am called to love and care for, that I knew nothing about. Children, invisible and silent to so many of us, being tortured, raped, kidnapped, beaten, mutilated and killed and if not killed, forced to do the same to others. It was a reality I couldn't understand, so separate from my own world. It was information overload, but I couldn't stop learning more and more - I thought my mind would explode from the sheer pressure of having so many new things filling it - and then I started to share. I started to do things that I had never before had reason to do, that I didn't know I could... I started getting vocal. I decided to fast fast-food (which is a commitment that I admit I have broken on two occasions). I started making t-shirts, writing songs, just telling people in whatever way I could... notes like this one, for example.

Some days I feel like what I am doing is worthless because my focus is too vague or too specific, or I worry that at the core of my efforts this is a prideful mission or one to seek attention. I wonder how long I will last before I give up... but then I remember that I have seen the faces of children like this. I have seen need up close - not just through YouTube (which has been a great source of information!) - but in my own life, in Mexico.

It's funny how much I can remind myself of when I write. I went to Mexico in high school on a missions trip. The kids there were shoeless and penniless, but they seemed happy. I went to Costa Rica in college and saw a similar kind of poverty, and a similar kind of hope. I saw great need there, and pain and trial, but I did not see terror. Poverty is brutal and deserves our attention, but in Uganda, poverty is blended with terror and grief. Perhaps this is why it has caught my eyes and my heart so exclusively; it is the worst of all worlds right now.

And so I press on in this effort and I nudge you on as I go; together we can make a change. Look what three young guys and a video camera did. Maybe a group of young people from northern Ontario can do the same. Let's see where it goes, where it takes us and what we can accomplish in the name of justice and human rights. Let's chase our aspirations and our so-called crazy dreams for a while - risk the failure, risk our frowning society, risk embarrassment and rejection - take the risk because we can end their risk, and theirs is so much greater than ours.

On March 25th we held a screening of the Invisible Children video at the university. Over 40 people came out, sat on the floor and witnessed just some of what is going on. Here is what is coming from me, and from the team of young people in North Bay and around this facebook world that are moving for justice and peace.

The Next Step Out.

The local chatter about Uganda and our campaign has begun to die down as the t-shirts we made and the posters we hung become more and more commonplace, but the issues of child abduction and torture remain and build each day. Peace is still a distant dream for the African families under the terrifying threat of Joseph Kony and his army, but it is a dream that we share; we too want to see those children set free, provided for and cared for, we too pray for security for those families, and we too desire peace. After hearing their stories, we can no longer look away. We will no longer step back.

We will step out.

On April 18th, just one week before the Rescue, we are going to step out into our own communities. Here in North Bay we are going to meet the people where they are already prepared to open their hearts and minds and wallets; namely, the mall. For two hours we will set up a make-shift information centre in the food court. There we will have flyers and pictures and business cards and the like, for people who are looking for more information. We will also have a large (sealed) jar, for people to drop off all that excess, weighty pocket change. This jar will travel with me and everyone else who is going to the Rescue on the 25th, to be added to the Invisible Children relief efforts.

Your job on the 18th is to wear a sandwich-board style sign over your shoulders and walk around the mall. You can even run your own personal errands! The sign you make should say something about Uganda (in rather large lettering) and should point people towards the food court for more information, and we will take it from there.

This event is "local" but please, join us even from afar; make up some flyers and hand them out or stick them up on community bulletin boards, wear your shirt around town and talk to people; take the risk of being shut down or blown off... because you have the opportunity to take a child out of a far greater risk with your efforts.

These ideas may seem radical, but we are living in a world with high demands on its attention. If we want to capture that attention, we are going to have to work for it. So, I guess the question is, are you ready to reach out and take the next step?

There is a lot going on up here. This is my first update, and hopefully there will be many, many more with exciting news to share! If you are campaigning at home and have stories to share, I know that my team would love to hear some encouraging words - and if you want to join in with REACH OUT and what we are doing here in North Bay, please feel free to contact me or search for the group.

Life is moving quickly and most days we have to run to keep up with our schedules - this is just two hours of time, one afternoon, one step. Will you take it?

Saturday, 4 April 2009


I love that word: done. It’s just so final, the ultimate accomplishment of some task, however grueling or full of frustration, or petty and meaningless, funny or embarrassing, triumphant or gross or exhausting or thrilling... whatever it was, whatever the emotions behind it, it is over, past and done. What a wonderful feeling!

The past three months of Theatre have been all of those things, at one point or another and there were certainly rehearsals when many of those feelings overlapped and layered (quite like the make-up and paint I spent the better part of three days picking out of my hair). There were days I wanted to leave – drop the course all together and run away from school, become a pirate just for the getup and say nice things (which is in great contrast to the script), speaking in an accent forever – but then there were other days when I would get home and thank God for the friends I was making and the opportunity to be in a class where pen and pencil were unnecessary and I got to sit on the floor (making witty-though-cynical comments to my fellow actors in hushed tones). It was the people that kept me in class; my friends, almost all new ones, who showed up (early!) every week and gave reason for me to do the same.

And now, with the final performances behind us, I find myself in reflection. Not surprising, perhaps, with so many memories from this semester to reflect upon. The play (though arguably there were very few moments of traditional “play” involved, with the exception for Helen and her shocked... volunteers) was not the content I would have picked out for this class of often giddy amateurs; the classes who thrive on things like Disney and country music and dreamed of putting on some happy-go-lucky musical ended up struggling through a Greek tragedy, full to the brim with violence and unmasked sexuality that made my stomach churn at first reading. But then, this course and this play have taught me so much more than a Broadway comedy ever could have.

I don’t think anyone from the cast or crew would forward the argument that our play was not a rather vulgar piece of art that trashes all hope for hope, but it does set a couple of things into a sharp reality. Our world is messed up. There are crimes committed every day around this world that dive far deeper into the nightmare of human cruelty than even the darkest parts of our script touched on. People do terrible things to each other with heartless and senseless cause. Children are killed with brutality. Women are stolen and raped. Our world is not a good place all the time.

The play concluded in a place of defeat; the Trojan women and men gave in to grief and violence and revenge; they lost hope and were overcome. It breaks my heart that so many people in the real world eventually come to the conclusion that life is meaningless external of money and power, which rule the world. But there is a contrast to the darkness of the world, and I think that sometimes we need something like this play to remind us just how dark the darkness is, so that when we are blinded by the goodness of His light, we will be able to really appreciate the sonshine.

So now the curtains are closing on this course and I am taking away from it so much more than I brought with me in September; I have made so many friends, learned a few new card games, had a number of singing-in-the-stairwell parties, told and listened to a long list of mostly funny jokes, spent time pretending to dance ballet/jazz/tap/etc, played some silly drama games and even participated (and dominated...) in some semi-illegal chair-racing. All and all it has been a wonderful year. Thank you to all of those who made this year (and especially this class) what it has been for me. You have stretched my imagination and blessed my life.

Friday, 3 April 2009


It could have been delicious, it could have been the cream of the cream in quality, it could have made every gland in your mouth burst out in song for the sheer delight of the experience, but if the flavour is followed by even the suggestion of bitterness, the moment is spoiled and the memory contaminated forever. Aftertaste is a killjoy.