As young people streamed toward our official “Abduction Site” outside the Denver capitol building this weekend, my friends and I shivered in the cold, waiting for someone to signal the start of “The Rescue”. Our matching army green shirts may have been hidden beneath winter jackets and hooded sweatshirts, but we were all banded together with a common belief—that awareness can usher change.
Finally the day was here. The day we would be a voice for the voiceless. The moment all the local media would swarm the heroic, peaceful protest, vying for the best shots. Our cries for freedom would be heard. Colorado citizens would tear out of their homes to come join our rally for peace while the governor strode up to the “LRA Camp” shouting promises of undying support.
But it didn’t exactly happen the way I imagined.
In a city of half a million residents, I felt somewhat discouraged seeing just over a thousand participants—many of whom looked high school age. At 29 and 25, my husband and I felt a bit out of place. Denver is teaming with “globally-conscious, radically-minded” folk who cheerfully hosted the Democratic National Convention last year. This is the liberal majority of Denver who, along with half the country, pledged an oath to Obama in the fall and during the inauguration, promising to do their part now that a “good” president was at the helm. But in a moment of opportunity, those same people were nowhere to be found. While it was still exciting to see the turnout of a group of compassionate kids, I was disappointed in the “socially active” people of Denver.
Once I got over my initial disappointment, I, along with my house church, excitedly formed a line and were handed the rope that would symbolize our abduction. As our group trudged past the capitol building and along 13th Street, I was proud of what Invisible Children had accomplished—they saw a need, spread the word and organized this massive, world-wide awareness on the behalf of abducted children who are still awaiting rescue in the deep jungle of the Congo.
Along the streets, we led chants about rescue and freedom. We shouted the website address “invisiblechildren.com!” to shop owners who stood outside, cigarette in hand, to watch the young people march past their windows. Passing cars honked their horns in excitement, believing us to be anti-war protesters of a different nature. We even got yelled at by one man, “I don’t support your peace crap!” At that, Matt, a friend in our house church ran into an alley to find something to write on. Within a minute he returned with a broken old yard sign upon which his wife hurriedly scribbled the words, “Free the Child Soldiers!” We hoped that would explain things a little better.
At the LRA Camp, we settled on the periphery of the crowd and began to write letters to our senators. Occasionally a discrete camera man would pop by for a 30-second highlight, stoking our excitement for coverage. (It is a sad reality, however, that this same park has drawn far more coverage in the last few months due to unleashed dogs than it did receive during The Rescue.)
As the sun set, the rented flood lights cast a jarring glow over the 1500 young people sprawled across the park. After a few hours my friends and I hunkered down in our sleeping bags and, along with several others, gathered in a circle to whisper prayers for conviction to settle on Joseph Kony’s heart and for the release of all the abducted child soldiers. We prayed for our government leaders to step up in response to the cries for change, and for the families despondently waiting the return of their sons and daughters.
Finally, at 8:55pm, an Invisible Children representative announced the arrival of a special guest. Onto the stage stepped a young woman who introduced herself as a representative from one of our senator’s offices. “Congratulations, you are officially rescued.” It was, by no means, a high ranked official but we were pumped. People jumped up from their camps and rushed the stage. My friends and I embraced one another in delight. Within minutes, a victory song played out over the speakers and a large group of people began dancing in celebration.
So there wasn’t a band of media camping alongside us all evening, and a big flashy celebrity never appeared, but we did accomplish our ultimate goal; we were a presence in Denver and hopefully, alongside thousands of others word-wide, we sparked the beginning of the change we desperately seek. Fortunately for us we didn’t have to wait long for rescue, but as I write this, there are still a handful of cities awaiting rescue. And more importantly, thousands of Ugandan boys and girls don’t have the luxury of waiting a few days for someone to waltz in and wave them off to their homes. They face far worse conditions in a seemingly hopeless situation. But we know there is hope and we believe in the change that will come. We must remember to pray for their freedom and for the wisdom of leaders and activists who will work tirelessly to bring that solution about.