We were all crammed in the back seat of an old 4 wheel drive Landcruiser when Joseph began telling us about his previous interaction with the Karamajong people. Joseph Nelson Elyanu is an older man with some white hair, big belly, and a huge smile. He brings joy to everyone that is around him. Joseph loves and truly lives for Jesus everyday. He was going with us to this new area called Karamoja to make relationships with the Karamajong people.
Ovre the past couple decades the Karamajong have been known for being violent and brutal. When someone would ask us where we were traveling to and we told them Karamoja, they would either laugh because they didn’t believe us or get a look of fear on their face. For me this place and these people were just stories and pictures of a far reaching people group, until Joseph told his story.
In the back seat of the car Joseph began telling us his encounters with the Karamajong. He said that many years ago when he was in bible school they came and raided his village and eventually made their way to his house. Joseph and his family heard the guns so they ran and hid in the bush so when the warriors came to their house they could not find them. The Karamajong warriors yield for them but none of them came because they knew that they would kill them. A few years later the warriors came back to Joseph’s village this time when they couldn’t find Joseph, his wife and 4 boys they got mad and set fire to their house, books, clothes, and everything they had. Joseph and his family had to look on from a distance and watch everything they had be taken away from them. They then had to live in a refugee camp for many years until the government could take control. Joseph was finally able to finished school and rebuilt his home, but it took many years and was a hard struggle.
As Joseph is telling me this story I am felling anger build up in my own heart. I asked him, “how in the world could he ever think about going to this village even though it has been so many years. Do you not have any hate in your heart towards them for all that they have done to you and your family?” Joseph turns to look at me and with an intense face he says, “how can I hate these people after all that Jesus has done for me? If anything I praise God for giving me the opportunity to go with you and share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with them. God sure is writing a good story.” This conversation and Joseph’s commitment to the Gospel left me almost speechless for the next 4 hours. I keep thinking about the “story” that God is writing.
The time we spent with the Karamajong was so amazing. One of my high lights was to see how Joseph played with the children, talked to every person that came anywhere near him, and how he had the biggest smile on his face as though it was Christmas. Joseph’s story is one that I will never forget. It’s about love, forgiveness, and the difference that Christ can make when He is the author of your stories and life.