My Journey Home

RC family work has found a special place in my heart. Each time I get involved, I discover many hurts, some of which I have never worked on, and the results are so rewarding.

Mother Theresa once said that if you want to change the world, go home and love your family. My sweet, loving mother died when I was seven. My father died two years later, and life became so harsh. I had to leave. I had to try to find hope and happiness. I embarked on a long journey to the unknown.

My soul was entangled in grief until one day I wandered into a Seventh-day Adventist Church and met Mama Abitimo [Abitimo Odongkara, a former Area Reference Person for Gulu, Uganda]. She called me “son”! It was so strange and sweet, because I hadn’t heard that in a very long time. She reminded me of my grandmother—who, like my mother, had loved me for eternity, but death hadn’t spared her either. Abitimo introduced me to a group of people who were loving and kind. They would listen to one another, cry, hug, and smile again. Their pain seemed to go away so easily. These people, I later learned, were RCers.

It was embarrassing for me to open up to a group of strangers and talk about what was going on [happening] in my life. So I only told half-truths. I could cry whenever I felt like the whole truth was about to come out. They allowed me to cry as much as I wanted, so I felt comfortable doing that. The hurts started disappearing, and everything changed. Soon I realised that home is all about love and belonging.

Today I am responsible for the Gulu (Uganda) Area. I have a much bigger family now and delight in sharing the love we have, week in and week out [over time]. We have come a long way and are always looking for opportunities to get better at giving and receiving this love that is so captivating and refreshing.

One such opportunity came in December 2018 when Chuck Esser (the International Commonality Reference Person for Family Work) and Pamela Haines (the Area Reference Person for part of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA) came to town. I know I am loved now, but the love that comes with them when they are here makes me feel very special. It’s like swimming in a sea of love.

Their visit is never short on [never lacks] new experiences and ideas, and this December I was treated to family workshops and evenings of private coaching in which I was attended to and had intriguing questions answered.

Once I had received enough attention, I was ready to hit the road [travel] and share the love with the RC Communities scattered across the war-torn territories of Northern Uganda.

The first destination was Nwoya, about fifty kilometers west of Gulu. The group there consists mainly of peasant farmers and people who have not gone beyond primary level with their education. They understand RC theory well and continue to grow both individually and as a group.

In Nwoya Pamela reviewed the basic theory of RC, and we did sessions on who we really are and the things that trouble us and stop us from being the person inside. This was helpful to me, because our society trains us to think that we in the north are not as good as people in the south because we are poor. I try to think differently now and let my dreams and aspirations grow inside of me.

Pamela also talked about self-appreciation, being a good counselor, oppression, and liberation, coupled with a number of demonstrations. Then the leaders talked over lunch about strengthening the Community and staying connected. I see a lot of potential for moving forward.

In Gulu, Chuck and Pamela separated the new people from those who already had RC experience. That was smart, because we had invited for the first time a team of people from a self-help organisation. They intend to use RC to give more meaning to what they do and to help their members deal with life’s stresses.

Next we went to Arua, some four hours’ drive from Gulu, to some refugees from South Sudan. These hopeful refugees had chosen to do family work. We also did family work in Arusha, Tanzania; and Kampala, Uganda.

Chuck Esser led the family workshops, and I discharged on old defeats and found new strength for the present. Chuck said that we often think more about what we have to do than what we want to do because most of the time as children we did only what the adults wanted us to do—like cook, not cry, and so on. These things get to change during “special time.” Also, when adults give young people special time, it reminds the young people that someone wants to be with them.

The children seemed pleased to be able to do what they wanted to without any restrictions from parents, and to get enough attention. They seemed to feel how important they were. Also, if you play with young people and listen to them, they tell you what’s going on in their lives.

The children played hard and ate a lot. Nothing much seemed to bother them. As long as they were not hungry, they played. From drawing, to running around, to playing with balloons and balls, I was there in action. And each child I played with brought me a different experience.

It was amazing paying attention to children and helping them discharge. Chuck helped us pay attention to ourselves, too, and encouraged us to do mini-sessions every time we got restimulated. I remembered a lot of my childhood and was able to sufficiently contradict my early hurts.

Chuck talked about every culture having the idea that people are not good when they are young and have to always be taught and corrected. And he said that whatever happened to us when we were little, we tend to do to others when we are grown. We pass down the distress. Also, people should never forget that we learn and change by being connected to somebody rather than by being punished. Children are naturally very pleased with themselves, but society shuts them up [makes them be quiet], and by the time they are a few years old, they are no longer pleased with themselves.

We learnt that how we feel about ourselves is not exactly who we are and that we can contradict how we feel by trying something challenging, doing something we are not yet good at.

Support groups kept us working on ourselves and thinking about how to back children up [support children] instead of instilling fear in them.

The wonderful experience concluded with a walk through Arusha. The green of that city reminded me of how much I love nature. I was reminded of days I spent as a child gathering wild fruits, climbing trees, swimming in the swamps, and hunting wild animals.

Chuck and Pamela are special people, and I grow every time they come to town. Our time together had us talking of growth, the importance of doing longer sessions, leadership, and the financing of our activities.

Farewells are difficult, so Chuck brought our attention to how each time we say goodbye we can be reminded of times when we were abandoned, neglected, and left alone.

I am going to say goodbye now—but I urge you to carry on, my friends. The world is counting on you. And always remember that you are not alone. As for me, I am finally home, because home is not where you live but where you belong.

Alfred Oryem

Area Reference Person for the
Gulu, Uganda, RC Community

Gulu, Northern Uganda, Uganda


Last modified: 2019-05-13 15:12:23+00