In 1986, a rebel militant group, known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), initiated what has now become over two decades of terror in northern Uganda and its neighbouring countries. Infamous for pillaging small villages and abducting children to fight in their makeshift army, the LRA left very few unscathed in north Uganda. Even those fortunate enough to avoid a first-hand encounter with the army felt its effects: 1.7 million people fled their villages to refugee camps with squalid conditions.
Labongoguru, a small village tucked away in the northern district Nwoya, was among those affected by the war. Many people deserted the village during the war and its after effects left those who remained feeling hopeless and bitter. People were full of fear and there was great conflict among them; distrust filled the community.
Having heard of the dire situation in Labongoguru, ZOA International, an organisation committed to providing relief, hope and recovery to people affected by violent conflict and disasters, came to assist the community. As part of their programme ZOA International brought Alpha to Labongoguru.
The people in the village responded to Alpha and, as they shared in groups, they began to reconcile with one another and a sense of brotherhood started to grow. One man in particular was compelled by what he heard at Alpha – having been at odds with many in the community and even going so far as to attempt to poison the community well, he developed love for those around him and sought reconciliation with those he had previously been in conflict with. And, with no church in the area, and limited resources to build one, he decided he wanted to offer part of his land to be used as a place for the church to gather.
Several years after this, I visited Labongoguru. What stood out to me was the way that God had visited this area through Alpha. The original Alpha group continues to meet as church every Sunday. On arrival, we were welcomed by a lively congregation and heard testimony after testimony of lives transformed. One member shared, ‘We had no unity, but because of Alpha people now gather together and there is a peace in this community like we haven’t experienced before.’