Sunday, January 5, 2014

Right place, wrong time

When we first moved to Karamoja, driving on the roads was a bit risky due to armed bandits. Occasionally they would shoot at or rob vehicles on rural roads. In our early days here, driving back and forth to Ikland always took faith in God's protection over us. We just never knew what we would see around the next corner or over the next rise. Fortunately, we never encountered a single (illegally) armed person in our travels. And since 2010 or so, the government's disarmament program has really reduced the number of guns and violent incidents in the area.

On our way back home from Kaabong, the day after Christmas, our complacency was rudely interrupted. As our vehicle crawled slowly up a rocky spot in first gear, we heard a gunshot to our right. It sounded different than what I would've expected a gunshot to sound like, so we wondered then if it even was a gunshot. I thought maybe something on our vehicle had broken or popped. Despite having an uneasy feeling, all I did was roll up my window (as if that would stop a bullet). When we crested the hill and turned right, we heard two more gunshots also on my right. We also saw a lot of dust lingering in the air above the road, as if something had been running on it moments before. Both Amber and I felt something hit the vehicle, but even in that moment I was sure it wasn't a bullet (if Hollywood depictions of such things are even remotely accurate). Still, I yelled at Amber 'Get down!" and stomped on the accelerator.

Once a safe distance away, we started calling people to let them know what happened. The news spread rapidly throughout Kaabong and Ikland. For a couple of days, our Ik neighbors came to offer their condolences for that happened. Everyone was a bit confounded and worried as to why the 'enemies' would be shooting at us. No vehicle had ever been shot at on that particular road. So why now? And who did it?

The army arrested two groups of suspects. One group consisted of a young Ik man and an armed Karimojong member of the LDU (Local Defense Unit). The second group consisted of three Karimojong thieves who had been seen going into Kenya with two AK-47s the day before. Though the second group seemed more likely, the first group was detained because their stories didn't line up.

We have since heard a fuller report of what happened. As it turns out, we weren't being shot at at all. The Karimojong thieves were indeed returning from Kenya with stolen donkeys. They were on the road at the time we climbed the hill, and that's why we saw the dust in our headlights. As we approached the junction, our headlights revealed the thieves and donkeys to the Ik man and LDU member who were also at that very place. They shot once at the thieves who then returned fire (the second two shots we heard). After we were long gone, the LDU shot seven more times, injuring one thief in the arm. So it was all just a bizarre coincidence that all three groups were at the right place but the wrong time together.

Even though we weren't the target of the shooting, we are very thankful to God for his ongoing protection that allows us to keep living and loving in Ikland.

(Oh, and what hit our vehicle must've been sound-waves from the gunshots.)


The Reeds said...

I'm glad it's so much safer now and that you are all safe and well!

Alan Hewerdine said...

You don't have to be in Ikland to be in the right place at the wrong time, or the wrong place at the right time! Some years ago my son was doing street work with youth in Manchester, England. One evening he was on the streets when he was shot at. It turns out he wasn't the target; it was the guys with him. It was assumed that they were part of a rival gang just because they were in that part of town. Thankfully, no one was hit, but it reminds us of the need for God's protection wherever we serve him. We'll be praying for you, as will thousands of others, when we feature the Ik in the AIM Europe Prayer Diary in February.