When Carl and Julie Gaede sold their house and nearly all of their belongings three years ago and moved to Uganda, they didn’t know their decision would change 16,000 lives. They only knew that God had called them to go.
The Wisconsin couple was living a typical middle class life in 2006 when they happened to watch a program about a 22-year civil war in Northern Uganda. As they watched, the Gaedes learned of abducted children who were forced to murder their parents, to rape and kill other people, and suffer mutilation and other horrific atrocities at the hands of ruthless soldiers. With tear-stained cheeks, they looked at each other and said, “We can’t just sit here! We need to do something!” Being moved with compassion isn’t all that uncommon, but being moved to make a radical change in your life because of that compassion is.
Carl, who worked as a counselor, flew to Uganda four months later and learned about the newly piloted “Empower Trauma Rehabilitation Program,’ created to help people heal from the horrors of war. Ninety percent of the people in Northern Uganda have experienced the trauma of war and suffer with the aftermath - nightmares, guilt, bitterness, hate, fear, and depression. In 2008, the Gaedes and their two young children decided to give up their American lifestyle, leave their friends and family behind and move to Gulu, Uganda. Once there, Carl would lead the rehabilitation program that brings emotional healing and introduces Jesus Christ.
In three years, 16,000 people have completed the program and 7,000 of those people have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. What does that mean? It means thousands of people have found forgiveness, peace, joy, and been emotionally restored.
“In three year’s time, God has blessed our work and caused it to multiply,” says Carl, who trained local Acholi people to lead others through the program. “I wish the statistics would convey the power of what God is doing there, but it never can.”
A video of Acholi people telling their stories does a better job: a woman whose ears and lips were cut off by rebel soldiers now talks about how she can forgive and find joy again. Irene, 31, lost her parents when she was eight and was abducted by the rebel soldiers three times. She was forced to kill and mutilate others, but she always escaped from the soldiers. “All of this traumatized me,” she told the Gaedes. “I had sleepless nights because of the nightmares, but because of the rehabilitation program, I can sleep again. Because I accepted Jesus as my Savior, I now have peace.”
To learn more about the Gaede’s ministry called Tutpona (“We will heal”) or to donate, visit www.tutapona.com.