Members walk, rally and petition Oprah on behalf of Africa’s Invisible Children
Invisible Children, an independently produced, rough-cut film with an MTV pace, has appeared in schools, universities and religious institutions. Churches of Christ have sponsored screenings of the film, which details the abduction of children in northern Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army. The rebel faction turns boys into gun-carrying killers and girls into sex slaves.
Twelve-year-old Nate Barton said the filmmade him sick — and angry.
“You know that if this was happening inAmerica… there would be immediate action,” he said. “Why is Africadifferent?”
His congregation, the RochesterChurch of Christ in Michigan, showed the filmfor 780 people — the largest screening in the Midwest,said Josh Graves, minister for young adults.
Gravesand Barton were among the 300 people who walked four miles across theircommunity and spent the night under the stars, mimicking the nightly commutemade by Ugandan children as they try to avoid capture by the rebel army.
More than 58,000 people signed up onthe Invisible Children Web site to participate in the late-April Global NightCommute, including church members from Oregonto Tennessee.
At the Michigan event, “I watched some of thechildren walking along singing with our worship minister … leading them insong,” said Sara Barton, Nate’s mother. “I prayed that the children in Northern Uganda could someday walk and sing loudlywithout fear of being abducted.”
Nate Barton spent the first eight yearsof his life in Uganda,where his parents served as missionaries. His next-door neighbor in Africa, Mark Moore, was a cultural adviser for the film’screw.
Moore, a missionary for nine years in Jinja, Uganda,traveled to Ugandain 2004 as a translator and adviser for Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu and othergovernment officials. “Through that process I met the Invisible Childrenfilmmakers and began helping them present their story on Capitol Hill,” saidMoore, now a minister for the Springfield, Va., Church of Christ.
Moorewas impressed by the number of young Christians who promoted the film and thefaith of the three filmmakers — ages 27,24 and 22. “I think this generation of young people will be a powerful forcefor the gospel,” he said. “They are a great example of faith in action — invery creative and proactive ways.”
Jessica Buckley was one of 50 studentsat Lipscomb Universityin Nashville, Tenn., who walked from a Target storeparking lot to a church three miles away, joining about 3,000 students for theGlobal Night Commute. More than 1,000 students attended an Invisible Childrenevent at Harding Universityin Searcy, Ark.
Heather MacLeod, a student at Abilene ChristianUniversity in Abilene,Texas, brought a DVD of Invisible Childrenhome to Marylandto show her parents over Christmas break.
“I thought that Oprah Winfrey needed tosee this DVD,” said Connie MacLeod, Heather’s mother. It became her mission.
After countless e-mails yielded onlyform-letter responses, Connie MacLeod and a friend from church flew to Chicago and attempted todeliver a copy of the film to the studio. After pleading with a security guard(“I told him this was a life and death matter,” she said) she got an addressand overnighted the movie, hoping Oprah would see it. She contacted friendsacross the country to bombard the show with additional e-mails.
The filmmakers were interviewed onOprah April 26 — and promptly sent out a message “asking everyone to stop withthe e-mails,” Connie MacLeod said.
Days later a group of 25 students from Oklahoma ChristianUniversity in Oklahoma City walked to the steps of thestate Capitol where they joined 1,000 students for the Global Night Commute.
Allen Thompson, a junior at OklahomaChristian, said he first saw the documentary at the Tulsa International SoulWinning Workshop. He and fellow students organized an on-campus screening,attended by about 350 people.
Thompson, who was born in the Africannation of Ethiopia,shared his testimony at 3 a.m. the night of the Commute. His parents died whenhe was young, and at age 5 he worked as a shepherd before moving to a Church ofChrist-sponsored orphanage. A couple from Wisconsin adopted him, and he later becamethe first in his family to attend college.
Thompson said he hopes his generationwill change the world, “not just by screaming at the government, but bychanging ourselves” and confronting global problems.
“I was an invisible child in my ownway,” he said. “It’s my prayer that those children can know the life that Ihave seen.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION, seewww.invisiblechildren.com