Invisible No Longer

Three young filmmakers from San Diego made a discovery that is now mobilizing young people all across the country—pushing them out of the malls and into the byways of global humanitarianism. Four years ago, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof referred to American evangelicals as the “newest internationalists.” He wrote, “The old religious right . . . [which tried] to battle Satan with school prayers and right-to-life amendments, is on the ropes.” Parenthetically, I don’t buy that. “It is being succeeded by evangelicals who are using their growing clout to skewer China and North Korea, to support Israel, to fight sexual trafficking in Eastern Europe and slavery in Sudan, and, increasingly, to battle AIDS in Africa.” If evangelicals were the new internationalists four years ago, then evangelical American youth are the newest internationalists today. The case in point is USC graduate Jason Russell. Back in 2000, young Jason took a church trip to Kenya and was shocked by the poverty and suffering that surrounded him there. Deciding there were “many important, untold stories” to tell about Africa, Jason invited his friends Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole to accompany him on a second trip in 2003. Carrying a camera they purchased on eBay and their parents’ credit cards, the young men endured Malaria and scabies as they journeyed from Sudan to Kenya, searching to find a story worth telling. They found it, all right, in northern Uganda. There, Russell and his friends stumbled across thousands of Ugandan children who make the nightly trek from their homes in outlying villages to nearby towns, sleeping in parking garages and bus stations in order to escape abduction by the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA. The LRA is a rebel group that has terrorized Uganda for twenty years, kidnapping more than 30,000 children and forcing them to fight for the LRA. Those who resist face murder or mutilation. Moved by the stories of the children they met and filmed, Jason and his friends returned home and created a provocative documentary called Invisible Children. As churches and schools across the nation screened the film, high school and college students joined Russell, Bailey, and Poole in speaking out against the Ugandan atrocities and developing creative ways to make a difference. One college senior raised $10,000 for the project selling hats, bags, and bracelets. Brittany Hogan, last year’s Miss California, gave up her career plans to work at a Christian orphanage in Uganda. And a 19-year-old from Atlanta donated all of her wedding money to the cause after her fiancé was killed in Iraq. And this coming April 29, more than 20,000 young people will participate in the “Global Night Commute,” conducting all-night vigils in one of 136 U.S. cities to raise awareness for Uganda’s invisible children. For more information on the “Global Night Commute” and about the film Invisible Children, visit the links below. With all the stuff we hear about young people these days—increased drug use, declining test scores, and sexual promiscuity—it is heartening, and thrilling, to learn of young Christians like Jason who are drawing the world’s, and the Church’s, attention to the plight of the persecuted and most vulnerable among us.


Chuck Colson


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