After twelve years of suffering, one women's life was redeemed and renovated by God, and she became a community leader.
The Second Congo War was one of the deadliest conflicts worldwide since World War II, and its impact has rippled through Africa long after its official end in 2003.
Although the war was technically centered around the Democratic Republic of the Congo, many other east African countries felt the shock waves in the forms of desperate famine and economic depression, including Uganda.
Mama Sidonia lost her husband in the last year of the war, leaving her alone to raise their 7 children. She ran a small farm east of Lira Town and brewed liquor to try to meet her family’s financial needs. Even with all of her hard work, however, her children occasionally had to stay home from school because they had no money to pay for tuition.
A Strong Daughter of God
Twelve years of this struggle passed, and Sidonia felt her life had become very bitter.
“I brewed and sold alcohol because I thought there was no other way to quickly raise money for my family,” she explained. “But most people looked down on me, and of course, the drunkards would not give me any respect.”
About this time, a team of World Challenge workers visited the Lira Town area and were meeting with local church leaders. As they were walking through the village, two of the lead ladies passed by Sidonia’s house. She had just come back from her gardens and was brewing the local liquor called “Lira-Lira.”
The team members began talking to her and shared about Jesus, particularly the peace and abundant life he offers. Sidonia immediately asked Christ to fill her life, then she headed to the nearest church.
Another believer named Anna Grace connected with Sidonia and began regularly visiting her, encouraging her in Christ and teaching her many of the lessons about how to have better sanitation and agricultural practices. Anna invited Sidonia to her house and showed her around so she could see how Anna had built and maintained pit latrines, hand-washing stations and vegetable gardens. She also saw that Anna was growing bananas and pineapples for better income and nutrition.
Most importantly, Anna stressed that God had given Sidonia resources along with the intelligence and strength to use them wisely for herself and her family.
A Proverbs 31 Woman
The concept that she was not abandoned, not left to simply struggle against an unfair world, lifted Sidonia up. If God had purposefully placed her in this village outside of Lira, then he had also blessed her with good land and weather to grow all the food she needed to care for her children.
Inspired, Sidonia began trying out some the things Anna had taught her.
She learned about different crops she could plant, some for greater nutrition and others that would fetch better sales in the marketplace. Alongside this, she took micro-business classes and learned about good economic practices. She started buying grains like maize, beans, simsim and millet during harvest when the price was low. With new sanitary methods of storage, she kept these grains until they could be sold later for a tidy profit.
Soon she had enough to not only have her own in-house business but also to participate in the community market.
“My life and that of my family has changed a lot,” she comments. “Nowadays I have made many Christian friends who give me good ideas, and people respect me. No one throws insults at me like they used to before I was born again.”
All of Sidonia’s children are attending school now, and she owns 5 head of cattle, a substantial investment and sign of well-being in this part of the world.
She has begun expanding her gardens to include pigeon peas, sorghum, cotton and sunflowers to support her next project: building a better house for the family.
From Brewer to Evangelist
The blessing of a relationship with God and recognition of his favor is not something Sidonia wants to keep to herself.
Since Christ’s care and provision has transformed her life, she trusts that he wants to redeem those around her too.
These days she visits neighbors—the same people who used to scorn her for being a liquor brewer—using the health and agricultural lessons she’s learned to open conversations about God’s love for them. “I’m happy to be positively impacting my neighbors.”
Even if her neighbors aren't immediately open to changing old habits and traditions, Sidonia persists with the same steadfast spirit that bore her through twelve years of intense hardship, an endurance now transformed and fortified with the Holy Spirit’s presence.