Enslaved in Joseph Kony’s rebel army in 2002 for 10 months, Jackline’s hope outlasted her suffering and torment
Forced to carry a heavy load barefoot over long distances, Jackline Eyokia Surundu prayed for rescue from Kony's army as her toenails dropped off and her body ached from untreated wounds and malnourishment.
Weak from drinking stagnant, insect-infested water and the ritual of being raped daily, strength came from catching glimpses of what she describes as her angels on both sides, guarding her from death.
Jackline had been abandoned by her husband who left her to serve in the Ugandan People's Defence Force, then her in-laws had beaten and chased her out of home.
Harbouring deep hatred towards all of them, she fled to her aunt's place near the Uganda-South Sudan border and insisted on staying despite the risk of rebel attack.
"After just one night, the rebels invaded the village and killed people in large numbers including my aunt, her husband and their children," Jackline recalls sadly.
She was abducted along with other young people and marched to the rebel camp, Kony village.
It was while at this camp that Jackline knew she could not face what was to come alone and needed to put her trust and hope in a higher power.
"I gave my life whole heartedly to God through His Son Jesus Christ," she explains.
"I asked Jesus to hold my hand and take me to be with Him at the Father's right hand. I forgave my father, my husband and my in-laws from the bottom of my heart. My relationship with God became like a relationship between a child and a mother.
"Since I was with Jesus, I feared no death. I knew even if I died I was sure to enter heaven."
When they left camp the next day, Jackline felt the presence of angels on either side of her, helping her to endure.
She was forced to partake in military training where many soldiers lost their lives and body parts from the dangerous techniques used.
"The instructors shot live bullets to control the straight lines of the parade," she recalls. "It was so terrible, I will never forget the horrible experiences, pictures and actions that have been imprinted in my brain."
Amidst it all she praised God for His protection, having only lost a tooth in the harsh training.
"I used to tell people that this gap was the narrow gate through which the redeemed shall enter heaven," she says.
“It was so terrible, I will never forget the horrible experiences, pictures and actions that have been imprinted in my brain”Jackline and others with any prior education were then sent to a camp where nurses were needed to attend to the wounded and sick.
In answer to her many prayers, the Ugandan People's Defence Force finally arrived and defeated the rebels in the camp.
"Many dead bodies fell on my sides but no bullet touched me because the Most High God hid and protected me," she says.
She was captured, but made a bad decision to sneak away with some friends. When her friends deserted her, Jackline was left wondering lost in the dense forest with no food, water or shelter.
"My feet were rotting and I slept in the trees with the birds," she recalls.
With little hope left after two weeks like this, Jackline thought of killing herself.
"I talked to the Lord like a God-fearing daughter talking to her father, thanking Him for what He had done to keep me safe, telling Him about the situation I was in, asking Him to forgive me and take away my life because I could no longer move anymore."
Soon she fell into a deep sleep and heard a voice telling her to go home and promising safety along the way.
Though frail, she found strength to make her way out of the forest and was rescued by a sympathetic couple who took her in. She later shared her story with many others in the village who decided to trust in Jesus when they heard how God had saved her.
Returning home, Jackline's forgiveness was demonstrated when she faithfully reunited with her husband despite having been separated for six years.
Hard times followed when she realised he had become heavily involved in satanic witchcraft. God was again faithful to her in bringing him and her children to eventually trust in Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour. All the witchcraft material ended up burned to ashes.
She was later recruited as a medic at the general military hospital and is now an international speaker who shares her story to bring others to Christ and help those who have been through similar experiences.
Her message is this: "The Lord is faithful even in the difficult situations you may find yourself in. He is the Lord who guards, protects, leads, provides for you and moves you. Hallelujah!" •