amy courts: en route


My Anthem
May 6, 2009, 3:56 pm
Filed under: Activate, africa, Humanitarianism, Music, Uncategorized

I decided to go ahead and make a little home video of it. Not sure why, since that’s not something I typically do. Usually, I just say “Catch it at a live show.” But this song is special. Not just because it’s been waiting to be written for over a year, but because of where it comes from in my own heart.

So I’m going to break my own rules and tell you the story behind it. It begins with the simple fact that , for reasons totally beyond me, God has chosen to graciously (and I mean that) surround me lately with women who have suffered abuse that I can’t fathom. Two of them are particularly close to me; close enough to get under my skin and break my heart in a very personal way. Abuse has always been something I’ve know about. But now I think I’m truly aware. Not just of what happens, but the aftermath. The shame and fear and perfectionism and fear of rejection so many of them live their lives with. This song is as much about them as it is about the two girls I’ve named.

And these two girls are real. Though separated by thousands of miles and twenty years, their stories are the same, and have both changed me.

The first girl is one a friend, Mark, blogged about after returning from a trip to Africa. Hers is actually the story by which God initially broke my heart for those people. She was a five year old who attended the Compassion school in her community. But, as Mark told it, she was unlike any of the other kids in that she rarely smiled and almost never spoke. He learned that it was most likely because, at her young age, she’d already been raped many times, often multiple times each day, on her way to and from school. Five years old.

So, during his week there, Mark took it upon himself to try and earn her trust enough to tell him her name. He spent the week holding her, loving her, smiling and playing with her, and showing her the kind of righteous love Christ meant…the kind that defeats the darkness. And at the end of the week, just before he left, Mark picked her up and asked her once more if she’d tell him her name.

She leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Mercy.”

The second girl is Dusty, a neighbor of mine who was the first to ever earn the title “Amy’s Best Friend.” We played around the neighborhood all the time. From everything I can remember – though, granted, I was five when we moved away, so my memories of her are only so clear – she was one of my only friends. She was always nice. And she always came over to my house. After we moved away, I didn’t see her again until 7th grade. And even then, our reunion only lasted a few months, until she unexpectedly left.

Anyway, I learned a couple weeks ago that she was repeatedly and violently abused by her father. As it turns out, the reason she left school in 7th grade was because she was pregnant. With his child.

When I heard that not two weeks ago, I fell apart. I was angry. At myself for not knowing better (though, at five years old, I couldn’t – and shouldn’t – have known better). At my parents for not kidnapping and then adopting her, and letting her live with good parents. At the system, whose cracks she fell through.

And I started wondering where she is today. Is she still a victim? Has she ever known her true value? Or is shame the only thing she’s ever been able to own? I don’t know.

Stories like these make me want to throw away my guitar, go back to school, and become a human rights activist or a lawyer for Amnesty International or simply a full-time social worker in the States or missionary in Africa.

But God has made abundantly clear that I am most effective operating within the gifts He’s given me. Using the stage and my voice to speak for those who have no stage and won’t be heard.

And so I sing.

“I Wanna Know”
(c)&(p) 2009 Amy Courts (amalia musica, SESAC)

Dusty lived right down the street
With her brother and a dad who beat him blue
And I know he hurt her too

But I couldn’t see the haunting in her eyes
I was too young to recognize
And much too young to do anything
And so I sing

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

Mercy won’t tell you anything she knows
She keeps her secrets close beneath her skin
I know it’s crawling from within

She’s just a child, but carries sordid memories
Of things that I cannot conceive
Or in my darkest nightmares dream

And so I sing, I sing.

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

And now it burns beneath my skin
And I don’t want to let it in
I wish I’d been a better friend
I wish I could go back again
Cause I would fight
I would carry her away
Or I would find the means to stay
Help bear the burden and the shame

It wouldn’t end this way
I wouldn’t let it end this way

For some the sun shines,
We’re the lucky ones
For them the rain fall
Seems like an endless flood

I wanna know where she lays her head tonight
Does she sleep in peace beside
Someone who knows to love her right
I wanna know can the damage be undone
Given freedom would she run
Can the past be overcome
I wanna know

**please forgive the homemade and new-out-of-the-box-utterly-unpolished nature of this song. it’s still becoming. just like me.**

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I Need Africa
December 3, 2008, 10:20 am
Filed under: Activate, africa, Humanitarianism | Tags: , ,

As you all know, my involvement with Mocha Club has become the biggest reason for doing what I do on stages across the country. The work we’ve done throughout the continent of Africa – from building orphanages in Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda, South Africa, and more, to providing new hope to the people by providing medicine, education, and basic life-saving items like mosquito nets – is only possible because of people like you and I who have decided to give up two mocha’s a month and lend that $7 we’d otherwise spend on coffee to a better cause. But there’s more to our effort than being beneficiaries to the masses. What they give to us through their embrace of hope and their humility to receive us with open arms, lead us to say…

I NEED AFRICA MORE THAN AFRICA NEEDS ME

“When I think of Africa, the following images immediately come to mind: Starvation.  AIDS.  Child soldiers.  Genocide.  Sex slaves.  Orphans.  From there, my thoughts naturally turn to how I can help, how I can make a difference. “I am needed here,” I think. “They have so little, and I have so much.” It’s true, there are great tragedies playing out in Africa everyday.  There is often a level of suffering here that is unimaginable until you have seen it, and even then it is difficult to believe.  But what is even harder is reconciling the challenges that many Africans face with the joy I see in the people. It’s a joy that comes from somewhere I cannot fathom, not within the framework that has been my life to this day.” [read more]

Please consider lending your cash to buy the shirt and make the statement. Then use your voice to tell the story.



I Have a Family I’ve Never Met

I have brothers and sisters in Gulu, Uganda whom I’ve never met but have come to love more than I love my own life.

Brothers and sisters who’ve experienced more grief, loss, disappointment, terror, fear, and hopelessness than I could ever begin to imagine from my cozy little townhouse in South Nashville.

villageofhopeThey’ve all lost family members. Some to AIDS and malaria, some to murder, some to the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Rebel force of Gulu, Uganda.

Some have been forced to kill their own brothers and sisters, parents and cousins.

My sisters and brothers have been forced by fire out of their homes that burned to the ground as they ran. Many of them were captured and made to be young wives who bear the children of rebel soldiers, or young boy soldiers-in-training, donning their enemy’s uniform in an effort just to survive.

But these sisters and brothers know a God I’ve never dared to ponder.

A God who is able to keep some of their bodies clean of disease, despite having been born to a family suffering of AIDS and malaria.

A God who is able to rescue and renew and revive even the bleakest of lives.

A God who restores hope and life, who provides all needs in abundance.

A God who is always present, in rain or drought, war or peacetime.

Most of my brothers and sisters have never known peacetime, outside of the presence of this great and mighty God.

Last night, I heard a story of one young man who boldly walked into a Rebel camp with two of his brothers to teach soldiers about the love and peace of Christ. They were captured and forced to choose between giving their own lives or taking life from a young, 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old recent captive. The first chose Christ, peace, and ultimately death, and his captor, a Rebel commander, willingly complied. The second chose the same, and a bullet found him dead seconds later. The third echoed his brothers saying, “no, I will not kill. I’ve come with the Peace of Christ’s gospel. I am here for Him and will go to Him.”

But when shot, the gun misfired. And a second time…and a third time…the gun misfired. Shot blanks.

And finally, another Rebel soldier told his commander they’d better leave, because these guys were tapped into Something they didn’t want to mess with.

Certainly his is a God much more powerful than my North American God of wealth and prosperity.

That man was freed and went on to become the leader of Men’s Ministry at the Child Mothers’ Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda.

He went on to help rescue my brothers and sisters from sexual and spiritual slavery, and lead them into freedom. And now they are leading even more displaced brothers and sisters into similar freedom, carrying the torch of Christ’s love and mercy, the promise of medicine and education and HOPE to their neighbors into the surrounding IDP camps.

These brothers and sisters…They’ve started a revolution.

Most of you know that over the past few years, God has planted and watered what has become a rather consuming passion in me for those living in the aftermath of war in Gulu, Uganda. What began as a tearful response to hearing about night commuters – the nightly groups of 30,000+ children who were forced to leave their home villages and travel in the dark to refugee camps, in an effort to avoid abduction – has grown into an uncontrollable love for people I’ve never met face to face.

I don’t know any other way to describe it, but to say that I feel a connection to those people unlike any I’ve known outside of my biological sisters and to my husband and step-son. It’s as if I’m tied to them, and they to me. And this not being able to share my life with them, to touch and hold and love and be next to them, is a burden I can sometimes hardly bear.

But over the past six to ten months, God has whittled down my passion from a desire to simply “GO GO GO! It doesn’t matter where or who with!” to a place of patiently waiting for and seeking out the right opportunity with the right group of people.

As I’ve prayed and considered my options, there seemed only one left: to travel to Gulu, Uganda, to the Child Mothers’ Vilalge of Hope – the project I’ve been supporting and rallying support for through my involvement with Mocha Club – without the cameras that inevitably accompany artists on the job, but on my own, for the sake of learning the lay of the land and establishing relationships to be watered and nurtured in the years to come.

And finally, over the past two days, it seems this overwhelming and at times all-consuming dream of meeting my family in Uganda is beginning to find form.

I met with Jerry and Candis Bingham, the lead Missionaries at the Village of Hope, and was able to share with them my heart and my desire. And – amazingly enough – they were as overjoyed as I about the prospects of me spending the whole of next October with them and the Child Mothers in Gulu.

And so now, the planning begins. I don’t know how I’ll raise all the money. I don’t know exactly how my time will look. I’m scared to death of being away from my husband for a month, in a foreign land, and of living in conditions I can scarcely fathom, much less describe.

But I’m finally going to meet my family.

And that’s all that really matters.