This story was originally written for Mizizi of UnbridledACTS.
I wanted to share this awe-striking experience again, revealing the universal power of love that strikes the match to hopelessness. Love is an incredibly moving force, difficult to even describe, but it can be emulated through stories such as this one.
Not only was I able to capture this couple’s reunion as husband and wife, but I spent a week living with them and learning from them. Read on to experience a real love story from the rural villages of Uganda.
Twenty-five years ago, in the rural village of Kitgum, Jackie Packa entered the world during a time of great difficulty for her homeland of Northern Uganda. As if the poverty of the region weren’t enough, an escalating civil war and the eventual abandonment by her father left Jackie + her mother, Aparyo, in dire circumstances. During the war, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is thought to have kidnapped between 25,000 and 38,000 Acholi children, often forcing them to kill their own parents so they would have no home to return to if they tried to escape.
From the beginning, Aparayo knew the family’s future depended on Jackie being able to attend school, and she was determined to see her daughter graduate, no matter the cost. When the money ran out, Jackie did her part working as a house maid on a nearby refugee farm.
There Jackie met a handsome young farmer named Charles, who recalls his first impression: “When I saw her, I felt like there was something connecting our hearts whenever we talked or served each other.” It was as if God was drawing them together, promising a future full of hope + goodness.
He spoke of wanting to make a life with Jackie, and she agreed. Aparyo knew the best future for the family relied on her daughter finishing school + being married, so the three pooled their money for the bride price, and planned for Charles to meet his future in-laws.
In the Acholi culture of Uganda, a suitor must pay a bride price, amounting to millions of shillings, to prove his intentions to the woman’s family. The elders of the village—Jackie’s uncles—needed a payment to take Charles seriously. So Charles put on his best + nervously visited Jackie’s village in hopes of impressing the elders.
Charles became afraid of Jackie’s uncles, and Aparyo lost heart for her family’s future. “I had hope, because of what we survived, until Charles was not even allowed to visit our family,” Aparyo said, “I was worried they would hurt him.”
Ongoing threats from Jackie’s family forced the couple to run away + begin their life together without the elders’ blessing.
Even far from the village, they lived in fear of Jackie’s uncles…and eventually, after their second child was born, the thing they feared came to pass. The uncles found Jackie + the children, taking them back to the village + forbidding her from living with Charles ever again. Hope seemed lost.
It was during this time that Anna and Geoffrey Olara, from Mizizi, came to know Charles + employed him as a brick maker to help him earn income. When deciding on a salary, Charles told them, “I don’t want any money, I just want my wife back.”
After hearing the young couple’s story, UnbridledACTS’ newest outreach in Uganda, Mizizi, eagerly offered to pay the bride price. In amazement, Charles went to the village in pursuit of his love.
Against all odds, he + Jackie believed God’s promises to them. By faith, the unattainable became a reality–they just had to fight for it. The emotion of their first day as husband + wife with their family’s blessing is captured below.
Jackie now works in a school + dreams of becoming a teacher. Charles manages the brick-making company that allowed him to live in peace, building his family.
And their children, Edwin + Tracey, live without the fear their parents once felt, as relationships with the village elders transform into a loving connection.
This story was made possible by:
Anna Olara + UnbridledACTS