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Advocate profile: California couple passionate for peace in Uganda

Scott and Ashley Phillips sensed that the Lord would use them as a voice for the voiceless — they just didn't know quite how. (VIDEO)

January 2008



Scott and Ashley Phillips, both students at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., were moved to action after coming across World Vision materials through their studies that detailed the atrocities faced by children and families in war-torn northern Uganda.
Scott and Ashley Phillips, both students at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., were moved to action after coming across World Vision materials through their studies that detailed the atrocities faced by children and families in war-torn northern Uganda. Photo courtesy of Scott and Ashley Phillips.
"I was brought to tears," says Scott Phillips, describing his experience learning about northern Uganda's brutal, two-decade-long war.

Though he didn't know it at the time, God was to use Scott's moment of brokenness for suffering children and families in a way that would transform him and his wife.

Report reveals child suffering

While a student of intercultural studies emphasizing children at risk at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., Ashley researched the AIDS crisis in Uganda for a final research paper. Through her studies, she came across "Pawns of Politics," a World Vision policy paper documenting the dark spiritual dimensions and bloody history of the war in northern Uganda.

She read about the atrocities endured by children and families — the abductions, mutilations, and displacement that are part of life in the region, where the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group has been battling the Ugandan government. To fill the ranks of their army, the LRA has kidnapped more than 25,000 children since the late 1980s, forcing them to be laborers, frontline soldiers, and — in the case of girls — sexual slaves.

'A difficult conversation with God'

Ashley shared the report with her husband Scott, also a Fuller student at the time, who was studying for his master's degree in marriage and family therapy. His heart also became heavy for the children suffering from this war.

As Ashley grappled with the magnitude of the crisis, she asked God: "Where is your heart for them?" She sensed His response: "I am doing something in you. What you're feeling right now is my heart for them."

Ashley and Scott met as students at Fuller, and both felt a strong call to be agents of change — but they were uncertain as to exactly how the Lord intended to use their gifts.

"It brought us to a difficult conversation with God," Scott says. "We had become passionate in our desire for change [in Uganda], but weren't sure how to become engaged."

Calling fleshed out


Through a World Vision e-mail newsletter, Scott and Ashley learned about a local GuluWalk event. They decided to participate by offering to help, and Scott was asked to chair the event. He readily agreed.

"I felt it was an answer to prayer," Scott says. "The Lord provided a way for us to get involved in a bigger way than we expected." Scott chaired the Los Angeles GuluWalk in 2006 and 2007.

The couple sensed their mutual calling was being developed; they envisioned their studies and training being used to aid in the resettlement and rehabilitation of children and families in northern Uganda.

"When you realize the size of the problem, it is overwhelming; but knowing there is an opportunity to take part in what God is already doing — that's a privilege," says Scott.

He is especially drawn to World Vision's work in Gulu, northern Uganda, counseling and rehabilitating children once abducted by the LRA. "To really see redemption in the midst of horror is so powerful," he says.

Video: Caught in the Crossfire

Watch a video segment from World Vision's documentary, "Caught in the Crossfire: Uganda's Children of War," which documents the trials faced by war-scarred youth who receive help at World Vision's Children of War Center in Gulu. (Total running time: 2:38)



Currently, Scott is a professional mental health clinician at Hathaway-Sycamores Child and Family Services in Los Angeles County, where he works with disadvantaged youth. There, he seeks out opportunities to gain more trauma therapy experience.

Scott and Ashley stand with Awichu Akwanya, a former Ugandan child soldier. Awichu and his family experienced firsthand the pain still endured by thousands of children today as a result of northern Uganda's civil war.
Scott and Ashley stand with Awichu Akwanya, a former Ugandan child soldier. Awichu and his family experienced firsthand the pain still endured by thousands of children today as a result of northern Uganda's civil war.
Photo courtesy of Scott and Ashley Phillips.

Ashley is an outreach community organizer at the local YWCA, where she helps run an after-school program. Her position is helping her hone her community organizing skills, which she plans to apply to future advocacy endeavors.

Northern Uganda Lobby Day


In February, Scott will be one of an estimated 1,000 participants attending the Northern Uganda Lobby Day and Symposium in Washington, D.C. The three-day event (Feb. 24-26) educates participants about the northern Uganda conflict and teaches grassroots mobilization techniques that they can apply in their own communities.

On the final day of the symposium, attendees will meet with congressional staff to press their lawmakers to do more to achieve a sustainable resolution to the conflict.

Discussing his hopes for the event, Scott says: "I really want to learn more about how to unify groups around a movement — how to help make inroads to bring other people along and make them feel a connection with the issue."

'He didn't do this for nothing'

Ultimately, the Phillips hope to move to northern Uganda for a multi-year assignment. Right now, they're preparing for a first-time two-week trip in March. Both look forward to face-to-face encounters with the people for whom God has put a burden on their hearts.

They continue to seek the Lord's guidance, asking Him to lead them to the place where their gifts would be best used for change and reconciliation.

"Our desire is that the children of northern Uganda would be reconciled to themselves, their communities, and to God — and know that they are still beloved," says Ashley. "We believe that God will use what He has stirred in us.

"God will lead us where He wants us," she concludes. "He didn't do this for nothing."

Learn More


>> Read "Pawns of Politics," World Vision's policy report.
>> Request a Children of War Mobilizer's Toolkit. This comprehensive DVD toolkit includes a compelling documentary, a guide to effective advocacy, a reading list, posters to advertise your event, and more. You can use it to host discussion groups or an event to raise awareness and take action on this issue.

Four ways you can help

>> Thank God for directing Scott and Ashley Phillips in their desire to respond to the needs of children in northern Uganda. Pray for the children and families trapped in the middle of this conflict, for successful negotiations between the Ugandan government and the LRA, and for healing and reconciliation in communities that will be receiving former child soldiers.
>> Sign up for the Northern Uganda Lobby Day and Symposium. Join with other advocates for peace to increase your understanding of the crisis and personally speak out for Uganda's children and families.
>> Add your name to the "No Child Soldiers" declaration. These signatures will be hand-delivered to Capitol Hill as part of the Uganda Lobby Day.
>> Make a monthly financial pledge to help provide for the needs of children affected by war.

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