Sometimes it’s the red nail polish on the tips of your fingers and ends of your toes that remind you to smile. An element of girlish beauty that recalls simpler days. But other times, in the middle of it all, it’s the squeeze from a child who without education in our primary school would have a gun in his hand rather than a pencil.
We arrived in our beloved Congo on Monday afternoon and were greeted with the usual: No electricity or running water and pending threats of war. “I should have shaved my legs my last morning in Rwanda!” Is all I could think of. A warm shower and a hot breakfast?? I should have cherished that moment a little extra too as I now grab a handful of nuts from my suitcase!
It’s funny because for some people, those things aren’t a big deal. Well… I don’t think I’m “some people”. When I was younger many told me: “If you don’t like spiders or being dirty, you’re probably not called to be a missionary. It’s only for ‘some people’” Haha. Hm. Like I said, I think I missed the category of those “some people” though somehow it works. I hate being dirty, I adore washing machines, and if I could have a chai latte in my hand at all times, I would be a happy girl. But it’s more than that.
Chatting it up on the playground with one of our Freedom boys (rescued child soldier) I congratulate him on passing his exam and in the moment, could care less that the dark tan on my arms is really just dirt. I love this. I love that we get to stand in the middle of so many uncertainties and have a blast!! I love seeing transformation, even if it means that some nights my feet turn blue during the cold bucket bath. It’s so worth it!
Sometimes the transformation is instant. *Joseph for example. His smile is massive and sticks to his face like a fly to the wall. His scarred hands remind us of his past but his joy overwhelms the situation and I’m absolutely amazed by his hope.
Other transformations take a little longer… Micheal. My boy. Oh how my heart adores him. And he knows it. About 11 years old now, any time we’re in the same room, I don’t care what the rules are, he’s the exception. My shadow, and he has been for years. But still, “Micheal what’s wrong?” I asked the other day as I saw a long look that pulled him down. “When was the last time you ate?” Two days… Three days… “We are in famine.” So often this is the case and we’re constantly working to change the fact. Yet still so many days I hear him echo: “We are in famine.”
Bah. Congo’s the most interesting place to work. Because no matter the difficulties, the pain of sitting with them in their reality, the love pulls you back in. The kindness in the people, the passion in our papa’s eyes as he longs to be united with his favorite warlord or violated mama. Uhhh the mamas. How many times is too many times of hearing of a woman’s destroyed vagina due to rape? That’s where the similarities lie in our work in Kenya and Congo. Someone always seems to be getting raped. A brothel and a war zone. Where purity is a rarity and targets seem to be painted on most young women’s foreheads.
I know. For some people that may have been a lot: “Did she just say vagina!?” But it’s a reality to so so many here. And our response? What if we choose not to be “some people,” dictated by how it’s been done in the past. But what if we write the history we dream so much about changing? How can we create a new normal so someday this is only legend? Rape, war, starvation. Everyone with their own piece, no matter where you are. This is our constant conversation on the ground. Haha. I know… and a repeat topic in many of my blogs ;)
I look down at my painted nails again. Red. And I smile. Sometimes it’s the simplicity of a manicure and sometimes it’s the joy in changing the world. Either way there’s something in the smile. Loving what you do. And though life here may not always be perfect, our team is definitely LOVING LIFE in our beloved DRC. Off to the bush next week! So excited! (If you want to get involved in rescuing child soldiers or building a school as a “justice piece” to prevent war for future generations– be watching for more chances!!! Or give by clicking on the ‘donate’ page)