9/14/15 The only way I can imagine describing my 8 days in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is by sharing pieces from my journal. Feel free to message me or post a comment if you’d like more details!
Friday: After a 16 hour flight experience with a 3 hour yoga session (layover) in Brussels we finally landed in Kinshasa! After thanking God for the safe journey…I cried. I cried because it struck me that I was finally home. Home as in the land of my ancestors who were carried off to Haiti from their motherland, Africa. I cried because there were so many distractions that could have come between me and this life changing experience…but God! I cried because I knew that this experience would forever leave me changed and though tearful I was excited that God was making room in my heart for Africa.
Let me start by saying that English is a foreign language here, the people in the DRC predominately speak French and Lingala. I am thankful for Joyce who translated for us throughout this trip. Fresh off the plane and it felt like home…when I speak of home…I am referring to the similarity to Haiti. Even though we landed at night 4 out of 5 of senses were immediately blessed…sight: seeing the taxis/buses/tap taps full of people traveling throughout the city; smell: inhaling the distinct scent of something burning (it’s probably not normal that I love this smell lol); touch: feeling the warmth in the air wrap its arms around me in a loving embrace; sound: the people talking and shouting, music blaring, and cars honking. Taste would be blessed upon our first stop for dinner at mom’s house. I’m pretty sure this meal started my love affair with Congolese food!
Saturday: I woke up at 630am to the light peeking through the curtain, with the sound of chickens and birds chirping in the background and the feeling like I am right where I need to be. Breakfast followed by devotions with the ladies I am on this missions with. Today and throughout the next 7 days our prayer is that God will reveal His purpose for us being on this mission trip; thousands of miles away from the comforts of home.
Our devotion for this morning reminds me that it is so easy to find different things to distract myself with instead of truly being in the moment. I am thankful for the chance to disconnect; to not have to worry about if I “missed” anything and for being at peace right where God has me. My focus is being here, capturing moments I never want to forget.
We visited an open market today to purchase cloth that will be used to create one of a kind pieces by a talented seamstress in the city. Think of Hay Market in Boston, which to many may be overwhelming: full of sights, sounds, smells and people. This market is similar in that people are buying and selling but what makes it different is its massive size and that at this market vendors are selling everything you can imagine, women are getting their hair braided and men are getting hair cuts. You name it and they are probably selling it. One can only imagine how overwhelming that experience was but even greater than my discomfort was the reminder that there is no room here for complaining. I was reminded that this is their lives, this is how they eat and support their families, this marketplace is their livelihood and any discomfort I feel will only be temporary.
Sunday: On this lovely morning we went to church with Joyce’s family. The service was both in French and Lingala and I am thankful that Joyce is able to translate the service for us. The message this morning was definitely spirit led and exactly what our team needed to hear as we started our journey. He started his message with Matthew 6:33 (NIV) “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”. One of the many things that resonated with me in his message was all too often we seek everything else…the job, the money, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the material comforts of this world…and not the kingdom of God. In seeking everything but the kingdom of God our faith in Him and the power of His word is diminished. How can we pray for His will to be done in our situations when we aren’t truly seeking Him but His hand?
After church we went to visit the seamstress, Manman Layki, who owns her own shop and it was full of other seamstresses busy at work on their sewing machines. Everyone was welcoming and loved on us from the moment we stepped in to the moment we left.
Monday: Our first day with the girls at Matumaini. We introduced ourselves and immediately went to work at preparing their book bags for their first day of school. After packing their bags, helping them get dressed and then walking them to school we were all exhausted. I’m pretty sure I experienced every possible emotion that morning but I would not have changed it for a thing. We worked as a team to accomplish what needed to be done; from packing book bags to safely walking with them to school. We made light of the changes and chaos understanding that we are here, in the DRC, for a purpose greater than ourselves…we are here to build relationships, to live missionally, and to love unconditionally.
After a long morning at Matuamaini we visited Fleuve Congo (Congo River) and could see the other Congo across the water. A truly breathtaking sight to see God’s creative hand at work.
Tuesday: We spent the afternoon and evening with the girls at Matumaini. The moments that stood out for me were being able to read with some of them in English and then having them read to me in French. Connecting with the girls in spite of the language barrier was heart warming. Being able to love on them through a smile, a hug, a gentle and warm greeting in French meant everything to me. We also had the opportunity to have a mini English lesson which the girls loved. We helped them to get past their fear and saw great breakthrough in all of the girls! As a team we continued to work together and today reminded me that we, as a team, won’t always agree but we must ALWAYS show each other love and respect.
Wednesday: I led devotional this morning and shared Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”. This scripture has been on my mind for weeks before going to the DRC and I was thankful for the opportunity to share it with the ladies. Each of us are in a season in our lives that we may love or hate. I often find myself praying for a breakthrough or for the season to come to an end because my heart at times feels like it cannot take much more. I am constantly reminded of the fact that even though there is a time for everything, the length of a season or situation is based on God’s timing. This is honestly difficult for me at times but I am learning that in my lamenting on the season or situation I am losing sight of how God continues to move in spite of the situation. At the right time the season/situation will come to an end but how you glorify God through the situation/season means everything.
We spent the afternoon and evening with the girls and truly have experienced a great sense of peace and joy as we reflect the love and light of God. More reading, more English lessons, more singing, dancing and enjoying our time together. We can see the girls becoming more comfortable with us and forming bonds. Today they have begun to ask if we would come back to visit them again, referring to the future.
Thursday: Honestly it feels like the days are going by too fast! Today the girls are back from school and each of them looks exhausted. I can only imagine how difficult school can be for them; between the teachers and discipline/rules. We helped the girls gift wrap their notebooks, think of book covers for text books, except each of their notebooks needs to be covered or else their homework won’t be checked/graded.
We spent half the day at Matumaini and then went back to the seamstress to try on our clothes. We also learned more about Manman Layki and how her shop gives her the chance to empower others who are handicap to use their skills to make a living. Having a disability in the DRC makes earning money a huge issue and I am thankful for her heart and that she gives each of these women a chance at a better life.
We spent the evening enjoying appetizers, live music and great company at Grand Hotel Kinshasa. This was our first encounter with an upscale hotel and it is evident that there is a great disparity in wealth here. People are either really poor: living in neighborhoods with no paved roads, only source of income is from panhandling, electricity is not consistent and water is a luxury you cannot afford–or really wealthy: paved roads, luxurious homes, running water, no power outages, no lack, higher prices for food etc. I’m thankful for the experience of seeing the differences because they help me to appreciate the little that I have and to pray for equality abroad and at home. Our evening ended with laughter and God knows that my spirit is always in need of this rest and good company.
Friday: Half of our team stayed at Matumaini with the girls to go to the market to buy ingredients to make pondu and the other half went to the Academie des Beaux-Arts. The Academie is a school devoted to teaching the arts to the students, who then create beautiful and breathtaking pieces of art. I am thankful for the privilege that it is to see some of the students at work and was able to support their work by purchasing a few pieces.
Saturday: My last day in the DRC and it is truly bittersweet. How was Africa? It was amazing. It was humbling, eye opening and nothing like I feared. Congo welcomed us with open arms, ready to receive us, house us and love on us. We lacked for nothing and were only asked to give back through love. Loving on those who have been here for us throughout our stay as well as loving on the girls of Matumaini. I’m so thankful that my first experience in Africa was with this group of women serving these children of God. Words can’t describe the joy that my heart is full!
Praying for the girls before we left was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I cried as I prayed for God’s covering and favor over their lives. I cried as I hugged them goodbye. I cried as they poured out their love for me through letters written in both English and French. I cried not of sadness, as I know this is not our last goodbye, but because the last 8 days with them have truly been transforming and my love for them is real. I cried because this opportunity could not have happened if God had not willed it. I cried because God’s purpose for EACH of us is so real.
Matumaini I will never forget you. I will never forget these girls that you entrusted in our care. I will never forget these girls nomatter how far away we may be from each other. I will miss your love, not expressed simply through words but through your heart. Thank you for teaching me how to truly love with more than words but with my whole heart.