Word arrived yesterday that the door to return to Beni is closed to me right now. My colleagues at UCBC have decided to postpone the General Assembly (Congolese board of CI-UCBC) which had been scheduled for next week. Continued insecurity thwarts human plans. It has been deemed unsafe for members of the board who live outside of Beni to travel to the city.
I confess disappointment and sadness. I confess selfishness. In the midst of other's suffering, and as the stories of fear, death, atrocities continue to mount, I think about my own disappointment. I want to be in Beni. I want to see and talk to and work, side-by-side, with my friends, colleagues, and family there. But, the story is not about me.
Last night as our CI-UCBC diaspora met for evening prayer (we are now 1 Canadian, 2 Congolese, and 5 Americans), we lamented the atrocities continuing around Beni and across DRC. Othy and Archip recounted Congo's recent history, punctuating the story of corruption and greed with claims of hope. "This evil will not last. We are a new generation. God will prevail. This is only a transition to something new." We also spoke of Congo's beauty and promise, of the love and creativity and joy of its people. We prayed and lamented the current atrocities, pleading with God for deliverance and protection for each and every person, for the country.
We concluded our prayer, and Archip apologized for his tears. He shared a story from his childhood--an experience that no 8-year-old should have, but an experience that too many children across Congo and the world share. Othy took his friend's hand. For the next 15 minutes we sat as Archip relived his memories, and Othy spoke words of promise and hope. "Yes, we suffer now. But God is with us. God has not forgotten us." Othy reminded us of the story of the Israelites who suffered Pharaoh's oppression until the time God ordained their release. Kate reminded us of the story of Paul who persecuted Christians only to be touched by God and transformed as one of the first great teachers of The Way.
Then the Psalm for this morning, Psalm 37 with its reminders:
Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord, and do good; so you will live in the land and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.
Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices.
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret--it leads only to evil.... (vs. 1-8)
Our steps are made firm by the Lord, when he delights in our way; though we stumble, we shall not fall headlong, for the Lord holds us by the hand.... (vs. 23-24)
Depart from evil, and do good; so you shall abide forever;
For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his faithful ones.... (vs. 27-28)
The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their refuge in the time of trouble;
The Lord helps them and rescues them; he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them, because they take refuge in him. (vs. 39-40)
My thoughts turned to Othy and Archip--two intelligent, eager young men who are examples of hope. They are examples of living a life of faith and hope even when everything around them demands despair.
Then the faces of so many Congolese sisters, brothers, daughters, and sons came to mind: David, Daniel, Kavira, Manassé, Honoré, Decky, Kaswera, Sifa Jolie, Faden, Rebecca, Nellie, Victor. The list is long.
In spite of challenges, even in spite of horrors, they continue to trust in the Lord and "do good." They "depart from eviland do
good." They are living witnesses to another Way.
Thanks be to God.