On Wednesday morning Othy and Archip crowded onto a bus in Kampala to start the day's journey to Beni. The 8+ hour bus ride between Kampala and the DRC border is a wild jazz drive. People and packages fill every seat, nook, and cranny of the bus. Drivers disregard speed limits and accidents are common. Passengers change at frequent and fast stops. Food vendors jump on with trays of roasted corn, screwers of meat and packages of peanuts, filling the aisle at one stop to make a sale, then jumping off the next to catch a returning bus. And then there is the border crossing and the 2 hour (plus) ride to Beni.
Archip and Othy were loaded with several bags and boxes, mostly equipment and electronic items for UCBC, and a few gifts. Somewhere en route someone snatched Archip's bag. The bag contained some of the tech equipment and gifts. It also contained Archip's passport. Jon emailed the news:
Archip and Othy were traveling back to Beni today and somehow Archip's bag was stolen. In it was the GIS computer, money for the primary school, gifts and money from Mary, Archip's passport and other valuables. At a check point it was discovered that Archip did not have his documents and he was arrested. He is now being taken to the border to verify that he entered the country legally. He sounds confident he will be allowed to return to Congo. Please be praying for him.
Later that day Othy informed Jon that he had made it through the border where he explained Archip's situation. Border agents assured Othy that Archip was safe and would be processed into Congo the next morning, Thursday. Othy spent the night in Kasindi, the border town on the DRC side, waiting for Archip to cross the border.
When Archip joined Othy the next morning, we learned that our friend had not been safe. The police had left him sitting in the rain for several hours after arresting him, then beat him and threw him into prison where other detainees continued to abuse him through the night.
Yesterday, Friday, Archip went to the hospital in Beni for treatment to his wounds. He wrote,
I'm safe and I"m home now. I'm feeling sick because I was beaten seriously by the [Ugandan police] and the others arrested guys in prison all the night. But God is
good and he protected me. And thank you for the prayer and your love for me. I'm already going to the hospital for treatment. I'm sorry for the goods that we lost... I'm really sorry... I could not imagine if that can happen...
Othy wrote yesterday,
...This is a very hard time for us and we don't know what to do neither what to think about the things that are now lost.
In all, we bless the Lord, our God for what happened and moreover, we are asking him to help us through what happened.
I cannot imagine why any of this happened or what to think, either. These is no sense to it. There is no good reason. Besides, understanding the why doesn't solve the now, nor does it direct how we should live in the face of the why.
But then we are not called to imagine the why of the worst. We are called to imagine another reality. We are called to imagine the hope of a redeemed and reconciled world. That's what this time of Advent reminds us.
The spirit of the Lord God...has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to comfort all who mourn;... to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit... (Isaiah 61:1-4)
The wolf shall live with the lamb; the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my hold mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
We are also called to "thank God, no matter what happens" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
No, we do not understand why this happened. We do not understand why the injustice and cruelty Archip endured are echoed across the globe. And to contemplate the why of darkness and evil only sends us to our own private place of darkness and grief.
So we hold to the hope and the promise. We respond in a radical and ridiculous way. In doing so, we usher in something of the Kingdom of God today. We chisel a crack in the darkness so the light can shine through. "In all, we bless the Lord."
Thanks be to God.