U-C: What I See

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

First night in Kinchasa

Sisters and Brothers,

It's our first night in the Congo. We flew in at dusk, making a long, sweeping, 180 degree turn at the Congo River and making the final approach over houses that made me think of the City of Managua, Nicaragua. It took three hours to get out of the airport because one person in our delegation had gone to a visa services company, and they had arranged a visa for him across the river in Congo, and we're actually in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

I finished reading "King Leopold's Ghost" as we flew from Atlanta to Paris to Kinchasa. I imagine I'm like many of you, in that I tend to focus only on those places that I have some direct experience of. There is so much hurt and beauty in the world, and I often feel that I just can't take any more in. I told my dad last week that going to Africa actually makes me a little nervous, because I'm just not sure I have enough time in my day, energy in my life, or even room in my heart for more of that suffering and beauty.

But you know what? Tonight when we got off the plane, our first stop was a little Presbyterian Church called Mikongo. As we pulled into the driveway, there were probably fifty people waiting for us - mostly kids. (Did you know that 48 % of the population of this country is under fifteen years old?) They were so excited to have us visit. The children sang - absolutely beautifully - and we just had a short serve of welcome. There is joy - and it is abundant in this place.

And I remembered that relationships with real people make this fun - not a task to be accepted - but a joy to be embraced. I've known that for many years, but I'm especially mindful of it as I arrive in this place.

I wish we could require every Presbyterian in the U.S. to have this kind of experience of God's community. I think we would have little time for so much of the bickering that seems to occupy our time.

If you haven't been outside of the U.S., outside of your comfort zone, to be with God's people other places in the world, I hope you'll consider this an invitation. I am humbled, tonight and so often in my life, by an awareness that God isn't finished with me yet. These are the places where I find myself open to those new possibilities and understandings that God has in store for me, and for all of us.

Tomorrow we go on to Kinchasa and the "Kasai" region of the country (look east and slightly north of Kinchasa on a map - I think).

Peace to you all.