I left off yesterday at the beginning of our week. So much was to come. Every day we arrived at the Center, the kids ran down the hill in heaps of excitement to greet us. They couldn’t wait for us to get out of the vehicles so they could come give and get their anticipated hugs and greetings. I’ve never seen such grateful, warm smiles and being greeted each day like I was the only person in the world that could make someone so happy was an experience I’ve never had.
1. Dr. Karin & Professor Jonathan
Jonathan and Karin were a married couple on the trip who were — as we said allll week — truly answered prayer for our team. Karin is a pediatrician, someone who was desperately needed for this week in Congo. For kids that rarely ever get to see a doctor, it was a Godsend (truly) for her to be able to bring basic medication, multi-vitamins and expertise on the ills of the children. She worked her butt off the entire time — not only seeing all the orphans but many of the Mamas, caretakers, wives of local ministers and more.
|Jonathan talking with some of his students|
Jonathan tirelessly helped teach at the CCC Bible school and helped tremendously everywhere we went with his fluent French (French & Swahili are the primarily spoken languages in Congo.) After teaching the Bible school, he went on to spend hours with the older children, teaching them English — which they were extremely enthusiastic about. Both Karin & Jonathan brought so much to the team and the story of their coming to us is one of God alone. We were so thankful to have them.
|Karen chatting with the girls before exams.|
2. Cheza (Dance!)
Some of the best parts of the week for me were when the kids would start chanting “Cheza! Cheza!”, which means dance. I started with Dave doing goofy dance moves for the kids, who would then follow along copying his every mood until he was too tired to keep going!
But the trend continued all week and it turned out, these little kids have some moves! A group of the boys apparently work together on some kind of routine regularly and have all kinds of Michael Jackson like moves they break out. It’s hard to explain but I would not have been surprised to see them on America’s Best Dance Crew if they had training and opportunity!
3. The Mamas
The word for mother in Swahili is “Mama” but you pretty much call any woman “mama” and they are all amazing, out-of-this world tough ladies. You see women carrying loads on their heads for miles, their backs strapped with babies and maybe more in their hands. They are barefoot, they are sweating, they are strong.
They travel miles on foot to get food for their families, then spend hours each day cooking huge posts of rice and beans. When it came to the Mamas I met, they were cooking meals for 58 orphans, plus 17 of us and over 10 staff members as well. That’s a LOT of food twice a day.
They clean their homes and raise their children and embrace the world’s toughest job — mother — with uncomplaining tirelessness. Some of the Mamas at CCC had their own families but volunteered to come and help with the orphans for FREE because they felt the calling of God. And all the while, they were joyful, gracious and humble.
4. Passionate Prayer
Sometimes I think people who’ve only been to American church haven’t really been to church. I mean…CHURCH…you know? Where you sing and you dance and you lift your hands and when you pray, you do it with passion and urgency and true love. I stood next to a Congolese pastored who prayed quietly, “Lord, change me!”
We laid hands on members of the church who stood in need of prayer. I felt a little silly praying out loud over people that couldn’t even understand but one situation stuck out to me. I was praying for a woman and was about to walk away when she caught by hand and nodded towards the sleeping newborn on her back. She wanted me to pray for her too. My heart was completely touched because at that moment I realized…it doesn’t matter the language, this prayer matters to her. She doesn’t want her baby to miss out on the prayers and the blessings. And so I put my hand on that sleeping angel and prayed that her life would be guided by hope and protected by God.
|Having church! At Congo for Christ Mission Church in Uvira|
5. Purposeful Teammates
I’ve said it before, my teammates on this trip have been an absolute inspiration to me. When I went to my first meeting with them, they were still bubbling from having gone last summer. They were intimately connected to CCC and the kids. They spoke of the future, of helping little Noah — who needs crutches due to a leg problem. They talked about empowering the Congolese people and sought real answers to real problems.
This was not a 10-day experience we were gearing up for. These people were “on mission” and had been for over a year. That was evident when we arrived. It was obvious that every single one of us had a place on this trip. We all bonded in our own ways with the kids, had our own passions, connections and purposes while there. There’s talk of adoptions, of long term missions, of sponsorship, or family, of love. I couldn’t have been there with better or more good-hearted people.
Chris, Mandy, Nik, Sarah, James, Bonnie, Theresia, Dave, Jolene, Ashleigh, Karin, Jonathan, Michael, Jennifer, Ricky, Evan — you are all my inspirations. You loved these kids, this country and I was privileged to spend these days with people like yourselves. Thank you for everything you were, are and will be for this cause.
Here’s my update #2 while I was on the trip. You get a little peak at one of my favorite kiddos, Sophia, too:
If I found anything in Congo, it was hope. After my relentless reading up on the history of the country and conflicts, tragedies and evils it has endured, the last thing I expected to find was hope. But there it was — in the eyes of children — so many of them running around as innocent as can be, not yet tainted by the corruption that abounds. I saw it in the men and women of God in the church, in the selfless people who work at CCC.
I heard it when Pastor Chris preached about making Congo great again and changing for the good. The crowds were always loudly cheering when he said things like that. These people in Uvira, they hope and believe in a better Congo — one that is restored where the people are empowered and the leaders are good. This is possible. It isn’t quick, it isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.
|Reading with Jacqueline…one of the cuddliest!|
Nothing great ever started that way. It always started with someone who believed in what could be. The Congolese believe in what could be. These kids at CCC, they love God, they love their country, they are the future of this place. Thanks to people like Pastor Jeremiah and others who work relentlessly, there is hope.
I‘m honored to be a part of it. I’m honored to have served these kids food and held their hands and told them they were smart and pretty and loved. I’m humbled that I come to this place with my good job and my many material possessions….I’m the privileged and sometimes I think…who am I to get this? Who am I to think I can help these people? Why was I born here to people who love me, to nice things and to freedom? I could have just as easily been born an orphan on the Congo but I wasn’t. Life isn’t fair. It never will be and you can’t philosophize your way out of it. And so I won’t.
Just know this…these are the faces of hope in a dark place and you can be a part of helping it come to light:
Are you interested in being a part of change in the Congo? Global Outreach is the ministry we worked through to connect with CCC. They work countries around the world but you can sponsor children directly from this orphanage. As I mentioned, I’ll be sponsoring Esperence! Here we are together last week:
Think about the money you spend on coffees and lunches and organic apples. Think about what you spend on dinner and vacations. Think about how $35/month isn’t very much but if everyone did it, a lot of kids would get what they need. This isn’t to be patronizing, just to be real. I believe in people helping people. We may be continents away but we have the same hearts.
Thanks for reading. I’m sure there will be more but that’s all for now. I’ll leave you with a little more Cheza 🙂