*I will write my recap of Congo in two parts and then fill in later with other posts. It’s difficult to put it together and tell you the meaning, the real struggles for the country and the long term vision all at once. So first, I’ll go step by step, starting with this post.
To sum up my 10-day trip to Congo: hope, pain, joy, tragedy, love, fear, sacrifice, beauty. I was anxious to begin writing this. How can my words possibly give the appropriate weight and meaning to what I saw at an orphanage on hillside in one of the world’s most fragile, and dangerous countries?
The most poignant thing I encountered was joy. Children are the remedy to so many ills of the spirit. African orphans, believe it or not, are some of the most joyful I have ever encountered.
Thought it is heartbreaking to think that these beautiful kids don’t have parents or families to take care of them, I am so thankful they reside in the Congo for Christ Center. There, they have loving caretakers and are lead by an amazing man of God, Pastor Jeremiah Rukukye.
|Pastor Jeremiah & team leader Sarah — the visionary behind CCC.|
If God is anywhere, he is surely in this place with these children and I’ve never been more certain of anything.
After more than 24 hours of travel from Dulles International Airport to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Bujumbura, Burundi, we crossed the border on foot into Uvira Congo:
|L to R: Me, Ashleigh, Mandy|
It was hot, we were hungry and sweaty but seriously ready to get some brand spankin’ new stamps in our passports. We were greeted at the airport in Burundi by our African friends — Pastor Jeremiah, 4 of his 7 kids and others involved in the Center.
Walking into the airport from the plane to hugs from my new friends was a wonderful thing and reminded me of the many warm greetings I have received from so many “strangers” when arriving on mission. It is like nothing else to feel you are among family and friends even though you’ve never met. That’s God’s family for you.
We piled into a big fan and the adventure began. Here is the video I took of the countryside on our way to our place:
Eventually, we made it our hotel. I was utterly exhausted having slept almost no time at all during travel. After leaving my sleeping medication at home by accident, I tried taking Melotonin on the plane but it only made me groggy. Three movies, 5 meals and lots of discomfort later, I was so happy to be in Africa again. The evening was a blur and I easily fell asleep. Here is the “hotel” we stayed in:
On Sunday, I was so happy to be up with the sunshine, the rest and to see the kids! But first? Church! How I do love African church. The singing is unmatched, the atmosphere addicting. We were delighted to be welcomed with such friendliness and to have all kinds of little kids excited to see the “Wazungus” (white people.)
Pastor Chris — our team leader — preached and had his sermon translated into Swahili for the audience. I’m starting to love that language. In fact, I’m thinking about getting a tattoo in Swahili sometime soon! Here are some of the kids we played with from church:
From there, it was off to visit OUR kids at CCC. We piled in some rented SUV’s and made our way down the crumbly road and into a little community to get to where the center is located. Let’s just say: bumpiest and best ride ever.
As we entered the neighborhood, children just came out of the woodwork to come yell “Jambo” to the Wazungus. They would run from their homes and stop what they were doing to scream at us and smile the biggest, best smiles you’ve ever seen just so we would wave back or give them a thumb’s up. They’d hop on to the back of the vehicles and chase us all the way up the hill. They were SO excited to see us, each and every day we came and went.
When we finally got the orphanage, the kids were waiting for us. They were wearing their special “uniforms” and were singing a song. They were prepared with a welcoming message and embraced in a shy but enthusiastic way. I never knew how these little angels would grow on me. Here’s a video of them singing us in:
On the first day, it was hard to tell all their cute little bald heads apart from one another. But by the end of the week, their faces were ingrained in my mind forever. Every hug, handshake, fist bump, tear and smile were like gifts. They were the most well-behaved kids I’ve ever encountered and some of these babes have been through more in their short lives than you even want to know.
Some were found stranded and alone, hiding and starving. Some have parents who were killed in the war or by disease. Some have a living parents that cannot or will not take care of them.
This is Sophia. She is five years old and very smart. She is sweet and a little shy but very rambunctious. But don’t let her fool you. She will push any other kid out of the way if she wants to hold your hand and your hand alone. If you pick her up, she’ll squeal and laugh for more all day long. She’s a happy delight most of the time.
When she puts her hands around my waits and her head on my hip, it feels like I’m someone that matters. And, then I remember that she doesn’t have a Mama here to do that too. Suddenly, I really do matter and it makes me sad that when I leave, there will be 58 kids and many fewer women for them get some Mama love from. Sophia doesn’t have a Mommy. She sleeps in a rickety bunk bed with another girl and doesn’t have many clothes.I realize in an instant that I love her.
|All the girls wearing the new dresses we brought for them.|
These little babes are all just desperate for all the love and attention they can get. They crave the closeness and physical touch of a loving adult. When I was a kid, I would hang on my mom and dad — I would sing songs and tell stories, always saying “Mommy, listen! Daddy watch!” Every kid needs someone to listen to them, to watch them dance, to just sit their with them so they can put their head on your lap. It was an honor to do so many of those things for hours every single day.
|Me and Rosa, one of the cutest kids ever!|
I admittedly said, “I am not a kid person” before I went on this trip. Today I don’t know if that stands true. I’ve never spent so much time with children in my life and I feel like I kind of learned their language for the first time ever. True, these kids spoke only Swahili and I only English but I mean the language of kids the world over. It’s pretty sweet and I never knew it existed before this week. Oh man, the heart of a child just can’t be replicated in an adult.
I tried to film regularly and the the following was one of the first updates I did. Unfortunately, I lost my phone while I was there and a ton of great photos and more video may be lost forever 🙁 I’m pretty sad about what was lost but still had lots from my regular camera to share. Please check out my update:
So that’s all for Part 1. I REALLY hope you will check back for Part 2 (hopefully coming tomorrow). I have so much more to share of this amazing journey and opportunities for you to get involved.
Many of these children at the CCC orphanage still need sponsors! For $35/month, you can help provide them with food, clothing, Bibles, education supplies, shoes, medical help and more.
I have just signed up to sponsor one of my dearest kids, Esperence. I honestly felt like getting to know her this week was preparation for being a Mom someday. It felt like I could easily be her Mama and was a wonderful feeling. I will have details about that coming soon. Thanks for being part of this with me, friends!
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