Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Beauty and the Pain.

The beauty and the pain. 
Sometimes it can be difficult to know when one begins and the other ends.
They are so intertwined that
pain and beauty
really seem to have become strange but common companions here.
I see it in the physical city itself.
The beauty of the lake and the flora,
the intricacy of much of the architecture,
(there really are beautiful buildings here)
intertwined with desperate attempts at living quarters,
shacks, tin roofs, dirt roads
and thousands of people hoping for a better, safer, survivable
 life in the city.
I see the beauty and the pain
in the flowers and the wire that adorn many wall tops.
Walls and wire to keep pain out,
flowers to hold onto something beautiful. 
I saw the beauty and the pain in my friend John,
whom I had promised to meet again this week.
On Wednesday he came,
 with a large burlap sack filled masks and statues 
wrapped in plastic bags.
He came, as promised, to show me his collection,
and to tell me a little about the meaning of each mask.
Masks and statues from the Kasai,, Baluba and Babembe tribes,
The Nyindu, Banyanga and Basonge,
among others. 

He told about the big baluba mask,
with the heart-shaped mouth.
Speaking and using love,
colored in white, red and black.
Reminders to collaborate with others,
to refuse to shed blood,
and to live in peace without discrimination over color.

Beside the Big Baluba another mask of peace,
signifying the King of the Balwalwa, who called for law
and cease of fighting among tribes.

There was the mask with no eyes,
for the blind but sharp-minded.
A reminder that even the blind man is capable of work
if his mind is good.

There was the crying mask,
crying for the death of loved ones.
The animal mask, worn in ceremonies
conducted for the sick animals of the forest.
And the pairs of marriage masks,
for two who will become one,
as man and wife.
John told me about each mask. 

He also told me of his uncle,
whose name is also Andrew.
His Uncle Andrew had sent a mask with John as a gift for me
and his wishes that he too could have visited me in Bukavu.
His uncle who was suffering from malaria,
and had lost both legs to gunshot wounds.
He couldn't come to the city,
but perhaps, one day,
 I may visit him in the village.

The village,
over 50 km away John told me.
He travels from the village because he knows French and some English as well,
so he is chosen to try and sell things to earn money for the people back home.
I felt even more honored that John had showed me this collection of masks
when he told me how half the road to Bukavu was not drivable,
so he walks, with the masks and statues, 25 kilometres.

We also talked about the difficulties of Congo.
"Take me to Canada."
He had said several times,
it seems to be a common phrase here.
He told me that he felt the good presidents get killed,
and the bad ones don't care about the people.
Jobs are offered,
but they are given to the less qualified with some relation to the employers.
How business with tourists used to be good,
maybe a hundred dollars could be made in a day.
But that was before the insecurities,
the increase of war,

I like this man a lot.
I appreciated and respected him as he told me about his life
and the life of people in the village.
All the while he never tried to sell me anything,
he just wanted to share his story.
In his heart there was so much

There is such evident beauty, and pain in his life.

Before he left I was able to pray with him,
and wish him my most sincere blessings,
as he packed his masks, statues and banana-leaf figurines
into plastic bags and the burlap sack. 

I hope to see him again before I leave.

 John, with the collection.

(Yes, you better believe is repping Canada! I had nothing to do with that.)

Other Thoughts

And as I think about beauty and pain, 
I can't help but be reminded 
of where the greatest waves of beauty and pain collided.
Where an innocent Christ was crucified,
and where so many guilty would be justified, declared innocent.

In a world with sin,
but a loving God.
Beauty and pain, I think, 
are inseparable
and insanely confusing.
They are at war and yet they intertwine.
Complementing and contrasting each other. 

But at the end of the day,
at least this is what I think, 
 that it's the flowers that grab the wire.
It's not possible to be the other way around.
It's the flowers that have life, that grow and move.
It's God's creation overcoming man's. 
The beauty and the pain.

Though it may seem that the flowers will wither, 
and the wire will remain. 
Though beauty may seem brief and scarce,
and pain as constant and always here the same.
 I think, and perhaps I do suppose,
that the life of beauty was far more valuable, powerful, meaningful,
than the empty presence of earthly pain. 

Though now they exist together,
they will one day be separate.
And the beauty, freely offered through God, in God
will stretch into eternity.
There, in that place
 with Him,
the pain will not even be a memory.  

To be with Him...

The pain will cease,
beauty will overcome.
Sorrow may last for the night
but joy comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5
Philippians 3:8

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