Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Letters to the Congo (Bukavu)

Dear Congo,

I walked your streets again today.
I ventured out onto the dusty red roads.
I saw your countless vendors of fruit, packaged cookies and used shoes.
I saw your people working,
and working,
I met one your people again,
my friend John. He joined me as I walked.
And we talked together for hours.
Matured and aged by the demanding realities of life here.Yet he calls me his uncle and his brother.
Be good to him, to his village and to his family Congo.

I also drove your roads today, well not I personally,
but I was a passenger on them.
Your rugged, dirt roads with rocks strewn about.
Your roads filled with trucks, bikes and cars
weaving around each other and around your people all walking where ever they can. 
Your roads once paved Congo,
once tarmac only years ago, now rubble. What happened to you?
You as well, Congo, look so much older than you are.
So beautiful, yet so mistreated.
So chaotic, yet so peaceful.
The busyness of life and the serenity of the lake,
the chaos of traffic, and the gentle fluttering of butterfly wings
as their bearer peacefully explores your streets. 

Sometimes I wonder if you even know who you are, Congo.
Are you peace or are you war?
And perhaps your people struggle with identity as well.
 Do they know who they are? Where they belong? Where they can rest....
Your resilient, struggling, determined people.
Your fearful people. Congo, so many of your people are afraid.
Its in the construction constantly going on in your city.
People, because of the past, too scared to trust the bank.
Deposit your money one day, your bank looted another,
and they lose all. So instead, they earn and they build.
Earn a hundred, buy concrete.
Earn fifty, buy some bricks.
Earn thirty, buy some lumber.
To build their houses. For years upon years upon years.
There are so many fears,
in your people Congo.

I saw one of your refugee camps today Congo. At one time a football field,
now a fenced quarter with long tents, for the people of your sister Rwanda.
A place for them to rest as they emerge from the jungles,
where they had fled not so very long ago, but yet an eternity ago. 
Looking now to go home. Safely.
Do not tarry in allowing them safe passage.

Today I also saw your workers for justice and development.
The offices of the UN MONUC, of OXFAM, of the Tear Fund,
of the Geneva Convention, of World Vision, of....Congo, there are so many.
So many of the organizations, the NGO's that I have ever heard of...are here.
With you, for you. I hope your people see that they are loved.
In the absence of local leadership, there is a universal leadership which loves them. 
I hope they see it.
I hope they see it in me Congo.

Me, your guest. Your guest that had, in honesty,
started to grow tired of the stares of your people as he walked by.
The stares at his clothing, his shoes, his hair, his difference.
And every look is a stare, there are no glances. 
I'm sorry but I was starting to be frustrated Congo.
Frustrated with their uncertainty as to what to do with the different,
and perhaps with my uncertainty as well.
But, thankfully, my heart is changing Congo.
And may I now see every stare as an opportunity.
An opportunity to look back with love.
An opportunity to respond with love, to show, all people, God through me.
I hope they will see it in my eyes Congo, my eyes and my smile and my attitude.
I hope your people see God in me staring back at them
with a fierce and relentless compassion; passion
 for their lives here on this earth and their souls in eternity.

Oh Congo, today I walked your streets again.
And even though we have known each other for only a little over two weeks,
when I stepped onto your roads, surrounded by walls and wires,
flowers, plants and people, so many of your people,
I felt love for you today Congo.
The Congo dust that clings to my feet is beginning to cling to my heart.
Your dust Congo. Your dust and dirt.
Your ugly and your beautiful.
You Congo.

A Sojourner In Your Midst.

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