Everybody has lost something in this pandemic.
If we weigh our losses against others’, some of us could easily discount our individual losses, especially if we have been taught to count our blessings. I am alive, I am well, I have enough to eat, I have friends and family and the means to communicate with them, and I am financially secure. And it is spring. So why am I feeling sad today?
The universal experience of loss gives us an unprecedented opportunity to explore the nature of loss and mourn together. Okay, let’s have a cry now. Or a scream. Or a community howl. Or a banging of pots on porches. For everything we have lost.
Name your losses. I dare you. Think of at least one thing that you will probably never get back, even when this is over.
For me it is a kind of job I have grown over the last ten years that has felt in many ways like the culmination of what I have to offer to the world: I have been a self-appointed goodwill ambassador and liaison between Mennonites in the USA and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I have been a bridge-builder between cultures. An encourager. A catalyst of good works. An interpreter. A channel of love. I have built personal relationships and grown a web of relationships in two contrasting cultures that share membership in the body of Christ.
I have demonstrated, for myself and for others, the electrifying power of face-to-face contact, on-the ground presence, of the sort that can only be developed when we directly participate in each other’s lives—when we wander in each other’s cities, eat in each other’s homes, worship together, talk and plan together.
That is the key. My involvement in Congo has required travel. Since I started on this connectivity venture (it dates from 2010) I have made 7 or 8 trips to Congo (I’m losing count). I have sometimes gone alone, but often I take someone with me and spread the connections and goodwill that way. I quickly relearned how to get around in Congo, my French was still serviceable (after our 3-year stint in then-Zaire in the 1970s), and I am a pretty good travel leader.
We have often entertained Congolese visitors—established friends and new ones—in our home as well, but travel this direction has been severely limited in the past five years. So the best way to build connections continues to be by taking fellow American Mennonites and family members to Congo.
The trip that I was planning this year was a culmination of that effort: I was going to shepherd a delegation of half a dozen people from my congregation to our sister church and its community in Kinshasa. The focus was to be sharing worship music and working together on a school building. The trip was scheduled for July. When the word “pandemic” began to be spoken in February, however, I cancelled the trip. I did not want to be responsible for taking people on a long-distance plane trip, to a country with shaky medical services, during a global pandemic.
It turns out that the virus is, so far, more prevalent here than there but, in my opinion, long-distance air travel should be out of the picture anyhow until there is a vaccine for Covid-19 and it is widely available.
That could take a couple of years. By then, this whole trip would have to be replanned and that would require energy that I can’t now imagine generating. I will be in my late 70s. The Congo literacy project that I helped start doesn’t really need me anymore, either, so my main reasons for traveling to Congo are rapidly disappearing.
Thus I am seeing this “job” I have created, that I have loved into being and that has been a primary focus of my retirement years, coming to an end. I am mourning its loss.
What losses are you mourning these days, when you let yourself be sad?