Going viral

In the adult literacy teacher–training workshop the week after Easter in Mbuji Mayi, DR Congo, was an eccentric woman. Marie-Claire didn’t seem to care much about her appearance. Her hair went every which way. Her clothes were a bit grubby. She peered over wire-rimmed glasses. She crossed her legs. One day she showed up in a baseball cap. Continue reading

Mots de circonstance

Now that I’ve returned from my 15-day trip to DR Congo I’ll be posting more reports. See the “Congo” category on this site.

The Congolese have a sense of occasion, the importance of protocol and doing things right, especially when it comes to programs and celebrations. This places special demands on an introvert like me.

On Good Friday I was front and center in two ceremonial occasions in Kinshasa. The most challenging thing for me as a guest of honor is delivering the expected mot de circonstance, literally, a word about the occasion, presumably fit for the occasion. Continue reading

A Kinshasa pastor’s busy day

In the middle of the week I asked my dear friend Pastor François Tshidimu to do me a favor. Could he buy my ticket to fly to Mbuji-Mayi on Monday? Buying a ticket involves trekking to an office somewhere in this unwieldy city and my schedule was filling up. Yes, of course. He could do this Friday morning while I attended the closing ceremonies for the literacy classes. But he needed my passport.

I had no qualms about giving François my passport and enough money to more than cover the cost of the ticket. Continue reading

Notes from a long journey

O’Hare, 3 hours

The security line is long and slow. I have plenty of time. A baby on her mother’s shoulder smiles randomly at people. I catch her eye and smile. She smiles back.

After going through security I hold my passport and boarding pass in my hand while I put my jacket back on. As I am walking to my gate I feel something scratchy in my sleeve. It is the boarding pass. Continue reading

Miracles and uncertainties

IMG_1181I am pretty sure I will be in DR Congo two weeks from today. My plans have been playing Upset the Fruit Basket (anyone remember that game?) for the last few weeks– canceled flights and more canceled flights, schedule changes there, new plans here. My right knee decided to test my resolve by freezing up ten days ago but then came back online a few days later.

But the uncertainties on my end are minor. Continue reading

Nevertheless, joy persisted

Pictures pop up from a year ago. People are sitting around a table at an open-air restaurant on a busy street in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. They are waiting for pizza. It is my birthday, but no one knows that until I tell them. The picture is taken before I tell them, and they are looking subdued. As I recall, telling them about my birthday, reluctant as I had been to do so, livened things up and it became a party. Continue reading

How can we help Congo? Part two

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Adolphine Tshiama. Photo by Charles Buller

A few days ago I started writing about what, if anything, we can do for that troubled country I love so much, the Democratic Republic of Congo. I put off writing Part 2 for a few days to sit with my intentions and motivations. I am very particular about asking for money, especially for things related to my own work and my church community. But I have decided to go ahead because I can’t get Adolphine out of my mind. Continue reading

How can we help Congo? Part one

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Ndjoko Punda in 2013. It is now overrun by violent militias.

I hear this question and ask it myself every time I hear or report news, often very personal, from this country that I love so much. The news is horrible. Chaos has descended on sections of the country. People are suffering dreadful loss and persecution. Thousands have fled their homes and are hiding out in the bush, homeless and starving. Unknown numbers have been slaughtered in the most gruesome way, uncanny echoes of all the worst outbreaks of violence that have plagued this part of the world in recent history. Continue reading

Gap weeks

Gap years are the thing. My great-nephew hasn’t figured out whether he wants to do political science or biology in college, though he knows which college he’ll attend and has already been accepted. So he’s taking a year to work and figure that out. It seems that for an 18-year-old he has figured out a lot already and a gap year is a sensible part of the plan. Continue reading