Congo joy, Congo lament

While we were hosting friends from Congo last week, the situation in Congo itself began deteriorating rapidly.

However, in the brief days Pastor François and his wife, Felly, spent in our home; at the Thanksgiving celebration we hosted with more friends; and in the discussions we held on how our churches might continue to relate to each other we never got around to discussing the troubles that were bringing Congo into the headlines once again after a long absence from the spotlight. The personal and communal superseded the political, even as Congo seemed on the verge of falling apart.

It was partly the timing. The invasion and conquest of Goma happened when I was too busy with the visit to be reading or listening to much news. More important, it was such a contrast to the joy and warmth of the visit itself. It coincided with a jubilant crosscultural worship service in a lovely rural Michigan church. We had other things to do and talk about and little time. This is perhaps a landmark of crosscultural friendship. We have reached a stage where the particulars of our lives, families, and aspirations; reminiscences of our shared experiences; and news of our mutual friends crowd out talk about major political/military developments with international repercussions. We don’t see or treat each other as representatives of our respective countries; we are only ourselves and we focus on each other.

This is not to say that the concerns are too distant or minor to matter to those we know and love. Our friends may return to rioting in Kinshasa, even though the events took place on the other side of that vast country, which usually seems a world apart from the capital. The Kabila government is threatened. Thus, other friends and acquaintances who are members of the Congolese parliament certainly have their hands full. And life in Congo will no doubt get more difficult before it improves (and one wonders if as well as when).

Whatever happens, it will be impossible for my husband and me, and a growing group of our friends, to ignore, because we are unalterably bound by ties of love with that impossible country. When the political is personal and the personal, political, the news can become heartrending.

I don’t know if this makes us wiser or gives us any insight about courses of action our government should take. I don’t know the truth about, say, the machinations of the Rwandan government or whether the Chinese could move in and straighten things out as some are suggesting. It is tempting to sign every e-petition that promises some kind of solution. I do let my government know I care, for what it’s worth.

What I know to do is to pray for Congo when I can pray fervently. I don’t bother much with routine prayers. My experience is that serious prayers actually make a difference. But fervent prayer comes out of love, attention, even heartbreak. My heart is breaking for Congo.