Monday, August 11, 2014

Democratic Republic of Congo

In June I spent a week in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in and around the cities of Goma and Bukavu along gorgeous Lake Kivu.  I traveled with a group from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to listen, learn, and support the work of the Anglican Church in the region. In addition, I was able to visit with friends I have made over the years as I have endeavored to learn about Congo’s complex history and to support the work of Congolese who are rebuilding their communities and working towards lasting peace.

My first full day in Congo was Pentecost Sunday.  We attended church in an area called Ngangi in Goma with Mount Nyiragongo not far in the distance.  This active volcano last erupted in 2002 and coated Ngangi and much of Goma with lava. Words cannot express the thrill I felt as I worshipped in a place so very far from home, so close to my heart, and prayed and danced on the cooled lava flow that formed the floor of the church.  

After the service, Fr. Moses showed us the school next door to the church.  During the middle school locker clean out at the end of the year, I collected unused school supplies knowing they would find a good home in Congo.  I carried a duffle bag full of notebooks, paper, pencils, pens, and colored pencils and gave them to Fr. Moses.  The items were laid on the altar and prayers of thanks were offered.

The joyous spirit of Pentecost that I felt my first day in Goma was just the beginning of what would be a heartbreakingly beautiful trip to a part of the world that is so misunderstood, so much in need, and so full of hope.  I am grateful for receiving a Holden Summer Study Grant that helped make this trip possible.   I look forward to sharing my experiences with my students as I strive to build empathy, to model faith in action for my students, and to be an authentic voice for social justice.

The path to the church and school in Ngangi with Mount Nyiragongo in the distance.

My new friend, Zawadi, a teenager at the church.  Her names means "gift" in Swahili.

The school run by the Anglican church in Ngangi.  Notice the huge rocks that form the floor.

Father Moses and his wife.  She and other women at the church prepared a feast for us after the service.

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