It's been a long past two weeks. I wrote this last Monday at the height of emotions. I will post an update in the next day or so to conclude what has been going on.
When I was 14, I decided to officially say that I believe in God. Since then, I’ve had my challenges of learning to say that I actually believe Him. Learning how to have relationship with God is different than just saying “yes, I think He’s a real thing”. For most of my life, I cannot say I believed Him. I’ve tried to do a lot on my own strength and it’s not turned out for the best. Sure, something’s have turned out ok, but I can’t say for the best.
I can remember my 90 day review at SKB Architecture. I was so excited to work there. I loved it actually. But there was something already so deep in me desiring to do the work I do now. I just didn’t really know how to put the desire to words (and I certainly didn’t feel “good enough”). My boss asked me where I see myself in 5 years. I remember being thrown by that question, which came as a surprise to me… it’s a standard question. I don’t think I allowed them to know I was thrown. Since college, I remember wanting to live in the city and focus on design. Become a great designer. Not one of the great classics. But someone who was good at what she did; doing it with integrity and with joy. I remember “making a joke” and saying I wanted to be a professional friend after 5 years. I didn’t know then where that came from. I just knew that the question shook me and made me think… I know what I’ve always thought… but what is this other desire that I can’t describe.
Mama Zamooda. A real fighter
I didn’t know then how true that “joke” was. The desire to work with people in this capacity became tangible in Nepal. I knew there, that “this” was what I was meant to do. But how do I describe “this”… and HOW would “this” ever happen? I was scared at the thought of leaving behind the security of a paycheck. I was scared at the thought of not knowing what my life would hold “next year”… where would I be. What about insurance? My 401K? My Roth? My savings? These are the fears that tried to keep me from believing God. And really… when I think about it. Is there really any security in those things? 2009 was a rough year. So many friends were laid off. That could have happened to me. I am not guaranteed another paycheck. And now when I look around me, I realize more than ever that I am not guaranteed a tomorrow.
Teaching leadership class (in English)
Being in Haiti and now being here in Goma has changed me more than I thought possible. For one, who am I that God would choose me to do the work He has me doing? My life is a trail of disobedience and mistakes (especially my 20’s!). But, I can clearly see that pivotal night everything changed. Walking home from the metro, in tears, I remember telling Him… “If you’re real… if you’re really there and you do actually love me. You have to change this; take this situation from my life because I’m not strong enough to let it go on my own”. That night… the situation I am talking about was taken from me. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t peaches and rainbows. It hurt. Bad. Separating from the life I had made for myself so that God could start to give me the life He wanted for me was painful. I didn’t want that old life, but I was tempted to try to take it back because letting go really is hard. I am in awe at the realness of that night. At the swiftness of His answer… as if He was just waiting for me to ask. For me to make a choice.
Mama Kumeza, Mama Kabundo, Mama Ngalula and Amani.
Taking that first step of believing God… by saying, “yes” to what I believed was God telling me: to get ready to leave my job. Feeling the heaviness of my possessions and yet wanting to hold on to them because they were mine. I bought them. I earned them. Such a battle between my heart and my head. But the freedom I felt as I let go. To hear God telling me to trust Him and trying not to think of all the “what-if’s”… What if He doesn’t do this and I look like a fool. The freedom and peace that came with saying “yes” was more than enough for me.
That first step was the hardest step. But now, each time I say “yes” my faith becomes that much stronger because God keeps providing for me. He keeps doing what He says. Each time I think I am being lead to do something, especially a major decision, I have to think, “do I believe this is God or not?” and if I do, I have to decide whether or not I believe Him. “Yes God, I believe you will do what you say, no matter how crazy it seems”. Thinking that I would have a partner in all this, and then realizing that what was said to me; promised to me by a man, was not really there and then having to walk away. Missing my friends and family so badly sometimes I feel it on a cellular level. When friends and family get upset with me because I don’t write as often as they (or I) would like. Missing out on making memories with the people that I love; birthdays, weddings, just going for coffee or movies. Not being there, the separation. That hurts. But I believe that God will cover all of this, the sadness of missing memories and the loneliness with His goodness and joy. I have to make the choice to actually believe Him everyday. Sometimes minute by minute.
my nieces and I at our New Years celebration
When I learn the true story of the people I am working with and I can’t believe that such evil can possibly exist in this world. To know that a woman or a child feels utterly worthless in life breaks my heart. I’m not okay with that. Sure, it breaks a lot of people’s hearts and for different reasons. Mine breaks because I felt that way for most of my life. I did a good job of hiding it, but inside I was dead. That pivotal night I spoke of earlier was like (as cliché as it sounds) rain in a drought. What was so dry and brittle became flooded with an indescribable refreshing sense of nourishment. It’s something that can’t be described; just experienced. Now I am devoting my life to letting people find their value in a loving God through relationship. Yes, I do a lot of administrative work, teaching English, teaching bible… monotonous or tedious things behind the scenes. But what I am really doing is building trust with the transparency of who I was and who I am now… to let you know that you are important me, but more so, you are important to God. I do this whether you believe in Him or not… because I do. I believe.
Learning "this little light of mine"
My latest struggle…
I have fallen so in love here. Yes with the country. I easily love places, as cheesy as it sounds, our world is so beautiful! I love people easily too, yes, this is also correct. But I have truly fallen in love with a person in a way that I am not sure what is happening to me. She is just a baby. Probably 2-3 years. She doesn’t talk to me. Actually, today she said “mayi” (Swahili for water) and I almost fell over from happiness to hear her sweet voice for the first time. She didn’t look at me for the longest time. Now I only keep her attention for seconds at a time. But there is something about her that is different than every child I’ve ever met. I want to take away the pain I see in her big, beautiful, empty eyes. (Not in a savior complex way. I'm very careful to guard myself from and check that kind of mentality). I want to make everything in her world ok. Yes, this is the case with many hurt kids and people, wanting to make it ok for them. But with Sifa, there is a passion to fight and pray for her that is stronger than what I’ve ever felt before. I want to see her fat and sassy and laughing and running and playing with other children. I want her to know that what has happened to her; what was meant for pain and defeat WILL turn to joy and gladness... God loves her and wants her to have hope for a future. Because He has hope for her future.
Sifa, Saturday afternoon, February 20th
Sifa means "glory" in Swahili
Augustine (Augie) and Sifa... He sleeps, she really doesn't
Finally, she sleeps...and he's so chill!
In these past few years, the stories that I’ve heard... I think it would be easy for me (or anyone) to think God is not real, or that He is sitting in a recliner, feet up, eating chocolate and watching Golden Girls. But, I’ve seen too much redemption from such desolation for me to think there couldn’t be a God. When I meet a woman with 3 kids who has AIDS, contracted by her unfaithful and deceased husband… the 100th woman who has a child from rape, has been disowned and is terrified to tell her child for fear of the traumatization and stigma that child will carry… the 100th young woman who had a child when she was just a child herself because of rape… the woman who has had more than a dozen fistula surgeries because of the gun shot/stick put in her vagina after gang rape- and who lives with daily chronic pain, but carries at least 30lbs of water on her head each day, to her house while singing. The young boys who have been raped and beat for sick pleasure… The women who prostitute because they think they have no other option or because she was stolen and forced. Having found the body of a young street boy brutally attacked and beaten beyond recognition and left in the road like a banana peel that was thrown out the window. This would make it easy for me to think- “how can God be real… or even loving”. The truth is now, I’ve simply seen too much to not believe in Him.
One of my favorite quotes came from a fictional book (The Shack) I read when I was living in that empty place. God is having a conversation with a father whose young daughter was kidnapped and murdered. As interesting as this book is theologically… this one thing has stuck with me all these years. God says:
“just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors”.
Meeting young men who have learned they were born of rape and then going through the phases of shame and anger only to choose life. Who choose not to let that be their identity, rather only part of their past. Mama Masika, her daughter Rachel (who is living on one hospital bed with two babies since the 19th of February, in a roach infested community hospital room), Desange and Michelène at Masikas. The mama’s who work here at UJN in the daughters of Congo program, the boys in Haiti who have chosen to leave the streets… so many people have shown me the grace of God. Their lives are redeemed and transformed because of the love of a God whom I choose to believe every day. Not just believe in Him. I believe Him.
Michelene from Mama Masika's... so strong.
My boys in Haiti, who I miss every day...
He said go to Goma, Congo. Not just the country that is coined the most dangerous place for women, but the exact region, and most people think you’ve gone mad; I believe Him. When He says He will protect me; I believe Him. When I cry myself to sleep at night because Sifa’s physical body is getting weaker after her emotional capacity had gotten stronger. I choose to believe Him. This is my choice. I am not saying this or working to change your mind (for those who don’t believe). I can just try my best, even though it’s not easy, to live like I really do believe what I say I believe.
Sifa and me shortly before we took her and baby
Augustine to the hospital on February 19th.
With all of this said. Thank you to everyone who supports me. Many of you who support me do not believe in the God I serve. And many others who support me do not “believe Him” although you do believe in Him. I thank you all, no matter your belief, for putting your confidence in the faith I have for The God that I am devoting my life to.