Dear Friends and Family,
It seems I keep a running list in my head of tales to tell all of you, but what a challenge to get them written down! Well, Mazu (our pet river otter) has settled down in her enclosed yard outside, so the opportunity to write now is too good to miss.
First, remember the little deaf girl whose Pastoral School parents took the plunge and put her in our Kindergarten this year? I just met her proud father going to the market this morning. In her first semester of school, Jeanni placed 2nd in her class! Beaming, her father said, "She's so smart." And with such a confidence building beginning, our hope is that she will be able to continue in school, beating all the odds.
Other good news, Kafuti, the quiet child with the short leg who in December road tested a make shift lift on her right flip-flop, has graduated to quite a respectable set of sandals now. Thanks to a local shoemaker, and some light weight rubber, Kafuti is walking without a pronounced limp, and running like all the other children.
As part of our Christian Education class, my pastoral student wives recently put together a fun, thought provoking play for the other women on the station. The story of the Prodigal Son, you might recognize, but the Congolese setting is what made its unfolding so unique. The play opened with a rebellious younger brother spinning out his wild, hasty intentions to his older brother. Even when one is impetuous, protocol matters, one doesn't go immediately to one's father in this culture. The customary interview with his older brother observed, the younger brother then boldly asks his father for his inheritance, and sets off for Angola. There he falls in with an irreverent band of youth who all speak Lingala...cool and worldly, these youth are. After buying all the ladies necklaces and watches, and the men drink, the young son finds himself fighting off the pigs for the little bit of food he has left.
At home, one by one, the neighbors all come to the father to whisper the shameful gossip they hear of his son. Songi-songi, they call it here. The ugly smug fruit that results from long harbored jealousy. Fueled by these disturbing reports, the old father paces in front of his house while he reflects on the life of his son and his love for him. Finally, he sees his son stumbling home, malnourished, clothes in shreds with only a broken flip-flop in his hand. Avoiding his father's eyes, and falling at his feet, the son asks to do manual labor for his father. Instead, servants come running to celebrate the son's homecoming by showering the young man with white powder, dressing him lavishly while joyously singing and dancing. With tongues undulating and rattles shaking, the audience is moved with emotion and along with the actresses in the play, women leave their seats and join the celebration on stage.
Life in Congo is paticipatory. One person's happiness is everyone's happiness, one person's sorrow, everyone's sorrow - even on stage! Trying to resolve the older brother's bitterness in the play during the growing celebration on stage, was a challenge, as it probably would have been in real life. Amid the rejoicing, the father throws both arms around his sons to reconcile them, provoking a whole new wave of rejoicing onstage and off.
Having just finished exams at the Women's School, out of necessity many of them oral, my thoughts were touched by the response one bright young pastor's wife gave to a question on her test. In reference to an Old Testament story, she was asked if God had ever rescued her from slavery, and if so when? What followed was a wonderful story of her life:
It seems that until the age of 8, she lived and went to school in the big city of Kinshasa. After relocating to their interior village at about that time, Mama Mayoyo's mother died, leaving the family in disarray. Years passed without Mama Mayoyo being able to continue in school. Trying to describe her life, she said, I used to sit in church not being able understand what was being said. I was like a blind person. I grew up hoping that I would marry a smart man, and that perhaps in that way I could learn more. . God was good to me, and I was able to marry a teacher. When we had our first child, I was sick with tuberculosis. Not being able to nurse the baby well, he died. I nearly died, but I got better. After a few years, a pastor told my husband that he was smart and should become a pastor. He applied to the Pastoral School and it wasn't long before we came Kikongo. Now I can read and understand. I have learned about so many things here. God has rescued me from slavery. He's been very good to me.
Thank you for your patience. May God continue to bless and watch over each of you.