Friday, November 26, 2010

Learning How to Live

I see the faces of little ones full of joy and enthusiasm as they run carelessly through the long grass; I then take hold of their hands which grip mine tightly and I wish deep in my heart that their future’s could have more hope than what I see before me. I see their eagerness to go to school but the brightness finishes at high school. Most likely after they will get married and if they are girls they may be abandoned by the father and left to look after their young children by themselves. If they don’t have the opportunity to go to school they will end up working in the fields the rest of their lives or selling tomatoes at the market. I feel much pain for the youth here who have to grow up in a country with such huge barriers before them: lack of opportunities to study and to work, corrupt government systems etc. Not only the youth but also the adults here who have to support their families and try to find the most means possible to get their kids through school. I feel a slight sense of guilt as I prepare to leave to Canada where I know I will have things much easier than the Congolese people. It also is difficult for me to say goodbye to those who are truly suffering in the present moment and knowing that their situation will continue since there are no other possible means here to help them. For example Mado, the young girl with hydrocephalus, who is left day after day by herself in her bed with little attention from her family, will most likely continue to live in this condition. Despite my efforts to talk with the family and tell them how they should look after her and bathe her more often etc., it just doesn’t seem to get across to them. It crushes me to know that some things will not change; people will continue to feel rejection, go to bed hungry, lack money for proper medication and for education. The reality for these people is one that unfortunately will take a lot of time to improve. Little by little I hope that the Congolese take some pride in their country and start making some changes. All I can do is hope that I have given encouragement and some knowledge that will help them in their lives.

As my days have just about come to an end my soul really speaks to me. It is telling me: Lydia, it is not what surrounds you where your joy comes from but from within yourself. I can carry my joy wherever I go in life and this is something truly important. Yes I am sad to leave behind these people and the children but I know that I can help people wherever I go. Africa will forever be in my heart. It has been this magical land that has whispered words of wisdom to me and taught me the importance of life. It is not what we do but who we are. Our lives our short and we need to be okay with the fact that if we die today that we will be content with how much we have loves our neighbours and whether we have lived for ourselves or for God. This journey for me has been about learning how to live: to walk in the love of God, to breathe freely, free of pressure and stress, to live in the moment and not to miss the beauty that is right in front of you, to live always with God in our minds and to live in genuine gratefulness for every blessing that comes to us. Africa, you are a sweet melody to my ear; you open my suffocated soul to see the life in it’s purest form: living for the moment. The vivid clouds, the soaring hawks, the dragonflies that pause in the air and then dart forward in the dancing wind all paint an image on my soul. How can I return home and be anxious or worried about anything after living in Africa where one is transformed into a being that is free to love. I have realized how much the world’s mentality that wealth and riches will make you happy is the reverse. I am envious of these people and the freedom they have in their souls. I am envious of their strength to endure hardships. They are able to continue to live despite their sufferings: it is as though nothing can touch or break them a part.
My journey in the Congo has come to an end but will stay forever in my heart as I take on my next journey.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Possibly my last blog....Ciao Africa...until we meet again

As my time here is coming to an end here I am being confronted with many emotions. One year of my life living in a world drastically different than mine where I have come to learn the culture and language and now I have to say goodbye and leave this world for the one that I once knew. Fear is welling up inside my throat as if I have lost touch with what my previous reality was. It is not that I have forgotten the world that I came from but more like I have forgotten “where” I have come from. “Where” in the sense of where my heart, emotions, opinions, perceptions and outlooks were before I left. Now I am returning home with a new outlook on life, a new inner joy and a new desire of how I want to live my life differently. I did not leave thinking I could change the world by going to Africa but with the intent that by changing myself I could make a better difference in the world. Yes, many times I felt that my being here could really make a “change” and when I did not see any results my heart would sink and I would question why I was here in the first place. But after reflecting on these moments I realized that if I can simply learn to live better personally I will be able to help the people here in the sense of truly being a witness of love in action. Many people back at home talk lots about what they want to achieve in life but they lack the courage to “act.” Here it is easy to take action and show love, wherever you go you can pick up a child and hug them, give some spare change to a passing mamma or simply greet them in their mother tongue, visit those who are rejected and have no one to care for them and the list goes on. When one begins to put love in action a sense of freedom and joy wells up inside that can and one is able to battle evil that comes across one’s path. The sense of freedom I have gained here is not the freedom of doing whatever one desires but an interior freedom. My soul has been set free here: it has not been tied down, twisted or confused but rather has soared high because it has realized that when it lives only for God and nothing else and submits itself to the will of God it can break the chains of this world and nothing can attack it. This freedom is found amongst the people here who have struggled and taken their share in battles that for us seem like impossible barriers to face but with their inner freedom they do not become slaves to their poor situations in life but rather submit themselves to the will of God. Mothers who tell you how they have lost 3 or 4 of their children and yet continue to live their lives constantly in joy is something I will not forget. I will never forget Mamma Aurelia who after a stroke lost her ability to walk properly. Twice a week her sons would take her to see me and sacrifice their time for their mother. I visited her at her home where her family was all together eating and she said how the Lord has blessed her with her family. She never complained about her inability to be free and independent but always found the joy in what she had with her: her family and her interior freedom to soar with God amidst her suffering. I hope to carry this new joy and strength I have discovered here in Africa back to my new reality. I know that it will be a difficult route since the devil for me seems to lurk more profoundly in our society and is an expert in weaving lies for us to believe. I just pray that courage and fortitude will welcome me when I come home.
My life has been refreshed by the hot sun and the wind that touches my face always brings a smile upon my face. My eyes turn upward to the expansive sky; I then close my eyes and inhale the sweet air thinking to myself, “I am in Africa!” How many times I have told myself that one day I will go to Africa and now my dream has been made true and is now over…or maybe it is just the beginning of a new journey. My next journey my legs will scramble high, they will traverse along rough roads but eventually arrive with great confidence where the soft earth will carry me home. Thank you Africa for the inspiration you have breathed into me, for the stillness you have rested upon my soul, for the wellspring of joy that you have excavated from deep within me and now can no longer stop flowing, for the people who have taught me to embrace life for each moment, the children who have shown me that having much does not mean you will be happier. Thank you God for Africa, thank you God for continually filling me with your grace, power and courage, thank you for giving me the most amazing community to live and share such a strong experience with (I don’t think I would make it through this year without the support of my community who found patience with me, who laughed with and at me, who taught me much about myself and about life), and thank you for continually picking me up and encouraging me. Africa…I will miss you, but you are always there and maybe our roads will reunite again. The sun sets but there is always a sunrise bringing new light to a new day. I know that my heart is calling me home to Canada for the meantime.
Thank you to everyone who has followed my journey this year. I look forward to sharing it in person which is always better.
Take up the challenge to make yourself a better person each day and always remember to live in joy!