Fires and Planes Shot

6/05/2015 04:26:00 PM sendtheroths 0 Comments

I woke up today to this photo and an iMessage from Pastor Euclide.
“Can you believe what is going on here? Fire, fire fire!”

It brought back the memories of 2010 when his house was burnt down along with the church. It was devastating to their family and to the church.

My immediate thought after thinking about everyone’s safety was the church: the instruments, the projector and other equipment that we all have saved to purchase. It would be devastating to start from zero again.

I splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth, threw on some clothes, hopped on my dirt bike and drove to Birere, the little slum in Goma town. Fires occur regularly in Birere for numerous reasons: a stove is left on, poorly installed electrical lines and other preventable reasons. One fire can easily leave more than one hundred already struggling families back at zero.

This is life in slums without building codes, where people live day to day, without running water, overcrowded and unprotected by their government. Yet, in Birere—the Goma slum— it is often safer than living on the outskirts of town where people are more vulnerable to war and violence.

I met men and women standing outside of pastor’s small compound when I arrived. They stood watching things that were moved out of the house in the midst of the chaos. I entered the compound, and to my relief (and of course everyone else's too) pastor's house was fine. But stuff was scattered everywhere… the fire came all the way to his neighbor’s house and burnt everything to the ground. But people from the community came with jerry cans of water and machetes to cut the electrical chords and put out the fire.

If it weren’t for the community, his house would have been completely burnt, just like his neighbor's. 

It was God’s grace working through people in the community—some members of the church and some not.

Just as I began helping to put things back together in his house, Andrew called me with bad news. He was supposed to travel home to Goma from Bunia that morning, but when shooting happened at the airport this week—the plane that he was supposed to fly in was shot! Therefore, his flights were cancelled and he was unable to leave!

Just yesterday, I thought that Lilian (Pastor Euclide’s wife was coming over to bake bread with me), I thought that we would prepare for a gathering that was going on at the church to announce some of the new developments in the New Hope Community: land, Esther Project and other important items to communicate with people. We were planning on having a reception afterward where we can welcome Andrew back from his journey. Then … fires, shooting, canceled flights.

I wish I could say that things like this are abnormal. But they are not.

There’s a dynamic that is often difficult to measure when one studies the life of the ‘poor’ or the ‘forgotten’ within our world. But when one walks with them, it’s easy to see. Life is harder when you are in situations like this—where hard work and faith doesn’t usually measure up.

George Monbiot put it this way, “If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire.”

People who live in Birere (and in places like this, no matter where in the world) face higher degrees of uncertainty and higher risks.

It can take 6 hours to get a couple hundred dollars out of the bank.
You can slowly build your life and it burns down in one day.
One can make plans and work to inform the community and then a catastrophe hits.

My friend who also works with another organization recently told me this, referencing the book Walking with the Poor.

“The community already has a survival strategy. The community has well-established patterns for making sense out of its world and staying alive in it. How often do we think of the poor as experts in their own circumstances? As well-adapted and wise, considering the resources they have to work with? Wouldn't that radically redefine our perspective?”

The governments, the non-government organizations, the powers that be, did not save Pastor Euclide’s house. It was God working through the hands of ordinary people in the community.

I make plans all the time in Congo that are interrupted by crazy things—people dying, bombs, bullets, fires and other things that would be catastrophic for other communities, but are relatively ‘normal’ here. It’s a part of life that has taught me so much and the Congolese continually help me learn to be patient and trust God in the midst of such uncertainty.

This week, the elders of the church visited Pastor’s house and my house to pray God’s protection for us. They believed that some trials would come our way and wanted to dedicate our families and homes to the Lord.

The elders were right. And I wonder… what if they didn’t hear? What if they didn’t pray?

Euclides house did not burn down.
Andrew was fianlly able to find another flight and was home by lunch-time.
Lilian came to my house (after fixing her house) and we baked bread together.

 …because Hope wins …and Hope won again today.