Frustrations. How many times in a day do you feel frustrated about something? Frustrated that you didn’t receive good service at the grocery store, frustrated that you were stuck in traffic on the way home from work, frustrated with the filing of your taxes, frustrated by a co-worker, the list goes on and on.
I know that when I was living in Canada I, too, often felt frustrated over these kinds of things!
My husband, Todd, and I have been back in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for a little over a month. We are serving with the local Hands at Work office called the Likasi Service Centre. Our time is split between helping to do project support work in the office, building capacity in the local staff and spending time in the communities pouring into the local volunteers and loving the beautiful, orphaned children.
On Wednesday mornings we have a small group sharing and encouragement time. It is slightly ironic as our entire team, of only six, is already a “small group”! This particular week Erick, the coordinator of Hands at Work in the Congo, shared with us on frustrations and on how consuming and distracting they can be.
In the Congo there is a whole other playing field of frustrations, some of which are unique to us as foreigners. Let me give you a few examples:
- When going into buy food from the market, we are followed by many street children talking to us in Swahili. We don’t understand a word, but they clearly want something from us. Sometimes we feel frustrated that no matter where we are people, including children, expect something from us because of our skin color.
- Then, just as we have supper prepared on the little two-burner, plug-in stove, the power will cut out! This happens sporadically and we never know when it will come back on. Sometimes our living conditions can be somewhat tiring and difficult as it’s very different from what we had been accustomed too.
- The public transport in the Congo is another thing: Chaotic, very squished and somewhat aggressive! Though, I think we receive a bit of extra hassle as foreigners.
- But activity to do with visas or legal papers has by far been the most stressful! It always includes long line-ups, lots of waiting, and strange requests.
There are reasons that it is like it is here in the Congo. I think Barbra Kingsolver describes it best in her book, The Poisonwood Bible:
The Congolese have an extra sense. A way of knowing people at a glance, adding up the possibilities for exchange and it’s as necessary as breathing. Survival is a continuous negotiation. How can I begin to describe the complexities of life here in a country whose leadership sets the standard for absolute corruption?
I’ve heard foreigner visitors say that the Congolese are greedy, naïve and inefficient. They have no idea. The Congolese are skilled at survival and perceptive beyond belief, or else dead at an early age. Those are the choices.
I remember Hands at Work founder, George Snyman, telling us that in order for the children to win, we had to lose. To me this means to sacrifice our own agendas, pride and satisfaction in order to serve and love the children in a way that will give them a future. This is what God so desperately wants: to see the orphaned children prosper and not be harmed, to have a hope and a future (Jer. 29:11). We must make ourselves nothing and take on the nature of a servant as Paul teaches us (Phil 2:7). If we can do this, then, indeed, we will see God’s Kingdom on Earth. A place where the last will be first, where dirty, forsaken children who have no parents are regarded as the most worthy, deserving endless effort to show them love and to give them hope.
This week, when frustrations have tried to creep into my mind and heart, I can recognize that I have no space for them. Instead, I must be focused on Christ and on how he wants me to love those around me. I can’t be wasting my thoughts and energy on frustrations but instead shift to look upon what is good.
Check back for regular updates from Todd and Katie.