This experience has been fantastic, and it’s only the third day in the Congo. But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling. It’s so hard to be in a place so different from what I spent the last ten weeks doing. There’s poverty everywhere I turn, and my life routine has become so difficult. I’m not used to showering out of buckets or squatting every time I need to use the bathroom. It’s not easy, and I can’t wait to be home. It also doesn’t help that so much of my heart is in Hawaii. I quickly jumped from the island lifestyle to third world culture in less than a week. I wasn’t at all prepared for it. I so deeply miss my friends, my daily routine, and the place I grew to call home. I keep praying that my heart can love and appreciate the Congo the way it loved Hawaii. I want all of me to be here.
Though I battle processing my experiences, it would also be a lie to say that I’ve not appreciated every second of being here. The difficulties of life are just reminders of how I can be appreciative when I return home. It’s unreal the things we are exposed to here. From children struck by poverty to huts as stores on the street, life is different.
LaMama and Norma. These two beautiful children are just an example of babies taking care of babies. LaMama is no more than six years old, and Norma looks to be six months old. As we played with children outside of the church, LaMama caught my eye. She was small, yet had enough strength to carry her little sister on her back. Every so often while we played patty cake she would pause to adjust her cloth, which carried her sister on her back. I looked at her in awe. Here was a six year old given the responsibility of an adult mother. I can hardly remember being six, but I doubt my parents even let me go near any babies. LaMama was strong- stronger than I ever was at six.
What blows me away the most is how these kids have nothing, but are infinitely happier than people who have everything. Nothing. Some kids don’t have shoes while others don’t have food, yet their smiles could light up an entire city. They are so happy. I want to be happy like them. I want to rejoice in everything I have no matter how small or large that amount might be. I want to smile the way these kids smile.
If there’s anything I’ve learned so far it’s the importance of happiness. I am filled with so much joy when the kids are dancing or we’re singing Swahili songs. Watching the kids go crazy and dance is so enlightening. They’re loud, full of energy, and just make me want to get up and dance. Learning Swahili songs has been fun. When my team suddenly busts out singing Hakuna Mungu Kama Wey Wey, I laugh at how silly we look but smile knowing how amazing and beautiful it sounds. We can be sitting at a table in the complete dark, but singing the songs brings so much light into my life.
I’m struggling, and I’m not afraid to admit it. But this experience has and will continue to be amazing. The people are sweet. My team is wonderful. And God is moving in and through this place, but more importantly in my life.