Authenticity is highly valued in my generation. My heart is worn on my sleeve; my emotions are written across my face. Since you’re not here to see my feelings, I want to be brutally honest with you: returning to Congo (after a respite in Austria) has been difficult. Life is hard in this seemingly irreconcilable mess of poverty, corruption, warfare and rape. A market stall near my house says it best; the shop is called, “Life is Fighting.”
My aversion to returning was perpetuated by inconvenient and untimely issues with the airline. The original itinerary included a simple flight from Austria to Uganda with a brief layover in Egypt. That was the plan. And if you’ve ever traveled internationally, you’ll agree that nothing ever goes as planned.
According to the universal law of travel, “what can go wrong will go wrong”. Especially in Africa. Thus, my return was transformed from a simple one-stop hop into a tour of every East African capital including Cairo, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Kigali, and finally, Kampala. Three days in transit and still I was not yet home (Beni). I would spend one night in Kampala and awake early the next day to embark on a road trip back to Congo.
At the guesthouse in Kampala, I enjoyed a small takeout meal from Pizza HOT (not to be confused with the popular American chain, “Pizza Hut”).
Then I noticed the slogan on my drink: “When you know where you have come from, you will know where you are going.”
In my journal, I reflected on the statement:
Once again, I’m reminded of my purpose and I’ve resolved to persevere. I will return, determined to press forward. I am not here by accident. I am not here to satisfy my adventurous spirit. I may not know what the future holds. I may not know where I’ll be living or what I’ll be doing in six months. But this much is certain: I know where I’m going because I remember how far I’ve come. I’m not talking about the distance here (but in case you want to know, its 7988 airline miles). I have come from the pit of despair. Several years ago I was raped. And with the help of family, friends, faith, therapy, and medical care, I can say that God has healed me. He has redeemed my life and now, I believe, He is using it for His glory.
Not that I assume my experience qualifies me to speak with any authority on the subject. Nor do I assume to have shared a similar experience with these women (because I cannot fathom how the same word is used to describe what happened to me and the brutal, violent, mutilating atrocities done to Congolese women). But somehow, someway, I feel we are connected. And my mission is to bring hope. Whether teaching English or making necklaces at the Women’s Center, I am confident that both my work and my writing has a purpose.
Mustering up all the courage within me, I make up my mind to carry out the mission to which I have been called. Tomorrow I return with an incontestable conviction that my work in East Africa is not yet finished.
I challenge you to reflect on the very same statement. Do you know where you’re going? How has your past shaped the direction in which you are headed? May you, too, find a renewed sense of purpose in your life.