TO CRY FOR GRACE

I'M MOVING TO CONGO

When I was about six, I was convinced that I could singlehandedly create a car out of a cardboard box and wooden sticks. I stubbornly made four wheels and a frame out of these sticks and scrap pieces of cardboard and then put a Brianna-sized cardboard box on top of it. I looked over my expertly crafted car with immense pride, and thought I’d take it out for its first joyride. I pulled my Velcro straps a little tighter on my ballin Pocahontas sneakers, pushed my blonde afro out of my face, and sat down in my car. It immediately collapsed. Like completely. My six-year-old toosh sat in the ruins of not only my stellar car but also my damaged pride.

Life is kind of funny like that too. We make these grand plans for our lives and concoct an image of what our future will look like with high hopes that everything will go exactly as we plan. We stubbornly build this blueprint, and then eagerly take our first step into it. Immediately it collapses, and we are left sitting in the ruins of our “plan” and our pride. The problem is, usually that plan was built using wooden sticks and flimsy cardboard that seemed perfectly reasonable to our human minds. Little did we know, God was standing right behind us with sturdy materials in His hands and He was offering to show us how to build it.

I had a plan made of wooden sticks and cardboard. It wasn’t a bad plan at all, but it was MY plan. I would go to college and become a doctor, fall in love and get married, have about 30 kids, and live in Maine near my family for forever and ever, amen. Instead, I am a 24 year old nurse, I will probably become a nun before I get married, I don’t have children of my own, and I am about to move to the heart of Africa completely by myself for a period of time I am unsure of. For a second, I feel like I am the same six-year old sitting in the midst of my collapsed plan wondering what went wrong. But only for a second.

And then I realize that this is exactly where God wants me. He wants me sitting in the middle of my broken wooden sticks and cardboard, looking for a different plan - looking for His plan.

So here I am. I am a little over three months away from quitting my job, leaving my best friend Ivey in TN (she’s three and the absolute joy and angel of my life), and getting on a plane that will take me to my new home in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I will be the only American living there, I won’t be able to speak their language; and I really don’t have a perfectly concrete idea of what I will be doing. I am excited, but I’m also pretty terrified. When people ask me why I am going, the only explanation I can give them is that I believe that this is where God wants me. Strangely and ironically enough, there is something sturdier about this plan than my plan from before – perhaps it’s because it's His plan and not mine this time.

So What’s the New Plan?

Idjwi is an island on Lake Kivu right in between the DRC and Rwanda and is home to an organization called PROLASA. PROLASA which stands for PROgramme des LAics pour la SAnté, is a Congolese NGO or Non-Governmental Organization. It operates a Children's Village (orphanage that is divided into different orphan “families” with individual homes) in collaboration with International Children’s Care, two health centers, several schools, a mobile clinic program which trains community health workers and lay Bible workers and a growing program of community development. It is a 'supporting ministry' established by an awesome Congolese man with a very big heart named Desire. With the exception of the extensive involvement of Dr. Barry Wecker from his home in New Brunswick Canada, PROLASA is currently operated entirely by the Congolese. It is incredible to say the least.

The Seventh-day Adventist School
One of the odata:image/gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAPABAP///wAAACH5BAEKAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAICRAEAOw==rphan homes

The latest project that PROLASA is working on involves an unfathomably poor people group called the Pygmies. Sadly, they are viewed by most of the other Congolese as inferior and unintelligent. The Pygmies do not own their own land, and for this reason they are unable to grow their own food. They often resort to stealing others’ crops which has led to the murder and punishment of some of the Pygmies. Subsequently these people are dying from starvation if disease doesn’t claim them sooner. PROLASA is currently raising funds with a goal of $100,000 in order to purchase three large plots of land on Idjwi for them, and then begin teaching them agriculture.

Although, I will not be working directly for PROLASA, I will be working alongside them. The plan is to take in a few of the most at-risk children to live with me in order to nourish them and nurse them back to health. The next concurrent step will be to form a malnutrition prevention program where children’s weights are monitored, vaccines are administered, and families are provided nutritional education. As the Pygmies are granted access to food through PROLASA’s project and their own hard work, the opportunity to educate them on nutrition will be optimal.

A Pygmy woman and her baby
The Pygmies seeing a camera for the first time

Dr. Barry Wecker, a long-time family friend and member of my church back home in Maine, is helping me to form a direction. He is graciously allowing me and three or four children to live in the house that he owns on Idjwi, and he is working with Desire to identify the most at-risk children while also formulating the best way to set up this program. At this point, I am a bit overwhelmed. I feel absolutely unqualified to do this. It doesn’t feel particularly “comfortable”. But I am told that that’s often how God’s plan works.

I have my own brokenness, fears, imperfections, and shortcomings. Sometimes I feel that maybe someone else would do a better job at this. Maybe they would. But I am not responsible for what others do – I am only responsible for what I do, and I cannot sit back and watch the people that God loves die needlessly from a problem that maybe I could help prevent. So, yes, maybe I am not the most qualified, maybe this is not the safest route for me in life, maybe nothing will go as planned. Maybe. But I must do something; I must start somewhere. This is where I believe God wants me to start. Maybe, just maybe, I am not building with wooden sticks and cardboard anymore.

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