A few weeks ago Kristi wrote a blog post about some friends of ours who lost two children within one month. Tshituka, their two-year old daughter, died only weeks after Mamu Vicky gave birth to their son. Their son died right after delivery; doctors told them that their son died due to malaria.
But why did Tshituka die? When a calamity happens in the Kasai of Congo, the important question is generally not “how” but “who.” Their worldview is one of cause and affect. In my western mindset, Tshituka probably died because her body was weak from malaria. Being young, malnourished and already sick, her fragile body could not handle their long trek to the village. Is my hypothesis correct? Well, yes…according to me.
Others have different notions. Mulami Simon’s son Victor tells us the reason Tshituka died. He says that Mamu Vicky’s older brother caused Tshituka to die because Mulumi Simon hadn’t helped him buy a goat for the dowry he needed. Mamu Mbuyi of Kananga 1 parish has another idea. She says that Tshituka died because Mulami Simon took some things from the church when he stopped worshipping there.
Who is right? I don’t know. What I do know is that it is easy for me to quickly pass off such notions. In doing so, however, I miss a learning opportunity. I miss out on understanding how relationships work here, and the tension people face when death and disease come knocking. Please note that this cause/effect way of seeing things is not limited to Kasaians. In the Old Testament, Job’s friends assumed that Job must have done something wrong to deserve such gross affliction. Of course they were wrong, but his afflictions were caused by someone. In the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples believed that a man born blind was suffering either because of his sins or the sins of his parents. Jesus, in reply, says neither. Jesus says the man was born blind so that “the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9). In each of these cases, there is the notion of cause and affect. Even Jesus seems to acknowledge this principle.
It is possible and probable that Tshituka died because of malnutrition and sickness exacerbated by their journey to the village. However, I find it important to listen to the perspective of Kasaians. In ministering to and caring for our brothers and sisters here, it is important to know what they think and how they feel. It is important to know what they value and how they see the world around them. Tshituka died, and that is a tragic reality. When Mulumi Simon and Mamu Vicky return from the village we will sit with them and grieve. Whatever reason they give for her death will be sufficient. Our role is to love them, to stand with them, and to pray for them. As people of faith, we believe that despite this awful tragedy, the work of God has been and can be displayed in Tshituka’s life.