To be honest, I’ve been struggling with cynicism recently. We both have struggled with it at times, and feel that a country like Congo gives plenty of grounds for cynical thinking…but it is a struggle none-the-less.
One Congolese friend recently lamented that it seems that often a project or task does not get completed here unless there is persistent follow up. Our colleagues have sometimes expressed a desire for something to happen, but then in the midst of the project it feels like people fail to show up for meetings or complete what they’ve said they will do. Failures to be honest or forthright by some cause me to mistrust the people around us.
As the parliament contemplates extending or eliminating term limits for the president, I find myself losing hope for change along with many other Congolese. The deplorable roads that cause hardship for all levels of society and the lack of infrastructure that discourages economic growth all contribute to a sense that any efforts at improvements will be thwarted. Several of our friends in Congo have lamented the lack of justice that seems pervasive in the government. One sad reality is that the poor here are often the victims of theft…thieves break into houses where there is a dirt floor they can dig through, not the big houses with a guard or a high metal fence. Alice, one of the caregivers at the Ditekemena kids’ program returned home last week to find a woman in her house who had packed up all the clothes into a big bundle and was just about to take off with it.
One morning this week we happened to be standing outside our office when the nearby primary school let out. Several kids came and started asking for money. When we politely said no, they started chanting “l’argent! l’argent!” (money! money!), which of course drew more kids and more noise and felt like a near riotous mob to us in the middle of it. The blatant and indiscriminate asking here often feels rude and annoying.
I vent about these examples simply to share some of our internal struggle. Maybe some of these things resonate with you or sound familiar – I know Congo is not the only place with frustrations! One day recently while I was feeling especially frustrated and cynical, Bob wisely commented that if we give in to the cynicism, we have lost the battle. Our challenge is to be a voice of hope and the fragrance of Jesus in the midst of an environment that feels on the surface like it is a lost cause. We consistently pray that God would give us His eyes and His heart in the midst of the challenges. As I have prayed, God frequently reminds me of the things to be thankful for…as I recount those blessings and give thanks, I find the cynicism dissipating and God giving strength to carry on. Yes, it is hard to see injustice, poverty, and sin around us. But we serve a loving and victorious God, who IS calling, transforming, and empowering people to be His ambassadors. We can rejoice, and give thanks!
“Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice! Let you gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7)