February 19th is the seventh anniversary of when we left the U.S. to move to DR Congo. In 2010, we landed in Kananga, a place we had never been, where we did not yet know anyone, and where we did not speak any of the local language. It took awhile, but Kananga became home, a place with friends, colleagues, our work, our routines, and where we finally felt comfortable with the language. Just this week we learned that we will not be able to return to Kananga to live and work. We grieve over this unexpected change of plans, but are at peace because it has become clear that it is the right decision. Before we look forward to whatever God wants to take us next, we celebrate some of our favorite thing about life in Kananga (in random order).
1. Eagerness and excitement evident on people’s faces when they could buy their own Bible.
2. Immediate, generous hospitality that we received again and again in people’s homes, whether our arrival was anticipated or not.
3. The faith and talent of our drivers on long trips, who would navigate through deep mud or precipitous holes, where I was sure the vehicle would tip over or get stuck.
4. Exuberance and pure joy on the faces of the children in the Ditekemena program, feeling loved and safe and valued.
5. Sunsets with rich colors and the outlines of palm trees.
6. Some of our friends who would show up at our door at random times, and say something like “I haven’t seen you for a few days. I had to come see how you were doing!”
7. Mangoes coming into season in November, and using them as many ways as we could – mango jam, mango cobbler, mangoes chutney, mangoes.
8. The palpable sense of God’s presence during the cross workshop portion of the healing and reconciliation seminar as people gave their pain to Christ and found freedom and forgiveness through the cross.
9. Making pancakes over the charcoal fire on our balcony on Saturday mornings. True comfort food!
10. Navigating the steep narrow paths down into the valleys where some of the poorest people live, often for a cell group meeting or to visit someone – lush vegetation but also plenty of mosquitos there!
11. Seeing the women in the savings groups showing the discipline to bring their savings and work together to make decisions, support each other, and resolve issues.
12. The satisfaction on people’s faces and sense of connection when a stranger learned that we lived in Kananga and spoke Tshiluba, and immediately started quizzing us on which local foods we eat “Do you eat bidia? And matamba? And buse? What did you eat yesterday?”
I could keep going – there are so many things we are grateful for during our time in Kananga. Of course, as with any place, there are also things we will NOT miss, but for now we celebrate the positives.