The day after Thanksgiving we received a text message that changed the trajectory of our current life situation and altered the plans made and later confirmed when we left Congo in early 2016. A few days after receiving the fateful text message, a Skype call confirmed this reality. We are not returning to Congo this month as planned. In short, due to the continued political trials faced by the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, coupled with an ongoing church conflict which has lasted four years and longer, our mission leaders have been advised by our partner church, the Congolese Presbyterian Community, that Kristi and I and another colleague should not return to Congo until a more favorable time. When that “favorable time” pokes its head from the clouds of the current political and ecclesiastical impasse remains anyone’s guess. It could be two months, it could be twelve. It could be indefinite.
So what does one do under such circumstances? Well the answer is obvious, go to Disney World! Kristi and a friend will travel to Orlando at the end of the month to celebrate a landmark birthday which they share. One also takes time to celebrate “hygge” (hoo-guh), a Danish term defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” This term made the short list of finalists in 2016 for “word of the year” by the Oxford Dictionary (see New Yorker article). We plan to practice “’hygge’ today, making a fire in the hearth and reading books of inspiration while sipping wonderful teas like Breakfast in Paris and Blueberry Hibiscus. One also chooses to leave the bitter cold and wind, the snow and frozen ice of Central Illinois for Southern California, where we will spend the month of February and some of March. One also enjoys winter sports, as Bob plans to ski or snowshoe with friends in the Sierras or Pacific Northwest. Of course, our time of being and waiting will include more than fun activity. We will find a few work projects, read books that have long been waiting in the wings, do research on church and culture in Africa, and find creative and therapeutic outlets which bring healing and nourishment to our souls.
So, why does God allow periods like this one to surprise attack us? Well, for one, it feels to us like a “holy disruption.” For months now, the scripture passage from Isaiah has come to mind -
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43: 18 – 19)
Whatever happens in the end, it feels to us like God seeks to do a new thing, to spring forth fresh and new ways of being and doing ministry. As you can imagine, in many ways our hearts are still in Congo. We wait on pins and needles to receive more information from our church partner. During this season of “living in limbo”, we seek to simply “be,” waiting reverently and actively. Please pray with us, that the road becomes less murky and foggy, and that we will embrace the current fog and make the most of it.
With love, Bob and Kristi