African Unity DayJune 2, 2007 at 7:19 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
Hello loved ones,
It is with great delight that I tell you that I am writing this blog from home! I finally forked over the extra cash (the holding of which makes me a privileged visitor in this country) to get broadband connection at home. It’s a trip to have that inside my dwelling with poverty dwelling right outside; the new world of globalization.
Last week I added a page of my writings to the blog site. I invite you to read them as you have the inclination and time. I won’t repeat the short blurb at the top describing why I wrote them and posted them. I hope they will inspire you somehow and get your spiritual juices flowing.
One of the perks of my job is that we get Ghanian and American holidays, so over Memorial Day weekend I also had Friday off for African Unity Day. I seemed to remember the cathedral that I attend having Pepetual Adoration (the adoration of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist) on Fridays so I planned on praying for some hours there. It’s something I really miss and inspired some of my writings that I posted. I and many others have had rich, spiritual experiences in prayer at Perpetual Adoration so I was excited.
I turned on my housemate’s shortwave radio over breakfast to catch some BBC news (since I’ve been in a news-hole) and heard instead the dire story of a Congolese woman. Needing a break from the stories of persecution and torture I hear now at work, they proceeded to tell me how this woman had been kidapped from her village by Rwandan rebels, had seen each of her children killed, was forced to kill her youngest baby, was raped by a number of men and then had to dig her own grave. She was the only one to survive from a village of a couple hundred people. Why am I telling you this?
Time was moving forward so I made my way to church. Seeing no monstrance with Jesus inside I asked a fellow near me what was happening. He said mass was just starting. I had made it in time for mass! Now, when you’re subject to the whims of African city traffic, traffic lights out due to power outages and few masses in a day, it’s really hard to “just accidentally make it in time” for mass. I was tickled. As the mass began and the priest began talking about Africa Unity Day I suddenly realized why I was there. I was there for the Congolese woman. I was there to pray personally for her and to intercede for her suffering. I was there for the Africans who are yet to see unity in their country. Who live generation after generation suffering from conflict and division.
While others were absorbed in their daily routine, I was given a chance to pray for this woman and all those like her who just want to live a life of liberty and prosperity like the rest of us. And despite the hardships of life here and the intense adjustment I’ve had to go through, I felt instantly so proud to be here. Here in this poor, dirty place that many people wouldn’t dream of coming to. Here without constant running water, electricity and the other comforts of home. I was putting my life on the line for them. In the continent that goes so often ignored and forgotten I was wide awake and present, demanding to be counted. I was right where I was supposed to be. How often are you convinced of the same thing? Filled with a validating power that makes you slightly inebriated at the realization that you’re participating in something so holy and important.
I stayed there for a couple hours praying for her, for you and so many other things and people. I saw the simple and deep humility of my African brothers and sisters kneeling prostrate on the floor in front of the tabernacle in love of Jesus and filled with love, removed my shoes also to lay on this holy ground with my face to the floor in adoration.
The last thing I want to share before moving on to the fun facts section is something delightful that happened yesterday at work. One of the hardest things for me to deal with here is being in the spiritual minority. I may work for a Christian non-profit but that doesn’t really translate to much on the ground. Faith isn’t a criteria for being hired which can be good and bad. Letting it be known in even quiet, overly-respectful ways that I am a person of active faith has distinguished me from my coworkers and makes itself felt in the lack of inclusion I sometimes experience socially and at work with them. We’re on different wavelengths, baby. So I’ve prayed a lot about it knowing it’s happening for a reason but is frankly hard to deal with. Well! I waltzed in to work with my medals and crucifix around my neck for the first time and suddenly my Ghanian coworkers’ faces lit up and they asked if I was Christian. I said, “Yes! Of course.” And added my usual musical quip, “I’m a happy, Catholic convert”. They were so receptive and affirming of this. I cannot overemphasize with what love and enthusiasm they received this news. I was rather floored because it’s the exact opposite of my American colleagues’ opinions. This was the solidarity and communion I had been craving for so long and I found myself once again in awe of the spiritual maturity and intelligence of those from the third world, and the lack of it in those from the first. We spent our lunches sharing our conversion/faith stories and had perfect Christian communion disregarding our less important denominational differences.
This is an answer to prayer and it boosted my spirit so much! Thank you for your prayers! They are really working. This was a sweet experience and I’ll savor it for awhile to come. What a delightfully secret sort of knowledge it is to share this kind of love with others. The seeds of love that are planted in Christians’ hearts are like little fireflies in their souls. When you meet another of the same identity, this little light is activated and starts to blink off and on in some kind of mystical morse code, communicating messages of love between each others’ spirits, which starts a little avalanche of love that spills all around for others to vicariously experience.
I am no longer as alone as before.
1) The toilet paper we use at work is called “Angel Touch”. A better name would be “Devil Cardboard Scratch”. Still! After going without tp OFTEN in Zambia, I’m not complaining…
2) I find myself returning to childhood here in two ways: There are never any paper towels or napkins around and local food is often eaten without utensils so I’ve gotten pretty used to eating stew and such with my hands and then drying them on my pants or skirt after washing them.
3) I’m also getting accustomed to going without lights. I’ve caught myself not even turning them on when we do have power. You really get used to living in the dark. It’s kind of neat in a wierd way. It’s made me realize how artificially stimulating light is. It directly affects your psyche and can determine greatly the mood you’re in and what you decide to do with your time. If you need constant artificial entertainment and the lights go out, you’re left with yourself and what’s within you. If there’s nothing there, you’re in trouble.
4) We’re in the rainy season here and the weather has delightfully cooled off to being in the 70′s. The breezes that blow to cool you are so wonderful! I can’t describe what a delicious feeling it is to have breezes blow across your damp skin, giving you momentary relief from the constant heat. It feels just like God is reaching out and touching your temple in a loving and healing caress. Plus the thunderstorms are awesome! They crackle and rip across the sky leaving me with a huge, childlike grin on my face and an immediate sense of the closeness God’s great power. Oh, I love when that happens!
5) One of the annoying things about the culture here is that there is no queueing or “lining up”, for you Americans. People will step right in front of you in a grocery line at the store or anywhere else one would line up. In the mornings when I buy my breakfast of rice porridge or bread with processed cheese and jam on it – I’ll be the last one standing there out of a group of people after arriving first – if I don’t speak over others to ask for what I want. I’m often last. Sometimes North Americans get their dander up and say something. Sometimes they let it go.
6) Local food is purchased in amounts of currency. Until you learn what amount represents what sort of portion you look pretty uninformed. So you ask for “2000 or 3000 bread”, “4,000 rice and beans”, “3000 plantains” etc. The other day I went shopping at the Lebanese grocery store for expats and found Macaroni & Cheese for a dollar a box! I’m still excited about it and frankly must leave you now to eat some.
Please pray for Africa and for unity here. They need it and our world needs it. I’ve heard many people throw up their hands at this continent, insulting its people as war-mongering, ignorant and immoral. Yet the strength of faith, intelligence and abundance of kindness in those I work with easily competes with and trumps that of Americans and Europeans that I’ve met. They inspire me with their open faith that doesn’t back down in the face of social pressure.
In the good fight,
your sister soldier,