Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day two in Brazzaville

I can tell I'm going to start sounding like a broken record in this blog, as I go on and on about how wonderful and inspiring and generous everyone we've met is. Today, after a meeting, a woman approached me and asked if I wore earrings. I didn't have any in today, but said that I normally do- at which point she pressed the earrings she'd been wearing into my hand. Later, I saw her remove her necklace and tie it around Lari's neck. Giving is done so naturally here- she didn't ask if the earrings were my style, or if Lari could see herself wearing the necklace, or anything like that. She didn't second guess her gift, as we so often do in the US- spending days agonizing about the right christmas present to get for someone, worrying if our offers are appreciated or not. This must be why Christian Science seems so easily shared here- people are confident in their gift. They seem to give out of love, not out of a desire to seem generous, or out of a sense of obligation.

At times in the past, I've found myself wondering how Christian Science's message sounds to people in extreme situations- is saying "God is Love" really enough for someone who doesn't have enough to eat? But what this trip has really driven home for me is how extremely relevant Christian Science is here, and everywhere. Yes, people here may run into bigger problems than a lot of Church members in the United States or Europe. But bigger problems just make for bigger healings. Instead of healings of lost ipods or car keys, I've heard a young man talk about healing a woman of AIDS, and a woman share how prayer saved her and six other people during the civil war, when a group of soldiers had lined them up against a wall and were getting ready to shoot them. One of the branches we visited has services twice on Sundays, with a full house each time- and a member there asked us for advice on how to help his church grow. With the wonderful healing that is going on here, it would be impossible for them to stop their church from growing!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Day one in Brazzaville

Before going on this trip, I visited the Brookline Public Library to look for books on the Republic of Congo or Cameroon. I found the Africa section, and all the shelves- especially the part dedicated to the Congo- were full of books about war and scandal, atrocities and darkness. I realized how my job on the trip would be to bear witness to the other Congo, a place of light and love instead of the "Dark Heart of Africa." What I didn't realize was how incredibly easy this would be. It started with our first enthusiastic hugs from Angelique and her sister at the airport- it took at least five minutes of hugs and greetings before she took the time to find out which one of us was which. Since that moment, we have been envealoped with the most wonderful love and light. It has shown itself in the curious hands of Sunday School students examining my hair and asking if it is real, the plastic bag full of avocados given to us after a meeting by one of the members, and the hotel employee who began singing along to the hymn I hummed subconsciously. The healings that began both of our meetings have been so incredibly inspiring; the Christian Science movement is in very good hands here.

First Steps in Brazzaville- written 2.19.10

As our plane lands, over three hours late because of a delay in Paris, the passangers spontaneously break into applause. So many smiles- I've heard of Africa's smiles. We step out the door onto a staircase and I breathe the air. Africa smells like humidity mixed with smoke.

Over the Atlantic- written 2.18.10

The plane is asleep, and I look at the stars outside my window. They're not that different- not at all different- from the ones I would have seen last night if I had looked aout my window as I lay in my bed, thinking about what was to come. And tomorrow night, when I look out the window of my Brazzaville hotel and think about where I've ended up, then too I'll see stars. Maybe different constellations, but still stars.

There's something to that- something useful to remember. Something about me. The me that is comfortable and spontaneous and loving at home, the me that is loving or listens or laughs with my most trusted friends, the me that is overwhelmend at the beauty of a amountaintop, silently content and thanking God, that is the me that will look and listen and love in Brazzaville, in Nkayi, in Pointe Noire, in Dolisie. Because that me is me- the only me. And what I love in family and friends and mountaintops, that is what I will love in Sibiti and Yaounde and Douala. Because love is love is love.