It is hard to believe I've been back in the United States for a little over a week now. It seems that a blog post is long overdue! That first week back was a crazy one: I was really sick the first two days I was home, followed by a few hectic days of packing and moving. I was SO blessed by friends who helped us move, let us borrow trucks and hand trucks, took care of our kids one day, and made us dinners! Thank you! Now we are starting to settle back into life and have had a couple days of just being a family again. The kids and I have been spending lots of time with Legos, Playdough, and books.
Now, I imagine that anyone who might be reading this is interested in hearing about my trip to DR Congo. What to say? What do I write about such an experience? I haven't quite figured that out yet. The total length of my trip was 14 days. It took 2 days to get there, and 2 days to get back. One day was spent in an exhausted, travel-weary stupor. That leaves 9 days worth of events that I should have lots to write about.
We spent 2 days at Kaziba orphanage with all the sweet little ones. They currently have about 30 kids there, all under 6 years old. We were able to spend lots of time holding the babies and playing with the little kids. We provided some basic training for the "mamas" at the orphanage: dental care, health and nutrition, and ways to interact with all the children to help their development. We were also able to donate cloth diapers and plastic diaper covers, formula, toothbrushes, toys, crib toys, and a Bumbo seat. We also gave a contribution to help build a wall around the orphanage that will help to keep the kids much safer.
It was hard to be there face to face with the reality of the kids' lives, and even harder to leave. The staff at the orphanage work so hard and truly care about the kids, but their tasks are enormous and make it very challenging to provide the kids with all the love and attention they need. I was torn between giving a few kids lots of time and attention, or treating them assembly line style and allotting each child a ten minute slot before moving on to the next child. To be honest, I did some of both. And I found that I could fit 3 kids at a time on my lap!
We spent one day visiting Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. This is a well known hospital for treating women who are the victims of sexual violence. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a recent Nobel Peace Prize nominee, spent half an hour talking to us about his work at the hospital, what he has witnessed in Congo, and his opinions about what needs to happen in Congo. That conversation warrants its own post (a topic for another day). We then toured the hospital wards of women recovering from surgery and those awaiting surgery. With tears in my eyes, I smiled and shook hands with many beautiful, strong, and heartbroken women.
Another day we were able to go to a small church and meet dozens of orphaned children who are in an unofficial foster care program organized by Mama Dorcas (the pastor's wife). Hundreds of Congolese people donate what they can, most often the equivalent of 50 cents per month, to help provide some food (2 or 3 meals a week) and school fees if possible for the kids in the program. The children and volunteers sang some songs for us, Mama Dorcas told us a little more about the program, and then they fed the children from a large pot of maize porridge. Many of the kids walk for miles to receive this simple meal.
This is a brief overview of a few of my days in the Congo. I'll try to add more as I have time to process. And eventually I'll take the time to figure out how to add pictures = )
Mostly I am reflecting on the amazing blessings in my life that are often so easy to take for granted, and wondering exactly how I am to best use these blessings to impact our hurting world. I am so thankful for my husband, my kids, our health, safe drinking water, electricity, great roads, education, my home, my country, safety, etc, etc, etc.