Our U.S. Team is on the ground in Goma, Congo, this week launching an initiative to help 69 orphans heal from the emotional and spiritual wounds of violence, poverty, war, and abandonment. We thought this update from Bill Sullivan, our U.S. Director of Common Ground, offered an amazing glimpse into what it’s like to walk alongside these kids. We leave the hard work of facilitating a discussion about healing to men and women who are local to the community and trained to guide such delicate material. Our role is to help these kids have fun and let loose during some much-needed play time (kind of like a VBS, only sandwiched in-between some intense conversation and reflection). Of course, as you’ll read, the two bleed together for quite the impact on the kids, and on us.
Here goes my update for the day… First, I am super tired, and I know I’m not alone; everyone is. The voice is a little hoarse, too; we’ve been singing goofy songs, dancing, running relays, playing blob tag and big shark/little shark, and we broke out the soccer balls today as well. If you don’t know what half of what I mentioned means, you’re not alone; I didn’t know it either until today and yesterday. Luckily the rest of the team members are veteran VBS crew leaders, so they can pick up a little of my slack. In any event, no matter what we are doing, I’ve usually got two or more grinning kids holding each of my hands as we run full blast across the compound trying not to get bit by a big shark. Tammy said she hasn’t seen me smiling this big in a while, and I’m not sure that she’s wrong.
I’m not sure how to describe what I’m feeling… I simply can’t help but smile when I am with a bunch of kids that genuinely want to grab your hand and not let go. At the same time, their stories are so… unexpected? shocking? sad? precious? Each one is different and yet there are so many similarities. Of the six kids that are in my group, not one still has a father…
The activities today… One of the first activities was to describe, draw, and discuss the first good thing you can remember. I can’t even begin to explain some of the things that came out of this; eye opening is about the best way I can describe it. I think this session was more visibly traumatic than describing the worst thing; likely because those things are buried nice and deep with plenty of safe guards surrounding them… And the good things… well, you just don’t expect the good things, the best things, to be so… bad.
We wrote a lament letter. Have you ever done this? Written a letter to God telling Him exactly how you feel about His seeming lack of action or complacency about your situation? The kids were given the example of Psalm 13:
"How long, O Lord? Will you forget about me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death, and my enemy will say, ‘I have overcome him,' and my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (NASB).
Every single one of the kids in my group took this seriously (as did I) and filled a complete page in their workbook with their cries to God. Then they came back and shared with the group. Sobering.
Good day though.