Things here seem to be triple in size. The massive loads of charcoal that I have seen on the backs of the women in Congo seem to be three times the size of other places in Africa. But it’s more than that. They don’t just carry them around on their backs or on top of their heads. They are carried by a single strip of cloth around their forehead. Hard to describe.
I passed a little girl a few days ago with around 25 empty Jerry Cans surrounding her little body. They were tied around her waist, around her head, and hanging from her arms. On the way “home” today I saw a man on the back of a bike balancing two mattresses on his head. That doesn’t even include the slaughtered cow that we see practically every morning being pushed on a bike up the hill. Part of that is just Africa. Yet it’s more than that, but hard to describe. There is a feeling here of total lack of boundaries. Loss of the line. It is as if the people of Congo know nothing except pushing through. The size of the load they can carry stops only when they can’t walk any longer.
The point where they stop fighting to live ceases when they die.
This place has been deemed one of the worst places to exist – yet the suicide rate is one of the lowest in the world.Dying is what they fight AGAINST. Why would they do it voluntarily?
I have understood this before, but yesterday it seemed to hit me at a deeper level. I realized -- It’s the size. A country the size of Western Europe holds the greatest size of wealth of minerals per capita surrounding one of the highest percentages of rapes and child soldiers. It’s massive in every way.
The lack of structure, the chaotic feel, the darkness. As you drive down the roads that are caked in lava rock, you notice that they are as broken as the people. But they are not broken. Not really. Although, I don’t know if you would be able to tell it by the size of the burden stones the girls chose for our final expressive therapy session with them yesterday.
We asked each girl to get a stone and carry it back inside the room. The stones represent the burdens of their life – the pain, the anger, the unforgiveness. These girls ….. These girls have burdens. But they also have joy. We talked about how heavy it is to carry around our burdens, and how wonderful it is to release them. We talked about the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. How they grieved before the Lord. How the Volcanic Rock Wall surrounding the center reminded me of the wall. We chose a secluded space at the Dina Center where the girls could go and lay down their burdens.
There are over 100 girls. Almost all are victims of sexual violence. Ranging from ages 3 – 17. Washing the tiny feet yesterday made it real for all of us.
I have done this before. Many times, actually. But never have I seen children grab stones of this size. Never. I was taken back, actually. They weren’t even stones, they seemed like small boulders! They all could have chosen small stones. Small stones are all over the place. But they didn’t. They chose Giant Stones. They matched the size of their country and the size of the corrupted wealth and the size of the volcano and the size of the violence and they size of their heartaches and the size of their strength.
So we took our stones, and we prayed, and we walked to the lay them down before the Lord - One. At. A. Time. Giant stones in Tiny Hands. And then ...
They Sang. Before we left, I looked down to see a little girl who three days ago was withdrawn and empty. She was smiling as she watched they boys sing and play the drum. But it wasn’t just any smile.
It was Giant : )