Congo Journal 10

You Can’t Outrun What’s Inside You

When I first met Belinda Bauman I was shocked to learn that for eight years she and her husband had lived and served aboard a Mercy Ship and traveled the globe offering medical care to people who had no other medical option. I’d toured the Mercy Ship and knew it was the opposite of a luxury liner. It was a patched up old ship with a mission that demanded hard work and offered little in the way of perks. But Belinda isn’t after perks. It’s obvious that for her, a life worth living is one that puts her where the needs are greatest. I wasn’t surprised when Belinda was one of the first to join the Ten for Congo team.  

Guest Post: Belinda Bauman

"Mommy, you have to go!"

Hugging our knees to our chests, we settled into a profound conversation. I was telling Joshua, age 12, and Caleb, age 10, about the Democratic Republic of Congo.

My husband, Stephan, and I had never sheltered our two sons from suffering. I told them how more than 5 million people have died from a largely unnoticed war; how greed for minerals led to the slave labor of children, many digging in mines for hours until the skin on their fingers rubbed off; how boys and girls are stolen from their families and forced to become child soldiers; how rape is a cheaper weapon of war than bullets.

My kids were right: it was right for me to go to the Congo. In my soul it felt weighty and important that I go—for me, for my children, for the Congo.

Some years ago, when living in Rwanda, I learned a Congolese proverb: You can outrun what chases you, but not what is inside of you. Congo chases me—images of children, women, soldiers in camouflage with guns.

I could, I suppose, outrun those images, but there is something inside me that I cannot outrun.  What is it?  It sparked tears when I looked at Sarah Carter's beautiful images of women, anger when I read Lynne's statistics, and hope when I learned of World Relief's agriculture program to help people overcome hunger.

When I lived in Rwanda, I asked God to help me feel the pain of my sisters who were searching for hope after the 1994 genocide. Today I ask God to produce in me empathy for the Congolese. How do I let myself feel the fact that 9 out of 10 women I’ll meet in the Congo have been raped?  How do I see beyond the sad eyes of a child soldier and feel the horror of his life?  How do I touch, for just a moment, the cold, numb hatred of a rebel soldier who kills and maims and rapes for minerals?

I want to glimpse Congo's pain and feel its sorrow.  But as I feel its sorrow, I want to experience its joy, too.  I want to touch its hope.

Jesus calls us to slip on the shoes of another and walk in them for a while, to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  This is empathy—this willingness to see and feel another's perspective.  But empathy requires more than just thinking and feeling; it demands that we do something in order to fully understand.  Jesus made this clear:  “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”   I want to feel the Congo, but I want to do something too.
 
For me, Congo is a gift, an opportunity to think and feel the pain and joy of another's life. To do the golden rule, not just say it.  Congo is my teacher, my partner, my fellow traveler. With God's help, I will walk in her shoes, then I will tell her story so the world pays attention. With God's help, I will not give up until she can hope again.
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Belinda Bauman is a teacher who makes her home in Baltimore, Maryland, with her husband, Stephan, and their two boys, Joshua and Caleb. She is currently writing a series of children's books using empathy as a means to awaken a new generation to issues of injustice.

Photo Credit: Benjamin Edwards at http://www.benjaminedwardsphotography.com/