Congo Journal 14

Vintage Mom

Guest Post: Shauna Niequist

My mom started taking trips to Africa about fifteen years ago. She went to South Africa and Zambia.  Ten years ago, she took my brother and I to Nairobi and the Ugandan bush. She went to Africa year after year. She built relationships, wrote articles, told stories.

Fifteen years later, Africa doesn’t seem as far away as it did then. Lots of our friends and dozens of students from our church have been to Capetown. More friends have supported the work of the African Children’s Choir or the One Campaign, and it seems like everyone I know is reading Nick Kristof’s amazing book Half The Sky. I have no less than half a dozen friends who have adopted children from Ethiopia, and several friends who have lived in and served in South Africa.

Africa isn’t as foreign to the American consciousness as it used to be, for the most part. But read even a little, or talk with development experts for even a few minutes, and you’ll understand very quickly that Congo is a different category entirely.

There’s Africa, and then there’s Congo. Congo is known as the rape capital of the world.  A recent study says that over a thousand woman a day are raped in DRC. BBC calls Congo “the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman.” Congo is referred to by some as “the gaping wound of the world.”

So some American Christians are going to Africa. But who in their right mind would go to Congo? My mom. My mom has and will and is there right now. This is, as we say in our family, Vintage Mom.

If you know my mom, you know that she’s an introvert, a contemplative, a naturalist, a poet. She prefers silence and simplicity to jet-setting and hand-shaking.  She hates the mall, she hates traveling, she hates logistics and errand-running. She could live on an island, or a hundred years ago.

But year after year, every time she gets the call, she boards planes for the most dangerous, darkest places on earth. She’s a homebody times a thousand, and I can’t drag her to Target, but she’ll take four flights and a bumpy van ride to hear a woman’s story in Goma.  This is Vintage Mom.

my mom, with my son mac

Most daughters want to be like their moms, in some ways at least. I want to be like my mom in a million ways. And at the top of that list is her fearless, selfless commitment to the world’s needs. This is Vintage Mom.

While she’s gone, we pray for her every day. This isn’t the right season for me to travel the way she’s traveling. When our boys are a little older, I’ll travel with her again. I look forward to teaching my kids what my mom taught my brother and I: that moms don’t always have to be home to teach their children. Sometimes, in fact, their temporary absences instruct us all the more, and remind us of the very important reality that there is a world that needs fearless women who are willing to get on planes and get dirty and get educated and get neck deep in the mess and beauty of a broken world.

In the meantime, our family supports several great organizations, World Relief among them. Join us in supporting their fantastic global work here.