Consolation and Protest
My all-time favorite conference is The Justice Conference. In 2011, as a “charter member” of The Justice Conference teaching team, I spoke in Bend, Oregon about “nice girls and dangerous women” and interviewed Matt Soerens and Jenny Hwang about immigration reform. At The Justice Conference 2012 I joined Tomas Perez in challenging men to engage in the fight against sex trafficking, and had the honor of interviewing Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief.
In order to get to know Stephan and to shape interview questions, I enjoyed a lengthy late-night conversation with him and his wife, Belinda. I didn’t know that conversation and the interview that grew out of it would lead to a lasting friendship, to my second trip to Congo, and to the birth of Ten for Congo. Yes, Stephan’s wife is that Belinda—my Belinda, my Ten for Congo teammate.
Stephan recently traveled to Goma, Congo, and of course, every member of Ten has been pestering him for updates. Here’s a brief excerpt from an email we just received from Stephan. You who prayed for us as we traveled, and continue to pray for our friends in Congo, will find a renewed call to prayer in this most recent update from the Kivu region of Eastern Congo.
Greetings Lynne, Belinda, Christine, Lili, Sherri, Marianne, and Erin,
Thank you for your notes and, more importantly, your ever-relentless pursuit of the Congo. You inspire me. I spent the day before last in Goma with Charles, Marcel and others, including Dr. Monique. At the present, Rutshuru and surrounding areas remain inaccessible. Still, we shouldn’t assume your friends there are in danger. We just aren’t able to communicate. We’re hoping to have more information by next weekend.
As for your visit, in all my years I’ve never seen the impact of a team like yours. The regional World Relief Director said, “These women just wept and wept and wept. With their tears, they healed.”
Some of you may follow Jurgan Moltmann, Miroslov Volf’s mentor. In one of his books, he says, “Christ is not only a consolation in suffering but also a protest against it.” Through the cross, Jesus consoles suffering; through his resurrection, he protests against it. You have joined Congo’s suffering through your lament and you protest against it through your activism. Thank you for following the resurrected Jesus into the Congolese bush.
I wrote the following words in the early days after the earthquake in Haiti. I’ve adapted them for you below—just a simple prayer, a lament that begs for resurrection for the Congo:
Lay Your gentle head
Upon this Kivu bosom
And kiss the quivering lip
I find prayer most effective when it is most affective, that is, when our emotions are wrung dry while ruthlessly gripping hope. Thank you for showing us how to do that these past few months.
Stephan J. Bauman
President & CEO
When I interviewed Stephan at the Justice Conference I revealed—with his permission—his secret life as a poet. As a means of processing the suffering he sees throughout the world, Stephan shapes words into anguished but beautiful poems and prayers—as you’ve seen in the email above. You can read more of Stephan’s global poetry at www.underthemango.com.