two weeks in the congo

Reflections from my recent trip to the DRC to start a new Lifewater project. 

My time in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reminded me of Benin, of a time in life when I spent my summers in a small village in the bush doing water research and living a rather simple life. The places themselves were quite different, as was my work, and my companions. But, at its core, there was something so oddly and wonderfully familiar, something that made me smile over and over again.

congo flower

congo soccer

Maybe it had something to do with pulling my very rough, very ‘bush’ French out of the drawer it had been stored in. Or maybe it was the sounds of the bush at night that were louder than any sound maker you would put in your room. Or maybe it was food that was new, but the spices familiar. Or maybe it was the people, a character about them that brought to mind old conversations. Or maybe it was the red dirt roads lacking motorized vehicle traffic. Or maybe it was the cloth that was full of colors. Or maybe it was bathing out of a bucket (though, sadly, not under the stars). Whatever it was, it was familiar.

congo sunset

congo fabric

This was a wonderful trip of beginning new and exciting work in a new place that had a little taste of home. Stay tuned in the months to come to hear more about this program. We are designing rain tanks and latrines for primary schools that have neither, and we will have to build a classroom for the rain tanks because the wood and mud rooms with thatch roofs that currently exist will not work. It is so exciting to be working in a new place, one where people are eager to join hands to solve their own problems. A place that is remote enough that you do not see other NGOs. It demands imagination and persistence, and those are available to us. One step at a time, we will work together and change the WASH situation and change the health of the children in this place that is new but feels so familiar to me.

congo school

congo toilet

A little bonus for me: traveling in fun, little planes.

congo plane

belovedness: a foundation for my work

I wrote this for staff at Lifewater who I am honored to serve alongside of, and I thought you might enjoy this as well.

Quite often out of an intimate encounter with God encounters with other human beings become possible…If you are the beloved of God, if you start thinking about other people’s lives, you start realizing that they are as beloved as you are. One of the profound experiences of the spiritual life is that when you discover yourself as being the beloved son or daughter of God, you suddenly have new eyes to see the belovedness of other people. 

It is very interesting because it is the opposite of what happens in the world when they say you are very special, that means you are not the same as the rest. If you win an award and they say you are different than others, then that award is valuable because not everybody gets that award. The world is saying that you are only the best when not everybody else is the best. 

~Henri J.M. Nouwen, “Discovering our gift through service to others,” a speech given to members of Fadica, 1994 as quoted in Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Henri J.M. Nouwen. Liguori: Liguori Publications, 2004. pg 42

I love these words by Nouwen and they make me pause to think about the work that we are called to. At times I am caught up by the urgency of our work and of the demands of the many different things that we balance. There are partner needs, fundraising needs, field trainer needs. There are the needs in the office and outside of the office. The industry is changing and growing. We want to be innovating and improving both the industry and our work — we want our voices to be heard. There are budgets and numbers and proposals and reports. We put in hours to make better programs and find more dollars to fund the programs. Each and every thing is important in its own right.

But, in the moment I pause, I am reminded that not one of these things is as important as our foundation and the perspective that we bring to our work. Our foundation is in Christ and His view of both us and all of humankind. He calls us His beloved. We are truly loved by God — not because of anything that we have done, simply because we are. As I pause to take that in, my heart lets out a sigh as it is filled with goodness. I am the beloved of Christ. When I sit in this, it truly fills me and I want to invite other people into this goodness and I want this to be the foundation of my relationship with others. I want this deep love to flow from me to others, that others would know of Christ’s goodness through my interaction with them.

Yes, I want us to do great work, build great systems, and I want our work to be known. But, at the foundation of everything, I want everyone to know that God loves them because of how we choose to care for them and express this through our actions. Yes, I want the young girl in a village to have water. But, what I really want, is for her to know that she is the beloved of Christ – that she is worthy of that love and the dignity that comes with it. I want us to be known by this deep love wherever we go — in our offices and in the field. Let’s do great things, but may it always be on this foundation. In this season and always, may our hearts know that we are the beloved of Christ that we may, in turn, see everyone from our officemates to the village mamas to the new born children as the beloved of Christ. May this be the foundation of our work.

Merry Christmas.

a christmas gift alternative & homemade thank-you’s

Everywhere I turn I am reminded that Black Friday is days away. Take a minute and think about doing something different this year – something that does not require early wake-ups, crazy crowds, or lots of decision making. For those of you that love shopping, think about the lasting impact this gift could make – these colors will never go out of style.

This year help get rid of water borne diseases in communities through water and sanitation development. It’s simple: buy a full item or a share (of something cool like a well or a latrine or a tank of fuel), a t-shirt, or simply donate a few dollars for yourself or as a gift for someone else. Go HERE on the Lifewater website to read more about the options of how you could help.

Make This Christmas Count from Lifewater International on Vimeo.

 

Here is my extra little deal for you: If you let me know that you bought an item or donated between now and Christmas (by posting a comment or sending me an email), I will send you and the person you bought the gift for a thank you note on one of my (personally) homemade Christmas cards. Just a little thank you from me — I truly know the difference this work makes, and I would love for you to join in this story with me.

being thankful & learning new rhythms

It has been a few months since I wrote here, and even longer since it was a regular habit. For me, that is what happens sometimes when life gets tossed upside down. In the last six months life took several turns that I did not anticipate: I took a job months earlier than I intended to, moved to California, added Asia to my work travel schedule, bought a condo, and am in the midst of a small remodel. Pause and take a deep breath: the nomad, who two years ago downsized and moved to Africa, then moved back and was preparing for months of travel, photography, cooking, exploring and seeing friends, instead took a job and bought a house (and has done very little photography, cooking, or seeing of old friends). These twists and turns were both unanticipated and beautiful; I am thankful for this journey.

ethiopia well-1937

I feel like when you accept a job, you step into the unknown. It does not matter how much research you have done, how many conversations you have had, or how many details you  have worked out – it is an unknown. There are hopes and dreams and you want to pretend that you know what you are stepping into, but it will be different than you anticipate. The hope is that it will be better in its own way, but it is the gamble taken. I have just completed six months at my job — and I am thankful to say that it is has been better than I hoped for and I am excited about the future. There is so much work to do, so many lives to impact, but I am in a place where I can work and can grow, I am with a team that is strong. We are far from perfect, but  we embrace the challenges and believe in excellence. Trust me, you will be hearing more about my journey at Lifewater and the lives we impact. It is good and I hope you join me in the work we are doing. I am thankful for this work.

stove-1616

Then there is the condo. There is a part of me that never wanted to make such a purchase and a commitment to upkeep of a property, but then there was another part of me that wanted a place that was my home – my own place of peace that I could share with others. Well, I am in the midst of creating the latter: my very own place of peace. When you buy a 1979 condo that had never been updated and had downsized your possessions (or left them trailed behind you in other countries), this is a not small labor of love, but a worthy one. I am thankful for this home.

pamthenomad

This is where I find myself: on a most unexpected adventure, but thankful it is where I am. My world has been flipping around, and I am starting to find my new normal, and for that I am thankful as well. I can honestly say that I am excited by where I am and what I am doing. I am excited by this challenge and this journey, and I look forward to sharing more of it with you as I settle into the new rhythms of my life.