It is a warm evening in Gemena, Democratic Republic of the Congo where I am doing some site visits to make sure that our livelihoods projects are doing well. We visited 15 families so far and, in each case, I am incredibly encouraged and happy by what I see – families eating well because of their gardens and animals. Children no longer going to the clinic and not needing medicine for water borne illnesses because they now are using water filters and their bellies no longer hurt. And just as exciting – we are told over and over again of children attending school because school fees were paid through the sale of extra vegetables from family gardens, as well as through the sales of the corn, beans and peanuts each family grows and harvests.
I sit outside the guesthouse watching the sun slowly change from yellow to pink to orange. I chat with Naomi, who is here taking photographs for AFCA so we can share our story with others. While she is busy exclaiming over the beauty of the sky, I breathe deeply, inhaling the smell that takes me back to my childhood, to a country far away in South America, where the earth is just as red and the land is just as green as this one. Out of the corner of my eye, I see two little girls moving shyly towards us, coming over to visit the Americans who had come to their town. We share names with each other and solemnly shake hands. I greet them in French and English and neither one registers with them, as they haven’t started learning French yet.
So, we compromise. I ask them if they will teach me Lingala. They don’t understand me but giggle as I talk to them. I see a dog in the horizon and point to it and one of them, the older one, tells me the word in Lingala and they both hold their bellies in laughter and clap when I say it back to them. Soon, I start acting out various animals and they scream out the name in their native language, always laughing out loud when I repeat it back. I giggle with them when they repeat the English word back to me and the evening passes as we share language, laughs, and joy.
Behind us, down the slight hill, a group of people sing into the dusk, such beautiful music that it almost takes my breath away. My spirit was full this evening and I feel the peace that has been missing for a long time.