What? You Want Me to Go to Congo?
One of my greatest joys is to discover and encourage what I call "dangerous women"—women who know they're loved by God, embrace their God-given uniqueness, refuse to let fear stop them, and engage deeply with the needs of the world. I am convinced that women like that are the greatest untapped resource in the world. Unfortunately, most of us don't realize how dangerous we are until somebody tells us. That's why I'm so excited for you to read Sherri's story...
Sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint your passion—it was for me. But looking back now, it all seems clear.
Since I was a little girl, the thought of war deeply disturbed me. Other than the required history class in school, I “avoided” anything to do with war. Popular war films? Never saw them. Television shows? I didn’t stay in the room. Magazine articles? I quickly turned the page. War was upsetting in a traumatizing way.
But one day I decided that if others have to experience war first-hand, then I could at least watch a movie. So I started with Black Hawk Down. If you’ve seen the movie, you know it is incredibly intense and probably not a great place to start. I watched it one evening and was so shaken I couldn’t sleep that night. But it was a start, and I was committed to learning more. Over time, it became easier to engage and I watched films based about World War II and Vietnam, and read books about child soldiers in Sierra Leone and the Lost Boys in Sudan. I read articles online and watched as many films as came across my path.
Six years ago, I had the opportunity to see the devastation of war up close when I visited Bosnia for the first time. Although the conflict had ended ten years prior, the damage to buildings and the landscape remained—homes and sidewalks lacerated with mortar damage, roped-off land waiting to be de-mined, large sections of the Olympic Village reduced to rubble.
“Danger – Mines” sign in Bosnian minefield. Ten years post-war, Bosnians were still being killed by some of the hundreds of thousands of mines throughout the country.
allowed Bosnians to escape the city by traveling under the
runway. The tunnel ended under this woman’s home,
which made it a target for Serb shelling.
But the thing that impacted me most was meeting the Bosnian people and hearing their stories. I saw in their eyes the pain and suffering that people in war experience. Even when U.S. soldiers are fighting overseas, Americans back home are generally isolated from the effects. These Bosnians weren’t. I went home that summer with faces of the Bosnians I had met engrained in my mind.
Those who know me well know that my heart beats strong for compassion and justice issues. Every time someone shares their cause with me, it tugs at my heart and I want to get involved. Clean water? “I’m in!” Starving children? “I’m in!” AIDS? “I’m in!” Suicide prevention? “I’m in!” Human trafficking? “I’m in!” I feel passion about everything, which initially led me to being overwhelmed and to not really getting involved with anything. I did little things here and there, but felt strongly that I needed to really dive in somewhere. I just didn’t know where.
A few months ago, I met with someone who was able to help me figure out my true passion. Given everything I’d experienced, it should have been obvious to me, but sometimes you need a wise person who has gone ahead of you to help you figure things out. This woman was Lynne Hybels, and we started by talking about the work Lynne has done in Israel/Palestine. We also talked about Bosnia (I was headed back to Bosnia the following week, and Lynne had been there during the war), Uganda and eventually Congo. After listening to me talk about my experiences, Lynne said, “Your passion is conflict regions.” It instantly resonated with me. I still don’t know specifically what this means for me, but I am committed to continuing down this path to figure it out. I’m excited about it, and I’m about to take my next step.
I knew a little about Congo because of some personal relationships with people from Congo, sponsoring a Congolese child, as well as articles I had read. And what I knew was frankly a little scary. So when Lynne told me she was becoming more involved in Congo, I said, “I have a heart for Congo, but I would be afraid to go there.” And you know where this goes next. Five minutes later Lynne said, “I’m going to Congo in June—do you want to go with me?” And without hesitation and feeling completely at peace, I said, “Yes!”
On June 4, I will be a part of a team of seven women who will get on planes in the United States and will fly to Africa on a ten-day journey to Congo (DRC). Our desire is to be advocates for the many Congolese who have suffered, and are still suffering, due to decades of bloody conflict. I desire to live out these words: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9). While the needs and stories of many other war-torn countries are being told, I believe that the story of Congo is not being told—and that needs to change. And that is our goal—to be advocates for the Congolese and make their story known.