Most days I use Forward Movement's Forward Day by Day as a guide to my morning reading, prayer, and meditation time. Today I read the "wrong" day. Instead of reading Thursday, May 3, I read Tuesday, May 1. Must be this travel stuff (I'm currently in transit from US to DRC, with a day stay in Uganda). Wrong day. Right readings.
The Eucharistic reading for May 1 was 2 Corinthians, 4:1-6. Verse 1 spoke to me, "Since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart."
I needed that verse this morning. Tomorrow I travel overland to Beni, DRC, to rejoin my Congolese colleagues in the on-the-ground work with Congo Initiative and Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo. Over the last few weeks that I've been home in the US, I've allowed fear and self-doubt to shape my expectations for these next three months. There is no denying it. The work of CI and UCBC is hard work. The vision, mission, and goals are audacious. The needs are overwhelming. The resources, at least by human standards, are meager. And my abilities are a broken umbrella in a sandstorm of possibilities. It is easy to lose heart.
"Since it is by God's mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart."
Then, during breakfast this morning, Chelsie Frank and I caught up. We talked about the time each of us had at home in April, and our hopes, goals, fears, anxieties, anticipations about being back in Beni. We acknowledged that among the many challenges is the tension between personality and reality (well, we didn't use those words). When one has a personality that sees a challenge, problem, or opportunity as an invitation to do something, it is hard to live in a situation where challenges are far greater than any one person can do. But one of Congo's gifts is that she reminds me that I am insufficient, but that God is sufficient ("My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Cor. 12:9).
I was also reminded of a lesson I learned more than 20 years ago: When I acknowledge my weaknesses, I know the greatest strength. That strength is not mine. It is not my muscle, my intellect, my financial resources. It is the strength of a Higher Power manifested through other people, through situations, through creation. That's a lesson that I've reviewed and renewed many times over the years. It's a lesson that I've relearned in Congo
David Kasali often says that "God is using Congo." People may go to Congo to "serve," and "to do." But in reality, it is Congo that serves, teaches, molds, and shapes. It is certainly true for me. Congo teaches me. It reminds me that it doesn't matter that I am weak. I am insufficient. But God is sufficient. It is by God's mercy that I am privileged to be part of the work that is Congo Initiative. That is enough encouragement so that I "do not lose heart."
PS: While writing this, I had a Skype message from Joel Asiimwe, recent UCBC graduate: "We're eagerly waiting to see you back in your second home, the land of the blessed, Congo."
No, I do not lose heart.