Mmeamuka

As some of you may have seen on the news, two weeks ago Beni experienced significant insecurity. There were four  attacks that occurred in different villages in the Beni region. The attacks happened in the evening hours and randomly targeted vulnerable civilians. Although no one knows for sure, reports attribute the killings to the rebel group called ADF-NALU. The most plausible explanation is that they are lashing out in response to the FARDC (the national army) offensive that occurred several months ago against their strongholds deep in the bush. Spreading fear and discord would allow the group to continue their black-market operations across the mountains into Uganda. This hypothesis is one theory of many however.

They have definitely succeeded in sowing fear. The region is very tense. Beni has normally been considered a safe haven and attacking so close to the city was a strong statement. Although we were in no direct danger, we had to be wary of the resulting tension in the town. There were several protests following the attacks, some that were focused at the UN for their perceived inaction. Last week the international team at UCBC decided to go for a week to Uganda in order to recuperate from the emotional stress and to watch the situation develop from afar. The good news is that there have been no more attacks since we left and the tension appears to be subsiding. We plan to return to Beni tomorrow.

The week before we left was full of ups and downs. Every morning we would wake up nervous about hearing the news. There were several evenings when we had to discuss the news and the decision of what security measures to have in place and whether or not we were going to leave for a time.  It was really hard to know if we had accurate news. Friends from the community would often come and check up on us and give us reports of what was happening in town because for a few days we stayed in the compound. Some of the discussions would leave us drained, but then we would enter into a time of prayer and worship that would lighten our spirits. We were thankful to have support and wisdom from the leaders of Congo Initiative both in Congo and the US. I was also thankful to have the support of my international colleagues here in Beni. During the time of insecurity I moved in temporarily with the other international staff so that I wouldn’t be living on my own. Staying and traveling with them for this short time has been a wonderful opportunity to get to know them. One thing that was hard about going on this short sabbatical was leaving all of our Congolese friends and colleagues behind. They too have become like family.

Even in the midst of the insecurity we found joy in our community. One fond memory I have is from the evening before we were going to leave for Uganda. A small group of us just finished a day of editing the base map and were hanging around when we began an impromptu guitar jam session and then started kicking around the soccer ball in the yard. Soon everyone was out there with us having a great time!

Guitar Soccer

One thing that was good about being away from Beni was to have a break from my work and a chance to process everything that has happened during my time here. One thing I’ve discovered about myself is that I’m emotionally strong but then my body presents symptoms of being under a large amount of stress. My response to the violence has been largely of frustration and then increased frustration at not feeling more emotion or knowing how to think more deeply about what has happened. I have realized that it really is beyond comprehension and the only response is to pray and have faith in God’s promises. Sometimes it feels like it is easier to be angry though! Psalm 23 is a verse that I return to often:

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

You may be wondering what the meaning of the title is for this post. When you wake up in the morning, often the first people you see here will tell you “Mmeamuka”. It is an interesting thing to say because it literally means “You awaketh” or “You are awake”. At first it seems strange that they are stating the obvious, but as I spent more time here I began to grow a new appreciation for the phrase. I have found that people here have a daily and vigorous appreciation for life, perhaps because it is more fragile and there is a spiritual battle that is very real here. It is a great lesson to live every day to its fullest.

One Comment to “Mmeamuka”

  1. Thank you Lise, glad you’re safe, we’ been praying for that. And extremely well written too. You could have a career as a journalist with quality work like that. Looking forward to the next one

    Blessings
    Bob

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