Day 5.75 – Africa

  “It’s what we do.”

We land for a refueling stop, and to pay homage to the local government in the form of landing fees and more stamps in our passports. The plane ride here has been quiet; even the two veteran’s stories are muted.

I write this while on the final leg of my journey home – not much of an internet connection at 36000 feet – so it’s not fully fact checked. But I think what we all are working through in our own ways is what C.S. Lewis described in “Surprised by Joy.” The faces of those we have met, the places where they live, worship, hope, restart, die – they are like green spots in the lava. You look at those and wonder – h0w did that get there?

The satellite images for the area around the volcano near Goma are of surprisingly high resolution. Using Google Maps, find the airport and pan around the area. Use it to “fly” north a bit. In these images you’ll see what I mean – in the middle of the devastation caused by last decade’s eruption, you’ll see new plots of life hacked out. Green spots in the lava. Life, so fragile, and yet so persistent.

Which brings me to the pilot – not the one flying us into and out of these remote places, but the one who took two trips into a hot zone to pull out 24 people one year ago.  “B’s” family. During our journey, we cross paths with him. Maybe we were expecting Indiana Jones, all swagger and confidence. Instead, we meet someone much better. We meet someone like “B” himself, quiet and reserved, but with a strength of character that you don’t want to miss. Basically, he says it was just another day at the office. “It’s what we do.”

For all who are involved in mission, relief, ministry, development, be it by being in the field like the pilots, the doctors, the pastors who take people in to their homes and before they know it they’re running an orphange; be it administering from a home office or writing a check to a competent charity – it’s what we do and when it’s all said and done, there is a person or a family that owes their lives to those simple acts of obedience.


Just before Christmas, a friend spent a couple of weeks in the capital of DRC. Like us, he was assessing forms of intervention, but in his case for a government response. This is a man who has worked and lived in some very difficult places; I never heard him return from a country without finding something to be hopeful for on their behalf. After his work in DRC, he said he came home depressed and didn’t want to get out of bed for two weeks.

To my friend – you know who you are – I extend this invitation: next time you are there, let me help you taste and see the green spots, experience the wall, be surprised by joy.

Next stop: Kampala Uganda, and Alex, Faith, Joy and Madame Charity


~ by John Walter on January 29, 2010.

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