Monday, June 24, 2013

A Week in Kinshasa

By the fifth rooster crow, I (Gavin) finally convinced myself to look at the clock.  5:13 AM only.  It was still dark out, yet the city was already alive and as noisy as ever.  The constant melodies of car horns, the rhythmic songs of street vendors, the repetitious chants of taxi “door men,” the base-line grumble of large trucks, and, oh yes, the Roosters were all reminders that I was waking up in a strange place.  Each city has its own symphony, Kinshasa’s runs for 18 hours a day, everyday.  The hotel that I stayed in didn’t provide mosquito nets, and despite my early morning haze, I could already feel a dozen welts on my face and arm beginning to itch and throb.  At this point, there was no going back to sleep.
The city of Kinshasa is the capitol of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and home to some seven or eight million people.  Nobody really knows the exact population because the last census was taken more than 20 years ago.  Two wars and the following economic decline of the last two decades have sent people streaming to the capitol by the hundreds of thousands.  Today the city is busting at the seams, despite the governments best efforts to keep up.  This was no more apparent than in the area of transportation.  In the short time that I had already spent in the capitol, it was clear that public transportation was a major problem.  While thousands of aging, decrepit vehicles remained in near gridlock 16 hours a day, thousand of people walked along the sides of the streets for miles on end.  If this city’s symphony it its noise, then its metronome is the multitude of pedestrians marching slowly and steadily along the road. 
I went to Kinshasa for the purpose of obtaining our resident visas, which will allow us to live here more easily and for a longer period of time.  During my weeklong stay I was unable to receive the visas, but I did have the opportunity to visit with the DS, pastors, and believers in that area.  It was amazing to watch them slip in and out of the music and movement of life here.  Although I did get the chance to venture out and see the city some on my own, I know that I would have been lost without their wisdom.  After five months I am beginning to feel truly at home in Lubumbashi, however Kinshasa was still completely foreign to me.  Being there for this short time forced me to think about trust in a new way.  So many times we say that trust must be earned.  But what about those times when you are forced to trust a stranger; forced to put your well being into someone’s hands that you don’t know?  My trip to Kinshasa was a reminder to me of all those who have helped us along the way; all of those in whom we have been forced to place our trust without first having the ability to earn it.  It has been a blessing, although it hasn’t been easy.
For example, I left our four passports in the hands of a man in a government building who seemed a bit shady.  Further, I had to leave our passports in Kinshasa and head back to Lubumbashi.  I am trusting a Nazarene pastor, whom I’ve known for less than a week to go back and pick them up for me.  Then, he will mail them to us in this country that has no official postal service and where shipping can be risky.  And to top it all off, another week has gone by and there is still no word.  The official countdown is nine days.   We have nine days left to legally live in the country.  But, what turns this into a blessing is that fact that when we are trusting these people (and systems), we are really trusting in God.  If our visas come, or don’t come, we will trust God to take us down the right road.  An added bonus is that when this is all over, we will be closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ, who live in Kinshasa. 
This is just one example, a very recent and desperate example nonetheless, of how we have had to put our trust in God and others throughout this journey.  But we have found that giving trust builds relationships, an important thing for foreigners in a strange land such as ourselves.  Pray for us as we continue to wait for our visas and as we continue to put our trust in those whom we have just met.  God will provide, God is faithful.

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