I once had a professor who boasted that he only ever got haircuts in foreign countries. Whenever his hair was getting a bit long he’d say, “Time to schedule another trip.” He often spoke about writing a book that detailed his different travels and the experiences that he’s had getting his hair cut all around the world. At the time, I thought it was just his way of being unique and a bit eccentric. Today, as I was sitting in the little ten by five foot room waiting to have my haircut, my old professor came to mind and I smiled as I took in the sights around me. A broken mirror rested on a “desk” constructed of second hand wood. Wires ran across the walls carrying electricity from an outside generator. A 15 inch TV played gospel music videos (yes, in DRC, that is a thing) through heavy static. Hair from a day’s worth of clients lined the floor together with a few dozen razor blades.
As I sat in this little room with blaring music and no air circulation, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Well, this is quite an experience.” For starters, I usually cut my hair at a #3, which is a pretty short haircut by US standards. However, today as with the other haircuts I’ve had in Congo, they had to dig through an old bucket full of a bunch of spare parts to find my #3. After blowing the dust off and spraying it with purple alcohol, it gets put on the clippers. Then a thick paintbrush (used as a comb) and the clippers both get a quick purple coating and the 20-year-old man goes to work. After the clippers, out comes a fresh razor blade. My neck, around my ears, and the entire outline of my forehead is hastily trimmed. Then, the bare blade is set on top of a comb and run through my hair at lightning fast speed. I closed my eyes, expecting that I would be entirely bald when I opened them again. As a result, I have a really nice haircut (although my shortest ever) for about two dollars and a quarter. And all of this came to pass because I lent my clippers to someone, who lent them to someone, who lent them to someone. Eventually, this long line of lenders broke down and the clippers have become utterly untraceable.
Despite the fact that losing my clippers is annoying, today was a reminder that each chance to interact with someone is an opportunity to get to know someone, experience things on the ground level, and even from time to time, share the gospel with them. I didn’t share the gospel with anyone today, but I engaged in conversation and met young men that I didn’t know before. I was also reminded of the great pride that everyone seems to take in looking his or her best. People often speak of the crushing poverty of the DR Congo, but you’d never know it by looking at the way people present themselves.
In summary, my haircut was fast and cheap even if it would have been considered uncomfortable by US standards. On that note, it hurt a bit too. So many things in the Congo, we have found, can hurt a bit. After a while you barely notice these slight pains as you learn how and when to endure them. Today’s experience was a reminder of why we’re here. We are here to be in relationship with others, to experience life as they do, and to walk hand in hand as we strive to serve the Lord better. If God can speak to me through this short experience, I’m excited to see what the Lord will do in the many years worth of experiences to come.