The conference thus far had been absolutely amazing. Words cannot describe how great it has been to meet the delegates and satellite leaders, to share in our stories that have brought us to this place, to learn and worship and pray and feast and fellowship together in this conference center that has been made a holy place by so many great people gathered in one place.
Every night I go home and think about the days past, about how much I have been able to learn and grown in this short amount of time. I debrief a bit with my sisters I’m staying with (Hannah, Rachel, Lucy and Joyce) and think about what has been and what is yet to come. About how we are growing not as individuals but as a larger community across the continent of Africa. I think about what it means to be a “wounded healer” and am thankful that so very many people who have such deep, cutting wounds have sought healing in Christ and want to use those wounds to seek further healing or prevention of wounds for others.
I have heard stories that sound like they are from a book. These are the stories that I have heard “of” -
you know, the ones someone else once encountered and it affected them so strongly they brought it home to share, to share with others that others might seek a means to help and make a difference. These are the stories I have heard before, the stories that have helped connect me to these men, women and children. The stories that have played such a strong role in developing my understanding of my call to do what I can as one part of the body who has a means to make a difference. We were told many times this week, “As one person I cannot change the world, but I can change the world of one person.” That is the humble goal we seek this week. To make a positive change on person at a time. Easier said than done, as it is often harder to love one person well than to love the idea of changing a community. But that really is the point, isn’t it? That the higher path is rarely the easy one, and the right path requires a community such as Sister2Sister to rely on, encourage, and offer strength through prayer to one another. That is what this community has embraced. Those are the stories I am hearing.
Stories of lack of clean water in communities that are desperately trying to move on with education or development or farming, but who cannot because they must walk to carry dirty water home each day for cooking, cleaning, washing. Water that is making them sick, so the sick are taking turns with days off, meaning they really do need every person to help out.
Stories of communities where the average age is 14. Where entire generations have disappeared because of HIV/AIDS. In many households, it is difficult to be clear who is caring for who: the grannies for the babies, or the babies for the grannies. What would they do without each other? Where will this lead the next generation of youth?
Stories of women and children having violent crimes committed against them. Crimes of abuse, of violent rape, of being taken as child soldiers or sold into slavery. Crimes committed out of fear, confusion, miseducation. Crimes being committed because no one was there to break the cycle for them, because violence and abuse and fear are all some generations have ever known. Fear is the heart of so much of the evil and pain, and at times it seems unstoppable.
Then one comes to Sister2Sister Tujenge conference here in DRC, and we know differently here. Here, we are a room filled with people who carry these same stories, but something was different for them. For these women, children and a few men, these stories are as real today as they were the day the were a victim. The difference is that someone somewhere along the way reached out a hand to them - to one person - and offered them a way out of that cycle. Their worlds were changed. Now, these “Wounded Healers” want nothing more than to be that glimmer of hope and change for one other person. To return the favor as many times as they can. God has led us to this place, God has guided us through this healing, God has given us the courage and wisdom and presented us with opportunities to move beyond the cycles we were once in the midst of.
Here at Sister2Sister Conference, we are choosing God and God’s grace to continue moving us to a place of healing. We are focusing this week on the theme, the one thing that keeps us moving not from week to week or sometimes even day to day, but from moment to moment as we grow out of our own painful stories. We (Wounded Healers) are remembering that “Hope Is The Cornerstone of Africa.” Thanks be to God.