Les Worshipers repetition, UJN PC: KSB

Masauti ya nyumbani (Sounds of home)

Every night I fell asleep to the sounds of my neighbors partying, the dance music audible through the thin walls and crimson drapes. Every morning a rooster awoke before the sun and squawked along with my morning alarm. I usually crashed at 20:30 and rose at 5:45 to prepare for the long work day at Un Jour Nouveau, a Goma-based Congolese organization “equipping men, women, and children to transform the culture of Congo through Christ-centered education, reconciliation, and leadership.”

“Siku muzuri,” I’d greet the smiling guards, Carlos and Jonathan, before crossing the road to Mama Esther’s house for breakfast. The sun gleamed off Lake Kivu and illuminated the vibrant foliage and bright flowers in her yard, where I waited for my driver, Fabrice, to take me further into our smoky city of one million. We’d drive over gray-brown rutted dirt roads, past blue Vodacom signs and red Airtel stands, around the turnabout with its statue and construction and occasional military presence, by the pastry store and banana booths to the Center. Fabrice would play “Alpha Omega” by Gael until we arrived.

Then English classes and staff prayer and lunch and piano lessons and worship practice ensued, filling my day with countless people and immense joy. Praises from Les Worshipers, the church choir, echoed off the rooftop and across the street (see video below). It seemed someone was always playing a keyboard or picking on the guitar, and the afternoons were bright with the sound of children’s voices. (I was often one of the people playing guitar and singing, whether in English class or choir repetition.) The sun set by 18:00, I went home for dinner with the family, chatted with my crazy wise and hilarious housemates and began the cycle again.

Goma is a home to me. Charles’ questions and chuckle, Denis’ melodic voice singing “Nakwimbea leo nafuraha” in church, Happy Fanny yelling my name across the yard, Mama Julienne’s Swahili at lunch hour, Jenni’s hearty laugh, Dieum playing “Napesi” on keys — these are some of the sounds of home. I don’t know if I’ll return to UJN and all the particular voices and people I love so dearly, but I do plan to return to Congo. And I cannot wait.

 

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Independence is more difficult than I’d expected

My heart is in turmoil.

I was always the little bird Kessie from the Winnie the Pooh movie “Seasons of Giving” who grows up under Rabbit’s care before taking flight one winter. I always cried when she left, but we always knew I’d be that bird.

I am caught between reveling in my independence as a young American adult and longing for my family, both immediate and extended, as someone who values family community.

http://www.manic-expression.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/225px-S1e04.-.Find_Her_Keep_Her_009246_14-32-30.png

richb / manic-expresion.com

Part of my struggle is that I victimize myself. I can phrase things in my head to make things sound worse than they are. I imagine telling my future children that I left home when I was 17. So young!! Of course, there’s more to the story than that. My leaving for college early was actually an incredible, perfectly planned gift from God. And I haven’t gone back for several reasons, one being that I don’t have just one home anymore. To where would I return?

Connecticut is my old home. It’s where my old friends are, but I don’t fit in there anymore. Last I checked, I’m the only one who went more than two or three hours away (as compared to my 15 hour drive from there to my college). Everyone else still has their families and hangs out with many of the same people from high school. They’ve grown and I’ve grown, but we’ve done so in different ways and with different people. Sometimes I envy that they are all still together, but I’m also grateful for my vibrant, trustworthy community at Wheaton. Here I have found a place of love and belonging and growth. Here I have become an adult. Though I’m only 19, Connecticut has already become my childhood memory home.

Charlotte is my parents’ home. They’ve been thriving there for one and a half years, and their church is wonderful, but I personally have no friends there. I miss my family all the time, and I only get to see them for one day on Thanksgiving and then over Christmas break—anything else is a bonus. But I’d rather not live there and be lonely, not knowing anyone but them. They don’t have space in their rental house for me anyway. This is just how life is now. I don’t belong in Charlotte. I will always belong to my family; my mom trained me to remember that I am a Christian and that I am a Bennett! But I am an American, and I am a bit of a free spirit, and I do not belong with them anymore.

What other place could I go? The Democratic Republic of Congo? I’d love to visit, but I haven’t been able to do so yet. Nairobi? Rwanda? I’d go if someone would pay for my flight and then help me find a job! I have connections with whom I could stay. But those places aren’t options right now, not this summer. (Maybe next year! I keep praying for an opportunity to go to eastern Congo.)

So what place is left? Wheaton is. Wheaton is my current home. Here I have journalism connections, a steady job, a home church, a family from whom I rent and who is fast becoming dear to me, and college friends who live here with family or are also staying for the summer. This is home now. This is my current independence.

But being independent isn’t the end goal of my life. (Following the Lord Jesus is.) While I enjoy living “on my own,” I also value family. I value community. Right now I have to participate in a larger family, God’s family, and rely on a network of friends and fellow Christians rather than my kin for everyday-life support. (I still keep communicate with my immediate family often and rely on them for other things.) But as a loyal and emotional person, I deeply miss my mom, dad, and sister as well as my brother who lives even further from them.

Sometimes I pity myself. Today is one of the days where I’m having to battle that. Because many of my friends are third culture kids and may only see their families every two years, I know I shouldn’t complain. I get to see my family at least once a year, maybe even every seven months. That amount of time will only increase as I prepare to be a missionary, and I need to face the reality that I have left my family. I’m getting better about doing that, but it’s worse when holidays come, and I start getting especially homesick around the six month mark.

The value of family community wars in my heart with my independence. I’m happy in Wheaton this summer, and I’m having a blast with my new friends here, but I’m still grappling with living as a young independent far from all my relatives.

Introduction, Part 2: Home

For seventeen years I was socialized in Connecticut, a small state in New England. More specifically, I lived twenty minutes from Yale University. That changed two months ago when my family moved to North Carolina. Although I know they followed God there and that He is already doing awesome things down there, the move shook my understanding of home.

The concept of home has been a major struggle and theme for me this past semester, and I’ve come to realize that my real home is not here on earth. My home is not in Connecticut, although that’s where I say I’m “from;” it is not in North Carolina with my family; it is not even at Wheaton, where I feel incredibly comfortable. These realizations sadden me because I have no place to which I can cling. At the same time, the lack of an earthly home is beautiful, for my home is with Jesus in His Coming Kingdom.

I eagerly await the day when I will see my God face-to-face. Until that day, I will strive to exalt Him on earth. The news about what Jesus has done for us is the most important thing for which we can live on this earth, and I will gladly share the hope I have in Jesus with any blog readers who are curious to learn more. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death”(Philippians 1:20).