UJN lunch squad, 2016. PC: KSB

Lunchtime in DR Congo

Six of us sat on the maize-colored rooftop, attempting to circle together in the sliver of shade as we ate our lunches. The men bantered in Kiswahili, and my eyes wandered to the green banana tree across the way. I rolled the bugali in my fingers, scooped some greens and dipped it in pilipili while trying to understand their conversation.

Usually you would eat wali na maharage (rice and beans) or bugali with some type of greens, but Mama Julienne gave me both on this day because she knew my love for bugali. I have a small amount of pilipili (habanero pepper paste) in the center of my plate as well. PC: KSB

Usually you would eat wali na maharage (rice and beans) or bugali with some type of greens, but Mama Julienne gave me both on this day because she knew my love for bugali. I have a small amount of pilipili (habanero pepper paste) in the center of my plate as well. PC: KSB

Mama Julienne had given me a larger plateful than the day before and included fritis because she knew I liked them. Eventually one of the men asked if I understood the topic, and upon my regretful no, called the rest to switch to English so we could all converse. We discussed relationships, talked about food and helped correct each other’s Swahili or English pronunciation and vocabulary. Smiles adorned our faces as we chatted and laughed together over a particular friend’s antics. A long, peaceful hour passed before we returned to work.

Around 2 p.m. we trickled out, following each other down the stairs, across the dusty ground and to the rocky sidewalk that led back to the kitchen. The mamas stood over the fire, and other staff sat around in white plastic chairs to eat their lunch. We stacked plates and utensils in a tub to the left and poured water over each other’s hands to remove the remaining, sticky bugali.

Bugali, aka fufu, is made of boiled maize in east Africa. You roll it in your hand and use it to scoop the greens or other food. It is my favorite. PC: KSB

Bugali, aka fufu, is made of boiled maize in east Africa. You roll it in your hand and use it to scoop the greens or other food. It is my favorite. PC: KSB

This summer in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I learned how to eat well. I ate three meals a day, a diet of starch, protein, fresh fruit and vegetables from the market. I ate increasingly larger amounts of food because many friends said I did not eat enough, and the mamas wanted to make me bigger. I ate healthily and was satisfied. Furthermore, I took my time to eat it, and I ate with others in community. Life was peaceful and abundant.

I am back in the United States now, and already I am eating less food at mealtimes. People here are generally more rushed and leave meals more quickly, although they do eat together often at my college. The task-oriented culture reaches even the third culture kids and international students who live here now. However, I have learned how to rest and feed my body, and I can still apply these lessons in my current cultural context. I am blessed.

 

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Words of wisdom from my Connecticut graduation

“Life has many blessings; cherish them. Maintaining loving relationships and enjoying the basic things of life are more important than wealth.” -Ms. Cookie Yopp

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Lately I’ve been missing Connecticut, the state in which I was socialized, and some dear people there such as my second family, the Vecchios. While enjoying the warming temperatures at Wheaton, I’ve been reminiscing on sunny Saturday mornings spent at the Cheshire High School track cheering for Dad’s long distance runners. I’ve also been remembering the importance of some things I learned more recently in another place that shaped me: Denver, where I learned the importance of introspection and rest.

Today I am enforcing those disciplines for the few hours I have free. After church and brunch, I returned to my room to relax and do some crafts, exhausted from being with so many people all week and having to talk every hour. While delving into my craft supplies, I found old cards from my high school graduation.

“We’re proud of you,” my friends, cousins, aunts and uncles wrote. They told me they loved me and that I am welcomed and amazing. They also encouraged me to keep pursuing Jesus.

I do not repeat their comments out of pride but rather out of a deep sense of amazement that I could be so loved. I thrive on words of affirmation and also need to keep hearing them to remember the truth about who I am. Someone saying “I’m proud of you” has a crazy impact on me. Reading my friends’ notes about my talents encouraged me, and nearly everybody brought their point back to God: Follow His ways. Trust Him. Love Him.

I’d like to share from these graduation cards some words of wisdom similar to the proverb at the top. Please be encouraged and amazed at how mighty God is.

“As long as you remember to keep God a vital part in your life, you really can’t go wrong.” -Rachel Wittman

“The enemy trembles at your advance, because you and Jesus are one, and your love for Him is greater than all else…Keep your lion-like boldness and let your dreams know no boundaries, because you have seen that with God, nothing is impossible.” -Erica Kyne

“(The Lord) has a plan and a path for your life. Be sensitive to His leading.” -Mr. and Mrs. Harris

“(God) will never let you down!” -cousins Kelly and Mike Heckman

“Hold on to your faith and you will go far in life.” -Jessica Bennett (my French prez)

“This is an exciting time for you, and God will guide you every step of the way.” -Aunt Theresa Boyes

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” -2 Chronicles 15:7 (from Aunt Sue and Uncle Tom Gerace)

“Just remember that you don’t have to have it all figured out and you’ll never be alone with God by your side. Don’t get overwhelmed; let God handle the decisions. And HAVE FUN! Enjoy life and remember it only comes once (on earth!)” -Sarah Bennett (the friend, not cousin)

With this in mind, have a restful Sunday and a Spirit-led rest of the year! (I say that as a college student nearing the end of my second undergraduate year, unsure of what comes next.)

In God’s grace,

Skye

“But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair.” -Relient K

I am different now from who I once was (poem)

Sunset by God; photograph by Katelyn Skye Bennett

Sunset by God;
photograph by Katelyn Skye Bennett

I am different now

from the girl I once was.

That girl sipped tea and watched the sunrise

as she read her Bible

and wrote poetry.

This woman wears business casual.

She is confined by her busy life

and takes no time to relax,

little for her Creator.

This woman remembers the girl from before.

She will reach for the restful beauty

she once knew with her Lord.

 

written on September 19, 2014

by Katelyn Skye Bennett, a daughter of God