Vancouver, BC is not made for the snow. This is a sad fact I contemplate sitting in a plane for 3 hours while they struggle to clear the runway and de-ice the plane. A mere skiff of snow to Edmonton is a disaster to the un-seasoned. There is probably a witty metaphor there.
Yet, we are still going to the Congo. The truly applicable metaphor for this situation may be an ominous one. Working in developing countries with limited resources is wrought with setbacks, and we should learn to take them in stride. I expect this to hold true given my past work experiences both in the Congo and in rural Saskatchewan.
As our travels continued we ended up in Paris just in time to miss our flight. Luckily(?), Air France had already booked us a connection through Casablanca (which also was late) and then through Point Noire to Brazzaville, Congo at 6 am. Yay? A day in Paris was starting to sound okay.
If nothing else, I suppose it gives me time to pause and contemplate. My first thought is there are worse things that happen to people every day, this really isn’t so bad. Further, in Cuba we waited in 30oC heat on the side of a road hoping for a taxi to drive by for hours. It is amazing to think how painful that was for us but how natural it came to the Cubans waiting with us. In our Western culture we are used to absurdly quick results and aren’t very trained in waiting.
I also think about why we are where we are. On a plane heading to an evangelical Christian hospital for 2 months. Some would call us missionaries, but I do recoil a bit to think of us as that. Growing up, a missionary meant someone doing heroic things in rough circumstances, they seemed perfect and somehow better because they gave up a lot to do what they do. I am too well acquainted with my flaws to think of myself that way, what we are doing does not feel heroic, and it was a thoughtful decision but also a matter of chance and circumstance. There is also the side of mission work in the church that was very detrimental and dangerous. Proselytizing at the expense of other’s cultures, varying abuses by missionaries, ethnocentrism, and questionable outcomes by some missions. The critique of mission work is fresh on my mind because a co-worker was painfully honest about his thoughts on missionaries. He had first hand experience with abuse in Kenya.
There is a reason we ended up going to this hospital to work. I believe in their goals and philosophy. The hospital helps a massively under-served population in remote Congo. The vast majority of its workers are local. The good it does is always going to be positive because nothing existed prior to it, as it started as a teen indoctrination camp. It didn’t take the place or opportunity from another organization. The government is largely inefficient, always ranking high on the global corruption index, and was unlikely to act meaningfully. Medical work is particularly essential to establish without delay as people do suffer irreparably without it.
So like anything, the system of mission work has its glaring flaws, but done right, it can be a self-sacrificing journey that bridges cultures. We can assess it based on its fruit, pruning the detritus and nurturing the positive growth, especially with humility and an open mind.
As I finish this post we are sitting in Casablanca, Morocco, it seems like our bags should make it with us to our final destination, and we are excited to finish the 38 hours of travel complete with a snowstorm, delays and 4 layovers.
Wish us luck!