Do No Harm

If you love someone, you will never do them wrong; to love, then, is to obey the whole Law.-Romans 13:9-10

I’ve been in Lubumbashi now 2 weeks, waiting for my container and truck to clear the border and move to the Kasenga District of the DRC. Because of the financial hardship caused by SAA in Johannesburg 6 weeks ago, I am obligated to stay with a host family during this time rather than pay for the Methodist Guest House.

A meal in Africa takes 3 hours to prepare and is eaten once a day. In most cases, the meal will consist of sadza/bukari (the staple of the diet made with finely ground corn meal), a cooked vegetable (cabbage, cassava leaves, pumpkin leaves, or amaranth leaves, etc), sometimes a thin sauce flavored with tomatoes and onions, and if you are extremely lucky- a little meat.

Why does meal preparation take so long? There are many reasons: a) usually there is no electricity and so a charcoal fire has to be prepared, b) water has to be hauled and heated in order to cook, c) the common cookstove (similar to a hibachi grill) is small and only accommodates one pan at a time and d) this is considered “women’s work” and so you will never see anyone other than young girls assisting their mother with the meal preparation.

I am grateful for this former GBGM African family (who speaks English) willing to take in a stranger from the U.S., however I have struggled with the extra work that I am causing in their home. It’s true that they would have to prepare a meal for the family “anyway”, however my son told them that I don’t care much for bukari, and so they prepare rice “special” for me each day as an act of hospitality. How did my preference add to their daily workload?

Americans (especially women!) use a lot of toilet paper, and all paper products in the DRC are very expensive because they are imported. Fortunately I had carried a few rolls in my spare bag, and I offer “every other roll” as they are replaced until my supply is gone.

The water supply is difficult in Lubumbashi because of the electricity problem. This adds the requirement to boil water for safe drinking! Every time I brush my teeth, use the toilet, take an African “splash bath”, wash out my 3 outfits of clothing or require a refill in my water bottle I am causing someone else to haul and replace water. How my consumption adds to their daily workload!

I am humbled at their willingness to serve me. Out of respect for my age, I am called “Mom” and “Grandma”, and not allowed to clean or work in the kitchen. The furthest I have progressed is to be able to wash a few clothes and haul a few buckets of water. My African daughters-in-law, Carine and Dorcas, daily indicate their joy in being able to cook and clean for me. I am reminded of what I have known since my first visit in 2006- that Africans know and give great love. I am also reminded of how much we Americans have to learn about selfless love. While I learn to love more generously, I pray each day that I will do no harm to those who love so much- and that God will forgive me if I do!

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