Yesterday was the closing ceremony for the month-long journey we’ve struggled through. At times, the going was tough and it was hard just to keep on keeping on. The soil of the girls’ hearts seemed to be rock hard and at times we despaired that the seeds of truth we were planting would ever take root and grow. Looking back, I see so many opportunities God gave us that we ignored, so many pains we should have taken but instead shirked, so many words that could have been spoken or shouldn’t have been, that I’m amazed that God brought us through anyways. Amazed and humbled that He would not only bring us through, but also give us the love-gift of yesterday to keep our goals high and our vision clear. Because yesterday was a Day of Joy.
It started with cooking. We had invited all the parents of the girls to come to a closing ceremony, and in Congo you can’t have something like this without cooking up a grand meal for all the invited ones. So we cooked! It took hours of hard work to sort the pondu (manioc leaves), steam it (and burn our hands in the process!), pound it (a LOOT of work), peel the garlic, roast and pound peanuts till they became powder to put in the pondu, chop tomatoes, green onions, spinach, etc. and cook it all on charcoal fires, peel and clean the cooking bananas, re-heat our palm oil, sort the rice, wash the rice, cook the rice…..you get the idea. But it’s always fun doing it with friends, and even if Michelle washing clothes in the middle of us made it a bit more complicated (and the food a bit more soapy!), we perservered and had it ready in time for the parents arrival.
pounding pondu with Anyesi
Even though a lot of parents didn’t show up, we had a wonderful time together. Dad and Mom both gave little speeches encouraging the parents in their important job, and Anna and I explained what we had done with their girls during June and what we were planning to do in July. We asked for advice and permission to continue, and received both.
We gave each of the girls a certificate of participation, and a little gift. Signing the certificates (for the FIRST EVER time in my life) beforehand, I had this sudden qualm of terror as I asked myself, “what right do you have to do this? And what on earth have you gotten yourself into, Maaike?” The verse from 1 Corinthians came echoing into my mind; and who is adequete for these things? But our adequecy is from the Lord…. I kept my eyes on Jesus for the rest of the day. He is the one who makes this possible, carries this through…. all the same, it was exciting (and a bit strange) giving out the certificates.
We knelt in the center of the floor, and the parents surrounded us to pray. It was powerful. We were so grateful to the parents for their support, gratefulness, and encouragement.
We then invited our parents to eat the huge feast we had prepared, as well as feeding some friends who Jesus sent along to help us with our three huge pans of rice! Even after we all had finished eating, we gave out three pans of food to other families, and still have enough to eat today. Somehow, by the end of our ceremony we also had so much more joy than I thought possible. Even more joy than we had rice! All us girls had fun laughing together as we ate, sensing that somehow we had been bound together into a sisterhood in Christ. Almost all the girls mentioned how they had always just went to church then put their Bible away for the week, but now are reading it every day and thinking about what they read, too. That was what made the joy so beautiful, so real, so earned - the fact that we had laboured together and learned together and because of that, we could laugh together. There are changes in the lives of those girls, in the lives of Anna and I. That is the most beautiful, unbelievable thought and I cannot wrap my mind around it! It is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit, the seal of God’s approval on our month of labour. It wasn’t in vain. The sowing was hard, but we had a faint taste of the joy that will come in the harvest yesterday. I can’t wait for it – can’t wait for the harvest. Can’t wait to find out what fruits all those little seeds bore. Can’t wait to see how God was working it all for the good. Can’t wait to see how the tears we shed in the planting were used to water and soften the hard soil. Can’t wait for the joy that will be on that day….. so much joy!!