Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving and Grief

Happy Thanksgiving plus one to all. Thanksgiving is a holiday in the USA and not many other countries of the world, but the desire to pause, reflect and be grateful is universal, in my opinion.  This week I do it with a heavy heart.

My heart is heavy for all the violence, death, hate and fear – yes, I am thinking of the world, in general, but more specifically of the Central African Republic. The vast majority of people there want to live and eek out their often-difficult lives but continue to live with greater hardship because of continuing ‘insecurity”. (Bandits who steal and extort money.  People who kill because others are different than they are.  Those who think more of their own gain and greed than their neighbors or their country…) 

But I am grateful for those who work for peace.  Particularly, this week, I am grateful that Pope Francis will spend 25 hours in Bangui on Sunday and Monday meeting with Christians and Muslims and holding a mass open to all.  I hope his visit brings positive attention to CAR and hope to Central Africans who will know they are not alone.  (This picture of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Bangui comes from the website of Radio Siriri (Peace), a Central African station.)

My heart is heavy for the Centre de Santé Emmanuel Gallo, the health clinic that is one of the projects of the Evangelical Lutheran Church – CAR.  There was a terrible accident Tuesday afternoon as the chauffer and various health workers were leaving Bouar for Gallo and Baboua.  CSEG’s Dr. Marcelin, the doctor of the state hospital in Baboua, and the chauffer were treated at the Catholic hospital in Bouar, but needed to be evacuated to a bigger hospital in Bangui.

I am grateful that the UN operates air service for Humanitarian Aid workers and that they were willing to take the three to Bangui Thursday morning. 

My heart is heavy that Charlemagne, the long-time driver for CSEG died at the end of that flight. 

I am grateful that the two doctors are now at the hospital in Bangui receiving the care they need.  May their recovery be speedy. 

My heart is heavy that the two hospitals in Gallo and Baboua must live without their doctors during their recuperation.  Health resources were already spread thin; may the staff find ways to cope with yet one more major obstacle.

I am grateful to be able to travel safely in Cameroon.  I came to N’gaoundéré yesterday for a meeting and am grateful for the welcome I received.  I have decided to stay through the weekend am very grateful to have been invited to a Thanksgiving dinner Saturday evening with some Americans, most of whom I don’t yet know.   

My heart is heavy that I cannot be with family and friends this Thanksgiving.

But I am grateful for internet connections that made it possible for me to talk with loved ones who are distant from me.

My heart is heavy that travel in the CAR continues to be difficult because of bandits along the road.

I am, however, very grateful to UN Peacekeeping Forces who provide escort services to small cars/buses and convoy protection for large trucks.  Waiting for the escort takes time and adds complications to travel, but those who make the effort arrive safely at their destination.

I am grateful that President Ndanga-Toué and other EELRCA church officials were able to travel to Garoua Boulai to meet with Thore Ekland, partner from Mission Afrika, Denmark.  I am grateful, too, that I could piggy-back on that meeting to talk about some of the work I am involved with. 

My heart is heavy that so many people in Garoua Boulai, the region, and CAR have experienced such trauma and heart wounds. 

I am grateful to be involved with the Bible Society’s Trauma Healing program as we begin to help people learn ways to recognize and begin to heal the wounds.  On Saturday, November 21, 13 people finished the Trauma Healing Training Seminar. (I know, there are only 11 participants in the photo, but two had to leave early because of a funeral – again sadness in the midst of joy.)  Another 17 students at the Bible School in Garoua Boulai will be completing the training soon.  These 30 people will be working together in January to begin Healing Groups within the Lutheran congregations in GB.  As they increase their confidence leading participatory learning, I hope (and believe) they will continue to lead Healing Groups to ease the hearts and hurts of some people in the area. 

I am grateful that the Regional Bishop of GB is very interested in Trauma Healing and will be working with us to continue implementation of this much-needed program.  I am grateful that the Lutheran World Federation workers in Meiganga are interested is exploring the possibility of using this Trauma Healing program with Central African refugees at the camp near there.  (I am meeting with someone on my way back to GB to see what is possible.) 

I am grateful for the large doses of sunshine that we currently have as the dry season is now in full swing.  I know the sun is hot, especially for those who work outside, but the mixture of sun and shadow is gorgeous and the light is full of hope.

My heart is heavy that so many don’t have enough food or basics to live.  It makes me sad how many turn to theft or extortion.  I know they think it is the only (or at least the easiest) way, but my heart bleeds because we cannot love our neighbors as ourselves and live in peace.

I am grateful that most of my “stuff” that was stolen is being replaced.  It is taking time and effort, but I am rebuilding what I had – with some upgrades! 

I am grateful for the friends – here and abroad – who call or send messages that keep us connected. 

On Saturday evening, I will be grateful for turkey, stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin pie! 

As I reread this entry, I see that there is much to make my heart grieve, but even more for which I am grateful.  May you be able to also find many reasons to be thankful.


  1. Amen. Well written!
    Keep up the good work!
    Prayers for you and your work in this turbulent time.

    Carl Johnson

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