The Advent Hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel calls us to remember the hope of God’s promise to restore the world—all creation, all humanity, all relationships.
Oh, come, our Dayspring from on high,
And cheer us by your drawing nigh,
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!
This hope is not empty. The hope is fulfilled in large and small ways. Just this week Othy Vitswamba and Archip Lobo, UCBC graduates and current staff members, were examples of that hope. They put on "the armor of light" and "put to flight" dark shadows.
Othy and Archip were traveling from Beni to join the CI-UCBC International Staff in Kampala for a week of training with UCBC visiting researcher, Lise vanOverbeeke. At the border the DRC immigration officer demanded $20 to stamp Archip's brand new passport, even though there is no regulation on the books that a fee should be charged for this purpose. Othy and Archip recounted the story.
We spent twenty minutes explaining to the official that we were not going to pay the bribe. We told her, "No. This is wrong. There is no such law." She insisted, "This is how it always is."
So we said, “And this is why our country is the way it is, because of corruption, because people do not want to do their jobs correctly. You are stealing from our people, from our country.
The officer challenged us. “Ah! But this is how it is. This is how it was even before you were born. Do you think you can change that? Do you think you are the ones who can change this country?
We told her, “Yes! We are the ones who will change this country! Our generation will change things."
She said, “You have money. You are traveling to Uganda. You are with a university. You can pay. I have to do such things so I can get money and my children can go to school.”
“If we continue like this and you do not do your job properly, then your kids will never have money. They will never be able to go to school. But if we change and do things differently, then you will profit and your kids will profit.” We saw a change in her eyes. She let us go! “OK, we will see if you can change this country.”
At the next office, the medical officer demanded $70 to verify our vaccinations. We told him “No,” and explained that we were going to Kampala for training to help our country, so he should help us. He asked, “If you think you can change this country then you live in a fantasy!”
We told him, “No, this is a reality. We are leaders of this country. Nothing will take this hope from us.”
Then he stood up to shake our hands. “We never meet people who speak like you. We will encourage you. Did you train in social science?”
We laughed. “No! I am a computer engineer and my friend here studied communications!”
After relaying their story, Archip commented, “I was shocked that all these people have lost hope. They are the ones who should show us the good way. They should be setting a good example for us. Congo is the way it is because most people have lost hope. There were other workers in those offices, and they all heard us. Five people heard our message of hope. We have already done part of the work. If each one of us from UCBC shares this message with just five people, can you imagine what we will do?”
Yes, even in the midst of darkness, God's promise to restore an redeem shines. Our "Dayspring from on high" attends even now.
Thanks be to God.