Happy Thanksgiving to you! May you know joy and blessings tomorrow as you gather with family and friends. I'll share Thanksgiving Day with the rest of the CI-UCBC International Staff (IS) team members here in Kampala, Uganda. (Yes, we are still in Uganda!) Tomorrow’s menu includes roast chicken, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans, and apple pie—traditional fare even here in east Africa! While we enjoy each other's company here in Kampala, our hearts will also turn towards family and friends in North America and Congo.
The situation in and around Beni remains unstable. There were other unprovoked attacks this past week, some allegedly carried out by army personnel. Little effort has been made to discover and apprehend perpetrators.Several local business leaders have been arrested.There are rumors of opposing political parties fomenting and financing some of the violence in order to discredit each other and boost their power bases. Reports from local and regional sources confirm the precariousness of the region. Americans are not direct targets in the current unrest. Innocent, unarmed Congolese civilians are.
After a thorough and open discussion among members of staff and leadership, the combined leadership teams of CI-UCBC and CI, Inc. determined that IS should refrain from returning to Beni until after Christmas. It is the right decision, but I am sad. Sad for our community in Beni and for all who live inside the current turmoil. Sad for the injustice and inequality. Sad that once again, white skin and financial resources give me poor privilege. Sad that the powers of evil wreak havoc in a place of great beauty and promise.
At the same time I am reminded of God’s promises and joyfully welcome good news that arrives from Beni. Classes continue. Service learning Interns work with teachers. The Creation Care Committee and our Young Evangelicals for Climate Action Fellows initiate composting and recycling projects. Women’s Voices has received a grant to host a 4-day Women’s Peace Building Workshop at UCBC. David and Kaswera Kasali return to Beni this week after a year’s sabbatical and rest. We rejoice in so many blessings.
We pray that the meeting of the General Assembly (GA), the Congolese board, will take place in Beni as planned, December 15-18. I will remain in Uganda until then, praying that things settle in Beni. My colleague Paul Robinson and I hope to be able to attend the GA meeting in three weeks.
An email this morning from Honoré Bunduki reveals the strength and courage of the UCBC community. It is another reason for thanksgiving:
Beni is a bit quiet this morning and at UCBC activities are running under God’s protection and prayers of the saints. We are planning to have our first reflection day this Friday, and we are praying that this finds the Rector and [Kaswera] back in our midst. We are praying for our brothers and sisters (International Staff) who would love to be with us, but the security situation that is still uncertain has not allowed it. We do sincerely appreciate their deep compassion, courage and desire to be with us. God knows and we are praying that He brings us to a point when life comes to the normal again. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and they are safe.” Proverbs 18:10. We are experiencing God’s protection and thank you for your prayers on our behalf.
Tomorrow, as we give thanks, let us also pray for continued protection of UCBC students, staff, faculty, and their families. Let us pray for peace and justice in Congo and across the globe.
Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth, that in tranquility your dominion may increase until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP, p. 258)
Grace and peace, and a joyful Thanksgiving to you,