by Emily Blackledge
Emily Blackledge leads our work on the continent of Africa, spending her days interacting with local leaders on the ground. She’s seen a lot…but Congo changed her. Take a look at how this trip gave her new perspective on work she’s done for more than a decade.
I’ve been traveling in slums and refugee camps for 13 years. But nothing prepared me for Congo.
On my first trip to the DRC last year, I was overwhelmed by the heat and the rain and the volcanic ash and the smells. I could not escape the constant feeling of being dirty and the despair of the harsh reality of a life smashed between active volcanoes and lakes, and surrounded by rebels. I just felt overwhelmed, the deepest expression of hopelessness I had ever experienced.
So I came home and wrestled… with God, with my spirit, with my job. Where was, where is, the Gospel in a place like Goma? When God kicked us out of the Garden of Eden, Goma became our reality….
So where do we go from here? How do I live? How do I work? How do I reconcile my passion for supporting the local church and question if it can ever truly work in places like Goma?
Since that trip, God has graciously wrestled with me and led me to the redemption of the Gospel story: the truth that the Gospel is ALWAYS at work, will ALWAYS win, will ALWAYS wash over the people and places in the world that exist like Goma.
And he has blessed this wrestling with people like Denis Hangi.
Amidst my wrestling, God overwhelmed my world with Denis who, in turn, has splattered the Gospel all over me. In the midst of the harsh Goma reality, Denis fights everyday to sing the truth of the Gospel to everyone he encounters. He stands in the rain, the heat, the volcanic ash and builds bedrooms for orphans who need to know there is a God that loves them so desperately, they will sleep dry and safe tonight. He hurries through the muddy roads and smelly slums with his camera to document the progress of the plants now growing through ash for food for widows and orphans, and sends me those photos so I may celebrate our God along with him. He laughs and patiently explains in broken English the things I didn’t understand from an email written in French. And he loves… lavishly, on those orphans, on the widows, on me. Then, he reminds me why we must celebrate, why we must sing… for the Gospel is true in Goma. How can I not be undone and forever changed by this work? For its the Gospel, working and changing in the most dirty and hopeless of places. And it’s splattered all over the life and ministry of my friend Denis.
This is the ONE reason why I come to work… The Gospel in Goma is true and strong and real. I can’t imagine anything other than toiling alongside my friends, mourning the dirty and broken, and celebrating every moment where green plants grow in the ash and where white washed buildings protect the least of these.