Brave Souls

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There are books, and then there are epiphanies which, through blood. sweat and tears, become books. Cramming an epiphany into 50,000 words is not easy. One editor told us it’s like wrestling a greasy pig to the ground every day for as long as it takes. I had a front-row seat to Belinda’s pig-wrestling. All I can say is, simply, wow.

Here’s where it all started:

“Shhh! You’ll wake up Mom.”
It was Mother’s Day—my day. I woke to the sound of our smoke alarm nearly drowning out the clanking of pans in the kitchen. The pleasant scent of coffee wafted up the stairs, promising all would be well. Minutes later, my husband, Stephan, and our two sons, Joshua and Caleb, trundled into the bedroom with my breakfast. I sat up to take in the refrains of “Happy Mother’s Day!” amid laughter and claims about who made what. Alongside scrambled eggs and sliced avocado, Stephan had slipped in the day’s newspaper with this headline: “Congo: The Worst Place in the World to Be a Mother.”

I’m always up for being the activist, I thought. But this was Mother’s Day. While most of my girlfriends were experiencing Hallmark moments, I was crying into my coffee. Maybe I had it coming. After all, I had too often reminded Stephan of these words of British abolitionist William Wilberforce: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you didn’t know.” God knows my life needed disrupting. That newspaper article explained how mothers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were facing overwhelming odds against raising children in a raging, protracted, unforgiving war. And it became the doorway to one of the most disruptive forces in my life.

I wasn’t new to Africa or to activism. For years I’d lived just one country over—Rwanda—and had somehow missed the extent of the suffering in neighboring Congo. The Congolese women I read about that morning were unsung heroes. I didn’t just cry; I sobbed. Something deep in my gut told me I had to meet them. One year later, I found myself sitting on a wooden bench in a rural church near Rutshuru, a town located at the heart of the decades-long conflict, listening to the stories of a group of women. Something significant had led me across an ocean to meet these superhero moms, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters. Their pain-filled stories began a new story in me. My sisters in China like to say, “When sleeping women wake, mountains move.”

And oh my, did mountains move for me. There’s nothing simple or safe when awakening to your story. Since that Mother’s Day, I’ve had to fight some pretty daunting odds to tell the powerful and provoking stories of women. At the risk of sounding sentimental, if you’re willing to be brave, there’s a story waiting to be awakened in you too. I stake my soul on it.

Reprinted from Brave Souls
. InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition, 2019.

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