Lines in the sand

I’ve often wondered, were there a god in the sky looking down on the planet, what she/he might think of our borders. Invisible lines and impenetrateable walls with electric shocks and armed guards keeping people out, or moreover, in.

This question has never been more present for me than today as we visited the DRC/Rwanda border at Goma.

Rwanda’s newly constructed two-story buildings, their pristine hills and well-built roads, juxtapose the trash heaps which people sort through for materials, forming the DRC border just beyond the piles of metal for makeshift homes. The road bustles with Congolese coming into Rwanda for better trade.

And I wonder, would a birdseye view of these arbitrary borders provide insight into how this peculiar race excuses the drawing of such lines- determining not just citizenship but access, value, safety, choice?

From my vantage point, it is incomprehensible.

Actually, it is devastating. Heartbreaking. Sickening.

Their only redeeming factor is that they reveal the absurdity of the stories we tell. Or so I would think, as I stare through the border-crossing and into the face of inequity.

Oh, the lines we draw.

Congolese. Rwandan.

Developing World. The West.

Poor. Rich.

Black. White.

Anyone who has traveled in Sub-Sahara Africa is familiar with the phrase, “mzungu! mzungu!” The word literally translates to White person, but is often applied to any foreigner, or anyone who does not speak the native tongue.

We hear it often as children chase our car down the road or see us walking by them. In more touristy places, this is followed with “give me money” in broken English with an outstretched hand.

Lines drawn. Script enacted. Breathing into being the stories we tell, as they become what we know- who we are.

I cringe every time this title is bestowed upon me, for the excitement with which it is sung causes discomfort.

And I wonder how our students of color feel when they are lumped into this category?

In our villages, scholars have taken to correcting the children, “oya mzungu, inchuti (no White person, friend)”. Though I like the sentiment, I am equally as uncomfortable coming in and dictating what “they” call “us”.

You see, these lines carry our histories on their backs. A history of slavery, colonialism, development-aid. A history of conquering, pillaging, raping, eradicating.

And with the remains- the surviving few (can you call it lucky to have lived through hell only to endure the sustained scorch of White supremacy?)-relegated as less-than. Cultures destroyed, the identities left for taking are those ascribed.

Lines drawn on a map with no regard for geography or tribe, maintained first by force, then necessity, and finally through a collective memory that sees Africa as a unified place teaming with poor dark savages desperately in need of saving.

Perched atop a cloud high above, would this break a heart as it is threatening to mine? Would it enrage a spirit, lighting a fire that burns for justice? Through the haze of fog, could you see the lies in the narratives we’ve so elaborately spun?

Or, perhaps, the problem with this god is that it is too far away to care.


One thought on “Lines in the sand

  1. Oh Stacey, you know there is a God who is not just in heaven but came to us in human form and now resides in us as spirit. He is here and he sees and he cares. You know it was god who separated people into different languages at the tower of babble. He has a perfect plan that includes the destruction of sin and evil. Your eyes are very open to see the damage of sin and evil. I agree with you that it is real and sickening. You know that god has a long history of taking what man has meant for evil and changing it to good. Look at the holocost… Because of that sickening, hateful series of events, god’s people have their country Israel back. These events have always been in scripture. During that time many Christians cried out to god asking for him to open their eyes to what he was doing and the got on board with that. There are countless stories of god’s grace, power and mercy during that time. Many people will spend eternity in heaven as a result of Christians allowing god to use them for good. My denomination is very active in places like Africa, brazil, India, where life is so hard, unjust, and poor. In those areas the saving power of Jesus Christ is spreading like wild fire. They know they need a savior! Stacy, you know you need a savior too. The only way you can truely help the people you see is to love them with a love that only god can give you. To access the power that only god has. To offer them eternal life! God wants their lives to be full of abundance, hope, joy and love. He needs somebody to share it with them. You already answered yes to the call to go, now ask god to open your eyes to his plan there and be part of it! Stacey, I have known you and loved you for a long time. I have always been sure that god had a special plan and call on your life. Jesus was your first love, your best love, your eternal love! You are his bride, the apple of his eye. He created you with this deeply compassionate heart. I can see you loving a people so well that it would look like a mother Teresa kind of love and sacrifice. I love you Stacey, Brenda Ritchie


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