"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


mama helene and my brothers

I wrote the other day about visiting my friend Mama Helene's home. We have a joke that she is my Congolese mother, and that her four sons are thus my brothers. Here they are standing in front of their new home, the one they had to start over in after the volcano destroyed everything they owned. As you can see, it's a simple house, but it's neat. They have a television and a refrigerator, if not insulation and solid walls. All four boys just finished another year of school.

By local standards, they are doing pretty well, but by the standards we have at home, Mama Helene and her family are poor. They have a television, but they don't have indoor plumbing, and their home has no security. They don't live behind a wall like I do. If armed men came to rob them or worse, they'd be at the bandits' mercy.

What difference does it make in my life to know that one of my friends lives like this? This is not an abstraction, this is not a cute kid on the street, this is not a picture of refugees you see sitting in a camp in some desert somewhere awful. This is reality. This is my friend. These are my brothers. This is their life.

Mama Helene is thankful for God's grace and thankful to have a job. I am thankful to count her as a friend. And I don't know what to do.


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