Once you fall in love with Africa, there is no turning back.
I am homeward bound after a whirlwind trip, Friday to Friday, 7 days which has left me changed, again.
This was to be my last visit to the Congo after travelling there for the past 7 years speaking to Churches, government sectors, business people and universities.
There is no denying that my heart has knit with the Congolese and with this diverse place.
With the possibility of not coming back here and maybe because of my heart connection with this place, I was uber-conscious of taking it all in, giving as much as I could and not leaving any opportunity unturned.
After arriving in Kinshasa, the capital of DR Congo, I was struck with how different things have become since my very first visit 7 years ago. Airport arrivals was relatively calm and there were no grabs for bribes. The road from the airport was no longer littered with old trucks and cars, in their place, an eight lane highway. And for the first time, I saw street sweepers late at night cleaning up rubbish from the roads.
This may not seem like much but these changes spoke volumes to me. You see, I believe that when we begin to take responsibility for the small things, it creates a culture of valuing all that matters in life. Isn’t that why we start small by teaching our children to say thank you and please?
I was equally impressed by the schools that have been established. One was started 14 years ago by a Sunday school teacher and is now the most sought after primary school in the city. Other young women are being inspired by this lady’s innovative spirit to bring about real change.
There is a sign that hangs over Nelson Mandela Square (where I am writing this blog) and it says, “It always seems impossible until it’s done“.
The Congolese people are putting impossible to rest.
Another friend is opening a palliative care facility, touching me deeply by naming it “The Phil Camden Palliative Care Centre”. I don’t think he realises what an inspiration he is to me by the incredible fact he has succeeded in the face of real opposition.
People who live with passion, courage and vision to see a better future, despite their present reality, never cease to amaze me.
One such person I had the tremendous privilege to catch up with was Joost van der Westhuizen, South African champion Springbock Rugby player, now living with MND / ALS and working tirelessly for the benefit of other sufferers through the J9 Foundation.
South Africa has no assistance or association to care for MND patients. In fact the only drug available for MND patients is a drug called Rilutek (said to increase life by 3-6 mths) and it is 10 times more expensive in South Africa than in Australia.
The J9 foundation is very much at the pioneering end of making this a better world for MND patients and carers at considerable personal sacrifice.
By far, the hardest part of this trip was saying goodbye to friends I may not see for a while. I have loved investing into the people of the Congo and starting to see many of them step into all God has for them.
Just when I thought it was all over, I don’t think I’m finished with Africa. The people, the place, the potential moves me beyond looking at my human frailties and physical restraints. Plus, I think J9 Foundation could do with a few more friends.
Wherever you are reading this today, I wonder if there is something you have never done before, something that seems impossible but you know you should do it? Take courage from my ponderings today, turn impossible around!