Our lives are so different, you and I, but we are inexplicably linked. It seems strange that though I have no memories of your homeland, I could never describe a single aspect of what your life is like from personal experience, and our lives are so very different, we are, however, connected.
Every time I fill out a piece of paperwork, I am reminded of our connection. I am reminded that however different my life is from yours, we are connected by our birthplace. My hand quickly fills out the form and I come to the little box that says “Place of Birth.” I pause, knowing that the person looking over the form is going to raise a quizzical eye, and then I proceed to fill out the name that is so familiar to me but so very obscure to the rest of the world: Bangui, Central African Republic.
Most people have never even heard of your home, my birthplace. I tell them where I am born and find myself adding, “It’s in the middle of the continent” as if that somehow will give them a clearer description of this little country in the middle of Africa.
My family moved away long before I was old enough to hold any memories, but I still feel like I know you. Your country is part of our family story. When we get together for family gatherings, stories inevitably come up about those 12 years my family spent in your homeland.
Beautiful stories about climbing mango trees in the back yard, going on a safari, endless hours of outdoor childhood play in a backyard jungle: a child’s paradise in many ways.
But there are also heart wrenching stories, like the time my mom was giving birth while riots were going on outside, the time the French military came in to try to restore peace and my siblings were deathly afraid of the gunfire and helicopters overhead, the times that plans were set in motion for the Americans to evacuate for their own safety.
All those stories are part of my history, whether I was born yet or not, or whether I have any memories of it or not. Because that is my birthplace.
Today I look at the news and my heart cries for you, dear mother. I see the pictures and I can’t help but marvel at the vast difference between your life and mine.
I can’t believe that most people don’t even know that 394 people were killed in three days of fighting this weekend in Bangui alone.
My son turns six in a few weeks and he has asked for a bow and arrow. I think about how your six-year-old knows about bows and arrows and it has nothing to do with imaginary battles and enemies. It’s real life. Real fighting. Real death.
I cry for you when I think of your young teenage son out fighting. Boy soldiers. Seeing death up close, trying to put on a brave fight.
My heart aches for you as you carry on the load of mothering in makeshift shelters. Not knowing where your husband is and whether he will come back alive or not.
I long to make you a warm meal when I think of you walking miles trying simply to find clean water to drink, and food to prepare for your family.
I hold back real, physical tears when I read about a three year old’s throat sliced right in front of your eyes. Murder. Murder of an innocent child.
I admire you as you take on another mouth to feed, another child to love, because your friend is dead and her child is left motherless.
This should not be. This country left ravaged by selfish human beings taking the lives of innocent men, women, and children. My heart wants to scream out and yell as if that could somehow stop it all. I hurt because this is real life. These are human beings with names and faces.
This is a mother’s heart bleeding for her children, and children weeping for their mothers. This is a mother dressing her son up as a girl so he won’t be killed. This is a mother risking her life to head out to find food for her family. This is a family sitting in what should be the safety of their home and having a soldier burst in and shoot the father. This is actual life that is happening right now.
This is your life.
I weep for you when I think about the fact that long after the fighting has ceased and the roads become relatively peaceful, you, dear mother, will be picking up the emotional scars. You will be comforting scared children. You will be trying to piece back together some semblance of family from whatever and whoever has been left.
You will be desperately trying to cling to hope. Hope that maybe your children’s life will be different from yours. Hope that somehow, maybe life will get better. Easier.
And I hope with you. Because if we lose hope, what is left? I hope for your physical and emotional relief. And I hope because the coming of Jesus that we celebrate in just a couple of weeks brings us eternal hope of a future with no tears. A future with no children left motherless, and no mothers seeing the death of their children right before their eyes. That’s the hope I am grasping for.
I cry with you, even while I cling to hope.
I pray that you will somehow find the ability to keep hoping in the midst of this horrible life you are living. But when you can’t find it in you to hope, I pray you will remember that God is hurting with you. He is not simply watching over you as you hurt. He is hurting right alongside of you. Cling to that truth.
Mama, may you have the strength to go on living in the midst of tragedy. May you have the courage to make your children smile in the midst of heartache. May you have the grace to hope in the midst of hopelessness.
I’m praying those things for you even as I am praying that the fighting will stop and that peace will prevail.
A mom a world away who will forever be linked to you because of our shared birthplace.
A mom who knows nothing of the life you live, but who cares for you in a deep and personal way.
A mom who knows your mama heart must be bleeding right now, and so I bleed with you.
A mom who will keep hoping in a future promised by our King Jesus, even when you have lost all hope.