Lament and Hope

This has been extremely challenging time for the community of Word Made Flesh Sierra Leone (WMF SL). Within the span of one week, we lost a dear mother, and a grandmother from the Kroo Bay slum community, as well as 18-month-old Emmanuel (known to us as Manny), a beloved son of the WMF SL staff, Fatmata.

WMF SL staff are grieving with those who have lost their loved ones. We visit them in their homes, cry, and pray with them. It is never easy to find words to comfort them, but we let them know that we are with them in their pain. The sisters – two young women who lost their mother – live in a small single room house in the outskirts of Kroo Bay. As they don’t have enough space at their home, they have chairs out on the street outside their tin roof home. The chairs have been left there throughout the day for the past two weeks for the guests who come to grieve with them. I think that there is beauty in the ways Sierra Leoneans make room to grieve together. There is a kind of relational wealth here, where there is no shortage of people coming to cry with those who grieve. Though people are busy, they make it a priority to be with those who are suffering.

One of the things that burdens my heart deeply is how those lives might have been saved if they had access to better medical care. Why should a little child die because he couldn’t get the kind of medical treatment other children are getting in the West? Why should two young women in their early twenties, who had already lost their father long ago, also lose a mother, because she couldn’t get a proper medical care that is available in the West? Those questions address the broader societal issue of global economic injustice and inequality, which there are no easy answers to.

But I believe the first step is to lament. We lament the loss that our community experienced this month. We lament that there are systemic injustice and inequality in this world that cause the countless people in the Majority World to suffer. Out of the depth, we cry to God so that he can hear our voice and that his ears can be attentive to our cry for mercy (Psalm 130:1-2). Reflecting on the Rwandan genocide, Emmanuel Katongole says, “The resurrection of the church begins with lament.” This means that the first step toward hope and healing is lament. Lament seems too passive, especially to people like me, who are used to the mindset that values accomplishment, problem-solving and efficiency. But I believe that lament is a way to acknowledge our pain – personal, communal and societal – and turn to God for hope and healing. Ultimately, our source of hope is in God, not in our abilities and power.

Furthermore, according to a Christian entrepreneur, Donna Harris, lament is where genuine creative action begins. Lament is not a passive process. It leads to proactive creative action. I don’t have answers to difficult questions of life. Why is there suffering in this world? What is the solution to global economic injustice and inequality? But when we lament as an act of prayer out of pain and trust in God for hope and healing, I believe it can give birth to something new and beautiful, with the resurrection power of God. So we choose to be still, and put our hope in God, as Psalm 130:7 encourages us to do: “Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.” Please pray for our community as
we lament together during this grieving time.

  • by Jennifer Ney (Field Director WMF Sierra Leone)

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