As the freakishly tall, handsome man in dreadlocks entered the church auditorium, I wondered who he was. Kanda Kabangu, as it turns out, is a former professional French basketballer. He and his beautiful Parisian wife, Maite, were with a mutual friend of ours visiting Zambia where I was earlier this month.
After the service, a group of us went out to lunch and realized that five different countries were represented between the nine of us – and we were all brought together for the same goal: to love people.
The Kabangus are founders of Association One Love, a humanitarian organization in Paris, reaching the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Our desire is to communicate the love we have received,” Maite said. “Every human being needs to feel loved and wanted.”
Serving communities by bolstering education, music and sponsorship, their mission is to prove by their acts of love that people are loved beyond geographical borders, cultures or religions.
The woman who brought us together is Liliane Rood, a third-generation Norwegian missionary to Africa, who ministers to the needs of street orphans and broken families in the Congo.
Then there were my hosts, Walker and Haley Schurz, who’ve made a profound impact in Zambia. For more than 20 years, they have been raising up leaders in every spectrum of life and teaching them how to have healthy relationships.
Compassionate humanitarian groups from other nations around the world abound and are filled with great people doing great things. But even with all the sappy love and happy-clappy music, turmoil and angst have reared their ugly heads.
Only days after we met, our Congolese friends returned to their home city of Kinshansa and posted on Facebook that the government had placed all citizens on home lock-down. Murderous protesters have been demanding that the Congolese president step down at the end of the year, as their Constitution requires. Apparently, he’s made it known that he has no such intention. Not once in its history has the Congo had a peaceful transfer of power.
However, the Congo’s southern neighbor, Zambia, remains serene. Children play freely along the streets and there’s an air of happiness in most every neighborhood.
Even so, presidential elections were being protested during the two weeks I spent in Lusaka, the capital city. Though I heard of no violence, soldiers were deployed to stand by in every province to thwart a possible uprising when the court’s decision was announced.
And several years ago, the former free press was mandated closed and journalists were jailed. Only a governmental tabloid is now sold on the streets.
Although oppression and darkness seem to be spreading globally, the light of goodness is still hovering the earth. I believe more humanitarian and missionary organizations exist than ever before. The internet has increased ease of unity and distribution and we’ve seen reports of even teenagers and elementary students creating their own service organizations.
But what needs do we have here in southwest Iowa? I’m convinced that the Kabangus, Liliane and the Schurz’ have hit the nail on the head. As Maite said, “Every human being needs to feel loved and wanted.”
One more thing … People who are loved and wanted behave differently than those who are not. What would even more unity here look like or sound like? What would it take to quash riffs between southwest Iowa cities, families and neighbors? What would happen if the offended were the first to take a step toward forgiveness? What if they reached out to show even offenders love beyond borders, cultures or religions? And what if we treated everyone respectfully despite differing politics, ideas or religions?
“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” – Mother Teresa
Kristan Gray is a staff writer for
The Valley News