IT SEEMS LIKE every time I travel to Africa, the Christian Science Bible Lesson is on the subject of "Substance." This word more than any other defines the way I feel about this continent and its vast worth to humanity. While the media tends to focus most of our attention on scenes of political turmoil, poverty, drought, and disease, there's a far more substantial story going on beneath the surface. Just spend a little time with Africa's people and you'll discover hearts and lives overflowing with spirituality, joy, generosity, courage, and hope—the real wealth of the nearly one billion population who live here.
Recently, TMC Youth held four Summits in Africa—in Lagos, Nigeria, and in the central African cities of Kinshasa, Pointe Noire, and Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Congo. I joined up with the team for the Congo Summits and spent two weeks in a part of the world where Christian Science is visibly growing. After attending the Summits and visiting the church services, Sunday Schools, and Reading Rooms there, I realized how much Africa was teaching me about the substance of living and sharing Christian Science. Here are some of my notes and reflections from the journey.
When the steamy equatorial sun goes down over the Congo, stars twinkle brightly overhead, even in the capital city of Kinshasa where more than seven million people live. Modest homes and makeshift dwellings are lit with candles or kerosene lamps. The glow of candlelight rather than the glare of television illuminates the faces of family and friends who gather to talk and share ideas into the night. Sometimes there are computer screens too, like the one being shared by a few university students, members of the Christian Science organization, who've accompanied friends and me to a church member's home for dinner. While the students attend to coursework, our hostess attends to the multicourse meal she's preparing for us over a simple charcoal stove. We have ample time to visit while each dish is lovingly prepared until a virtual Thanksgiving meal is laid out for us. There's often a simplicity and purity of life here that naturally welcomes the Christ—the spirituality Jesus lived and taught—and isn't crowded out by materialism. It helps to explain why so many people have time to read and ponder sacred writings each day, whether it's the Bible, the Koran, or Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. While plenty of Congolese aspire to the wealth of Western countries, their spiritual lives are thriving in these simple, uncluttered homes and communities.