When Charlotte was a baby, we decided to have her baptized here in Congo. At the time we didn’t realize the folly we were about to enter looking for someone to do it. Congo is a place of many missionaries and churches and thus lots of clergy. It’s just that everyone we knew was Anabaptist or didn’t believe in baptizing infants. Thankfully, we finally found a warmhearted, Swedish (is there any other kind?) Lutheran minister who was in town from Brazzaville.
(In case you were wondering if I had to sneak Charlotte away for her baptism from my Mennonite husband, don’t worry he was all for supporting the Episcopalian in me.)
And so we collected our closest TASOK friends and went to the river at sunset for her baptism.
|Sarah gathers water.|
Fast forward exactly two years of sunsets later and we did the same thing with little Annaïs. This time we avoided the search for a willing “baptizer” when our friend and neighbor, James, said he would do it.
For Adam and me, times like this will be what we remember most from Congo. Having tiny babies on the other side of the world, in what some think of as the worst place in the world to be a mother, can feel daunting. (Have I mentioned that I cried the entire flight from Nairobi to Kinshasa when we returned with newborn Charlotte? Yeah. The flight attendant actually moved me to the back of the plane. I still claim it was more hormones than fear.)
But once we got back to TASOK, I knew it would be alright. TASOK has a way of gathering the kindest, most caring group of people imaginable. And then they’re happy to truck down to the river to support your family. Oh, and your friend next door, who you met just this year, offers to baptize your baby.
I used to think the community here was trauma bonded, but now I think it's just good people. Good people sharing coffee. Borrowing sugar. Watching your kids when you're sick. Vaccinating them. Teaching them how to fist bump. And leaving lipstick marks on their faces. It's a good place to be.
Adam and I moved to Congo before we imagined having children. But after we saw this community, we knew it's where we wanted our kids to be.
I'll always remember those baptisms by the river as afternoons where you just can't get enough of the beauty. Perfect lighting. River just right. Laughing with comfortable friends. I’m pretty sure in both of our river baptism groups we’ve had Anabaptists, Atheists, Agnostics, Protestants, Catholics and a self-titled “person of the Jewish faith.” Is this place for real?
|Fast Forward Two Years: Baby Ani|
|Baptismal splash fest.|
|Walking to the river.|
|Charlotte & Erin|
Yes, it is. And that’s why we keep coming back.