Counting down the hours until my departure for Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, I am experiencing the same emotional and physical symptoms that I always experienced on the eve of a jury trial: nervousness, anxiety, queasiness of stomach, restless nights and loss of appetite. Add to those waves of discomforting symptoms, some last minute doubts. Before a trial the doubts were expressed as maybe I should have settled this case, and as the hour nears to embark from SFO for Goma, the doubts that keep arising and that I keep pushing back down are expressed as, do you really think you can do anything to change things in north east Democratic Republic of Congo?
Yet when the day for trial came and I stood before the panel of prospective jurors and chatted with them in an effort to establish rapport and find out what I could about their likes and dislikes, the adrenalin flowed and I knew that this was where I belonged, in the courtroom seeking to obtain some measure of justice for my client.
And I know that once I get to Goma, once I pull my bulging, rolling duffle over the border and am greeted by Pascal or whoever is available from Heal Africa to pick me up, once I have my feet on Congolese soil, there will be no doubt, there will be no misgivings, but rather I will be infected with the joy and the hope of patients, the dedicated doctors, nurses and other staff of Heal Africa, and the other volunteers assembled there to engage in the struggle for some measure of justice, peace and healing for the victims of over a decade of violence, rape, displacement and destruction of men, women, children, villages, farms, homes and clinics.
If people who have suffered so much can still be joyful, hopeful and unrelenting in their faith in God, how can I do less? God willing, I will be up to the task.
My next blog will describe the task that lies ahead: working to establish legal clinics in the Wamama Simameni (women standing together) safe houses for the victims of rape and other sexual and physical and mental violence .
Internet accessibility is spotty in Goma, and sometimes does not exist at all, so it may be a while before the next blog gets posted.