Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pushing The Elephant: Rose Mapendo

I'm definitely a PBS nerd - I've watched it for years, some times more than others.  While I've been quilting this winter, I've watched an unusual amount of it (well, listened to it while I worked, and looked up once in a while).  Last night I watched an Independent Lens episode, called Pushing the Elephant - I put the quilt down and really watched it from beginning to end.

I am humbled and amazed at the grace and strength shown by Rose Mapendo, a refugee from the ongoing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She was married and the mother of eight, who found out she was pregnant again soon before her husband was killed in the conflict, murdered simply for being from the "wrong" tribal group when an opposition militia came through their village.  She and seven of her children were sent to a prison camp where many people were killed (a daughter had been sent to live with Rose's husband's parents before they were sent to the camp).  While in the camp, Rose gave birth to twin boys, who miraculously survived their mother's delivery and imprisonment.  Through a heartbreaking chain of events, she and her family were given refugee status and allowed to seek asylum in the United States.  They now live in Phoenix, Arizona, which has a large population of refugees from the Congo, and from many other countries suffering from war. 

But wait, Rose's life journey was only starting.  She started an organization to help Congolese refugees resettle in the United States, and she has worked tirelessly to try to help women and children in her war-torn native country.  She has traveled around the world, speaking at the White House and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, as well as to community groups, and women's groups in the Congo and in other African nations where refugees have settled.  Her organizations, Mapendo International and Mapendo New Horizons, keep her busy traveling and speaking about the plight of women and children as refugees, and the need for forgiveness and reconciliation to stop the cycle of violence in war-torn nations.

Although she has as much reason as anyone on earth to be bitter and seek vengeance, she has chosen through her faith in Christ to speak a message of forgiveness and reconciliation.  She candidly admits her years of anger with God, and her struggle raise her children well, and to reunite with her lost daughter.  She eventually found her daughter and her husband's parents in Nairobi, Kenya, and they were reunited after 13 years.  She held on to her faith through events that would crush most people, and turned the tragedy of her husband's death and her imprisonment and her broken family into an amazing testimony of the power of faith and forgiveness. 

If you watch nothing else this week, if you have the opportunity to watch this documentary, please do - it's incredible.  That Rose and her family can still sing and worship in joy and faith will challenge you and lift you up, and make you take a hard look at your own life and faith.  It sure challenged me.