It is my last full day in Kinshasa, DR Congo. I’ve been here for 14 days with Nina and Nancy, visiting various non-government organizations (NGO), many of them church related, around the city and we are visiting one more project. I am tired—physically, mentally, emotionally—and am not interested in learning about one more project.
Our host, Suzanne, drives beyond several cement block buildings surrounded by vegetable gardens. She pulls up to a small building where an older woman is waiting for us. She is wearing a yellow and black cotton wrap skirt with both a matching top and a jauntily tied head scarf. She looks like many of the Congolese women I have met and seen during the trip.
Suzanne greets the woman with the air kisses offered three times as the women touch the other’s face with their own face. She introduces Maman Nzeba, the director of the Disciples Sewing Centre, a sewing project raising funds to send to NGOs working in eastern Congo where war between Congo and Rwanda continues. I perk up at hearing “sewing project” and my fatigue lifts.
Maman Nzeba leads us to three rooms where two women are in the middle of sewing tasks: one is at the cutting table with larger scissor shears cutting fabric and the other is at the ironing board pressing fabric. As I enter I recognize this space—not the exact space but the accouterments of a sewing studio. I have my own room with the finished attic dedicated for sewing, including my own cutting table made by my husband and father-in-law, an ironing board and iron, sewing machine, spools of thread in a plethora of colors stacked against the wall, and piles of fabrics in various stages of completed fabrics.
I move around the Congolese sewing room noting their sewing tools, finished projects available for sale, and the vibrant, colorful fabric. Finally, for the first time in two weeks I feel at home and at ease in Kinshasa. I feel connected to this space and these women because of our mutual love for sewing.
As Suzanne concludes the visit, Pastor Nina offers a blessing for this project. Just as we turn I say, “Wait, please translate my blessing: And may your needles always remain threaded.” Both Nina and Suzanne quizzically look at me yet Suzanne translates for me. The women listen to her and then start laughing, “Merci, merci, maman” as they hug me good-bye.
In the car Nina turns to me and says, “I had no idea where you were going with that but it worked for them!” I smile and look out the window as Suzanne drives away from the cement buildings.