Friday Night Fun, Congo Style

"Be very careful, then, how you liveā€”not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil."
Ephesians 5:15-16 (New International Version)

Our first four years in Congo were spent with no television. VCRs were not to be had by the general public in 1978 or 1979, even in the United States. I spent hours and hours reading and keeping a diary during those years to keep myself occupied. But every now and then, my dad would pull out the film projector. Usually, this happened on a Friday night, and we kids would anticipate the event all day. We would start begging at breakfast time, "Daddy, could you show movies tonight? Please, please, please??!!" My dad could rarely resist our pleas and would smile with a twinkle in his eye as he said, "We'll see." That usually translated into a yes.

We would wait all day for the sun to make its way across the sky. We had no blinds on the windows, and, for those who can remember a film projector, there had to be darkness to be able to see the images flashed on the white sheet we used for a screen. At dusk, Dad would walk down to the generator house and crank up the motor. It would roar to life and we would all scream with delight. Our favorite thing to do was run through the house and flip on all the lights. Electricity meant that appliances that lay dormant during the day would suddenly spring to life, like our record player. It also meant that we did not have to walk with kerosene lanterns or flashlights in our hands to keep from stumbling in the dark. With no moon out, Congo's night sky was pitch black, except for the bright stars on a cloudless night.

Sometimes we would make an announcement that there was going to be a movie night at our basketball court near the house. Congolese, too many to count, would stare in awe at the film reel of a 1930s winter Olympics. We would hear them click their tongues in amazement at this strange thing called snow, which they had never seen. The sight of men and women on the screen flying down snow-covered ski slopes made them holler with incredulous laughter. Our selection of films was probably the corniest and most boring anyone in the States could imagine. We didn't care. We watched those old black and white movies like they were a top billing film in any theater here. We also had scenes of Walt Disney's Bambi, where first Flower the skunk, then Thumper the rabbit, and, finally Bambi himself fall in love. The Congolese didn't quite know what to think about cartoon characters. We also had some Little Rascals reels. I enjoyed watching the reaction of my friends as much as I enjoyed watching the same movies for the hundredth time.

Why do I miss those nights with the same old movies watched on a film projector that would "eat" the film sometimes? I think it is because it makes me recall a simpler time. Life has so many distractions. I am ruled by my schedule much more than my schedule being ruled by me. I miss my sister and brothers in that time when our world was so small. It was Dad, Mom, Shawn, Nicol, Todd, and Jack, that's it. We learned to love each other well during those years. Now life is so busy that it can be months before we are all together under one roof with our respective spouses and kids. Technology is wonderful, but sometimes I am tempted to go back to the old days with no TV (haven't wished for no electricity, though!). I pray my own children will remember relationships with their siblings rather than watching a cathode ray tube or video games filling most of their memories. It is with great regret that I realize that I have to work so hard to make my life and theirs simple. But I am trying my hardest!

Jesus, help me to be into relationships, not gadgets. May there always be time for simplicity in my life, no matter what is clamoring for my attention. Help me to pass on wonderful memories to my own children, not based on their material possessions, but in the richness of our time spent together as parents and siblings. Help me to teach them to love each other well.