A friend recently asked me about my thoughts on the kingdom of God here in Sierra Leone.
“Uh, what?” I thought, drawing a blank and fumbling. So much for all that Bible school training. Desperately I pleaded with my brain, “Think, think, think!”
“Dragonflies,” I cautiously posed. Then, with more certainty, as if trying to convince myself, “The kingdom of God is like blue dragonflies.”
The kingdom of God is like blue dragonflies.
Then I laughed. At myself. Madeleine L’Engle writes that unless we take ourselves lightly, we will never truly take ourselves seriously. So I laughed, and then I tried to unpack what I meant.
Rusty razor blades are strewn along the lane where I live. The gutters overflow with all kinds of rotting, smoldering refuse. The stench produces a gag response in the tropical climate where fish, citrus, feces, plastic, tin, all manner of paper and who knows what else bubble, foam, and ooze in the slimy, tarry gutters.
Some days I feel as if all of life is like those gutters; my soul is overwhelmed with the constant suffering that barrages my soul. All around me I see brokenness and pain: desperate, hungry, pleading children beg for bread in chaotic traffic, clinging to my arms and clutching at my shirt. You would think that after living here for two years I would recognize most of the people I see begging on my daily walk to work, but there are always more, more, more.
I find myself wondering just how many amputees there are from the rebel attacks in the war. I see teenage girls, about my niece’s age, prostitute themselves to UN workers, just so their families can cook a pot of plain rice this evening. All around me tempers burst shortly like artillery fire from all around, all day, every day: taxi drivers with their horns and fists, mothers with their canes and brooms. I remind myself that months of sleeping on the street with malaria and not enough to feed my children would soon make me an emotional wreck as well. Still, the yelling and cursing explode in my ears, in my soul, from dawn till dusk most days. Even at night, as I sweat and wrestle to sleep under my mosquito net; the curse, “Halaki!” (worthless bastard) resonates in my dreams.
Some days I feel as if all of life is like an overflowing gutter; my soul is overwhelmed with the constant suffering that barrages my soul.
Here is where the dragonflies come in. As I walk home each day, weary and often at my wits’ end, the blue dragonflies dance and soar, playing over the reeking gutters. These magnificent little creatures remind me that despite all the suffering, God is good. Beauty and hope are here. And as many times as I get overwhelmed and forget, those little flitting beings remind me how to be here: simple, joyful, free. The dragonflies don’t wallow or get stuck in the muck. Instead, they play in God’s rays of love.
Jean Vanier writes in Community and Growth, “We are simply a tiny sign, among thousands of others, that love is possible. We are a sign that there is hope, because we believe that the Father loves us and sends His Spirit to transform our hearts and lead us from egotism to love, so that we can live everyday life as brothers and sisters.”
As much as I yearn to, I cannot end all the suffering in the world. But, like the dragonflies, I can be a tiny sign of hope and love.
Cami Sigler serves with Word Made Flesh, a ministry that is committed to serving Jesus among the poorest of the poor. She serves among refugees, street children, former child soldiers and in slum communities in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This article first appeared in The Cry, an advocacy journal of Word Made Flesh, and is reprinted with permission.