Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Children of Futungo

Here's a poem I wrote about ten years ago, while serving in Angola. At the time, that country was just coming out of a bitter, decades-long civil war, with millions of active land mines still scattered around the fields and roadsides. But the joy of the children in my neighborhood of the city of Menongue--in a bairro called Futungo--provided a brilliant contrast to the hopelessness of the violence that had haunted their homes for so long.


How can you heal a land
Where hollow laughter has replaced the tears
That vanished long ago,
When the wells of sorrow ran dry?
How can you heal a land so deeply scarred,
So caught up in the race to survive
That charity has been forgotten?
I search for traces of hope,
For a peace that transcends
The fragile silence of the guns.
And then, one night, I found it—
I saw it in the darkness of a starlit street,
In the dust kicked up by the exuberant dance
Of young feet, feet that have never felt
The horrific blast of a hidden landmine.
These are the children of Futungo,
The promise, the joy, the hope of their land.
They smile and laugh; they shout their songs
Against the stillness of the night.
Their hands reach out in the warm embrace of friendship,
Hands fitted perfectly to meet with other hands,
Not with the cold and vicious metal of a gun.
The hollow desperation of the war-haunted soldiers
Is foreign to their hearts;
They know only that they are together,
That they are for each other,
And that they love being together.
And as I listened to their song, I looked up
And saw that the angels and whirling stars
Had added the thunderous sound of radiant joy
To this exultant harmony of peace.
These are the children of Futungo,
The promise, the joy, the hope of their land.

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