Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Sunday Go To Church

Sunday is for going to church and that is what we do on Sunday here in Africa. It is an all day process because of travel time and Sunday responsibilities. Let us share with you Sunday in Kinshasa.

When we went to the Masina Stake Conference two weeks ago they were dedicating their new stake center. It is a beautiful building and it takes a lot of care to keep it up. Since many of these people live in homes with dirt floors and no electricity, these buildings are something new for them and it takes some education to hel;p them remember how to care for the church in a sacred way. Many need to be taught to use the garbage cans for their trash and to wipe their muddy feet when coming into the bldg.

In Masina when we came in to conference there was a youth choir of 47 youth singing the prelude music. There were two young boys about 16 taking turns playing the organ. This was the first time we had seen them playing rather than using the piano as a player piano. They sing here in full voice seldom varying the volume. They sing one verse then change keys and sing the next verse. They put their heads back and let it rip. The volume is incredible and when you sing as a congregation you kind of get into it and you let it rip also. You can’t hear if you are on tune or not so you just let it go and enjoy singing at the top of your lungs.

The congregation is very reverent. No one talks, seldom do you hear a baby fuss and the little kids are very quiet and I haven’t seen them playing with toys or anything they just sit there and seem to listen. Mothers nurse their babies very discreetly. They have on these dresses with fitted skirts but loose blouses and they have an extra piece of cloth around there skirt they pull loose and use to cover the baby their blouses have zippers in the back and they unzip buy pulling their blouse open slightly in the back from bottom towards the top and then slip the baby under their blouse and nurse. I am told that sometimes they are not this discreet and bare all and nurse right in church but I have never seen this.

We have been assigned by Pres. Maycock to the Kimbwala and Malaweka wards. This area has no missionaries assigned to them because it is very difficult to get out to these wards. He wants us to attend their ward meetings on Sunday including their PEC etc. We will be Sunday prostelyting missionaries to this area. That is good and we will be glad to go there but we went there the day after we arrived in Kinshasa with the Christensens and it was a ride from ______. I believe I wrote about this ride earlier. We had no idea how to get out to this building and so asked Pascal the mission employee who is over all the apartments of the missionaries if he would guide us out there. He was more than willing. He said that Bishop Kuteka of the Kimbwala ward is his God Father and the person who first invited him to church. We set out on our trek early so as to allow plenty of time to get there. Pascal drove the mission van out to his ward house and we followed him and then he left the van and got in our truck with us and from the back seat directed us on along the way. The road getting to Pascals ward is a paved road but is broken up in many places with pot holes big enough to drive down into. The pictures I took do not do these holes justice. As we followed Pascal the big 12 passenger mission van would disappear into these pot holes coming out on the other side as we would start into them. It is like riding a roller coaster only not as smooth. After Pascal got in the car we were into the dirt roads. As we would come to these pig washed out areas Pascal would advise Farrell what was the best route through these holes so as not to get stuck in the mud in the center and not to high-center on other areas and how not to roll your car by going on the edge of the hole.

At one point there was a big hole that took the whole road. On one side was a cement wall and on the other side a store front. On the left side of the hole was a huge piece of cement that just jutted out. Farrell tried going on the wall side as close as he could get to the wall and ended up hitting the big piece of cement. He had to back up and take another run. On the side of the road was 3 young boys and they started laughing so hard and yelling at Farrell they almost fell down. Farrell tucked in the side mirror and made another run and got through the narrow path although we were tipped at a pretty good angle. The next huge hole was more than Pascal could take and he decided he had better drive. He tried one route and thought better of it and then a lady came out and started yelling to him in Lingala that he better take a different route because he was not going to get through there. He took some little side roads and finally got us back on the “main road” to the ward house.

We finally arrived at our building and we were in time for the first Sacrament meeting. Many of the village children came into the chapel grounds running after and along side our car. We were the only car in the parking area. Everyone has to walk to church. The children are always so excited to see us white people.
There are light fixtures and electrical fans in the chapel but they never run. We don’t know why but it is probably because they have no fuel for the generator or the generator is broken or something else. The doors and windows are all open. Well actually the windows have no glass in them. The chapel has grass around the outside but the floor in the church is always very dirty as there is no way to keep the dirt from coming in on shoes and feet. There are three buildings in this church. The chapel has the bishops office and a priesthood/Relief Society room in it. The Primary meets in a separate building and then there is a Gazebo out back that also is used. There is a bathroom/outhouse on the premisis also which I have never been in so can’t describe how it works.

These wards do not have piano and they don’t use the table organs that the church provides probably because no one knows how to play one. They start their meetings with prelude singing instead of prelude music. The congregation is led usually by one of the young women and she sings a stanza to let them know which song they are going to sing and to set the pitch and then she leads the singing as usual. They usually pitch their songs quite low and sing full voice with great harmony. The songbook is the French Cantiques (Hymns in French) and the tunes are the same as what we sing in the US but they change it a bit. They don’t read music so the timing can change quite a bit. We sometimes sound like we are the harmony as we sing along with them because they have their own way of and singing the hymns. How ever, they sing with great heart and full voice and it sounds wonderful. And the spirit of the meeting is the same as in Taylorsville,Utah. . .maybe stronger.

It is obvious that this is a very poor area as the people dress very simply and many are wearing American type clothes but mosr of the women wear native African dresses. They look beautiful and are very neat and clean. People here really dress up for church and wear there best clothes. The men’s ties are always interesting. We see Christmas ties, looney toone character ties, very short fat ties and very long skinny ties.

We sat on the stand for the first Sacrament meeting. The bishop sat us by the window so we would get some air. It is so very hot. Farrell and I were both asked to bear our testimonies. I got chicken and bore mine in English and Pascal translated for me. I have got to do better. We sat there with the sweat dripping off our faces. I think I am getting use to that though. After church everyone came to welcome us and shake our hands.

At the second ward Sacrament Meeting Farrell had been asked to speak. He spoke in French and told about his parents when they first joined the church and how much they had to sacrifice to be the first Mormons in their little Georgia town. He told them how they sacrificed their time and talents to help the church grow. He told the people that some members of the church give 100%, everything they have to the church, some give 50% and some give !0%. Then he asked them to think about how much they were willing to give to the church. Everyone was leaning forward on their bench and listening intently or at least trying to understand what he was saying in what he calls his fractured French. After the meeting we went outside and stood on the porch and were shaking hands with the members and all these sisters in their African headdresses came up to him and told him they were 100% members. They loved the idea .

We understand that these people will soon have a new church bldg. to meet in. The church is building many buildings here and as we meet people and they find out we are missionaries for the LDS Church they remark on the beautiful buildings that our church is building and that they are the most beautiful buildings in Kinshasa. That is probably true as the buildings are beautiful and stand out in whatever neighborhood they are in.

The church here is in its infancy. The mission has approx. 120 baptisms a month and the challenge is to help people learn how to live the gospel. People have no problem accepting the idea of Joseph Smith and his seeing Jesus Christ and God the Father. They love the scriptures and they love the plan of salvation. Usually the husband joins and the problem is getting them to see the importance of the whole family being a part and working as a family unit within the church.

We have been so impressed with the church leaders such as the bishops and their dedication and efforts to work hard to do the Lord’s work under difficult circumstances. When we came to these wards the day after we arrived in Africa I was in such cultural shock and felt so lost in this foreign place and then we went to these two humble wards for church. When we walked in and they were singing the familiar hymns and were having Sacrament Meeting with the same structure we have always had it at home We realized we were home. We were home with the saints who believe the same thing we do, who love the Savior the same way we do and who love us because we are as one in our pursuit of returning to Heavenly Father.

We are getting to feel at home here and we are so glad we have this opportunity to learn about our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world. Without the missionary program we would never have such experiences and meet so many wonderful people. This is an experience of a lifetime and we intend to live it to the fullest.