Monday, February 25, 2008

The Luputa Water Project

The Water Project:
The greatest problems in Africa can be directly linked to the need for clean water. Over twenty years ago a water engineer from the Congo saw great potential for capturing a natural water source up in the hills of the Kasi Oriental region and bringing it down through the small villages and into Luputa. It became a dream project that he would pursue with anyone who would listen. The Humanitarian missionaries, the Christiansen’s (our predecessors ), contracted with this engineer, Dominique Sowa of ADIR to do a 5 phase water project in the Kinshasa area. This is the water project we are completing at this time (Camp Luka, Laloux etc.) Dominique took the Christensen’s along with the church water engineer specialists Dave and Lena Frandsen to Luputa in February 2007 to see his dream project. Bro. Frandsen, a retired water engineer with a wealth of experience was elated with the project as it had many positives for such a remote area. (1) It was a quality water source (2) The project could be gravity fed ,eliminating the need for a pump, electricity or a well, making it virtually maintenance free (3) it would serve up to 200,000 recipients. (4) the project would take water over a route through 4 villages over 30 Km. The only problem was that the cost of such a project exceeded the cost of any previous water project the church had ever funded.

The Christensen’s and the Frandsen’s returned to Kinshasa and proceeded to write up the project for submission to the church. This is where the Barlow’s enter this wonderful story. The last thing the Christensen’s did before leaving the Congo at the end of their mission was to submit this project for approval. Now the long process of questions and research and reassurance started as the project went through the church Area Authorities on to Salt Lake City to the church Humanitarian Services to the presiding bishopric and then to the first Presidency. This was a long process and one which had its ups and downs but, in a way, very reassuring as we experienced the rigorous process that a project goes through before your humanitarian dollars are spent. The proposal was reworked and rewritten several times.

During this time Luputa natives were praying for the Lord to bless them with clean water. They have such great faith and know that Heavenly Father knows who they are and are aware of their suffering. In the first of December 2007 we were notified that the project was approved and we could proceed with the legal documents, the contract etc. When we notified Dominique Sowa of the acceptance of the project, he shed tears of joy. He said this is a dream come true, something I have dreamed for 20 years. No one was more excited than Dominique.

A trip was planned and the Frandsens and Robert Hokason, in charge of all church water projects made arrangements to visit the new water site. To start, meetings were held in Kinshasa with the ADIR staff. Contract issues were ironed out and agreements were reached. Now it was time to go to Luputa.
We wanted to celebrate with our Luputa friends. We scheduled our trip to Luputa for Feb 7-12. The head of water projects for the Church, Robert Hokanson, had never been to the Congo so it was only right he better come see where all the money was going. The Frandsen’s needed to come and recheck the site and work on the contract. Pres. and Sis. Livingstone (the mission President) had to go to a Church District Conference in Luputa and we had to get some hands on Luputa experience, pick a site monitor to monitor the project and participate in telling the villagers they were going to get clean water. We were quite an entourage heading for Luputa.

The trip was difficult and required we take our own food and water with us. We would spend the first night in Mwene Ditu, 3 nights in Luputa and one night in Mbuji Mayi The first leg was a flight from Kinshasa to Mbuji Mayi on Central Africa Airways. The plane wasn’t bad but when we landed safe and sound everyone cheered and clapped, kind of made us wonder if we should have been a little more leery of flying CAA. We were met in Mbuji Mayi by the branch Pres. who had arranged for us two 4W drive vehicles rented from a Catholic organization. Actually we only had one vehicle reserved with a previous driver Omer who scrambled to find us a second vehicle and a driver Alphonse. We had been warned that the trip was arduous and that the chance of getting stuck in the rainy season was very high.

Omer and his son Patience. Patience was the look out and the puddle measurer (literally. . . he measured the depths of the Grande Puddles.

Alphonse was our driver for most of the trip. He was new as a driver for the mission as Omer has driven the Pres. and missionaries since the time the Christensens came to Luputa. Alphonse found the Mormons to be a tad different than most people he has driven . . .Hmmmmmm.

Mbuji Mayi was much like Kinshasa but much smaller. We had to fill the cars with gas and get 75 bottles of water (1.5 liter bottles). We also bought bread at a bakery there. We were off to Mwene Ditu to spend the night at a little hotel. The church also has a small branch in this little town. The roads were mostly paved this far with the usual potholes that we know and love. Our hotel was fairly clean. We brought our own bedding to lay on the bed and we ate MREs for dinner. We took a walk before dinner and saw some of the town , gathering many curious eyes, a grundle of children and some great pictures of people. We had to flush the toilet with a bucket and shower from a bucket while standing in a tub but that is all part of the adventure.

In the morning we had granola, powdered milk and some great rolls left from last night’s dinner. We loaded up and were off to Luputa. Barely out of Mwene Ditu and we were on the red sandy roads bouncing from one end of our vehicle to the other. The vehicles had the front seat and the back was two benches on the sides of the vehicle facing each other. We piled our luggage and food behind the driver and four of us rode in the back of our car. We had the Frandsen’s, Bro Hokanson, actually by now he was Robert (that wasn’t hard since he is the same age as Mark and looks, laughs and utters puns just like Ben). Robert rode up front with Alphonse and the four of us got cozy in the back. I didn’t think I could stand the ride as I get so car sick but blessings come and I didn’t have a problem.


FIEF said...

It was great to read of your Humanitarian water project in Luputa. My daughter and a contingent from Utah State University (Aggies for Africa)and their helper Zeze, a Congolese now living in Salt Lake, leave for Rwanda and Congo tomorrow. They are on a fact finding/planning trip to see how best to facilitate a micro credit project or some other type of humanitarian project.

The picture on your blog (of 'Jesus' and the children) is actually a picture of Phillip Miner and the kids, taken by Bob Lloyd (he takes many professional pictures of the world's Temples)He was the photographer that day for Liz Lemon Swindle, the LDS artist. My daughter was there with them that day, a Sunday last summer (2007) outside of Lusaka, Zambia at the Mother's Without Borders farm. (MWB is a humanitarian non-profit group founded by Kathy Headlee of Utah. She takes teams of volunteers each year to Zambia.) The team got to be there and watch the kids (and the African adults at the farm)interact with 'Jesus'. Liz was there to get the feel of Africa and the many orphans who live there. From the many pictures and video taken that day, she has painted a picture of Jesus (Phillip)and one of the orphans, 3 year old Kennedy. It is now for sale at Deseret Book and Liz is donating all the profits from this picture and any prints of it to these orphans and the building of the new and greatly enlarged Children's Village. When Liz was first contacted about maybe coming to Africa to do this project, she said she was just too overwhelmed with the hopelessness of the continent and didn't want to do it. But her better nature prevailed and she came. Those who invited her convinced her with the thought that "these african children love Jesus. We just want you to paint them a picture so they will feel the love He has for them." It has snowballed to more than just a picture for them to see each day. And Liz is going back again this summer! Good story huh?

We wish you the best of luck on your mission. Somehow without knowing you at all, you are our kindred spirits in the love of those who live in Africa.

FIEF said...

Oops! Just a quick follow-up to the previous post. The photographer's name in my post should have been Bob Boyd, not Bob Lloyd. Not paying attention to my typing! Sorry Bob!

kelly miller said...

Thank you for sharing the pictures. It is a wonderful project. The 20 year wait is a long time. Best to you and the people in Luputa

Living Waters in Luputa

In the Congan villages
There was need for spillages
As their water was unfit
They'd a plan. They'd thought of it
To reach water far away
But, their project stopped part way ...

One hundred sixty thousand
Prayed someone would lend a hand
The L.D.S. understood
They'd resources and they could
And, then quickly the word spread
As two missionaries soon led

To the remote Luputa
In each home the mood was up
With cheer and celebrating
And works soon delegating
The project would take phases
With faith they sounded praises

Gas- eight dollars a gallon
And mud roads to travel on
They marked the trench lines with sticks
Then with shovels, tools and picks
All the volunteers muscled
From dawn to dusk, they bustled

Without electricity
Water would flow plentily
For them, gravity worked
They labored on, no one shirked
For twenty miles they trenched
With spirits that were entrenched

Their old water was dirty
And their children were thirsty
They drew from poisoned ditches
Now, they have what enriches
They've pure water that is clean
And, love from God, they have seen

Clean water: An answer to villagers' prayers
LDS Church News
April 3, 2008
Sarah Jane Weaver
This project is still underway and is the largest of
its kind. With much thanks to Elder Frandsen
a water engineer and the missionaries- Elder and Sister Barlow