Monday, February 25, 2008

We're off to Luputa

The next 6 blogs are an accounting of our new water project in Luputa. We wanted to let you experience this wonderful region and get a feel for this gentle countryside. In the posting the first two posts got switched so the account starts with the second blog and then reads through chronologically about our experience. Enjoy the pictures as that is what it is all about.
Life in the Congo is a great experience and this trip was a keeper. Scroll down to "The Water Project" and then come back and read from the beginning.

There are roads and then their are roads but some roads should not be called roades!

Heavy loads for those transporters using bicycles

The trucks travel very fast thinking that if they hesitate they will get stuck. consequently the pedestrians hear the cars cooming and scatter into the tall grass and then peak out after you have passed. They are probably also trying to stay out of the way of the flying mud.

The scenery on our trek was amazing with the landscape of palm trees, lovely villages, beautiful farms all along our path. The roads were a different story. Have you ever ridden on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland? Well, multiply that by 3.5 hours and you now understand the rigors of our trip to Luputa. All along the road we passed women carrying babies on their backs and large bundles or baskets on their heads. Men had their bicycles loaded down with large bags of corn and produce taking it back to Mwene Ditu, pushing their bikes all the way. This trip, taking produce to Mwene Ditu can take a full week before they arrive back home and will earn them about $10. The young men in Luputa who want to go on a mission earn the required funds by making these trips. To go on a mission they have to come up with $240 for their passport and visa then the church funds the rest of their mission.

We arrived in Luputa in the early afternoon and went straight to the church, a nice rented building with an additional building for classrooms and offices in the back yard. We were greeted by the District Presidency, Pres. Benini, a gracious, gentle man who is a farmer. His wife runs a nursery school right next to the church. The members here want a new chapel and they are growing and need a bigger place but the cost of building out in this remote area is in the Millions and the church cannot justify the amount of money it would take to do this. We visited with the members who had come to greet us and the hundreds of children who came running as soon as they saw the white faces in town.

We had to check in with the government and register with the immigration office. We were greeted with much enthusiasm and everyone knew why we were there. They were more excited than we were that they were going to get water. We met some of the water committee and the government engineer who we had heard about from the Christensens. He had a baseball cap from a Pizza place in Nephi, Utah. When he came to meet us he had on his cap and remembered that it was pretty famous. We told him that the Christensen’s were going to take the picture of him in the cap back to the pizza place and make him famous. He loved that. You will find him in his Nephi hat in the picture with the Water Committee. He is wearing the red baseball cap but you can't see Nephi written on it.

The Water Committee

This is Relief Society meeting at church where the women are learning how to sew beautiful baby clothes. I bought little girl dresses and a sweater set for the new granddaughters. Very special and they were delighted that I wanted to buy their handiwork.

The bed

the shower

the water closet that doesn't work but then Leopoldville has been gone for a very long time. It is now called Kinshasa

We had arranged to stay at a Catholic Mission. It has a generator so we would have some electricity. Turned out we had electricity when we arranged for it and paid for the fuel to run the generator. The mission is a beautiful spot with a chapel, a school and living quarters. We were using 5 rooms in the mission which is all the rooms they had to rent out. The rooms were pretty bare, not clean and the beds were something else but we brought our own linen to cover the beds and mosquito nets to put over the beds. The Facilities were . . .a . . interesting as the toilets needed to be flushed with a bucket and the shower was a room with a drain so showering was out of a bucket. It smelled like the camping outhouse so we just pretended we were camping out and it worked just fine. We all shared one bathroom which meant we had to space our use but it worked and we were glad for a bucket of warm water every night to wash the dirt away. We had access to a dining room with a large table where we could fix our meals and eat.

The team, the Frandsens, Robert and us, had important business to conduct. We had to choose a site monitor for our project. The site monitor acts in behalf of the church as their representative to monitor the project and report back to us what is happening. Because this project is big and expensive we had to choose a very responsible person that we could count on to take care of our interests. We needed someone who could ride a motorcycle (his transportation to the project), work a computer (write reports and email them to us), use a camera and transfer pictures to email, use a phone responsibly and be honest and forthright in working with ADIR and in reporting back to us. Pres. Benini had 3 candidates for us to interview. We interviewed each candidate separately. One man was a farmer and needed the work but had no computer skills. The second candidate had a degree in Agronomy and had limited computer skills and he had a license to drive a motorcycle. The third candidate was a recently returned missionary, good computer skills and eager to learn. They all interviewed well but after we considered the three and prayed for guidance we all felt very strongly to choose the recently returned missionary , Daniel Kazadi. We didn’t inform Daniel till the next day, then we took him with us to see the water source. He was so very excited and somewhat emotional when told he was our new site manager. He later told us that he and his new wife prayed every day for a way to earn enough money so he could take her to the temple. He knew that this was the Lord’s blessing so that they could fulfill their goal.

Daniel Kasidi, our site manager.

We needed a little walk so took a stroll and ended up in the market. This is an open air market as most markets are in the Congo. People put together wooden stahls and sell their wares. We have never seen so many expert bicycle repairmen or so many bicycle parts than in this market. . I wanted to find a straw hat. It was very hot and I knew we were getting sunburned. We found this lady dressed very elegantly, selling in her stall. There were several women selling termites covered in oil to keep them from flying away. There were live caterpillars and they kept trying to get us to eat one. Elder Frandsen bought some for a boy if he would eat one and he pretended to eat one but never really did. We have seen them before roasted and the kids eat them then. Many of the bikes here are very old and I am sure I saw one just like the bike I got when I was 7 years old. I never did find a hat but we did get to see the train come in. There were several men and women sewing beautiful Congolese fabrics. The Congolese are known as the fashion setters of Africa and sewing is a real art. I must get a dress made before we return home.

That night we celebrated by eating our MRE’s and our bleach washed pineapple and counted our blessings.

Our first night took a little getting used to our accommodations but by the 3rd night we sat on the veranda and looked at the stars and fireflys and started planning how we could serve a mission and live in Luputa. The place was starting to grow on us. Luputa has a peacefulness, a serenity that is hard to find these days.


Tiffany said...

What an amazing experience. Your discriptions and pictures made us feel as if we were there with you. I love to look into the eyes of those whom you speak of and see the light of Christ, regardless of the color of their skin or the way they dress. It's easy to see that we're all brothers and sisters.

Ben has shared this blog with many people. Those that serve in the bishopbric with him have been inspired about missionary service and sacrifice. One man, in particular, shared it with his wife to show her how much good can be done if a little sacrifice is made. (She has been nervous about a mission and what she may have to give up as far as creature comforts are concerned).

Thanks for your examples and your willingness to share your experiences with us.
Love you always!!!

Aimee said...

You guys are so amazing! We sure miss you, but we're so proud of you.

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vicki dangerfield said...

We love reading about all your great work and adventures. It really makes us stop and appreciate what we have and to "notsweat the small stuff". You both look great and we miss you at the cabin. We have so much snow that we haven't been up to stay yet but Randy is getting antsy. Next time we have problems with the water system I will be thinking about the people in Africa and our problems will seem like a cake walk. It is amazing how their spirits shine through in the photos. You all can teach us all something. love vicki and randy dangerfield