Monday, August 25, 2008

Luputa, Our last Hurrah!

One thing about coming to the end of your mission you have to start saying those goodbyes. We made our last trek to Luputa and it was wonderfully sad.

Aug 7-11 2008

This trip we traveled with Elder and Sister Parmley, Quorum of Seventies and he is also our Area President over the South East Africa Area, Pres. and Sis Livingstone and Elder and Sister Moon (Mission finance and Mission Sec.).
Pres. Kasadi, Counselor to the Mission President, joined us for the trip when we reached Mbuji Mayi.
After hooking up with our drivers we headed to Muene-Ditu. The dry season was continuing and the roads were bumpy and dusty. It is always a site to see the people along the road and see what they are carrying from place to place.

The roads are jarring to the body and sitting facing the side of the truck doesn't help the car sickness any.
When we arrived in Muene-Ditu it was 7:00 PM. The church members were sitting in the dark in the garden of our hotel waiting for Elder and Sister Parmley to arrive so they could have a meeting with him. There were about 25-30 people including children and babes in arms.

Pres. Livingstone and Elder Parmley had prayer and then spoke to the members. This little branch of 97 members of the church in Muene-Ditu is growing. There are no missionaries in this town. The members are trying hard to draw together and build a strong foundation. After the meeting we gave each member one of the rolls we had purchased at the bakery in Mbuji-Mayi. They had been waiting a long time and were hungry.
A view from the balcony of the hotel in Muene-Ditu. It is called the Delux.
Dinner in the dining room which we brought ourselves. Sis. Livingstone is showing off her headlamp. She is always prepared knowing that electricity is a luxury and she likes to read before she goes to bed.

The next day on our way to Luputa we stopped and visited the Catholic Monastery we pass about half way to Luputa. It is so strange to see this beautiful complex right in the middle of the Congo where there is no towns to speak of. It has a beautiful chapel with stained glass windows and is surrounded by a school and living quarters for the staff.
We had our pictures taken with some sisters who were all dressed alike and looking very beautiful.

We arrived in Luputa by about 11:00 am and went straight to the church where we were greeted by the district Presidency. They were in the process of planning District Conference and were excited to have Elder Parmley come to Luputa. They don’t get to see General Authorities and were so excited to have him come.

We had to go check in with the government, a courtesy more than a necessity. We had our passports checked by the immigration officer and were invited to visit with the Territorial Administrator.

He was very warm and thanked us as a church for all the good things we were bringing to his territory. He knew we were doing a project for the Luputa Hospital because the 20 beds we had ordered had been delivered a few days earlier. We had received a call from Daniel our site monitor, telling us that the people were dancing in the streets and singing as the beds were being delivered to the hospital.

We then went to the Catholic Mission , our home away from home to get settled in.
Sister Parmley and Sister Livingstone got busy and made P&j sandwiches for everyone and then we all headed out to show Elder Parmley the water and Cassava projects.

Cassava Project:
The church has partnered with a research organization called IITA. They are working to find cassava varieties that produce well, are disease resistant and have more food value than the plants currently being used in Africa. They move into a community and organize co-ops, plant cassava cuttings and then use those new plants to propagate more fields of cassava. Cassava is the major food source for people in the Congo. The church is funding this project to help the people be more productive in there farming.

Well the planting of the fields was late and the dry season started early so the fields have had very low production since the planting in April. IITA is going to borrow cuttings from another project to supplement our project and replant the cutting fields an start the co-op fields without delay. Eventually we hope this project feeds many people. Before the project is finished the co-ops will be producing their own plants and propagating to keep the harvest going. IITA is in the process of training the farmers the best farming methods and helping them be successful. Right now there is not much to see but we have great hopes for the future.
It had rained early in the day and the road to the water project was a bit muddy.

Luputa Water Project.
Phase one of three phases is going well. The catch basin for the water project is finished and 6 sources have been captured to feed into the pipelines. This first phase will take water to the first village. The community has dug several feet of trench but the large pipe has been delayed in route but hopefully will be to the area by Sept. 1st. Meantime, the trenching for the large pipe is being worked on every day by the community. The local RADIO STATION comunicates to the villages whose turn it is to work, how many people are needed and where to report for duty. The small pipe for the village is being laid and buried. The community enthusiasm remains high and the community water committee is working well with ADIR the contractor. We will turn this project over to our replacements in October.

Daniel, our site monitor finally got his Moto and is so excited. He has wheels. Only problem is he hit a goat the other day. The goat is fine but Daniel has a pretty good limp. Farrell said we were going to start calling him the "Goat Killer."

Saturday morning we had scheduled the Ceremony for the hospital project. Look for that in the next blog.

After the hospital ceremony the Parmleys and the Livingstones went to the church for district meetings and we went back to the mission to prepare for a water project meeting with the water committee and the contractor. On the way we found a dressmaker on the side of the road who had pretty Congolese dresses. Sister Moon decided to buy one and we had to go to the Marche to find some fabric and then the man would make her dress.

While Farrell met with the site monitor before the meeting the Moons and I went to the Marche. I were looking for a patchwork dress like this one. It is made of fabric ends and is just put together like a patchwork..
I had bought one the last time I was in Luputa but had given it away and wanted another one. We didn’t find one but we did find a crazy dress that was loose and cool. Sis. Moon found some fabric and we took it back to the dressmaker and he said he would have the dress made by the next day..

We got back to the mission and the water meeting was already well underway. The meeting was productive and Farrell felt like all the concerns and problems from our last visit had been resolved now, which was a great relief. The biggest problem was getting the workers up to the site to do the trenching. The new truck had not come yet so ADIR arranged for a truck from another project to be brought over and it solved the problem. The project truck is in Kinshasa and in the process of being driven to Luputa. (I didn't know there was a road from Kinshasa to Luputa but Domonique Sowa, the contractor, assured us there was a road but I can't imagine the condition it must be in. Pray for the truck..
After the meeting Farrell came back with us to the Marche. I had to get a chicken basket. I, again, had bought one last visit but had given it away. I have got to stop doing that.
Sis. Moon had to have one too and then we had to ride with them for the rests of the trip, in the car and on the plane. It was worth it to have a chicken basket.

Sunday morning Alphonse showed up with sister Moon’s dress which she promptly put on and wore to district Conference.
Many community dignitaries showed up for District Conference and Elder Parmley took the opportunity to preach the gospel and testify of Jesus Christ. He talked about the Disciples and their death , then the Apostasy and then the Restoration. He explained it so simply using scriptures from the bible and it was a very spiritual experience to hear him teach.

Farrell was asked to speak also and talked about his father and how hard he and his mom worked to help the church grow. He asked if the members were willing to give 100% or were they 10% or 40% members. He challenged them to be 100% members.

After conference Marie Josee our great friend and the nurse for the maternal care at the hospital invited us to visit an orphanage she had established and we accepted. More about that experience in the next blog.

We had one more visit to make before we were through as we had been asked to come to the Catholic’s health clinic/hospital. They have a very nice complex and are building a new wing for patient beds. They have no equipment and there were hardly any patients there when we visited. They have a building where they treat people with TB and there was a woman who had been bitten by a snake. She was sitting with her family on the grass and she looked terrible. The Nuns told us they feared she was not going to make it as she was not getting any better. They have a nice primary and secondary school . They would like some help with medical equipment. We wish the church could help everyone but that isn’t possible. We are winding down our projects list now as we have spent our 2008 budget and then some.
Before dinner we decided we needed to take the Moons on a tour of the village. Walking from the Mission down through the village is an experience and the Moons just had to experience it. When you start out all the children come running from everywhere and follow you. They want to talk to you using the few greetings they know in English. They want to feel your white skin and your hair. Sister Moon's long hair was irresistible. It is difficult to take pictures as the children all want to be in the picture and if not their face they want their hand in the picture. After about an hour of this walk you are more than ready to seek refuge back at the mission.
Monday morning we were heading back to Mbuji-Mayi by way of Ngandjika. Before we left we had our picture taken. In the back are the Livingstones - the Moons on the Left and the Parmleys on the right - our drivers Omer and Alphonse in front of the Livingstones. The man in the white tee shirt is the priest and the lady in orange is the mama that takes care of us making sure we have water to bath etc. - Pres. Kasadi in the middle.

In Ngandjika there are about 100 members of the church. They were all sitting in plastic chairs in a yard singing hymns when we arrived. Elder Parmley and Pres. Livingstone spoke to the congregation. Farrell translated for Elder Parmley which was choice experience.
After this meeting we were off to Mbuji-Mayi. The road between these two towns was rough and we were late so the drivers literally sailed down the road throwing rocks and dust in every direction. It was a rough ride but it was rougher on those walking or biking on the road as we could see them struggling to get out of the way of the flying rocks and dirt. It was upsetting to us to have the driver driving in that manner.
It looked like this family was moving as they seemed to be carrying all their belongings.
Look at that great chicken basket full of live chickens. Notice she needs no hands to steady her load.

AT Mbuji-Mayi we went to a meeting where Pres. Livingstone and Elder Parmley divided the branch. Now we have two branches in Mbuji-Mayi, There are approximately 300 members in Mbuji-Mayi. None of these 4 towns or villages that we visited have full time missionaries. The church is growing because the members are sharing the gospel and the Congolese people hear and believe. It is hard being a member of the church as they have to give up many of their tribal ways (polygamy, alcohol, infidelity, etc) These members are so faithful and most of the young people are saving money and going on missions. We know the Lord will bless those who sacrifice so much.
All day Farrell was giving Elder Moon a bad time because his shirt was collecting red sand around the collar and down the front.
He couldn't see his own shirt which was just as bad if not worse.
Good bye Luputa. Farewell to all our friends, the Benines, Pres and Helen Tshizanga, Daniel and Nestor our site monitors, all our ADIR friends and IITA friends, Maree Josee, my sister and kindred spirit. As I write this the tears flow knowing we will never see them again. Africa is a long way from Utah.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Got to make your own fun!

All children love to play and children in the Congo are no different but they are much more creative than the average child . . . . by necessity.

Anything tied to a stick can become a toy when combined with imagination.

While stopped at the bank (yes we have banks in the Congo but not like any bank you have ever been SERVICED by), this young boy asked for something to eat. I gave him a bag with melted Nerts packets and a toy from out of a box of cereal. The toy was just a pretend gameboy and you would have thought i had given him a million dollars. He loved pretending it worked.

Now I have seen sand paintings but these children make you feel like they have an open pallet as they draw pictures in the sand.

These children were playing a game that seemed like "Jacks" but without a ball. They were using bottle caps.

Often you will find children and adults playing well used board games.

Anything can be used as checkers or chessmen, buttons, washers, rocks, bottle caps etc.

At Camp Luka we watched these boys play a game that appeared to be much like gambling using gum wrappers or some type of folded up paper. Maybe it was a Congolese PoKyMon.

Fooseball is big here and you can play for 50 francs or sometimes for nothing if you have a friend with a game. Mom and Dad like to play also. The games are usually set on the side of the street for all to watch the fun.

The best toys are the homemade toys you see that the children have carefully crafted with much detail

These boys have made a train out of sardine cans and plastic bottle caps

A great creation made of card board boxes and tin cans.
This car is a unique design of cardboard and plastic bottle caps

A boat is fashioned out of bamboo and wire. Very unique!

Now this is clever. the car is made of wood, tincan lids and plastic.
But look closely. Did that plastic use to be a flipflop?

A little girl is fixing dinner for her friends using her kitchen set or is it tea and crumpets for the ladies?

Plastic cartons and small tin cans! It works!
A kite can be sticks and a piece of plastic from the garbage if you add a string to it.
Football or soccer is big in the DRC. Where ever there is a patch of dirt it won't be long and sticks will be stuck in the ground for goal posts and a game is under way. A cloud of dust and tangled bodies and then their appears a ball flying out of the dustcloud The soccer balls are often plastic bags wound up tightly and wrapped with string or ribs from large leaves. The games the same, the rules haven't changed, just the gear is a bit different. How much does it cost to play little league football in the USA?
The Village Junglegym is big enough for everyone to play on.
But Farrell's favorite has to be the home made guitars. We have seen many of them .
This one is made out of a plastic bottle.
This guitar is made out of a tin can.
Life is good when you have an imagination, and you can make your own fun.