These seven sisters all have individual stories, and to tell them would take inches and inches of column. All of them are wonderfully faithful, hard working, happy daughters of Heavenly Father. And when they teach, they teach with power and authority of the Holy Spirit.
On the back row, from left to right, you have Sister Douane, Sister Nutemba, Sister Shongo, Sister Kayembe (more about her in a minute) and Sister Livingstone. In the front, you have Sister Lengelo, Sister Kakonde and Sister Kakudji.
Sister Douane is from Ivory Coast. She is from a family of five children. Their parents were baptized in 1996, and currently three of their five children are serving full-time missions. An older brother is in the Ivory Coast Abidjian Mission; he started his mission in June 2007 when he and his younger brother, Elder Clay Douane who serves in our mission, entered the MTC together. Sister Douane arrived here in December 2008. She is so mature and great -- she will be a senior companion next month after having served only 5 months of her mission.
Sister Ntumba and Sister Kakonde arrived here together at the end of October 2008. We are now just able to get passports for them to go to the temple in Johannesburg, South Africa so they can receive the blessings of the temple. They have served 6 plus months now, only having gone to our mini-MTC here in Kinshasa instead of being able to go to the three week MTC in Ghana which they could have, if they had had their passports. Even without the full MTC training, they have wonderful testimonies.
Sister Shongo has a 1,000 watt smile, and lights up the room when she enters. She is a great teacher of the Gospel, always smiling, and has such a cute sense of humor. She speaks very, very little English compared to her companion, Sister Lengelo, who received a university degree in Chemistry and was teaching high school before she came on her mission. Last month we were driving all these sisters home in our SUV, singing church hymns for many minutes. Finally Sister Lengelo busted out her companionship cell phone and made about 5 calls to investigators, confirming appointments, etc. After the last of the calls, she gave instructions to Sister Shongo in machine gun fire order to list each appointment in her planner. After the last instruction, "Soeur Shongo, notez que nous avons un rendezvous a 17h00 avec Frere Felix" (Sister Shongo, write down that we have an appointment with Felix at 5 pm), Sister Shongo very innocently and sweetly said, in her limited English, "Yes, my sister." We all burst out laughing -- even Sister Lengelo.
Here in Kinshasa, water is sporadic and electricity worse. It's not common for apartments to be without water for a day or two, and electricity is 50 - 50 at any time. Each apartment has a big 800 litre plastic tank which they fill up whenever the water runs. Each missionary receives two big plastic pails when they arrive -- one to wash their clothes in, and the other to rinse their clothes in. Each morning or second morning, they do a batch of their laundry and hang it out to dry. No washing maches in their apartments, and no laundromats to use -- just good old fashionned scrubbing and rinsing. But no complaints!!
In Kinshasa, we do not have "LG natural gas tank stoves" and electricity is problematic, so each meal is cooked in a brazier, over charcoal. It takes two or three braziers to do a meal, just like we would use two or three burners on a stove. When the charcoal has been used for cooking, a lot of it is put into irons, which heats the iron so they can iron their clothes. But they always look sharp and clean!!
Well, this is not a shoe store -- just outside the front door. Because 95% of the streets here are sand/dirt, you would track a lot of it inside. So line up the shoes outside. When I see all the dirt outside, I shudder to think how much dirt we must track into our carpeted American homes, even though we think we don't bring that much inside.
No article on sisters would be complete without a picture of somebody's hair. They all wear wigs or "extensions", as their hair is naturally very tightly curly and very short. In the picture below, you can see some of the sisters with their natural hair, before they put on wigs. If you have extensions woven into your hair, like above, you keep them there for about two weeks.
Here are the sisters of the PetroCongo apartment, on the other side of Kinshasa, together with Sister Kayembe. We were out collecting the two sister who would be released this day, and so drove around to the two apartments -- about 45 minutes from each other.
The two sisters at the left and right side of the back row were being released this day after 18 months of wonderful service. The sisters are as follows:
Back row -- Sister Kayembe (being released), Sister Ngoyi, Sister Livingstone, Sister Banza and Sister Besolo (also being released).
Front row -- Sister Mbessi-Iloki and Siser Gah.
Each of them was engaged before their mission (not an uncommon thing here). Sister Kayembe's fiance had started serving a mission in Zimbabwe 6 months before she started her mission, and Sister Besolo's fiance was baptized a member of the church in 2006. He is a student at a university in Lubumbashi, and every time we go there for a zone conference, Frere Ruffin always comes to the Stake Center to give us a 15 pound package of some kind of food (often a little smelly) to bring back to Sister Besolo. There were so many times I was tempted to say we couldn't do it, but when you saw the love in his eyes for both the Gospel and his finance, we melted and gave in.
Sister Kayembe's family have been members for many years. There are 11 children. We haven't met all of them, but she has a little brother called Kennedy who has taught himself to play the piano and organ, and is the organist for the stake conferences in Lubumbashi. When we were there in March, he accompanied the great choir, as well as playing for the congregation. Between the 2nd and 3rd verses of the songs, he would rip off some great interlude, like an organist on the organ in the Conference Center in Salt Lake City.
The day of her release, when I asked her to share some memories of her mission and people that she taught, Sister Kayembe pulled out her mission journal. She humbly noted that she and her companions had taught 54 people who joined the church. She said that 53 of them were very active in the church. I asked her how did she know this. She said, "President, I write them letters, or I call them from a phone cabine (not using her missionary cell phone) to encourage them, talk to them, see what they are learning in church. I want them so much to be active, strong members of the church."
Sister Besolo is the only member of her family who is a member of the church. In fact, she was not able to live with her parents -- I think one or both of them have passed away. She did live with her uncle, Pres. Iyomi, who is the president of the Kinshasa Stake. She served so well in every area that she served, and is the petite-est person you have every met. But in that little package, there is a great big heart that loves the Lord and teaches about Him wherever she will go.
We will miss the two of them so much. Like our other African missionaries, our contact with them will be pretty limited. Nobody has home computers, and there is no widely available internet. We hope to be able to come back to see them every so often, but will miss them terribly. And we will always be grateful for what we learned from them.
Love to all - Don and Marsha