Tuesday, March 25, 2008

THE PEOPLE AND SIGHTS OF LUPUTA

As we get up on Saturday morning, we find that someone else has been up and busy before us. This is the largest spider and web I have ever seen, just outside our door. For reference purposes, the rafter at the very top of the picture directly above the spider is about 3" wide, so you can tell that if this one sat down by Little Miss Muffet, it would definitely frighten Miss Muffet away!!
The Barlows and their contingent will go to the water source on Saturday. They meet with the members of the water committee -- the local people to whom we will turn over the project when it is complete. They all want to go -- so it's 11 of them into the LandRover. More wanted to come but there wasn't room. They bumped over about 40 kilometers to get there -- all the time bumping into each other. But the Barlows said it was a great trip. If you want to read more about their experience and especially all the fabulous projects that they are involved with, please visit http://www.barlowsinthedrcongo.blogspot.com/
While the Barlows and others are off to see the water spring that will serve the 175,000 people in the villages and the city of Luputa, I am off to the chapel to interview 9 young men who wish to serve as fulltime missionaries for two years for the Church. On the way, we see a man pushing his velo (bike) loaded with about 180 - 200 pounds of dry corn that he is transporting somewhere to sell. More about this in a minute.
Here's one of the 9 young men that I interviewed. As we chat, I interview them about their worthiness and why they want to serve a mission. We ask them to save $ 130 for their passport and additional for what they will need for clothes. In almost all other areas of the world, the young man or his family pays the $ 400 or so monthly cost for a mission. In Africa, the young people and their families cannot possible save that. So the church will pay most of the monthly cost, after they have earned the money for their passport, scriptures and clothes and shoes.

I asked all of these young men what they had done to earn their money. One worked as a nurse in the local hospital, another raised pigs or goats, but at least 6 of them told me that they earned their money by selling corn. This means they ride their bike 45 - 50 kilometers (30 - 35 miles) into the "interieur" as it is spelled here. They buy 180 - 200 pounds of corn, load it on their bike, and then push their bike back to Luputa. (See two pictures earlier.) They rest here for part of a day, and then push their bike to Mwene-Ditu, a larger city about 45 kilometers away, where they can sell it for a higher price. They then ride their bikes back to Luputa and complete the four day journey.
Between Luputa and Mwene-Ditu, there is a very large valley cut by a stream with good sized hills. The people pushing their velos will travel in groups of three. When they reach the bottom of the valley, two will leave their bikes there, and help push the first person and his bike up to the top of the hill. Then all three return and push the next bike up, and then repeat the process for the third bike. An amazing sight.
When asked how much they earn as profit on each trip, they said "between $ 10 and $ 12". So it takes them 20 trips, or at least 5 - 6 months to earn the money to pay their tithing, and save the rest for their passport, clothing, scriptures, etc. Is it any wonder that we have a special feeling about these great young missionaries from Luputa who serve in our mission??
When we arrive it is mass bedlam -- not from the members who are reverently sitting in their places 30 minutes before the session begins, but from all the neighborhood kids who have followed our truck down the road. (You can only drive about 5 mph due to the bumps and holes, so they can run faster than you can drive.) You can only escape this chaos by shaking every hand and satisfying their curiosity that our skin is no different from theirs, except for the color.
One of the treats of the Luputa Conference is always the youth choir -- about 50 kids smushed up in the corner of the building (they bend around to the left of the director in an "L" shape). They sing "a capella" -- perfectly in tune, and tackle amazingly hard pieces of music that are sung by the Tabernacle Choir. They listen to the music and figure out the parts. The conductor will leave to be a fulltime missionary later this year, but there will be someone equally as talented to take over when he leaves.
After church, everyone loves to visit -- and take pictures, and pose for pictures. But when the youth choir sang so magnificently, they deserve a picture. About half of them had left, but the others stayed -- all clean in their white shirts and blouses. The building in the background is the District Chapel -- it held about 250 inside and another 700 viewed from outside the building.
After the church meeting we announced the $ 2.5 million water project which will bring clear pure water from the hills 45 kilometers away to the 125,000 people of Luputa. All the members stayed for 30 minutes to hear speeches of gratitude given by the territory administrator (front row far left) and the mayor (front row, third from the right). These people are so grateful for the gift of good health that the water will give to their city.

Wherever the government officials are, the police aren't far away. Skip to the next blog (sorry that this one is full) to see their friendly guardian and the rest of the Sunday in Luputa.