Here are Elders Nsiala and Malumba (left and right sides) flanking two young men with whom I had a baptismal interview at the new Ngaba chapel. The chapels which the Church is building are close to what the church builds in other countries, except that the construction is all masonary inside and out, and the floors are all tile. They are landmark buildings in their neighborhood. If I shot pictures of the neighborhood, and particularly "rond point Ngaba" -- which is a big traffic roundabout about 100 yards away, you wouldn't believe the difference.
These two great young men who were baptized several days later, are typical of the men who join the church. Frere Christoff on the left, is 19 or 20 years old. When I asked him to share his testimony about the teachings of the church, it was like a young man who had been a member all his life. Frere Rolland on the right, is a 27 year old, third year constitutional law student at University of Kinshasa, married with two young children. When he came up out of the waters of baptism on Sunday, he was all smiles and so grateful for this great privilege. He will be a real asset to the church.
Here are the four sisters who live together in the Binza "apartment". It really isn't an apartment, but a three bedroom house behind an 8 foot high masonry wall. All of our missionaries live in these homes -- they are very expensive, but there are no conventional apartments in Kinshasa. So to balance out the high cost, we have to but missionaries together 4 to 6 in a home. Sisters Besolo, Kakuji, Gweth and Tshimpamba are together with the wife of a member, who was baptized several days later. Here in Africa, usually the man joins the church first, and then his wife will follow, sometimes many months later.
Sister Besolo is engaged, as are about 3 other of our 13 sister missionaries. She joined the church two years ago, and decided that she should serve a mission before she gets married. We met her finance about a week later down in Lubumbashi, where he is going to university. He joined the church about the same time, and is anxiously waiting for February 2009 when she will finish her mission.
We've recently found out also about an elder who is engaged, who will finish his mission in June 2008. In the U.S., this just wouldn't happen, and as I interview prospective missionaries, I'm going to make sure that none of them are engaged, or "about to be". That's a problem I hope not to have with other elders in the mission. The sisters I can deal with, but a young man who is engaged is "trouble with a capital 'T' ". Here are three wonderful new members of the church, along with the sister missionaries, Sister Buekazebi (on the left) and Sister Nkulu (second from the right). These three new members were baptized on Sunday, February 17th. I interviewed the man in the middle, Roger, who is a medical doctor at the General Hospital of Kinshasa. He is an OB/GYN, who had performed abortions earlier in his career, but quit doing them 5 years ago (at some career risk) because he felt that this was wrong. In our interview, I sensed a wonderful spirit, and it was a joy to attend his baptism.
When cameras open up, the first picture may be of a small group, but everyone wants to get in on the action, so the picture of the 5 above soon turned into a group photo. But there is a story -- the man standing just to the right in the second row is the 1st counselor in the mission presidency -- Dr. Jacques Muliele. He is a wonderful seasoned member of the church who joined in France in the early 1980's but returned to the Congo (although he didn't have to) because he wanted to help establish the church here. That he has, serving as a stake president (a position where he is responsible to help direct about 12 congregations), and in other positions.
Dr. Muliele also practices as an OB/GYN, with his own clinic, as well as practicing at the General Hospital of Kinshasa. So I asked him to come to Roger's baptism. They recognized each other immediately, and now our new church member, Roger, has a friend at the hospital as well as the members in his local congregation.
Here are the 11 wonderful elders in Brazzaville, along with the two Assistants. Three of these elders come from Ivory Coast, and they are magnificent missionaries. All of these young men are so beloved by us. Missing from this picture is Elder Nguenga, who was down in South Africa to hopefully find medical answers to some problems he was having. He returned last week, but still has pains and problems, in spite of being checked out head to toe in South Africa and receiving a clean bill of health.
Tonight (Saturday, March 29th), all the missionaries in the Brazzaville Zone are fasting for Elder Nguenga and for his health. Brazzaville is just across the river, but it is an all-day trip to get there and back for me. So I called the two missionary leaders (called Zone Leaders for those who aren't familiar with missionary terms), and asked them to join together with Sister Livingstone and I in a fast for Elder Nguenga. They called me about 6:30 and reported that they had all gotten together to pray at the start of their fast, and tomorrow night, at my request, all 12 of them will get together again and use their priesthood to give Elder Nguenga a blessing. What magnificent young men. Here are six elders who live in the an apartment in Masina, in east Kinshasa. They have gone up to 5 days without electricity, as it is very sporadic in this sector of Kinshasa. But they use candles to read, cook and eat at night and in the early morning, and never miss a beat.
I had a "tender mercy of the Lord" moment with Elder Mbayo-Ngoy, third from the left, on March 19th. We received a call from Lubumbashi that his step-mother with whom he lived for a number of years after his real mother died, had passed away. His older brother lives here in Kinshasa, and we went together to talk to Elder Mbayo-Ngoy. It was a tender touching moment to discuss the blessings of knowing that we will live again, thanks to the resurrection of Christ. I was fearful of a totally distressed and depressed elder, but he was so brave in bearing testimony that he knew he would see both of his mothers again in the eternities. That is the message of hope that we teach to others, and his testimony of it was so tender and so real. It was a great lesson for me.
The young sister missionaries are truly amazing. In reality, they "set the bar" for the young elders. Here are five great sister missionaries who live in the Kasavubu apartment, and serve with honor and distinction. From left to right -- Sister Lengelo, her companion Sister Lukonga, Sister Kanyeba who was released after 19 months of great service on March 13th, Sister Mukaz and Sister Mbessi-Iloki.
They live on a street with dirt roads, with piles of garbage off to the side, and they serve with all their hearts. I think when the door to their yard swings open, and they step out with their clothes so clean and their smiles so bright, the whole neighborhood knows who they are, and respects them and loves them for their examples of what young Congolese ladies can be. In most African societies, women are not particularly respected and aren't fairly treated -- but these great sister missionaries show women whom they can become.
Here are three new missionaries that arrived on March 13. From left to right -- Elder Yengo, one of the Assistants to the president; Elder Olinga from Yaounde, Cameroon; Sister Ilombi from Kinshasa; Elder Mutenda from Kananga; and Elder Oubassissa, the other missionary serving as an Assistant. Elders Yengo and Oubassissa are experiences and wonderful leaders. I would trust them with almost any task, and they work extremely well with the missionaries. Today they left to fly to Lubumbashi, 1,000 miles to the southeast, where they will work for at least a half day with each of the five teams of elders. Wednesday, Sister Livingstone and I will fly to Lubumbashi for interviews with the 10 elders serving there, and then a half day meeting to share inspiration and teaching with and from them on Thursday. The Assistants are invaluable in being able to help train and inspire the missionaries.
Here are the Hanks and 8 missionaries striding down the street. Count 'em -- you'll find 10 people, ifyou can see Sister Hanks hidden by Elder Shaw on the extreme right of the picture, and Elder Nielsen just barely shown between Elder Anderson (shiny forehead) and Elder Archibald to his right.
All 10 of them traveled to the place for our meal in the Hanks' little Izuzu pickup truck. Pretty amazing, huh? Actually 5 were in the king cab while the other 5 rode in the back, with the plastic cover zipped down so the police wouldn't stop the truck and demand a bribe. No problem if there were 15 Cameroonians in a truck like this, but 5 "blancs" -- that could be an occasion for a little demand by the gendarmes. Look comfy, don't they!!