Tuesday, December 30, 2008


One day during the mission tour with Elder Paul Koelliker, a General Authority of the Church who is one of the three leaders of the overall church in Southeast Africa, he wanted to see some of the buildings that the Church has erected here in Kinshasa. The new buildings are magnificient -- the nicest structures for miles around, and they really identify the church in the minds of the Congolese. We visited about 10 buildings during a 5 hour trip. So come along.

As you can see above, the weather was rather wet. When it rains in Congo, it pours -- with no apologies to Mortons' Salt and their slogan. We started off going to the west end of Kinshasa and then working south and east.

This is the road to Kinsuka and Malueka (just pronounce these like Hawaiian -- sound every syllable and you'll do great!!). There's no pavement here -- just dirt roads with 12 - 18 inch undulations in them that turn pretty muddy and yucky quite quickly.

Good thing that our Toyota SUV is part vehicle and part boat!! This was only about 12 - 15 inches deep. Elder Koelliker just said, "President, I trust you." So it was a trial of my faith, as well as his. Fortunately we navigated the waterhole and around the trucks pretty well. Note the licence plate -- KN3563 BH -- just painted on the back of the truck.

The Congo is estimated to only have about 700 miles of paved road in a country with over 60 million people and about the size of the eastern half of United States. Believe it or not, this is one of them -- it just has some rather significant potholes and riverbeds running through it.

But eventually the paved road runs out and we were slithering up a slippery path. Thank heavens for 4 wheel drive!!

Most of the older chapels were homes that were purchased, converted and added onto. Here is the Kinsuka chapel -- typical of those older chapels. You can squeeze about 130 people into the large room used as the chapel, and it has 6 classrooms. The rain was pelting down, but we opened the doors, opened our umbrellas, shouted "Geronimo" and dashed into and around the building. Elder Koelliker was pleased to see the care that the Saints take into their facilities.

Here we are approaching the Malueka / Kimbwala building. It is a modern new stake center-sized building, at the end of a dirt road as you can see. The trees are hiding a beautiful white steeple and much of the building is hidden by the block wall on the perimeter, but you can see the right hand side of the building with a beautiful green wrought-iron fence.
The important thing is the Gospel that is taught and practiced -- not the buildings. The buildings are the hardware -- the Gospel is the software that changes peoples' lives. Could we operate in Africa without these buildings? Yes. But they are a wonderful gathering point for the members and the pride of their communities. The Church has built 8 of these buildings in the last 6 or 7 years, and three more are under construction right now, to go along with the approximately 10 older buildings that we have. And we hope and pray that one day soon, the Prophet will announce a House of the Lord -- a holy temple for this city, country and the great people.
Elder Koelliker was a good sport about traversing through the rain and mud. The leaders of the church are such great people. Always up to facing a challenge, smiling, laughing and then respectfully thinking about how to support the church and its members. The last stop of our trip was at a 10 acre site that the church owns in a commune (section of the city) called Kasavubu. We have a beautiful full-sized chapel, are building a large building for the Seminary and Institute program where teenaged and college students go to attend one hour classes in religious instruction and also to "hang out", and the site has a large corner adjoining a busy road that is a "special site" -- the place where the temple could be built.
When we arrived, Elder Koelliker noted the existing building and the one under construction. But his interest was clearly in the "special site" -- with good reason. For 10 years from 1996 to 2006, Elder Koelliker was in charge of the construction of all the temples the church built during that period. I think he said that he oversaw the construction of 67 temples during that time, from the initial site selection through the construction and the dedication. So he has a very special feeling for temples. He walked out onto the special site, stood and just meditated for a period of time, slogging through the wet dirt in his suit and penny loafer shoes. When he returned, there was a contented smile on his face and a knowing look that didn't have to be explained. It was a joy to be there just to see the expression on his face. One day, soon we hope.......

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