Wednesday, February 27, 2008
This trip, we are coming with a second vehicle. The Church has agreed to contribute $ 2.5 million to build a water system for Luputa. The source is a great spring about 40 kilometers from Luputa. The water will be captured in a large reservoir, and then brought by a "gravity feed" pipeline to several villages along the way and then to Luputa. The Barlows (missionaries who are the Humanitarian Directors for the Congo), David and Anna-Lena Frandsen (church volunteer missionaries who travel the world for the church reviewing large water projects), and Robert Hokanson (a church employee in charge of the world-wide water initiatives for the Church's Humanitarian Services) are here to review the water project, meet with the tribal chiefs, and select a project manager.
We're traveling in two Toyota Land Cruisers rented from Catholic Charities. After paying $ 12.50 a gallon to fill up the two vehicles, we put our trust in our two drivers -- Omer in the trusty green truck we used last time, and Alphonse, in the white Cruiser. You'll see pictures of the white truck because I sat in the back of the lead vehicle and took pictures of the following vehicle throughout the trip.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Here's what 15 minutes driving down the road is like. I will probably have my driving privileges revoked when someone from the church's safety division sees that I'm driving and talking on the cell phone or taking pictures at the same time. But this will give you an idea of what driving is like. I generally drive at least 15 hours a week, going to meetings or interviewing the missionaries and their investigators who need interviews for "special situations" before they are baptized.
Taking pictures is a tricky business. If someone sees you taking their picture, they either want money, or are mad at you. So you learn to take pictures very carefully and not too openly.
Here's a guy that is intent on passing someone -- so I better swerve to the right. Note the silver Mercedes ahead of us, and the red and white bus coming in the opposite direction. Hidden behind the yellow VW bus is a "pousse-pousse" cart. These carts occupy the right hand lane and are given right of way. Which means that the red and white bus will have to get around the "pousse-pousse" somehow. Usually that means they will be in the center of the road and into your lane.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
For all of these missionaries, we hope that besides helping them find and teach people that become members of the church, they can learn principles that will help them for the rest of their lives. We hope that they will learn Gospel principles and doctrine that will strengthen their testimonies; principles of leadership that will prepare them to be the future leaders of the Church in their countries; and principles of working and learning that can help them find good jobs and careers so they can provide for their families. Thanks for praying for all the missionaries in the world that they can receive similar blessings.
Time to meet some of the wonderful young missionaries that we serve with. The missionary second from the right -- you already know. She has been on her mission for seven months and her French is improving daily. She really did well in our last zone conference, when we took all the missionaries out on the street, meeting people and asking if we could come teach them in their homes. She is loved by her companion (me).
On the left is Sister Rita Lukonga from the west side of Kinshasa. She has served for about 9 months and is a wonderful hard working missionary. For a month, she was really sick -- and the blood tests showed that she had both malaria and typhoid fever. But after a week of medication, she was back up on her feet and serving with such dedication.
Next to Sister Lukonga is Sister Lengelo, a new missionary who arrived last week. You can read more about her in a couple of paragraphs.
On Sister Livingstone's right is Sister Mukaz, who is 23 and comes from Lubumbashi in the southern end of the Congo. She comes from a family of 15 children, 8 of whom are members of the church. She is the first person in her family to serve a fulltime mission. She was baptized in 2000. Her parents are not members of the church and unfortunately there is no mail system here, so she doesn't hear from her family that often. She served as a volunteer missionary in her home ward and learned much about the book we use, "Preach My Gospel" before she came. Next week, I am going to send her and another wonderful young sister missionary from Lubumbashi, Sister Kayembe, across the river to open a new apartment in Brazzaville. It will be a little difficult for them -- Brazzaville is isolated from Kinshasa by the Congo River, and we will only be able to visit them once every four to six weeks. They will need to be strong -- and they will be.
One of the great joys is to welcome new missionaries, with their enthusiasm and desire to serve. On January 30th we welcomed four new missionaries. The two on the left are the Assistants that work with me -- Elder Mputu and Elder Oubassissa, and make wonderful presentations in our new missionary orientation meeting. The new missionaries are Elder Ngandu (3rd from the left), Sisters Lengelo and Mujinga and Elder Kalulambi. Elder Ngandu and Sister Mujinga come from Kananga -- a city about 500 miles southeast of Kinshasa. Each of these new missionaries has an interesting story.
Elder Ngandu is about 22 and has all the earmarks of a great leader. He is humble and yet confident, and studied English for the last 6 months, about 3 to 4 hours a day. He read from the Book of Mormon with Sister Livingstone for an hour or so on Friday, and he did very well. When I interviewed him in Kananga last fall, Marsha said, "That young man has all that he needs to be a real leader in the mission before he is through." She's right.
Sister Lengelo is 24 and received her university degree in Chemistry and taught in high school for a couple of years before she felt the desire to become a missionary. She is a quiet but confident young lady. The next day after this picture, she was helping us at the Center for the Handicapped ceremony and she and her companion sang hymns quietly, in a beautiful harmony.
Sister Mujinga is 23 and from Kananga. She worked hard as a secretary to earn the money for her passport. She has a wonderful smile, a joy for life, and when she bore her testimony in our orientation meeting, she just radiated the spirit of the Gospel.
Elder Kalulambi is from Masina, a suburb on the east side of Kinshasa. Marsha met him at the stake center about three weeks ago, just before he left for his missionary training at the Center in Ghana. When missionaries send in their application, they could be assigned to anyone of the 360 missions in the world, but he prayed that he would be assigned here to the mission in the DR Congo, so he could teach people in his own country and help strengthen the church here. He is a humble but powerful missionary.
One of the most important things we do is to select the companions for these new missionaries. I felt a wonderful powerful spiritual confirmation of where all four of these new missionaries should serve. What a "tender mercy of the Lord" to deliver them to their apartments and see the joys and welcome that they received from the missionaries who will be their trainers.
Here are most of the leaders of the mission, at a Zone Leader Council meeting at the end of January. From the left -- Elder Mputu, Elder Nsuka, Elder Oubassissa, Elder Kamba, Elder Kayumba, Elder Tshimbundu, Elder Lubangakene, Elder Mampouya and Elder Mukamba. (We've gotten to where we can pronounce these names with relative ease -- Smith, Jones, Collins, etc. will seem pretty staid once we get home.)
One thing that I didn't realize when I got here -- while French may be the colonial language and the official language of the country and the Church, there are many tribal dialects that the missionaries must learn. Here in Kinshasa, the dominant tribal language is Lingala. In Lubumbashi at the southern end of the mission, they speak Swahili. And in the middle of the country, they speak Tshiluba.
So when elders are transferred, sometimes they have to learn a new language that can be radically different from the tribal language they know. While we hope that the next generation of the church will be much more fluent in French, often I have to conduct interviews with someone who can only speak the tribal language, and have to rely on one of these young men to be a translator. You rely a lot on the spirit that you feel in interviews such as these.
I am amazed at their resiliency. In other missions, elders have cars or bicycles. Here they ride the VW combi transports, 20 to 25 packed into a VW bus. We finally got each companionship a cell phone with tightly controlled usage, so they can call their investigators and confirm appointments, etc. I am grateful for their diligence. What great young men and women.
After our zone conference in Cameroon, we treated the elders to a meal at a local Chinese restaurant. Elder Snow from Springville, UT is at the far left. He came out last spring, but got quite sick and had to go to Johannesburg to get healthy again. Since coming back, he has been a wonderful missionary. In the middle is a future elder, Michel Olinga, from Yaounde, Cameroon who has received his call and will begin his missionary service at the end of February. We were glad to have him join us -- he is a wonderful young man about 24 who has finished his schooling and worked for several years to earn the money for his passport. As a minimum, we ask potential missionaries to earn the $ 150 or so for their passport. That doesn't sound like much, but in the African nations, a young person probably has to work for 1 to 1 1/2 years to earn this much money.
Here's 25 wheelchairs for the handicapped which will be awarded to people -- you'll meet some of them in a minute. The Church has provided funding for 50 of these chairs. While a few of them will be awarded to Church members who are handicapped, the rest will be given to people who have been qualified by the Center for the Handicapped, a Catholic church sponsored project. Last July, the Barlows, who direct the Church's Humanitarian efforts in the country, had prayed very specifically that Heavenly Father would help them find a project to help the handicapped. Later that day, Pres. Muliele of the Mission Presidency came into the office, and talked with the Barlows. He told them of this center and Brother Jean Baptiste of the Catholic Brothers of Charity, who sponsor the Center. The Barlows made contact with the Center and found an answer to their prayers.