I have been busy doing many fruitful things here on base, such as training to run the kitchen when Mariel needs me to (like she did today and yesterday because she was sick…cooking 3 meals a day for 30+ people is a serious full time job).
Also, I’ve been cleaning out the Expeditions container where we keep all our equipment like tents and chairs and propane and dishes and alllllll that stuff that we take on expeditions to the bush. It was an absolute MESS. It took Jon, Michelle and I all week to clean it out, build shelves (like champs! And with the help of our pastor’s lovely wife Marsha), and get all the stuff back in there. We still have a lot of fixing and organizing to do, but I am taking a small intermission becauuuuuuse:
I am going out to the bush for a week with the new Advanced Missions Training (who just arrived last week) on their first expedition! I am excited to get out to do ministry again and get to know this awesome team of my (hopefully) future coworkers :) Oh yeah and spend time with some of my favorite kids in the world, Elly and Caleb hehehe!
Pray for an impactful time of ministry in the Siatchitema chiefdom! We’ll leave tomorrow and return Friday.
Peace and blessings, peace annnnd blessings. xx
When dreams come true, people often ask us “was it everything you hoped it would be?” If we are honest with them and ourselves, the answer will always be “no.” Life is never as simple as having a dream and then having that exact dream come true. There are always unexpected twists and turns, things that are better than expected, things that are worse, and things that are simply different. That’s what makes life interesting; its very nature is unexpected. The only thing we can expect from life is that the unexpected will occur. Life’s surprises make us flexible. They force us to understand differences, to surrender selfishness, to become better people. Travel provides a medium in which life’s unexpected surprises are concentrated, and Africa is the reigning queen of the unexpected. I have understood differences. I have surrendered selfishness. I have become a better person.
Ministering in Democratic Republic of the Congo was a dream of mine. If you ask, “was it everything you hoped it would be?” I would naturally say “no.” Does life [in Africa] ever follow the course of our expectations? It was more than I hoped it would be, it was less than I hoped it would be, it was different than I hoped it would be. Things didn’t work out the way we’d planned, but God led us to the connections He had for us. A new beginning is underway for Overland Missions in Congo, and I was honored to be a part of the first pioneering few.
The message God’s inexhaustible love for humankind has the power to end the war in Congo. It has the power to end the terrors of everyday living that haunt victims of rape. It has the power to take those who have only known how to be violent and transform them into those who only know how to love. Don’t be mistaken—I’m not saying religion has this power. We’ve only seen religion make things worse in these situations, as men take their evil will and claim it to be God’s. No, it’s not the “Christian religion” of the West that has the answer. It’s the message of God’s love that says my life is valuable and so is yours and so is hers, the lady drawing water, and so is hers, the little girl laying sick on the porch next door and so is his, the soldier with the machine gun. Our lives are more valuable than all the tin, tantalum, tungsten, cobalt, copper, and diamonds in the world because if God thought each life was worth the life of His Son, then how could we be anything less than priceless? It’s the type of message that looks at one deathly ill child on a dirty cot and sees the worth of a thousand. That is the only message that can bring hope to Congo, and that is the message we bring as we launch our new base in Katanga province over the next few years. The depth of the reality that God chose me to carry, on this trip and many to come, that war-ending message to Congo still reverberates through my spirit.
Do I expect to go back? For what it’s worth: undoubtedly yes.
Want to learn more about the conflicts in Democratic Republic of Congo? Visit http://www.raisehopeforcongo.org/
Want to hear Julie, Sherrill, and Jake’s perspectives on their time in Congo? Visit www.overlandmissions.com and look for their blog posts.
Here is a good one from Julie to start:
This morning we had breakfast with Pastor Ntambo and his family. They invited a lot of people from the Methodist mission at Mulunguishi to meet us there. Many were professors at the college there, and we were able to ask some questions about logistics of Julie doing something with health training in Congo, and discussed the possibility of Overland starting a long-term base in Mpande. The people we met with at that breakfast invited Julie to return and do medical and counseling training with the wives of the pastors who are trained there, and Sherrill to return and do agriculture training with the students. I’m confident that every connection made will be valuable in the future as we move towards long-term work in Congo. Sherrill and Julie planned to return in October.
On our way to meet Kenneth in Likasi
Missionary David’s driver took us in their vehicle down to Likasi so we wouldn’t have to find a taxi, and as we pulled into town we prepared ourselves for the “worst” leg of the trip as far as transportation goes. Before heading to the bus station, we went to meet up with a man named Kenneth Pembamoto, who is the brother of a paramount Chief named Matthew, who we had been hoping to connect with in Lubumbashi. Matthew was unable to meet with us, but we talked with Kenneth for a while. Kenneth and Matthew come from an extremely influential family within Katanga, but many of them live in the States. In fact, that very morning Kenneth was heading back home to West Palm Beach area, where he lives and teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic (a school I’m actually familiar with from spending some time in Palm Beach Gardens some years ago). He told us that he and his siblings had all taken opportunities to live in America because of the violence and unrest and frustration of living in Congo, but on this particular trip back to Likasi, the Lord spoke to his heart and he realized that this is where he needed to be; this is where the real need is. He said he plans on returning to Congo to minister here once again.
Kenneth offered to give us a ride down to Lubumbashi in his van since we were all planning to head there at the same time. We were overjoyed to be able to skip the most miserable bus ride of the trip, and to be able to spend more time talking to him on our way down. I, of course, fell asleep in the back of the van for most of the ride. Classic Rachel.
But I did wake up in time to hear some key points of Jake and Julie’s conversation with Kenneth. He told the story of how he came to America, and he talked to Jake about what he saw to be the key to change in the Congo. In just the same way as Overland believes, Kenneth expressed that more money will never be the solution to Congo’s problems. Congo already has too much money—that, in fact, IS the problem. Corruption because of money. The key to change is relationships, and the Gospel’s ability to change hearts through building them. How awesome it was to establish this relationship with someone who loves the Lord, loves Congo (and understands Americans so he has increased patience with our cultural clumsiness!). Though it was only a few hours on our very last day, I understand our ride with Kenneth was one of the most monumental points in the trip.
After dropping Kenneth at the airport in Lubumbashi and meeting up with David from Kyubo Lodge to pay him back for our night of refuge, Kenneth’s driver took us all the way back down to Kasumbalesa border (another 2 hours or so from Lubumbashi). To not have to lug our bags in and out of various vehicles, negotiate prices, push through crowds of drunk men and pestering salespeople, and search for correct buses was a blessing unreal. In fact, when we got out of the van at Kasumbalesa and brushed off the men who try to “help” people through the border (in reality they cause trouble for people by working with the immigration officers to get bribe money from us and split the spoils among themselves), I felt startled that our time in DRC was at an end. This morning we woke not knowing what to expect but preparing for a long day or likely even two of cramped, smelly, uncomfortable travel, yet here we were, already at the border, hugging Gaston goodbye, thanking him and Kenneth’s driver, and walking back into no-man’s land, on our way home to Zambia.
The next morning, David from the lodge said he could drive the three of us girls back to Mpande since he was passing there on his way to Lubumbashi anyway. Gaston and Jake would ride the motor bikes back and meet us there. We left about 4 hours later than he said we would, and the three of us had to fit into a single seat in the front of the truck, but we made it. On the way back we passed the guys trying to fix the tire again. David loaded the dud bike in the back of the truck and the guys just rode the good bike back to Mpande. When we arrived we explained to the pastors and Mama Nassi what had happened and why we didn’t make it to the meeting last night. Before we left for Kyubo we had planned to meet up with the missionaries who had hooked us up with Pastor Ntambo at their missions base in Mulunguishi, but it was already evening and we were supposed to meet for lunch. Jake called and explained what had happened and they said we could still come for dinner and spend the night there. So we hurriedly packed up our stuff from the house and found some different motor bikes to rent to drive us there.
Once again, we were crammed on the back of bikes, this time with all our heavy stuff, and this time it was night. As we drove, every vehicle that passed us kicked up so much dirt that we couldn’t see more than 5 feet ahead of us. Coughing and rubbing dust from our eyes, we puttered through the dust and dark of the bush. Another huge bush fire glowed and crackled 30 feet tall on the side of the road. Jake told me more about the Mai Mai, the rebel group that was active in Katanga province and had often took control of Kyubo, Bunkeya, and other villages we had been through. Apparently they believe you can gain power by eating people, but you have to eat them alive. A woman in Bunkeya said they ate one man alive from his feet to his knees. I had heard of so many atrocities committed by rebel groups in DRC, but it was a whole other experience riding through the bush in Katanga at night, thinking about all the people we had seen and met on our journey yesterday, wondering about all the things they had seen and experienced in their lifetime that people in other parts of the world would never see, never even have nightmares about. Despite my aching joints and throbbing muscles and the sand in my sinuses and lungs, I almost wanted to turn around and drive back. I wanted to do something. I wanted to bring hope. We hadn’t stayed long enough.
When we reached Mulunguishi, missionaries David and Laurie had dinner waiting for us; it was wonderful to have another hot meal. They were shocked we had gone to Kyubo. “If we knew you were planning on going there we would have never allowed it!” Laurie said. Jake just shrugged. “We’ve been wanting to get to Kyubo for years. I’m just glad we finally made it.” I smiled to myself, knowing what he really meant by that: “Nothing could have stopped us anyway. This is the Gospel we’re talking about. We’ve already considered the cost.”
I was able to finally wash the dirt out of my hair, with a cold shower but a shower nonetheless. We slept well that night.
This morning we got up early to have a small adventure. There is a village called Kyubo about 130 kilometers north of Mpande that Jake has been wanting to get to for some years now, but each time he tried he was turned away because of rebel activity or hasn’t made it up there. Today we took the motor bike that Jake keeps at the house in Mpande and we rented another one from a guy in Mpande and headed for Kyubo. On the way we passed through a beautiful area and a village called Bunkeya. The chiefdom we live in in Zambia is called Mukuni and the people there are known as the Toka-Leya people. Originally they migrated to our area of Zambia from Congo, and Bunkeya is the very village that the Toka-Leya people came from. It was so cool to visit a part of what feels like our own history. In Bunkeya we saw quite a few old colonial buildings, including a huge Belgian church. We also visited an older missions base on a hillside in Bunkeya. Jake had met the missionaries earlier that week, but they were out of town today. The day up until that point was a ton of fun, but after Bunkeya things started to get a little crazy.
The Belgian church in Bunkeya
It started with our bike’s tire going flat about 30 ks out of the village, kind of in the middle of nowhere. We sent Gaston back to Bunkeya on the good bike to buy some supplies and a new tube so we could fix it. Jake said we should get off of the road and wait back into the bush a ways so we wouldn’t be harassed or robbed or at least given trouble by every passing vehicle. That’s one of the moments I really realized that I wasn’t in Zambia anymore. We’d never need to do that in Zambia. We found a log back a ways into the brush and sat and ate bread and peanut butter, played games on Julie’s phone, listened to music, played lame high school party games like Never Have I Ever, and pretty much anything we could think of to entertain ourselves. Finally Gaston returned with two guys to help fix the bike. The two guys turned out to be totally ignorant about bikes because they punctured the brand new tube while putting it into the tire, and then they had to patch it, and when they finally got the tire settled, they put the wheel on backwards and struggled with that an extra forty minutes. I put my head on my knees to hide my eyes from the gnats that constantly pestered me, and I fell asleep like that and woke up and they were STILL fiddling with the darn thing. Finally, nearly 3 hours after the flat, we were on the road again.
Investigating what tools we had to fix the bike
The road to Dikulwe and then onto Kyubo was increasingly rough. We tipped both bikes over in a ditch of sand at one point, and the bike fell over and crushed my sprained ankle (joy!) and everyone else got some bumps and bruises. Bush fires burned on either side of the road, which for me as a New Mexican who hates wild fires with a fierce, fearful hatred, was quite terrifying. At one point there were fires burning right along the road on both sides and I could feel the intense heat as we navigated the deep trenches and potholes in the road between the flames. As the afternoon stretched on, our legs hurt more and more and we became more and more hungry. We stopped to buy some fuel in one of the villages (they sell it by the side of the road in plastic water bottles), and while we filled up the bikes we saw a lady selling snacks on a stick. We got closer and discovered that each skewer had four or five charcoal-black rodents. They looked extra well-done and crispy, but you could still see there little yellow teeth sticking out of each face. I wasn’t THAT hungry.
By 3 or 4pm we realized that we weren’t making it back to Mpande tonight. It was way too dangerous to travel after dark, and it had taken nearly 8 hours to even get this far. Plus, our bike’s tire was gradually and continuously losing air, making it hard for Gaston to drive very quickly, so every bump in the road nearly threw us. Each time we hit a pothole we cringed in pain. Finally, around 6 pm, we stopped and bummed a pump for the tire from a man on a bike coming the other way. As we pumped up the tire we asked the guy how far it was to Kyubo and he said we had already arrived. I was overjoyed, and somehow believed him, despite the fact that I looked around and saw only desolate bush, the same as I had seen for the last 100 ks. But he was right—we pulled into Kyubo. However, we were met with a grim surprise: huge trucks full of armed Congolese soldiers. They were already drunk, and yelling at us in French. We were like, let’s dip out yo!
We had only one lead for refuge in Kyubo. Earlier, Jake had told us there was some sort of fancy hotel in the area, so Gaston drove further and asked some people where the Muzungus (white people) hotel was, and they pointed us down a small road. We followed it and came up to a gate not unlike our entrance gate to our base in Zambia. The guard said the boss was out and he couldn’t let us in. Gaston began to negotiate, and I was concerned because this place was our one idea of where we could get help in Kyubo. I definitely didn’t want to go back to the street and risk getting robbed or worse by those soldiers. Praise God, the guard finally said we could go in and wait for the boss inside. As we approached the property, things became more and more surreal. There were beautiful stilted bungalows, well-kept and lush gardens, and a fantastic waterfall. After riding through dry, scraggly brush for hours and hours, it was unbelievable to see. We were all giggling from surprise and adrenaline, our faces and clothes absolutely coated in red dirt. I felt like I must have gotten killed back there and had gone to heaven or something.
Imagine riding through the rural bush for 10 hours on terrible roads, with 100 kilometers of unchanging landscape looking exactly like this:
And then suddenly…
We took pictures of the falls and washed our faces in the river, and waited for the boss to come back so we could kindly ask him (beg him) to let us camp somewhere on the property. Jake had heard that anyone staying here had to call ahead and reserve a room. Maybe we could work out some sort of deal? Or maybe there was a shed we could stay in? We had only $90 and the clothes on our backs.
The boss, a Congolese man named David, returned and Jake and Gaston went to talk to him. He said it was much too dangerous for us to spend the night anywhere in the village but here. By some miracle of God they worked out a deal that Gaston could stay for free and the rest of us could pay $100 a person. David said he was going to Lubumbashi the next day, and when we went back down to Zambia in the next few days we could withdraw money there and pay him back. We were ecstatic!
As we enjoyed our evening at the lodge, Jake dreamed out loud about the possibilities this lodge could provide us in ministry. If we ever wanted to meet with Congolese dignitaries, chiefs, or kings, we could bring them here and have a conference. In this culture, you can’t just bring important people to some dark, run down hut somewhere and meet with them—it shows no respect for their position. The connections we have now with the lodge and the people working there may provide us a venue for a Congolese “chief ceremony” of sorts.
Our rooms were beautiful and clean and I felt like I was going to defile everything in there. We showered with bar soap and wore the chitenge skirts we packed in our bags to dinner. I began to think about what our night could have looked like. We could have been sleeping on a cold, dirty cement floor somewhere…maybe a church floor, maybe a hut. We could have gone to bed hungry or eaten charcoal rats for dinner and we could have shivered all night long. We could have been robbed or harassed or hurt or raped by the soldiers, but here we were, eating chicken and potatoes and using free wifi and looking at a gorgeous waterfall and sleeping in clean, soft beds. I was unbelievably grateful to God for providing for us that night.
Today we got to do kids’ ministry (finally)! Julie and I sat outside the house until three or four kids started hanging around, and then we walked to the church building with Pastor Ntambo. By the time we got there, at least 30 kids had congregated as we walked and followed us inside. We started to sing a song that we know from ministry in Zambia, which I had learned in Swahili back in 2009 at the Urbana conference. Eventually we had over 100 kids crowded into the church. Some older girls led everyone in some more songs, and the kids sang so loud I thought my ears would break.
After singing I shared the gospel with the kids, and I used a different way of describing sin to children that I’ve been thinking about. Instead of emphasizing that sin is the bad things we do, God hates sin, and you’re a sinner, I emphasized how much God loves us and wants to be close to us. Because kids are so punishment-reward focused, I’ve noticed that where we put the emphasis when communicating the gospel is really important. Putting the focus on how Jesus died for our SINS and now our SINS are wiped away and now we should go through life without SINNING anymore sets kids up for an understanding of their faith as primarily a way to “be good” to avoid punishment, and therefore leads them into a lifetime of battling against guilt and legalism. The more we focus on sin and our separation from God, the less kids understand that the purpose of Jesus sacrifice was not just to get rid of sin—it was to get rid of sin SO THAT we could be reconciled to God. I just happened to be wearing my bandana as a headband, so I pulled it down over my eyes and said, “sin is like a blindfold that covers our eyes so we can’t see Jesus. We can’t follow him if we can’t see where he is going! It also covers our ears so we can’t hear when God talks to us and tells us He loves us.” I fumbled around the room with the bandana over my eyes and ears, bumped into the podium and made the kids laugh. I explained that when Jesus died for us He took our sin blindfolds off, and I threw the bandana on the floor. Most of the kids gave their lives to Christ and I’m praying that they will grow in their understanding that it was for freedom that we have been set free.
Me sharing with the kids about how sin keeps us from seeing how much God loves us.
Julie spoke after me and shared stories from the book of Daniel. She talked about how God hears and answers our prayers, even when we are young. She called all the kids who needed prayer to come forward, and then she said that all their friends could join us in praying for them. They all laid hands on each other and on us, and we all prayed out loud together. It was powerful to see kids so full of faith and believing that they too have power through Christ.
Julie sharing with the kids from the book of Daniel
We arrived back at the house and there was a little girl of about 5 years laying on the porch next door with a chitenge skirt over her. We asked the kids what was wrong and they said she was very sick (they said Cholera, but Julie didn’t think that was correct. She may have just had severe diarrhea, dehydration, etc). Her name was Bea. We prayed for Bea and a mere five minute later she was up and running around with her friends.
Many of the days here in Mpande have been filled with waiting and down time, which sometimes makes me feel like “Lord, why did you send us here just to play cards and nap and eat bread?” Yet other days there were just one or two small things that seemed to make an emphatic impact: kids’ ministry, sharing with the women at the meeting, praying for a sick child, sharing with the pastors. I’ve heard that reconnaissance trips are often like this—a lot of waiting, a few great moments, and lots of (seemingly) small connections. But now we have relationships with so many more people in Mpande than before. And how many people will be positively affected by the changes in the pastors, prompted by our evening meetings with them? And why was it me, Lord, who you chose to come and watch this happen? Maybe some day I’ll find out. For now, I’m just grateful I’m here to help sow the seeds, even if I feel anybody could do it, or that I don’t even know what will become of the seeds I’m sowing.
I’m struggling today with why God brought me to DRC. Specifically me. Obviously He wanted me here—the doors opened, the funds flooded in, and I’m sitting here in the place I’ve always dreamed of sitting. But I’m just sitting. Today Sherrill and the pastor went out to do field visits and the rest of us didn’t have a translator, so we stayed at the house and hung out for the day. We tried to do kids’ ministry in the morning but Pastor Ntambo thought it would be better to do it in the afternoon…except he was out doing agriculture with Sherrill in the afternoon so the rest of us just played cards, all day long. I was kind of frustrated to go a whole day without really “doing anything.”
In the evening we had a meeting with the pastors again, and afterwards we walked back to the new school and showed the Jesus Film there by projecting it on the blank wall. A lot of people came and gathered to watch the film when they heard it start to play. It’s a long movie, but there was still a decent group left when it ended. Jake shared a very short message, and then everyone who was there—our team, the pastors, and a few kids and other people who had gathered—held hands in a circle and prayed for Mpande. It was amazing, surprisingly so, how powerful I found that moment to be. Something about watching Jesus on a screen, being whipped and killed for all of us, made me feel close to everyone there. Just hours ago we were all strangers, but now we were holding hands in a circle under thousands of stars, praying together for the village of Mpande, DRC.
A large and cheerful lady named Mama Nassi is helping us with things like heating water for baths and cooking dinner. For breakfast and lunch we have delicious loaves of bread and bananas from the market with peanut butter and honey we brought from Lusaka. For dinner last night Mama Nassi cooked us rice and sweet potato leaves and grilled fish. It was tasty, and nice to have something warm for dinner. We set up our tents inside the house because as soon as the sun sets there are a lot of cockroaches in the house and we’d rather not have them crawl on us as we try and sleep.
Today we visited the clinic and tried to talk to the nurses as best we could with our guides not knowing English. Julie tried to ask questions about the clinic and we got some minimal information. We did get to go to the rooms where they kept the children who were sick and had to stay at the clinic. There were about 10 to 15 children and their mothers in the room; most of the kids had IVs in their hands. Most of them were sick with Malaria (probably). We were able to communicate to the doctor that we would like to pray for the kids, and they let us pray for each child one by one. They even called in all the moms and kids from the rest of the rooms and we prayed for all of them. There was one child, maybe 6 years old, laying on a bed in the corner and he/she was not looking so good. Obviously we didn’t know how long the kid had been lying there, but all the blankets and sheets he was wrapped in stank so strongly of urine and sweat that I had a hard time concentrating as we prayed. The child sort of stared at the wall with blank, dead eyes as we prayed. It made me think a lot about compassion for the rest of the day, because as much as I felt badly for the child, I was happy when the prayer was over because we could get out of there. I consider myself to be quite a compassionate person, but I’ve been reading Nouwen’s book Compassion and he talks about compassion being the willingness to “suffer with” someone. I suppose what I felt for that child was closer to sympathy, because as bad as I felt, I was anxious to leave him in his urine and sweat and dire sickness so I could get some fresh air and move on. That’s not quite compassion, now is it?
We visited the new school, which I guess is run by the Catholic church. The schools are on break right now, which is why whenever we walk anywhere or do anything, a crowd of about 20-30 kids follows us. Sherrill says the school system in Congo is different than Zambia because the government does nothing. So schools are sometimes run by churches or just privately, and can be pretty rough. This school wasn’t in session, so it was hard to tell the condition of the classes. The building was quite nice.
After looking at the school we took a walk down to the fields so Sherrill could check them out. She had done some agriculture classes in Mpande a few months back so she wanted to see if the people were implementing the techniques she taught. The fields looked a lot different than Zambian fields—the crops were greener and the soil was darker and looked better irrigated, although I know nothing about agriculture so I couldn’t say for sure. Sherrill went down into a field to take a closer look and talk with some people, and while we waited some kids came by with wheels and sticks, a game they play where they roll the wheel and keep it upright using a stick as they run behind it. It was cute because as we walked back, they all wheeled on in front of us, showing off and being silly.
When we got back to the house, Jake had returned with Pastor Ntambo from a neighboring village to help us translate. He is quite nice and speaks English well enough to translate preaching. He’s Methodist by denomination, but is totally behind our vision to unite all the churches to work as one body of Christ. He said he was a “pastor” for 5 years before he met Christ. He was sort of pushed into becoming a pastor and said he didn’t understand anything about salvation, but would still yell to “cast out demons” and people would fall over or manifest when he spoke. Then he actually met Jesus and got saved and realized what being a pastor really meant.
Sherrill had a meeting for her agriculture program, “Farming God’s Way,” at the church for the ladies group she met with last time. There were some men and children there too. Julie and I both got a chance to preach before the meeting started. I shared on the parable of the sower and encouraged the people to examine their hearts to see whether they were “good soil.” I explained that when a good seed is sown into good soil, something always changes—the seed grows into a tree or a crop. If their hearts are good soil for the seed of God’s word to be sown into, then the message will have an impact on their lives and we will see growth.
That night we had a meeting in the house we stay at with about 12 of the pastors. Jake shared a great message and a lot of it helped straighten out some lurking beliefs that God remains angry when we sin, even if we repent. Pastor Ntambo shared his testimony, which I’m sure was quite powerful in the context of the meeting. We’re going to continue meeting with the pastors for the next few days.
Jake mentioned that when they did hut to hut here on a previous visit, he tried sharing with the ladies but they directed him towards some men. “We don’t know anything and we’re not supposed to. Look, there are some men. Go share with them,” was essentially their response. That made me really want to do more ministry with the women here.
Today we finally reached the last leg of travel, destination: Mpande. We took a wonderful little taxi (clean, spacious, a seat for each butt!) to another little village. They wanted another 25,000 Francs to take us to Mpande so we said no ways dude and found some motor bikes to drive us there. We loaded up 3 people to a bike with all our stuff too and it was something I would probably include in the compilation book “Things You Don’t Tell Your Mother: Stories from the mission field.” (Although I will almost definitely tell my mother). It was a bit terrifying. And quite painful, especially trying to hold the grocery bag full of rice and sugar with my right hand; as the plastic dug into my palm and the bag slowly stretched, Jake and I feared we may lose our sustenance for the week. But we made it. We all made it. And all our stuff made it. It felt like a miracle.
Crowds of kids followed us through the maze of huts and plumeria trees and termite mounds (taller than the buildings) to the pastor’s house that we’re staying in. The family moved all their stuff out and let us have the whole place for the week. Gaston had to stay in Likasi to finish exams for school so he couldn’t come with us to Mpande, and it became immediately evident that our “translators” that they set up for us here spoke close to no English. They were such nice guys—maybe about my age—but we couldn’t really get past asking their names. Jake and Sherrill had connections with some missionaries in another village who may be able to hook us up with a pastor to come help us out instead. As we settled in, I got incredibly tired and fell asleep on the…couch? The thing that looked like a couch…an uncomfortable bench with a thin pad of foam? The point is, don’t be deceived, it was not an easy place to fall asleep. But I did it because I have an issue with falling asleep suddenly. When I woke up, the others were gone (they went to go talk to the chief) and a small child was pointing at me and squeaking “Muzungu!” Three or four kids and a lady with a baby and a basket of eggplants had come into the room and were sitting around the room looking at me. The woman tried to sell me eggplants but I did the African hand symbol for “I have nothing” and she gifted me one for free anyway. We communicated as best we could in our English/Swahili, and I figured out her baby had a fever. So I held her and prayed for her. Her chubby little body burned hot in my arms and she looked at me with wet eyes full of absolute terror. Let’s just say it was a heartfelt but short prayer. I felt bad—my scary blue “cat eyes” probably scared the living daylights out of her. The woman thanked me, took her basket of eggplants, and left.
Kids in Mpande
After leaving the sweet haven of Restawhile we head for Likasi, the smaller town that Gaston, our translator, is from. We take a public bus there, and they stuff it Africa style, so the ride is far from comfortable, considering each row made for at most 4 people contains between 5 and 6 people. My foot, which is still kinda messed up from my sprain 2 or 3 weeks ago, was crunched on a spare tire under our seat and began swelling a lot because there was nowhere for me to set it. It was hot and crowded and sweaty and crammed and I fell asleep because I’m pretty sure my body decided that the only way to endure that ride successfully was to be unconscious for its duration. After about 2 hours we reached Likasi. We lugged our bags to a shop owned by some of Gaston’s friends, and we sat and had some lunch there. While Jake and Gaston went to find us a place to stay, an older man came up to us girls and started talking to us in French. Obviously we didn’t understand him but he kept asking us questions and getting closer and closer to our faces as he spoke. I wanted him to stop, and I don’t think it was just because it was frustrating not being able to understand him. Something about the way he was talking was threatening and unfriendly. He kept asking the same few things over and over, as if him asking them more would make us understand, and his face was only inches from Julie’s when I said aloud “Okay I think it’s time for you to go away now,” and turned sideways to begin properly ignoring him. He had just barely scuffled back to his table when Gaston and Jake got back. Wow, perfect timing, guys.
Lunch in Likasi
The place they found us to stay was decent, although for the money we spent it was irritating that the water and electricity only worked about 20% of the time we were there, and the dogs barking around the premises gave the dogs at home in Zambia a run for their money in total bark-time, which is saying something. We went to dinner at a little bar and restaurant that had curry and other sorts of great things, and we got to watch the World Cup final game. The game was great; the dinner itself was relatively uneventful except for the car crash in the intersection right outside the open front door that totally destroyed the front of a van. The people at the table next to us drank impressive amounts of alcohol—impressive that they could afford it because we certainly couldn’t have. I watched a man come in with his arms around two girls and touched one of them affectionately for a while. I haven’t seen that (PDA) in Africa like, ever. Then the three of them left and he came back with just the one girl. I wasn’t sure which one got the better deal. I wanted to talk to those girls. I wanted to hear their stories.
When Germany won, all the guys in there who were going for Argentina cheered and yelled and shook Jake and his Germany jersey around. It was definitely the coolest game of Sports I ever did spectate.