Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Elders Fix African Dinner

Start with, fresh veggies, flour for fou fou, etc.

The other elders said that Elder Mukadi  was a great cook, so we asked him to show us how to cook an African meal.  He is just getting started here.  He had gutted most of the fish in advance, but wanted to show me how to do it, so he saved one for me!

Elder Mukadi is showing Sister Bybee and I how to stir the corn flour into boiling water.  Fou fou can be made from different types of flour - manioc, rice, corn, or a combination.  We decided to just use corn flour this time.

Elder Brockbank and Heritier, who is a branche missionary and had worked with the elders this day, came to help.
YUM YUM - smells delicious!

Heretier and Elder Brockbank busy making....I am not sure, but it was sure good!

This fish was extraordinary - it came off the bones easily and if you didn't want to have it watch you eat it, you could make sure you didn't get a piece that included the head.

Our cooks:   Heritier, Elder Mukadi, Sister Bybee and Elder Brockbank.
From the left:  Elder Wheatley, Elder Johnson, Elder Lundberg, Elder Lavering, Elder Brockbank (standing) and Sister Bybee.

Starting on the right, Elder VanAusdal, Elder Mukadi, Heritier, Sister Bybee, Elder Ntambwe and Elder Lavering.

Visit to the African Mercy Ship

Three days before we left Pointe Noire, we were able to visit the African Mercy Ship, which was docked in Pointe Noire for at least 6 months.  We wanted to see it because of the wonderful medical care the staff on the ship are able to provide for people living in Africa.  Their website tells about their mission to help:
The staff of 400, including doctors, nurses, cooks, teachers, etc., either pay their own way or find sponsors to support them.

I had started watching a blog belonging to a couple from Salt Lake City after reading a news article about them.  The website of the Mercy Ship said they would be coming to Pointe Noire.  I tried to get permission for our 8 young Elders to visit the ship but was not successful with that request and felt very blessed that we were allowed on board for a  visit.
 The young woman on the left was one of our hosts.  She is from South Africa.  I can't remember all the details she told us, but she said that there are 400 crew members and at each port they screen and hire about 200 local people to help with daily tasks, including interpreting the dialects of the people being helped.

The medical help they provide is for maxio-facial tumors, leg bone  malformations (before age 16), cleft palates, and corrective surgery for women who have been injured during long labor giving birth. 

This is one view of the harbor from one of the ship's decks.  There were 8 levels.

Last Week in Pointe Noire

This man owned a pottery shop in the sand by the ocean.  He spoke English pretty well and we often stopped and talked with him.  We gave him some church literature and some Friend magazines for his 2 little boys.

This beautiful sister was engaged before we came to Pointe Noire and she and her fiance were still working to save money to pay the dote so that they could marry.  She moved from a nicer home to this wooden house which had more room outside so that she could dry fish to sell.  

One day when we went with the missionaries to visit a woman, these little boys were playing with their stuffed animals at a home next to hers.  They were playing so cute, then when I asked their father if I could take their photo, they weren't so happy about it!

We passed this gorilla (the only one we saw in Africa) almost daily, on the way to Faun Chi Chi.  He was guarding the plants that were for sale.  

This little store was never open when we had time to go in, but it had displays of American holidays and we always wondered if it might be an American who managed it.

This building was in the same parcel as the well the church paid to drill, but we didn't know what it was until the week we left.  Elder Bybee was with us so we were able to talk to a family that was under a tree by it and they  lived there and took care of homeless children.  It was supported by the Catholic Church.  There is a garden to the right of the building.

A sea urchin on the beach the last day we walked there.

Cherished Friends

Many Aeroport Branch Branche Friends

Some Pointe Noire Branch Friends

President (counselor in Aeroport Branche) Kende and his wife, with a dress for me and mens' congo top and bottom for Keith.

President Kende's son, Gracia, who was a branche missionary and sometimes guardian for us.  He received his passport the week before we left - the first one to get his in the 23 months we were there.  He will be off to serve a mission as soon as the paperwork is completed and our Mission President  can come and interview him.  We are so happy for him and for the hope this gives  to other young men and women who want to serve missions and the families who want to be sealed in the temple-that they will be able to get passports!
John Francois and Heretier - fine young men converts who want to serve missions.

Our interpreter, Leondra's family.  His daughter just turned 8 and he baptized her.  They will have another child in February.

Frere Bonne - wonderful young man who is in school and plans to serve a mission as soon as he can.   He has learned how to do the Distribution orders for the Mpaka Branche.

More wonderful friends from Aeroport Branche.
Mpaka Branche and Aeroport Branche Friends

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some Thoughts about Daily Miracles

During our 23 months here in Congo, we have often talked about keeping our journals so that we can remember things - especially daily experiences and miracles.  I am not good at writing in my journal, although I have written sometimes.  I then started writing daily miracles, but haven't been dedicated to that, either, although I hope I never forget the daily tender mercies of Heavenly Father.  Keith has been much better at writing - he gets up earlier than I do (that isn't news for anyone) to let the night guardian go home, and then he writes in his journal.  I plan on posting the weekly letters we send home, but also haven't done that yet - plan to before we close our blog.  Today I wanted to record an experience we had on our way from one of the branche meetings to visit a sister who hasn't been to church for a few weeks.  We had two sisters from the branche in the back seat of the truck and two missionaries in the very back, covered bed of the truck. As we drove through an intersection where there are often policemen (and we have had some previous experiences with being waved over there), Keith and I both thought the light was blinking yellow - which happens frequently and the cars in front of us all went through.  But, we were waved over by a policewoman who proceeded to tell us that we had made 3 infractions.  We understand when they ask for our documentation, so we gave her that and told her we didn't speak French and weren't 'comprehending' what she was saying (true, other than getting the fact that she said we had done 3 things wrong and we didn't know what they were).  She, of course, got frustrated that we couldn't speak French and we weren't understanding her threats to write a ticket.  She asked the 2 Congolese women if they could translate and they said no.  She walked to the back of the truck and opened the window and saw the 2 missionaries, who just said 'hi' and then she said we had lied to her because we hadn't told her we had passengers in the back.  The gist of her conversation was something like, we had 6 people in our truck, including the very back, and we were only supposed to have 5; we had run a red light; and we never could figure out the 3rd thing.  She called over another policewoman and they decided to write us a ticket (all the while, of course, we knew if we gave her money, she wouldn't write the ticket).  So, we figured we would get a ticket and have to go to town tomorrow to pay it and get our paperwork back.  Just then, one of the branche members, who is fortunate to have a truck (he has a good job and he also speaks some English), drove by on his way home from church.  He and another member, who drives a taxi, got out and came over and talked to the policewomen.  They were very courteous and we don't know what they said, but they convinced the women to not write us a ticket!  Interestingly, in his truck he had at least 8-10 people in the cab-normal for Congolese-and two riding in the open back of the truck, hanging precariously off the sides.  It was pretty obvious that the law was different for us than for them, so maybe that is why they let us go - we don't know for sure.  Blessings while we drive are a daily occurrence. 
Driving is the most frightening thing we do here.  Driving at night is the worst.  Driving on horrible roads is awful.  Driving in the rainy season is almost impossible except on the very best roads, which are few and far between.  We often come to crazy, jammed up intersections and suddenly there is  an opening just enough for us to make our way through.  Keith is an amazing driver but we both come home and shake for a while on the worst days.  We always have a special prayer asking for safety before we drive anywhere.  We had a new fender installed last Monday and by Thursday, someone had rear-ended us.  We are blessed that usually people don't drive fast here - so fender benders are common but not usually serious.  I hope I never forget to be thankful for daily miracles.  I am sure sometimes I don't even recognize them.  I know we have the Lord's help to do our work here and I am so very grateful for that.

Branche Members

This is Sister Mabiala, who we met as we stopped to go with some elders to a rendezvous   with an investigator.  She was on her way home from the market.  She asked us to come to her house when we were done to get a dress she made as a gift for me!  We tried - we drove all over the place, but there is some road construction and we got lost.  We had to call her and apologize because we had to get to another rendezvous.  She gave me the dress the next day.  It is bright red, with pictures of the map of Congo in celebration of the 50th birthday of the county, which was established in 1960.  I will take a picture of it and add it here later.  I haven't had the courage to wear it yet!  I was so grateful to her for this gift, I will always remember her because she is a very resourceful and hard-working woman who is a stalwart member of her branche.
Too much light in this room, and I am not a great photographer, but here is the Aeroport Branche Relief Society - Société de Secours.  They are so beautiful and they, as many women in Congo, very often wear traditional dress.

A few more sisters joined the group, and a couple of them posed differently so everyone could be seen (they love to pose for pictures,  and I was grateful they would smile because often Congolese people think they have to look VERY serious in a picture).
Still having trouble with too much light in my photos, but this is the Aeroport Branche Primaire.  The children didn't want to smile, but they loved having their picture taken and had to all look at it in my camera afterwards.

This is the Pointe Noire Branche Primaire Nursery.  Sœur Dortrance (who was baptized after we came) is on the left and Sœur Lodi is on the right. The children love Primaire!

This is the Pointe Noire teen-ager Sunday School class.  They are so serious!  Their teacher is a great lady, who is raising her 3 children in the gospel (we met her husband after Church today-a very professional man who works for a large company and speaks English, as do their 2 sons).  These youth are dedicated and will be powerful leaders in the Church.  One of the young women, Journie, was just baptized 3 weeks ago and gave a lovely talk in Sacrament Meeting today!

This is President  Sombo and two of his Branche leaders, Frère Lionel, who is the Financial Clerk and Frère Ahn, who is the Assistant Executive Secretary (and who was just baptized a few weeks ago).  They are all exceptionally dedicated men who work tirelessly in their callings.
Here are some Sisters we love.  Sœur DeLove, Sœur Dortrance, and Sœur Florida have been baptized while we have been here.  They come faithfully and serve willingly in their callings.  On my right, Sœur Varnesh is a Branche Missionary and the other sister is Krtsia, a delightful young woman who is a nanny for our Société de Secours President.

I know some of the names for these young people, but not all - I am so ashamed of my bad memory!  2nd from left is Cleve, then Krtsia, Sœur Varnesh and that's all I remember.

Kwanga, a Fire Truck, Harbor Views and Coiffure Training

There are 2 little girls sitting behind this table, watching their mother's product of kwanga, which is for sale.  It is a staple of food in much of Africa, although it is called by different names and probably has different tastes - but the main ingredient is always manioc.  It is made into a flour paste and is wrapped in green leaves and tied together, then steamed for, I am told, at least 3 hours.  It comes in different sizes and shapes.
We don't think is has much food value, but it is very filling and is eaten with most meals, cut up into pieces and served with some type of gravy - or just eaten 'on the run' with some water or Coca Cola to wash it down, as we have seen a lot of laborers do.

 We had not seen a fire truck for many months when we first came, then we saw one in the yard of the only Fire Station we have seen.  Recently we saw into the open gate of the Fire Station and could see more than one, although it is difficult to determine if they are 'working'.  A few days ago as we entered a busy intersection, one came flying through and we had to get out of the way quickly.  We hear of homes burning down, and one family's home in the Pointe Noire Branche did burn down about two weeks ago.  So many of the homes are cinder block with not much to burn, but the other, most humble homes are wooden and burn easily and the families loose everything.
 These two photos are not very clear.  I have posted a few photos of the harbor previously, but one day we wanted to get out of town for a few minutes, so we drove out a few miles, and then up on a hill to see if we could see the African Mercy Ship that is docked in our harbor.

We couldn't see the Mercy Ship but this shows other ships.  Most commodities in Pointe Noire are either shipped in or flown in, which explains why everything is very expensive.

This is a training school for hair stylists.  There are many Coiffure shops, and many women who simply 'do hair' in the yards of their homes.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mvou Mvou Well Project...Again

We received a call one day telling us the well paid for by our Church Humanitarian Services was once again going to be presented as being completed.  We attended a ceremony shortly after we arrived in Pointe Noire for the same purpose, but the generator and transformer weren't working and the well never produced water for the community as it was intended to do.  Now, these many months later and just as we are leaving, it is supposed to really be ready.  It will serve about 50,000 people, who currently have to go find water from another source. Since the pipes had been there for a couple of years, they needed painted, so about 15 minutes before the ceremony was supposed to start, these men began the paint job.

This happy French man was hired by the water company to remedy problems with the old water pipes, so that people really can get the water that will be available.  Our rented church building is in the background. Since the building was rented, in January 2012, the church has had to buy trucked in water.  We will never again take fresh, drinkable, available water for granted!

There were a couple of camera men and some radio people there to record the ceremony and interview people.  Our 'Agent Branche President', President Caillet was an important part of the process and we and the missionaries were also invited to attend.  The mayor, the man over the water for MvouMvou community and several other important people attended.  Every time I tried to get a good picture, one of the camera men would step in front of me! We were told the next day that we were on TV, and people saw us even in the capitol city of Brazzaville and called P.N. to tell about it.  Such a blessing to have water, if only the city will really fix the old, decaying and broken pipes!

President Caillet(with the blue ribbon in his coat pocket) is shaking hands with the government water project person. You can barely see Elders Lavering and Johnson in the back.

President Caillet, the well pipe, Elders Ntambwe and Lavering, Branch Missionary Ahn, and Elder Johnson.

Left to right:  a plumber from one of the branches, President Caillet, Elder and Sœur Wheatley, Elder Ntambwe, Branche Missionary Ahn, and Elder Johnson - Elder Lavering took the picture.