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.

Zone Interviews & Visit

Zone Picture with President and Sister Cook front row, right; Wheatleys front row, left; Elders left to right:  Ntambwe, Lavering, Johnson, Branche Missionary Kende, Mukadi A. and Lundberg; back row left to right:  Baker and Brockbank.

A Few Branche Members

This wonderful sister, who teaches the Nursery class, saw that there were children waiting for Primary to start, so she engaged them in singing until the other Primary workers arrived. They sang songs like, "House Upon the Rock,"  "I Am A Child of God" and "Book of Mormon Stories." When it was time to start, there were about 35 children. 

Here are Elders Johnson and Lundberg, with a little boy who wasn't sure if he wanted to be sitting up so high with them, waiting for a meeting to start.

This beautiful sister, is the Relief Society, Société de Secours, President of the Pointe Noire Branche.  She served a mission, as did her husband.  They have 2 beautiful young children (the little boy above is her son) and they are an inspiration to us.  They are great leaders in the branche.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Around Town....Again

We haven't been able to  figure out what these guys are doing, but we see them trucking around town on this rig every once in awhile.......

One of the families we visited last week had a kitty with 3 new kittens.   the markings on this one were so unusual - I thought she looked kind of like a tiger.....
 Here is a quick view of the nice passenger train that goes between Pointe Noire and Brazzaville.  We have been told it takes about 14 hours on the train - it takes 45 minutes on a plane.

Cute hair on a cute little girl!

Watching Conference

 We downloaded some of the General Conference sessions and had the missionaries over for dinner and to watch them last Sunday evening.  You can see how engaged they are in the messages.  One of them said that he never used to listen to all of the sessions and now he can't wait for the opportunity!  How a mission helps these young men mature and appreciate their blessings!  Two of our three African Elders were not comfortable with the aircon on - a jacket and a warm blanket did the trick (and I turned off one of the units).

Today I received an email asking for our physical address so that the Church can send DVDs of Conference (French & English language option) so that the branches can schedule a weekend to show them.  The members here love to watch Conference and they treasure their Conference editions of the Le Liahona magazines and teach Sunday lessons out of them when scheduled to, just as we do in the rest of the Church. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Around Town

 These are seamstresses working outside where there is more light.  They cut and iron on these tables, then sew the clothing inside.

Here is a daily sight of young children pushing their parents in the road, in their wheel chairs.  The cars try to allow room for them, but it is soooo scarey to drive by them in the night when there are no street lights and it is so difficult to see them ahead of time.

This vendor sells mostly toys and stuffed animals, but also hair accessories and packages of artificial hair pieces.

I was hoping to get a shot of the man in the colorful clothing as well as his wife and child, who were with him, but they stepped inside as we passed.  They made such a lovely sight as they walked together.

Meeting Africa Clockwise

One day we saw this truck parked by where we walk along the beach road.  We wondered what it was, then saw it again the next day.  As we walked by, a young teenage girl stepped out and we talked to her for a few minutes, then her father came out.

This is a family of 4 from Cape Town, South Africa, who are attempting to drive around the outside of the African continent.  They are tyring to use palm oil for their fuel and set a record in accomplishing that.  The daughter told us that it was a lifelong dream of her parents and they also want to increase awareness of global warming, especially how it is affecting Africa.

When her father came out of the truck, we had a nice but short conversation with him and he told us of their blog: http://
We have been reading some of it and they describe the countries and the people so well - it is very interesting!
They are certainly brave and people of faith.  We wish them a successful journey.  We read that they are very carefully  managing their funds and some foods are too expensive, so we took some canned food to give them and they told us the loved the peaches and the canned chili, especially. 
Below is a picture of Zola, Ruby, and their mother.  Sampson, the father, must have been out surfing when we stopped to see them this time.  Elder Wheatley made them another loaf of banana bread and they said they thought they would have enough fuel to leave in a couple of days.  They are using vegetable oil, palm oil, etc., to fuel their vehicle.  Their blog is so very interesting and tell of life here in this part of Africa so realistically.