Well, here we are at the end of our 24 months in Lubumbashi. There was a time when I thought this day would never come, but now in an instant it seems, we’re here! These last two years have taken me through an entire gamut of emotions and have given me the opportunity to put theory, or in this case theology, to the test. I’ve learned first hand that “hard” doesn’t mean “wrong”, that change is good, and that Heavenly Father truly does love us deeply. I’ve been astonished to discover that our weaknesses can actually be our strengths in certain circumstances, and that He didn’t just ask me to come here in spite of my weaknesses but because of them.
Of all the varied emotions I’ve experienced (and I mean “emotion“), the one that I am feeling now and that overrides everything else, is gratitude!… simple but profound gratitude!… for more things than I could ever hope to list here. The people and experiences below are just a tiny part.
Senior Couples. At the end of February, we said good-bye to two of our senior couples.
It was a sad day to say good-bye to this amazing couple. Renee and Vaun Mikesell went above and beyond the call of duty, right to the end. This was mission number four for them. He took excellent care of the health of our 180 missionaries, while she worked tirelessly trying to get the mission finances in order. More importantly to me, they were loyal and supportive, no matter what! Lorin and Nancy Peterson “B” have carried on in their footsteps and no one is more grateful than I am, for all that they do. Without a medical couple like them, this job would most likely be mine. (You cannot even imagine.)
Neil and Glenda Draper went home just a few days later. We wondered how we were going to survive without them but the Lord really does provide. They did an excellent job of training Ron and Shauna Peterson “A” to take their place. I keep saying that Sister Peterson could run this mission single handed… and I mean it! She has more skills than the rest of us put together.
I wish I had a fun photo of our two Peterson couples, as well as one of our other couple, Richard and Margaret Bennett. I can’t even begin to describe all the Bennetts have done for the people of Likasi and how loved they are by them in return. They are booked from morning to night and barely take time to eat. Our admiration of them knows no bounds.
Fun times with friends! I love fabric! And though it took me about a year for this African fabric to grow on me, I finally followed the example of the other senior sisters. About the only thing to buy here is fabric, and boy!… did we ever buy fabric! I’m being conservative when I say that between five of us, we bought over 600 yards of fabric. I think the employees had mixed feelings when they saw us coming. They knew we were prepared to spend some serious money but I don’t think they really wanted to work for it. Only fellow fabric lovers can understand the need to see each piece of fabric up close and personal, and take plenty of time making up our minds. Right Heather? Hey! It’s not like they had anything else to do. Now… I want to hear what you’ve done with all of yours, Sister Draper!
Missionaries who are trying and want to improve themselves. Can you guess what this is? Exactly what it looks like. We were impressed with the elder’s innovation. Though there’s only one choice of weight, I guess they can always increase their reps. Those plates are welded on!
Now a little bit about a typical Zone Conference; Of course there is always instruction from the President on doctrinal subjects (which they love by the way), as well as training from the Assistants, Zone Leaders, Sister Training Leader and me… But there always needs to be a few minutes of fun!
One of the things our missionaries love the most is a certificate… any certificate! We do a fun scripture chase/scripture trivia contest at each Zone Conference and award the winners a very official looking certificate, along with a chocolate bar. Without question, it’s the certificate they are the most excited about.
Whoops! I just noticed that we’ve had the year wrong. Well, if anyone else noticed, they apparently didn’t care enough to mention it.
Happy missionaries! For this last round of Zone Conferences, I decided to have some fun along with dinner, where we divided into teams and ran relays and other simple little games. (After-all… my major in university was Recreational Therapy.) I had no idea they would love it so much! It was cheap, easy to do and a lot of fun! We had never seen them smile and laugh so much, nor had they ever seen me in the role of “Game Master”. One elder said, “I’ve never done anything like this before! I will remember this day for the rest of my life!” As for me… I was happy to learn that after all these years, I was finally able to put all that time and money spent at BYU, to use!
The noise of all the fun going on, drew quite the crowd. However…
Brent’s spiritual as well as physical fortitude. This was Zone Conference in Mbuji Mayi. You would have no idea looking at this picture, that the temperature in there was hovering around 100 F. That is, not until you see Brent from behind a few minutes later.
What you can’t see, is that his shirt is totally wet! … Yes… even the sleeves! (I think a tiny part of his collar was still dry.) The fact that it wicked down to his pants gives you an idea of how wet. I don’t think the missionaries had seen anything like it!
The weather in Lubumbashi. This picture was taken after the same Zone Conference and these cute sisters sure don’t look like they suffered any from the heat. Actually, most of the missionaries prefer the heat of Kasai, to the cold climate of Lubumbashi. After all, the average temp here in Lubumbashi is only about 85 f.
Two of our “cool” elders leaving Zone Conference. At first glance, I thought “Wait a minute! That’s a little too cool for a Mormon missionary!” …Pretty sure that’s a sucker he has in his mouth… At least that’s the story I’m going with. 🙂
This Beautiful World!
While in Cape Town for the Mission President Seminar, we took a drive down to the Cape of Good Hope. It was amazing to me to think we were on the southern tip of Africa, looking out at the cold but beautiful Atlantic Ocean.
My sister and brother-in-law were scheduled to meet us in Cape Town and then travel back to Lubumbashi to spend a few days with us. Unfortunately, they had to cancel about a week before. Jo and Greg, this would have been much more fun if you had both been with us! I know you were looking forward to visiting the the Cape of Good Hope. Would it make you feel any better, if I say that we thought of you at this moment?
The strength to endure. Back up to Kasai for the last time. This time however, we were in the new car that will soon belong to the new Mbuji Mayi Mission President, President Kyungu. Brent spent an enjoyable ten hours bouncing around in the back seat with our wonderful Assistants. Each time, the road seems a little worse and the trip a little harder, but maybe that’s just because we’re getting old. 😦 We’ve made this trip at least a dozen times and have spent more than 70 days in Kasai. I say that deserves a medal… or at least a certificate!
This good man. The last time in Luputa! Brent had a few minutes to relax between his eight hours of interviews and dinner with the missionaries. We always refer to Luputa as the end of the road, which it pretty much is… for us anyway.
The blessing of health and safety. The women in Luputa do a great job for our Zone Conference meal and the elders love it. We always bring our freeze dried but this time we didn’t need it. To illustrate just how far I’ve come… not only did I eat enough of this to fill me but I picked four goat hairs out of my beans and just kept on eating! (I really do like the goat meat.)
These are just two of the many wonderful missionaries we have. If you’re wondering what Elder Bosso is offering me in the ladle, it’s a couple of chicken feet!… Umm, no thank you! (Said sweetly with a smile on my face.)
And then there are always the children of Luputa… and The perspective you get on our life in Canada
This little guy always had one hand firmly gripping the front of his shorts. It didn’t slow him down one bit!
This “free range parenting” does seem to produce some pretty confident kids, especially the little guy in the orange. I love the expression on their faces… I think I can read their thoughts and each one is thinking something different.
As I’ve mentioned before children babysit children all day long. There always seems to be one who is willing to carry a smaller one around for awhile.
These two aren’t that much bigger than the others, they’re just standing on a little hill. I’ve always been impressed with how good the men here are with babies, and this is why. They’ve had plenty of practice.
The faith of these many good members. District Conference in Mwene Ditu. The last time I spoke here, we all experienced a miracle! It poured rain from almost the moment I started speaking to the moment I finished. What was the miracle you ask?… It was the middle of the dry season and it never rains in the dry season. I gave a different talk this time but it wouldn’t have mattered if I had given the last one again. I doubt they understand much of what I say even though my French has improved significantly. It doesn’t help that only about 40% speak any french. I would never say that I speak French but I would feel ungrateful, if I didn’t acknowledge the blessing of at least being able to somewhat communicate.
This picture is of some of the people seated outside of the building. They have a red tarp overhead to shield them from the hot sun of Kasai. You might notice that most of the men are inside and most of the people outside are women and children. We’re working on that, but it will take time.
More of the same. We are always the only whites in a sea of black. I will admit that I find this black skin beautiful and anticipate a bit of an adjustment period going back to a world of washed out white.
This is what happens to all of the NGO building projects we’ve seen, not only in Kasai but Burundi and Katanga as well. Well meaning people thinking they know how to help, build houses for the people that they refuse to live in. I don’t know why. They sure look better than what most of them live in.
Electricity and water. I just had to throw this one in of the sink at the hotel in Mbuji Mayi. I’ve stayed here more than two dozen times and have never noticed the spout on the bathroom sink before. IF… they ever had running water, which they never have had during our two years… I would have surely noticed! The faucet is aimed straight ahead, about belly button level for me. Just details really!
The love Sister Vance brought into the mission. Our last group of missionaries returning home. Well, we know there’s at least one missionary we will see again. You will be missed by everyone here Sister Vance! I doubt the workers at the grocery store will ever again see a white woman dancing in their aisles!
The Lord’s protection on the hazardous Likasi Kolwezi road. Nearly every time we drive this road, we see a new vehicle either upside down or burned out on the side. It is narrow, full of huge pot holes and teeming with huge mining trucks and semis. And at this time of year (the Dry Season), there is a new hazard. The simple solution to getting rid of all the overgrowth, in preparation for the new growing season, is to burn it all. There are fires all over the place, which miraculously never seem to get too out of control. This one on the way to Kolwezi, presented a bit of a challenge to our visibility but only for a few seconds, as it turned out.
This fallen tree presented a much bigger problem upon our return. The entire road was blocked, with no way around. As the traffic piled up on both sides of the tree, so did the crowd of onlookers.
Everyone wanted to be the hero and come up with the plan that saved the day! (So, if everyone else in this picture is of average height, do you get an idea of how big this one guy was? I was waiting for him to pick up the tree single handed and move it aside!)
I’m sure their energy was fueled by being center stage, so-to-speak and having everyone’s eyes fastened on them. But though I was impressed by their balance and skill, I was more concerned that one of them was going to cut their foot off… or at least a few toes! The whole thing was quite exciting really!
Of course we had to have a few dozen police show up to manage the crowd and insure things didn’t get out of control. Actually, I’m not sure this guy is a policeman! Whatever he is… he looks like he means business! (Now, I’m the first one to admit I don’t know anything about guns, but something about this gun on a string looks a little unusual to me.)
Pretty soon, the tree was cut and moved to the side of the road. It was no easy task! After the men moved what they could, a very large truck was able to get in there and push the rest of it out of the way. I must say that I was a little disappointed that the whole thing was over so quickly. I felt like the party was just getting started, when Brent said it was time to hurry back to the car and get home before dark.
A whisper from Heavenly Father that we have made a difference. While in Kolwezi we met with our wonderful missionaries to say our little good-byes. They surprised us with some gifts to remember them by… A copper picture of questionable content for Brent, and a beautiful bag and babouche (flip flops) for me. But by far the best gift was the love we felt from them, as they sang to us. I have included their song entitled “One Love and One Heart”, at the end of this post. It is worth watching.
Well Sister Vance… the sad/happy day has arrived! Her faithful companion, the amazing Sister Cook, preceded her home by two weeks (she got away without a photo), and we will be just two weeks behind you. Unbelievable!
This is the farewell photo of our guard Joseph’s family. That’s eleven children (yours, mine and ours) happily living (I hope) in a tiny two room house. Somehow, they manage on Joseph’s monthly salary of $140.
My namesake and me. Meet Caroline! Joseph didn’t think I knew what he was up to when he told me they had named their new baby girl Caroline. This flattery comes at a price but unfortunately for them, we can’t give him and his family what they were hoping to receive, by honoring me in such a way. I have sometimes felt a tad guilty, as he has reminded me on a daily basis for the past eight months, that his daughter “Caroline” is doing well… (hint, hint, hint). However… as we posed for this photo last Sunday, imagine my surprise when “Caroline’s” big sister was trying to get her attention and called her “Merveille!” So… is that Merveille Caroline or Caroline Merveille??? Let’s just say I’m not feeling all that guilty anymore. (I really don’t blame him for trying.)
“We”… actually have another little girl named after “us”. About a year ago, as we were leaving the Sunday meeting in a city called Fungrume, we noticed a woman sitting on the ground outside. She looked unwell and like she was in pain. Brent asked her if we could help in any way but she shook her head and calmly answered that she was simply getting ready to deliver her baby. Unfortunately, we were unable to stick around for the arrival but when we next visited, we were informed that Forast Caroline was doing just fine. 🙂
The past few weeks and months have sped by even faster than I imagined they would. The day is here and I have to say that I am ready. But after all of the hard stuff, Heavenly Father has been very kind and has allowed us to see and feel a change in the mission that we didn’t think we would ever see. We’ve done our best and it was enough… And that is the one thing that I am the most grateful for of all.
Mea chers, chers Missionaires… Je vous aime. Au revoir.