To The Heart of Africa


This has been a busy two weeks for us, another series of “firsts”. We had our first transfers last week, which was a very easy one we are told. We had only five sisters going home and no new missionaries coming in. It was still necessary to change a number of elders around in the mission and that is somewhat like a game of strategy. One move requires another, which requires another, which requires another, and after all of the changes have been approved and settled on, the actual physical changes still need to be made. The logistics of it all have fallen mainly to Sister Clawson and carried out by Elder Clawson and the other senior couples who are able to drive. It takes at least a week to make all of the changes on paper and up to another week to get the physical moves accomplished. Many of the areas in our mission are difficult to get to and transportation is a real problem.

This past week, we made our first trip to the areas up north. We flew to Mbuji Mayi, city about one and a half hours away, along with the Clawsons, our Assistants and a load of supplies to distribute among the missionaries. We left Sunday and returned to Lubumbashi on Friday. In that time we visited six cities/villages, where Brent spent about 22 hours in interviews and meetings with the local leaders of each location. We spent about 12 hours, over 4 of those days, driving in a tightly packed Land Cruiser, in what were mostly “off road” conditions that felt like we were riding a bucking bronc. This is the dry season here and red dust coats everything, especially the steady stream of people travelling on the road as we pass. We stayed in different accommodations every night and can I just say that when I made comments about our mission being like a two year Trek”, I had no idea how prophetic I was. I would never have thought that a cool barrel of water could feel so good, as I poured it over my head to wash my hair and “shower” on day four.

The people here are wonderful – so faithful, strong and kind to us. At every one of our arrivals, there were members there to greet us in their Sunday best. They have very little if anything in the way of material possessions, but are happy to have the blessings that the gospel brings into their lives.

2014-07-21_01.20.03This is taken out of the front window of the Land Rover, of the road ahead of us.  Yes.  We are pretty much the only car on the road and the people move out of the way.  Horns are a necessity.

2014-07-21_01.09.53There are police everywhere.  We are waiting to see if they will let us out of the city.

2014-07-21_01.08.10When you have only your two feet to get you anywhere, this is how they carry just about everything.

2014-07-20_05.20.40_2Motor bikes are the most common form of taxi here, if you have money for fare.  Yes, there are three men on it.   This is how the missionaries, as well as most of the church leaders get from town to town.

2014-07-20_06.07.27_2You can’t see it but there is a baby between the mom and dad, as well as cargo behind.  They saw me taking their picture out of the back window.

2014-07-20_05.19.16This is a gas station.

2014-07-21_23.25.25Bikes here are used mainly for the transport of goods.  You see this everywhere!  Brent helped one man push his load up a hill (We had some minor car problems) who was travelling three days to get his load to market and expected to get $25 for his goods.   That’s at least three days and nights one way and then back home again.  Unbelievable!

2014-07-22_11.52.21Our room in Luputa.  Think camping, think camping….  Not so bad right?

2014-07-22_07.15.19The chapel in Lusuku where more than 100 attend.

2014-07-22_06.02.20The elders desks in Lusuku brought tears to my eyes.  They study by the light from the window.  Their house was clean and neat as a pin.

2014-07-22_07.35.20 Lusuku is about as close to the end of the line as you can get.

2014-07-22_05.52.14As Brent was interviewing one of the elders, one of these guys wandered into the house and into the kitchen.  Luckily for him, meat was not on the menu that day.

2014-07-22_04.02.252014-07-22_02.51.14_22014-07-22_01.39.052014-07-22_01.37.57_22014-07-22_00.37.35_3The children of Luputa.

2014-07-22_00.52.43Elder Clawson with a few of the children of Luputa.  There were probably at least 50 children there with us all day.  While Brent interviewed the missionaries, we sat outside with the children, doing our best to entertain them.  2014-07-22_00.34.56

I must add this one thing in closing. On day two of this trip, as I was sitting by myself for four hours at the “hotel” waiting for Brent to return, I was doing some grumbling to myself about how hard this whole thing was for me. There was nothing about this five day drive that I was going to enjoy. I was already hot, dirty and hungry and knew that the worst was yet to come. I had previously made the comment to one of my sons that there is nothing beautiful here but the people. But as I sat outside our room studying and feeling sorry for myself, I looked up and saw a beautiful pink flower on the bush in front of me. It was the first beautiful thing I had noticed in the three weeks we have been here, so I took a picture to send for him to see. I returned my camera to our room and as I was all studied out, I looked for something new to do. I discovered I had one book on my I-Pad, “Anne of Green Gables”. I don’t remember when I would have read it last but opened it up as some welcome comfort from home. It opened to Chapter 5 and this is the first thing I read.

“Do you know”, said Anne confidentially, I’ve made up my mind to enjoy this drive. It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly. I am not going to think about going back to the asylum while we’re having our drive. I’m just going to think about the drive. Oh, look, there’s one little early wild rose out! Isn’t it lovely?”

What a gentle reminder, that Heavenly Father knows me and my thoughts and is patiently encouraging me to try a little harder.


About carethomas1

Mother to six. Grandmother to nine. Dislikes bugs, camping, sitting and waiting. Likes to talk, eat, free agency, peace and order. Loves dogs, dear friends, and family (not necessarily in that order). Grateful for the trust Heavenly Father has in me, to ask me to come here and do this, with the one I love most.
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20 Responses to To The Heart of Africa

  1. Winona says:

    …thank you Carolyn…I love your description of things and your perspective. The picture of the flower and your insight brought tears to my eyes…I understood…my flower was different but the sentiment was the same. You are both in our thoughts and prayers…as are the people you serve!


  2. Oh my! You have brought a flood of memories. So many similarities to our experience, yet in such diverse areas of the world. I was deeply touched by your blog entries. I can identify with the feelings, and with the tender mercies that make it all worthwhile. I am so glad we found your blog. It will be delightful to be in touch. BTW, the blog I wrote while on our mission is still operational, (although I haven’t updated it since we got home). You may find some interesting reading there, if you can pull yourself away from Anne of Green Gables. 🙂

    Ours is an older style blog, so the most recent entries are displayed first. in order to read it chronologically, you have to find the oldest dates (2009) and move forward. So this is a link to the first (oldest) page of the blog, and you can work forward from there.

    These are truly life-changing experiences. You will never be the same! The only thing more difficult than the culture shock we experienced on our arrival in the field, was the culture shock we experienced upon our return to North America.


  3. Phil McMullin says:

    You have turned an important corner. Our prayers are with, Joy & Phil


  4. Annalisa Jackson says:

    I love your posts! The photos are amazing and your experiences a powerful reminder of how blessed we are and how much we take for granted. Our hearts and prayers are with you.


  5. Myrna Worthington says:

    Carolyn, thank you for your notes. I love the pictures andI know Heavenly Father is aware of all our needs. It is a beautiful flower and Anne is one of my favorite books.
    God Bless,
    Myrna W.


  6. tiniantimes says:

    Wow! If you keep creating blogs like this, you will get a lot of followers! Keep up the good work!


  7. I love this. I am so grateful for that little tender mercy from Heavenly Father. What a perfect quote to read from Anne, at the perfect time. I am so proud of you and dad and think of you always. Love you!


  8. Sue Weeks says:

    Care & Brent – I love hearing about your life in Lubumbashi. Keep up the great work.


  9. Ben Thomas says:

    Beautiful flower…and what a perfect example of the Lord acting in your life for your sake. Thanks for sharing.


  10. Sarah says:

    I am so jealous, I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Africa. What an awesome blog to read about you & Brother Thomas serving. Sounds like a ton of work. Thank-you for sharing your adventure with us & letting us see a bit of Africa. I LOVED your Anne of Green Gables comment. It made me laugh & touched my heart of how The Lord Loves us. Keep us posted, you 2 are amazing & missed:). Sarah chute


  11. Cathy E says:

    This is the second time that I’ve read your blog and I’ve cried each time. It’s all so amazing, humbling and inspiring at the same time. I love the photos…you’re a pro at capturing the essence of this new world around you. I loved the Anne of Green Gables quote. Out of the best books!


  12. Paula Packer says:

    Thanks again for bringing back all those wonderful experiences – again!


  13. Kate says:

    Mom, this also brought me to tears. I am glad you shared that experience with us and that you’ll be able to look back on it for years to come. PS – for all the years that you didn’t touch a camera, you are becoming quite the photographer!


  14. dwbennion says:

    Your pictures brought back many memories of my days visiting developing countries. Many times the Lords work is difficult, but how you will bless the lives of missionaries and members. Kay and I send you our love wish I was younger and spoke French


  15. M. Piepgrass says:

    I’m so glad that I found my way to your blog somehow. Those missionaries are blessed to have you.


  16. Kari says:

    I just had my girls memorize this little saying, “Good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger the wind the strong the trees.” You are definitely experiencing some strong winds there in Lubumbashi but are strengthening so many people. We are so proud of you both and pray for you every day! Can’t wait to check back and see more of your adventures!


  17. colette says:

    Carolyn, thank you for sharing! How beautifully simple. I’m going to love following you and reading your posts. Love you two and miss you. Mark often speaks of Brent and their time together.


  18. Jessica says:

    I love the Anne books. Such gems. So proud of your hard work. Enjoy the drive.


  19. Monte says:

    The flower and Anne of Green Gables. Wow and wow. Wow. Love you Carolyn.


  20. Kim says:

    I love when I have these quiet reminders that Heavenly Father wants me to be happy and enjoy life, even when it’s hard. He knows what we need when we need it and I’m so glad you shared this experience! Love you both! Kim


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