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.
There are police everywhere. We are waiting to see if they will let us out of the city.
When you have only your two feet to get you anywhere, this is how they carry just about everything.
Motor 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.
Bikes 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!
Our room in Luputa. Think camping, think camping…. Not so bad right?
Elder 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.
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.