To begin with let me just say that I had some beautiful pictures of the past few weeks, that I managed to erase with incredible ease. We were flying home from Nairobi to Lubumbashi and I had just taken a picture of Mount Kilimanjaro from the airplane window. With one misplaced push of a button, I managed to wipe my camera clean of every single picture. I was actually numb with disbelief! I managed to squeeze out a tear or two but that was about it! After a full week of travel crossing four borders and back again, six airport visits, about 20 combined hours IN airports, at least 8 hours in airplanes, and another 10 to 12 hours crammed into the backseat of a truck,… there was nothing left. I submit.
It really doesn’t matter but I have come to view my pictures as a sort of reward for everything we go through. Maybe there’s a lesson there. I have never been a picture taker, as my children and sisters will attest to and was quite amazed at what a cheap little camera could produce. These pictures are my souvenirs. Oh well, it was only two weeks worth. But there were some really good ones!
They began with pictures of Elder and Sister Hamilton, who came to stay with us for a couple of days. We had a good time visiting and discussing the mission. (I think they really came to see if I was going to make it here, or bolt for home.) O course, there are always meetings and more meetings, as Elder Hamilton visited with missionaries and church leaders. I had two “Firsts” during their visit! I spoke to the missionaries and did the whole thing (it was pretty short) in french, to everyones surprise, including me. I also drove here for the first time, with Sister Hamilton as my passenger. You have to experience Lubumbashi to understand what a victory that is. Okay… it was only to the market a few blocks away but I’m counting it none the less. Two hours after they left for Johannesburg, we were off to Burundi via Nairobi.
I had great pictures of our week. Who knew?!!! It’s beautiful there! It’s green! There are paved roads and side walks! It’s clean! (relatively speaking) There are strawberries, hippos and more! I must say, the whole thing was a little disorienting, especially the hotel and restaurants! We were cared for by the two marvelous senior couples there, The Neelys and the Van Wagoners, who accompanied the Clawsons and us to all of our meetings. We spoke on Sunday to the three local branches, where our french was translated into their local dialect. On Tuesday we drove to a village named Uvira where we were greeted by around 100 members who had gathered to hear the new Mission President speak, when we thought we were only there for Brent to interview ten prospective missionaries. The next day was more of the same but this time, we had to drive through Rwanda to get to a border town just inside the DRC named Bukavu. We were three hours late and the local members had been waiting most of the day for us. Brent spoke for 15 minutes before closing the meeting, so the Rwandan members could get back to their homes across the border, before it closed.
So, I’ve already mentioned the worst part of this trip (travel) but what about the best part. Again, it’s the people. The warm greeting of church members, both children and adults, who wait patiently for hours to meet and hear the mission leaders. The faithful members who teach and baptize and save their tithing for months (maybe years) until a church leader comes to visit their little group in the middle of nowhere. The six newly baptized young men who hung on every word and want nothing more than to serve a mission and marry a woman who loves God. The smiles of hard working missionaries, young and old. And…… the strawberries, and the two hippos we saw in Lake Tanganyika.
Let me just say this. After travelling through a few more African countries, the DRC really does seem to be on the bottom of the heap. It made me sad for them and a little protective. There are no tourists here because there is nothing left to see. As the Hamiltons said, “We have been to a lot of African missions but there is no place quite like the DRC Lubumbashi Mission.” Amen to that.