Tout est bien


The words of a favourite hymn have been running through my mind for the past few days. Last week, I listened as a group of our elders sang it at a Zone Conference with Elder and Sister Ellis of the Seventy. You have never heard singing, until you hear singing in the DRC!

The thing is… these past couple of weeks have had a few ups and downs for me and though I very much needed the words of that hymn, I just wasn’t in the mood to hear them I guess. “60” is only a few weeks away for me and spending two years living and travelling in the DRC just wasn’t part of my plans. I am living in a country that couldn’t be more different from what I would describe as my “happy place” and at times, it seems my self-pity knows no bounds!  It’s the travelling that really gets me down.  I really cannot describe all that one must go through to get from city to city here, but can I just say…”It’s Hard!”

Okay. So let me give you a list of some of the “downs” first.

– Having a lot that I wanted to say (No surprise there, right?) and not being able to say it.
– Feeling like a briefcase and having to just sit and wait… and wait… and wait.
– Riding in the Land Cruiser for hours on wild roads, snuggled up to Brent (this is actually an”up”) with one cheek on and one cheek off the seat that is meant for one, not two.
-Eating dry chicken and french fries for five days in a row. Actually, the fifth day it was freeze dried chicken and rice.
– Having no water or electricity for most of the week.
– Having no connection to the internet.
– Sleeping in “hotels” that wouldn’t rank one star back home.
– Going without a shower for 8 days.
– Getting crushed (and I really do mean crushed) as people tried to be the first ones through the door in order to get on an over-sold airplane.
– More waiting… and waiting… and waiting.
– Being greeted with an out-stretched hand by pretty much everyone you meet, and I’m not talking about a hand-shake.
– Wondering if we’re really making any difference here.

Now for the “Ups”:

– Being able to say some things that I wanted to say, and being understood.
– Hearing and seeing the elders sing with such feeling and joy.
– Having it pour rain in Luputa, just before bedtime, cooling down an otherwise unbearably hot night, in the “Luputa Hotel”. (You have NO idea!)
– Having a toilet seat in one of the three “hotels” we stayed in.
– Coming home to a clean house.
– Being able to finally shower and see all that red dirt run down the drain.
– Finding a restaurant just around the corner that serves real steak.
– Sharing dinner with our amazing senior couples and Elder and Sister Ellis.
– Knowing that our dear friends and loved ones are safe in Heavenly Father’s care.
– Remembering, that I know He wants us here for a special purpose.

2014-08-23_04.55.55Zone Conference with Elder and Sister Ellis2014-08-23_05.36.02Brent is translating for Elder Ellis, from english to french.  In some meetings, it had to go through one more translation, from french to the local tribal language.

2014-08-23_05.29.01The elders, trying to soak up every word.


The road to Luputa.  Those ruts are much deeper than they look.

2014-08-28_00.30.21The road leaving Luputa.  It is not yet the rainy season, but they say that a one hour drive in the dry season can take up to five hours in the rainy season.

2014-08-28_05.52.55Off to Market



I guess it’s better than walking!

2014-08-28_00.57.47Goats, pigs and chickens are everywhere and are free to roam and graze where they please.  We haven’t figured out how the people know who belongs to whom.

2014-08-28_05.10.32We thought this was amazing!  This bubbling water is a fresh water spring in a large lake.  There were children swimming and playing in the crystal clear water.  Oh! How I wanted to join them!


2014-08-28_05.08.40Washing their vegetables for market.

2014-08-28_05.28.31Walking back to the Land Cruiser, with the Branch RS President and the Branch President’s wife.


Now, I don’t want to sound too melodramatic but I was at one point, ready to “pack it in”, so to speak. Fortunately, the “Ups” won out and I found myself humming the tune to the hymn I mentioned at the beginning, and then the words began to follow.

Come, come, ye Saints, no toil nor labor fear; But with joy wend your way.
Though hard to you this journey may appear, Grace shall be as your day.
Tis better far for us to strive Our useless cares from us to drive;
Oh this, and joy your hearts will swell- All is well! All is well!

Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? ‘Tis not so; all is right.
Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight?
Gird up your loins; fresh courage take. Our God will never us forsake;
And soon we’ll have this tale to tell- All is well!  All is well!

Here is a feeble recording I made with my camera.  Maybe, just maybe you will get a feel for the spirit of these missionaries.  And you know what?  They’re right!  Tout est bien!

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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19 Responses to Tout est bien

  1. Tomoko Collingridge says:

    Hello, Sister Thomas (Carolyn),
    I really enjoy your blog. Our friends took us razoring on the Labor day. Rob drove a 2 seater razor and I was riding beside him. The road to Luputa looks like those rough roads we took that day. Even with a razor with great shock system, my neck and shoulders were tight next day. I can imagine how tight your entire body must get when you have to travel on the road. I appreciate how you try to overcome so many physical discomfort and lift your spirit up. Thank you for sharing the hymn elders were singing. How beautiful! “Come, come, ye saints” is such a powerful hymn.


  2. Kate says:

    We’ve all been waiting for another post. Again, it brought me to tears. Seeing that picture of you holding hands with those sisters, of course you are making a difference! Thank you for your example. You have more love and prayers sent your way than you know.


  3. Ellisa Conrad says:

    What a beautiful video of the Missionaries!! Thanks for sharing your experiences (good and bad). Know that you are in our prayers!!


  4. Dan says:

    That road puts the ride back to the Dearnborn to shame! Those Elders are very good singers. In France we did “chant de ville” out in the city squares, and most people walked right by us whie some missionaries tried to slow them down to at least say hello. I’m sure if those Elders went out to sing you’d have lots of people stop to listen. Of course you’re doing the Lord’s work and you’re exactly where he needs you. I second Kate’s comments about the prayers, everyone that talks to us is praying for you.


  5. Soeur Thomas, vous écrivez si bien et avec votre coeur que vous m”avez fait pleurer. Malgré les difficultés et grands défis que vous décrivez, je ressens votre foi et amour pour votre appel et ces enfants de Dieu que vous servez. Je n”aurais aucune hésitation à changer de place avec vous si la possibilité m’était offerte. J’ai toujours rêver de servir dans un milieu défavorisé; peut-être un jour! Merci de votre témoignage qui renforce le mien. PS vos photos parlent milles mots.


  6. MVFANENE says:

    How incredible! It’s so humbling, what do we have to complain about?!?!


  7. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I always find your posts so inspiring. Such good reminders to appreciate everything. The Elders singing was so beautiful. They seem so humble and faithful. I have always liked that hymn, but had never really thought about the words(embarrassing.) Or maybe just thinking about the words and thinking of you and all you’re experiencing, it gave new meaning. Anyways, beautiful pictures. And that spring is so neat! That would be so tempting!


  8. Colin & Kay Dunne says:

    Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts and experiences. We have no doubt that you are making a difference there and here. Your honesty regarding the trials of service and your unfailing determination to do what is right continues to lift and inspire us, thank you again.


  9. Diane Miller says:

    Thank you for sharing your ‘ups’ and ‘downs’. To know that someone else is struggling and finding a way through is really encouraging. As I battle the ‘ups and downs’ of hormone treatment for cancer, I feel, after reading of your experiences, that perhaps I have very little to complain about. I have electricity, toilet seats, warm water for bathing, and steak in my freezer. I guess it’s all about perspective, and when we think with eternity in mind, all is well.


  10. Gabriela Falk says:

    I really enjoy your posts, this one brought me to tears, love the photo of you holding hands with those sisters, I know you and your husband are making a difference, thanks for sharing the video of the missionaries singing, what a wonderful spirit from those young missionaries, thanks for being an example for us , you are everyday in our prayers and we love you very much : )


  11. Susan says:

    Caroline, your superb writing makes your adventure come alive for those of us sitting so comfortably at home..I am glad you and Brent are well. I think of you often and am so glad to hear your news. It is a wonderful thing you are doing for the people in DRC. I agree with Kate – the photo that moved me also was the one of you holding hands with your two sisters. Just so loving and natural. Beautiful on every level!


  12. Stefanie says:

    Je vous aimes!


  13. Kari says:

    I got chills listening to those Elders sing that hymn! What an amazing work you get to be involved in. Your words are inspiring and make me more appreciative of all I have. You are loved and prayed for more than you know!


  14. Meg says:

    I enjoy your photography, it looks professional.


    • pamela stanton says:

      Hello Thomas’s

      So glad Dan and Kate shared this…we were just out in Airdrie visiting Jennifer and family and had dinner with your daughter and family….we were asking about your experiences and to tell you the truth don’t know if i could do what you are doing I am sure you are leaving lots of positive footprints wherever you go and remember you are being prayed for and our thoughts are with you. You were a very positive influence on Bert and sure you are doing the same there

      Love, the Pete and Pam Stanton


  15. Craig Berryman says:

    You are a great example of Faith day by day. That Chicken looked like a mascot for Popeyes!


  16. Joy McMullin says:

    Thanks for your honesty, as well as your “true grit”!
    The first time that the Hamiltons came to our mission, they told a story about one of their missionaries who went missing when they were serving as Mission President and companion in Brussels, Begium. After searching all the usual places, Sister Hamilton suggested they look at the airport. Sure enough, he was there. They brought him to the mission home and were able to help him resolve his issues. A few days later, President Hamilton asked his wife what made her think of searching for the missionary at the airport. She answered, “oh, that was easy. I have been there in my head many times. Whenever something that seems too hard for me comes up, I think about going home and picture myself buying my ticket and simply leaving.” We all have had those days. Thanks for hanging in there and making a positive difference for the missionaries and members.
    It’s great that you saw the “Waters of Mormon” at Tshitenge and met the branch president’s wife and Relief Society President there.
    Remember, the entire Church is praying for you!
    With love,
    Joy McMullin


  17. Renae Hill says:

    Hi Carolyn and Brent, I love how you separated things in highs and lows. I will make a list just like that with what we experience here on our mission in Summerside PEI, (Halifax mission) I have never in my life experienced more really ups and downs. I think it’s supposed to be that way sometimes. The lows bring you to your knees very litterelly and then the Lord throws you throws incredible tender mercies to remind us of who’s really in charge any way.
    I remember asking the question am I even making a dent? So many times the first six months. I know how you feel. But so many little dents just started showing up. Three steps forward about five steps back. The people here are very set in there ways and it’s difficult to convince them that the handbook just makes your life easier by following it by some messure. We are having a great time here though. We help support the branch and serve in the community as much as we can. I have been able to use my art here in a big way to connect with people (my tender mercie for sure)
    You are a brave girl Carolyn and I so appreciate your honesty. There are too many senior missionaries who just have this general statement of “our mission was remarkable,”. It is remarkable and life changing but it is incredibly hard too. Just know that you are making a difference in ways you don’t even know about and stay tough. You’re amazing, both of you!!!
    Elder and Sister Hill


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