Where Are We?!


We have a great restaurant just around the corner from the Mission Home.  When you walk through the gate of the courtyard, you feel like you have just walked out of the Congo and into some restaurant in Florida or California. – American music, delicious steak and the best Ferrero Roche milkshakes ever!  We refer to it as the “hollow deck” experience.  (Remember Star Trek and the hollow deck?)  The restaurant has been there since before our arrival, but it seems there has been a wind of change about, that we were totally unaware of.  Now, every time we are out and about we see something new, that wasn’t there a month or two, or even a week or two ago.  I have found myself saying to Brent, “Where are we?!  Is this the same city we arrived in seven months ago?”  Things seem to be changing so rapidly, that if they continue like this, I may not want to leave.  🙂

Yes…  Some of it may be attributed to acclimatizing ourselves to our new home, but it is so much more than that.  We landed here on June 30th, on a rough, broken up runway and now it is new, smooth and even has white lines painted on it.  The airport, which could not be adequately described, has since been painted, organized (sort of) and has some new posters and signs with pictures of the Eiffel Tower, the Roman Coliseum and the Statue of Liberty!… just like real airports.

There are beautiful, big new gas stations everywhere, replacing the little stands selling jerry cans of gas and diesel.  And there are the cars to go with them!  Hummers, BMWs and Lexuss (or is it Lexi).  It has been months since we have been stopped by the police.  Instead of whistling for us to stop, trying to block our way and asking us for money, they smile and wave and wish us a “Good Day”!  Yesterday, we stopped when one policeman motioned us to, and I pulled out a bottle of water to offer her.  She politely declined and said she merely wanted to wish us salutations from her chef (good wishes from her boss)!  Unbelievable!  Where are we?!

We have always been able to find enough food to eat well, though the stores here have been in no way like anything we are used to from home.  Until now that is!  We have a brand new… big… grocery store!  It has a great bakery, deli, meat selection and more.  I even found some Callebault chocolate chips!  (Granted, they did cost about $50 for five and a half pounds, but they have them!)  There is even a brand new little food court right beside it with pizza, chicken and ice cream.  When we were buying groceries the other day, we heard Tina Turner singing “Tiny Dancer” in the background… Another “hollow deck” experience. And all-of-a-sudden, there are white people everywhere!  Nothing like a modern grocery store and food court to pull the white people out of the woodwork.  Where have they all been for the past seven months, anyway?!  Really!  Are we still in the DRC?!


Okay.  I know this will be a boring picture to everyone except someone who has lived here.  I mean honestly!… There is even a real parking lot!!!

2015-01-08_05.22.09Here are our new missionaries, who all arrived on the same day at the same time!  We are so excited to have them all here!  Sister Vance brings the Canadian contingent up to 5!!  Boy!  We are all so glad to have her and her wonderful companion Sister Cook here to help us.

Now for some pictures from Burundi.


Here is our little group of missionaries in Bujumbura.  We flew up there on Boxing Day and flew home on New Year’s Day.  We had a great time!  We even went out for Chinese food for the Zone Conference dinner!  While we waited, Brent started asking some gospel questions.  Wow!  I was so impressed with how much they knew and with the questions they asked!  We have now started doing that at all the Zone Conference dinners.  They love it and really seem to know their scriptures.  The four sisters are in the close-up with Brent at the top of the page and you can get a pretty good idea of their personalities from the looks on their faces.

2014-12-31_01.33.522014-12-31_01.37.27During Zone Conference, we had a real down pour!  How I love a good rain with thunder and lightning!  But it was so loud that Brent could not be heard, and had to wait for the rain to end before he could continue.  It never takes long, however.  That is what is so nice.  It never just drizzles.  It rains hard and then the clouds clear away and the sun comes out.  I love it!

2014-12-31_12.38.59Sister and Elder Neeley work with the members and young missionaries in Bujumbura and Uvira.  I don’t know what we would do without them!  They are so loved by everyone there, what will we do when they leave?  (We really are in dire need of couples here in our mission.  Life for senior missionaries here is really not so bad!  I think it is mostly the travelling that makes it tough and Brent and I are the only ones that really have to do that.  We all have been trying so hard to find couples to come here, to no avail.  Really!… It is much like life in any mission…  Any takers?)

2014-12-31_12.37.13The Van Wagoners are our Humanitarian couple in Bujumbura and do an amazing job.  Neither one speaks French but that doesn’t slow them down a bit.  They know half of the dignitaries in town, go dancing every Friday night, exercise every morning in the park with their own personal trainer and eat wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables daily.  In short, I think they are healthier than most of us would be at home.  And as far as “happy” goes… I think their faces say it all!

Yes, we are still in the same place we landed in seven months ago but things really are different.  I even feel differently now.  Not really because of any of the things I have mentioned above, though none of that hurts.  It is because of much more important changes that have been taking place.  I am finally beginning to understand a little and to be able to speak and actually be understood!  That is huge to the mental well-being of a ‘talker” like myself.  (Though try as we might, I don’t think we will ever fully understand the cultural differences.)  And even more importantly, we are sensing a shift in the attitude of the mission for the better.  It may be only the slightest of shifts, but it is something!  We are beginning to feel like we are making a difference and that,… makes all the difference.

P.S.  Due to an inability to access the internet, this post was a little long in coming.  I plan on another in a few days.  🙂
















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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4 Responses to Where Are We?!

  1. Joy McMullin says:

    We love hearing about the mission! What a huge group of new missionaries, which means a complicated transfer. How nice to have two more senior sisters.
    Best wishes to you as you continue to make a positive difference in so many lives.
    With love,


  2. I always love reading your blog and seeing the pictures. That is a very nice parking lot and grocery store!! Crazy that the city has changed so much since your arrival. Interesting. The old tarmac sounds like the one in Vlad. It didn’t even have uniform sides and wasn’t smooth. Like someone just poured the concrete and left it to dry. Anyways, I am so glad there are some nice things there that you get to enjoy. Sounds like you have great missionaries there, too. If I could serve there now, I would! Love you!


  3. Kate says:

    I loved reading this post for a number of reasons. I’m so grateful that you are feeling much more settled and realizing you’re making a difference. I always love seeing pictures of you guys and it does look like everyone is happy. I wish Dan and I could come and serve for the remainder of your mission! I know a big, nice supermarket would make me happy – that’s about my only “escape” these days:). That ferrera rocher milkshake sounds delicious!


  4. Colin Phillips says:

    It is as though some strange thing has happened and a lovely Spirit of aliveness has enetered
    your domain! It is truly remarkable and an inspiration to us all. It is no doubt your willing spirits that have brought such a transformation in such a short time with of course the aid of our Heavenly Father at your side. How blessed we are to enjoy such beautiful and tasteful pictures which you have taken and it really gives us a sense of where you are and who the people are.
    Your descriptions help us to see that really whereever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is always beauty to be found. We can not say how grateful we are for your courage and examples and send you many prayers and wishes for the Lords choicest blessings from our hearts to yours and all those who assist you as you continue to serve.
    With great love to you all
    Dan, Colin and Silvana


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