Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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Life in the Congo is definitely improving, but there’s no question it’s not easy here!… and right now I’m not talking about me.  You can see signs of progress that give you hope, but the reality of most people’s lives here, at times makes you want to go to your room and sob.  Honestly, some times it is just too much for me!  At those times of discouragement, I wonder if things here can ever really change and I wonder if we are doing any real good.  I  get a little impatient, judging pretty much everything using a North American standard, which is helpful to no one.  But even if it is a case of, “Two steps forward and one step back”, they are at least moving in the right direction.  I’m not sure at times, if I can say the same about me.  Sometimes, I feel more like it’s “ONE step forward and TWO steps back”!  I don’t think I have ever been ignorant of my weaknesses, but they sure seem to be highlighted here!  The good thing though, is that I have never before felt such an outpouring of Heavenly Father’s love for me, faults and all.

2015-03-26_00.59.06Another trip to Kasai.  I am always amazed by the way people travel here.  We were behind one of these trucks the other day, watching a guy that was fighting to stay awake.  He was perched so precariously, that I was sure he would slip off!  The amazing thing to me, is that they can stay up there at all!… Tons of people!… Mom’s with babies… goats… all kinds of “stuff”… for hours, on unbelievably bumpy roads!

2015-03-22_07.19.53_2This is not an uncommon sight… a funeral procession.  Can you spot the casket?  Yes, that’s it on the bike.

2015-03-24_03.14.59In Mbuji Mayi, there are casket shops all over the place.  These are far nicer than most.  These must be the ones you can rent.

2015-03-25_09.26.53Back in Luputa.  When boys pose, they try to look tough.  Notice the little guy on the right, trying to show me how big his muscles are?

2015-03-25_04.46.58Interviews in Luputa make for a long day.  There really is not much to do for most of it, except sit in the shade.  The kids are there within minutes of our arrival and it doesn’t take long to run through my bag of tricks.  We usually sing a few songs, do “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” in French as well as English, the always good, “Put your right foot in, Put your right foot out” (I guess the real name is “Hokey Pokey”?), and each time I show them once again, how to make a duck noise with a blade of grass. And, for the Piece De Resistance… they always want me to show them how I can whistle loud with my fingers.  (I must say, I’m pretty proud of that one myself.)

photo 4

photo 3This was a attempt at “Red light, Green light.”  They really didn’t have a clue, but they had fun anyway.  Brent was trying to help me out, but gave up and took pictures with his phone instead.  I’m sure when we visit again in a couple weeks, they will want a repeat.

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This is the “Presidential Suite” of Luputa.  I choose to bring our own pillows and sheet to sleep on, though as you can see, there are some provided.  Among other things, there is no light (unless the generator is running), no air-conditioning and…

2015-03-25_01.22.30 No running water!  Yes… there is a toilet, sink and tub.  But any and all water comes from that barrel, which is kindly filled by someone other than us, from a well, not far away.  This bathroom is shared by all, who stay at our little “Luputa Hotel”.  Did I mention that the door doesn’t close?  Night is especially interesting.  Flashlights do more than light the way.  The light is essential in clearing the path through the cock-roaches!  (Okay,… so I’ve only actually seen two.)  And no, there is no toilet seat.  However, for all of my complaining, this is worlds better than anything anyone else might have, here in Luputa.  And, any of you thinking you could never come to this mission because you couldn’t live like this… You don’t have to!  The Senior Couples who come to this mission live in good conditions.  Just ask any of them!  Brent and I are usually the only ones who need to visit these places, but you might like the adventure… just once?  The Drapers are dying to go back!

2015-03-25_04.51.33The boy on the right is always there when we arrive, and no matter how early we go out in the morning or how late at night, he is there… waiting.  He must have a home and family but we have never been able to find out anything about them.  He is always alone. There is something not quite “right” about him, and the other children and even many of the adults make fun of him.  After our meal with the missionaries, one of the elders, trying to be kind I suppose, gave him a dish heaping with some of the left-over food.  This boy sat out on the step of the building eating his fill, while about 30 kids watched on from a few feet away.  After he had eaten all he wanted, he got up and walked away, leaving what was left behind.  A second later, the other kids swarmed the plate for whatever morsel they could get.  Most had only a taste of what was on the plate, by licking their finger tips.  …One of those times you just want to go hide and cry.

 

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The rainy season is coming to an end.  I am always amazed at Godefroid’s driving skills.  We haven’t gotten stuck yet, but came close on this trip.  It was worse than it looks!

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No pictures can do justice to this road trip, that we make every two months.  We take a one and a half hour flight and then drive a total of five hours (depending on the road and split between two days), one way, and then return the same way.  I thought it was getting easier, but this last trip was harder than ever.  It find it grueling, I must say

2015-04-09_05.25.44Brent and I drove to Kasumbalesa (a town not far from Lubumbashi) to meet with our elders there and go with them to teach a family.  This is their home.  Notice the bricks keeping the roof on?  Last year, our guard’s little grand daughter was killed, when a wind caught their roof and one of the big rocks fell on her while she slept.  Can you see the two babies in this picture?

This young family was expecting us and proudly invited us into their home.  The room was about 6’x6′ and seated seven of us (if you don’t count the dog and the chicken that wandered in).  Though there was little light (the only light came through the doorway), it was easy to see that the room was neat and swept clean.  The chairs were worn and old, but surprisingly, there were clean white doilies on the backs of them.  The father of the house was polite to us, but though he was proud of where he was and what he had, it was obvious that he felt a hopelessness about his families future.  I really do think the Gospel is their only hope, and that will take a few generations.

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2015-04-09_05.22.11Some of the neighbor kids, came to watch the day’s big event!  It’s not every day you get to see a red SUV with two white people inside, driving through your neighborhood!  As a matter of fact, I’m not sure they have ever seen a car driving through their neighborhood.  I was sure the path was too narrow for us to get through many times, but the elders assured us we could make it, so we crawled along between the houses, with people happy to direct us and encourage us along the way.  We finally did need to stop and get out and walk.  These pictures were taken as we walked.

2015-04-09_06.11.17A tire and stick are the most common toys for kids here.

2015-04-09_06.18.57I do love to see laundry on a line.  However, not everyone has a line.

2015-04-09_05.21.16This seems to work just as well!

This was another one of those days when you simply cannot describe the experience.  Suffice to say, though I thought we would never be able to find our way out of the maze of houses (especially without tipping over or getting wedged between two buildings), we were, with a little help, able to find our way back to the main road and returned home safe and sound.

This post has taken me a long time to do.  Part of the reason is that we have been very busy, but part of the reason I think, is that I have gotten quite used to things here.  And… the truth is, I feel either uninspired or just plain too tired most days.  I think there is some truth to the idea that pain can inspire creativity, and I am happy to announce, that though I continue to struggle with my personal weaknesses, I have experienced very little pain over the past month or so.  I guess I should find comfort in the thought, that like the Congo, two steps forward and one step back isn’t all that bad.  At least I am moving forward.

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One of our elders… leading us home.

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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6 Responses to Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

  1. pamela stanton says:

    You guys are wonderful doing this

    Like

  2. Benches says:

    Elder & Sister Bench here in Slave Lake. We were in Wainwright for the first part of our mission and are in love with your sister (in law) Lin. She gave us your blog to follow along. The Lord keeps so many Sr. Missionaries busy with His work. We will be back in Wainwright in August on our way back to Utah. What adventures you are having, you are definitely an inspiration to all.

    Like

  3. Doug Bennion says:

    The road pictures look like the ones we take the jeeps over for fun. You will have a group of missionaries who will bless your life’s forever. I have learnt that tough is hard but it is good. You are in our prayers.

    Doug Kay

    Like

  4. I was so excited to see that you posted! I check almost everyday to see if there is a new post. This post made me want to cry seeing the pictures of all those beautiful kids, and just imagining their lives. Looking through made me want to adopt a baby from over there. I love how their faces looked so happy when you were playing with them. And that story about the baby who was killed by the falling brick-I cannot imagine. Some of the things you talk about remind me of my mission and the way I felt sometimes. Always physically exhausted, but some days were just emotionally draining and I felt like I couldn’t handle to see anymore pain, loneliness, etc. The story about that sweet little boy made me really just sad, especially how the other kids make fun of him. I’m glad the elder shared his food with him. Anyways, you are doing an amazing job, mom. I am so proud of you and love you so much.

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  5. Kate says:

    Every time I read your blog I am amazed at what you’re doing, that you’re actually there living all of this. You have always been so hard on yourself mom without realizing it. You and dad have that in common. You are doing great things and I am so grateful for your example.
    I love seeing you play those games with the kids. I bet they’re so excited when you come to town.
    Thanks for keeping your blog going, even if you feel you don’t have anything to write. We all love reading everything/anything, and this post was a timely one for me.

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  6. Carolyn, this is the first time I’ve replied to your post, but I want you to know that I think of you and Brent often. It is evident that you are a gifted writer, but even more importantly you’re a special person to be doing what you’re doing in a part of the world that most of us cannot even fathom. Your stories are reminder of all that we have to be grateful for. Sending you light and love.

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