“Don’t Wish Your Life Away”


It’s been a long time since I last posted on my blog, but honestly, I just haven’t been taking many pictures!  I don’t seem to see things anymore, or perhaps I just don’t want to see them.  I find that instead of scrambling for my camera, I have simply begun looking away.  I am tired… exhausted really.  It is hard here in ways we never could have imagined.  Yes, the people here are poor, unbelievably poor, but it is so much more than that.  I’m not going to list the how’s and why’s.  Suffice to say, that for us, this is the hardest thing we have ever done.

As a result, I have been spending way too much time lately thinking of life at home.  It is an indulgence really… an escape.  Whenever I am able, I sneak away and go home.  Oh, my body is still here, in the jeep bouncing for hours down the road or sitting in the same chair hearing nothing but french for hours on end.  Everyone thinks I’m here but I’m really not. I’m thousands of miles away on the other side of the world, eating dinner and visiting with my dear friends and family.  Or I spend hours planning what we will do when we get home, or designing floor plans for each of my children’s homes.  (Hey, it;s what I love to do.)  In short, instead of being in the here and now, I’m living in the future…. I’ve done this since I was a little girl and once again, I can hear Mom telling me, “Carolyn, don’t wish your life away.”  Will I ever learn?

Well, I’m way behind on my posts but I will start here.

2015-05-28_04.22.04_2A couple of months ago, we had a Mission Tour with Elder and Sister Hamilton.  We began the tour in Mbuji Mayi and the next day passed through one of our favorite places… Tshitenge.  Standing with them in this picture, is the Branch President, his wife, the Relief Society President and some of their children.


As usual, Brent has them rolling in the aisles.


Two of the little girls who hang out around the church.  Wait a minute…


Make that three little girls.  Like I’ve said before… Babies carrying babies.


Kids here (almost everywhere in the DRC) pretty much spend their days on their own, entertaining themselves.  I am always amazed to see small children walking along, carrying razor sharp hoes or machetes, or just hanging out with no adult in sight. However, as bad as it might sound to us, I think this actually creates some pretty confident adults that know how to take care of themselves.


The group at Tshitenge are very self sufficient.  Here they are harvesting palm seeds/nuts. They use the oil for cooking and baking their bread.  (Yes, they are the same ones with the brick oven I have previously shown pictures of.)  They will also chew on these just the way they are or sell them roasted.  I haven’t tried them but I can imagine what they might taste like.


Another example of their self-reliance.  The thing that interests me more than the pigs, is the construction of the pen.  They have to use what they can find or make themselves, and do a pretty good job I might add.  It is the same with their other buildings.

2015-05-28_04.27.20These little kids literally dress in rags.  The little guy in the middle (I’m sure you can guess which one) lost his pants, when Brent asked to see how fast they could run.  We were told that the people living around the Tshtenge Branch send their kids to more or less live with and be taken care of, by the members there.  It’s not so much about their physical care, because they are all equally as poor, as it is about their moral upbringing.  There is definitely a special feeling there of peace, that anyone who visits feels.  Remember the picture of the spring bubbling up out of the crystal clear lake? (Waters of Mormon)… Same place.


This picture doesn’t begin to do justice to the spirit of this place.  Some people refer to it as Tshitenge’s “Sacred Grove”.  There is something about the quiet and the stillness (an extremely rare experience in the DRC) you feel here among the bamboo, with the light filtering down between the leaves.

All of this that I am speaking of, is actually a little plot of land owned by a man who gave up his own home, to be used as the church building by the local members.  He built himself another humble home close by.  The church has since supplied the bowery that the Hamiltons were standing in front of, along with a couple of other small buildings to be used as church offices.

This is not an uncommon sight.  A couple weeks prior to this, President Mukadi happened by this accident minutes after it occurred.  He helped pull out the bodies of the victims.  All seven passengers were killed.  We recently had six of our elders involved in an accident, as they travelled between Mwene Ditu and Mbuji Mayi.  They were travelling in a mini-van (that had no brakes I might add) along with about 15 other passengers, including babies and children, when it went into the ditch and hit a tree, causing it to flip twice. Surprisingly, no one was seriously hurt.  The people from the nearby village and the other passengers, attributed the miracle to the fact that there were six men of God in the bus. They just may be right!


There are a variety of vehicles that transport people, but they all have one thing in common… Pack as many people as you can possibly manage into, onto or under (well… maybe not under) whatever mode of transport you have.  We have seen huge trucks with loads of people, balancing on top of loads of goods, and with a few goats and pigs thrown in for good measure.  Obviously, this is a country that is not too concerned about enforcing transportation safety, unless of course it’s us.  The police stop us at every possible opportunity, stating serious infractions like: “You were not wearing your seat belts.”  (We were of course because the car demands it.)  “You had your head lights on at dusk which is dangerous for the other drivers.”  (The next four cars that passed as they were threatening us, all had their headlights on.)  “Your driver’s license is fake.”  (They only cost $50 and no test is needed.)  “Your parking permit for Lubumbashi has expired.”  (We were 100 miles away in Likasi at the time, and No, it had not expired.)  They can come up with all kinds of things we are doing to break the law, but they never stop vehicles like the one above.  I wonder why they stop us so much????  We carry a supply of bottles of water to give to the police as a gesture of appreciation and good will, but something tells me they are hoping to get something else.  Hmmmm… I wonder what that is.

2015-06-01_02.38.17They will travel for hours like this and think nothing of it!

2015-05-30_07.47.07You guessed it… Back in Luputa!  Every time we’re there, there are a few more boys that can whistle with their fingers.  I am quite proud of my legacy actually!

2015-05-30_09.50.49The kids keep a safe distance usually because they have been told to leave the visitors alone, but are always waiting for an invite to come closer and play.


After a token game or song, I usually retreat inside the Luputa Hotel.  It really is too much sometimes.  This is what I see in the doorway.  Homes in the DRC usually have curtains in the doorway to allow the flow of air.  (Some just can’t afford a real door.)

2015-05-31_09.12.08These two little girls were gussied up in their finest, for Stake Conference with Elder Hamilton.  There were probably between 1000 and 1500 in attendance, with about 30 walking 65 km there and back again from Ngandijika.  It took them two days each way, just for the two meetings of Stake Conference.  ….. Then there’s the members at home that view Stake Conference as a day to stay home from church or go have some fun.  ….. Just sayin.

2015-05-29_09.49.59Some of the wonderful members of Mwene Ditu.  The mayor is standing by Brent.  Our senior couple, the Mbeles have done an amazing job up there and will be missed when they leave in October.  Last week the missionaries of Mwene Ditu had 40 baptisms.

2015-06-01_04.32.10I asked our driver if there were any crocodiles around.  He said there was and that we could go see them.  This isn’t quite what I was hoping for and needless to say was a little disappointed.  I actually felt sorry for the poor little guy… all alone in a tiny makeshift pen. They are trying to create a sort of zoo and proudly displayed an eagle, some goats and two monkeys.  As someone who is not a huge fan of animals in cages, it was a little hard on me. They are doing the best they can, but there is absolutely no thought for the animals comfort,… and why would there be?  They themselves live in similar conditions.



2015-06-01_05.12.28This is how they make the bricks that they use to build their homes and just about anything else you need bricks for.  There are hills of this clay all over the place, that they say God put there for this purpose.  (It’s as good as any other explanation we received for all  those little hills.)  We were impressed with their speed and coordination.

2015-06-01_10.28.51On our last day in Mbuji Mayi we were invited to Family Home Evening with the most impressive young family.  The parents joined the church as university students and now have three beautiful children.  Tessla 4 and Marielle 2, were dressed in their Sunday best anxiously waiting for us to arrive. We met 8 month old Gordon, once inside.  As we waited for FHE to begin, I couldn’t help noticing the bookshelves stacked with church manuals and old church magazines.  The house was spotless and the spirit of the home felt like many of the young families homes I’ve visited in Canada and the US.  Tessla conducted and sang the opening hymn with gusto and the Mom gave an amazing lesson.  Marielle conducted the closing hymn and after the closing prayer, we played a little game followed by bottles of juice for a treat.  Just like any FHE back home… actually better.  Those little girls were so good, the beautiful mom so patient, and the dad so kind, that it could have been an ad for the perfect Mormon Family Home Evening.  The one thing that was different… It all had to be done before dark because they have no electricity.


So, I hope you can feel that my spirits have improved.  I began this post a couple of weeks ago but an especially hard and turbulent time in the mission has passed (or at least died down) for the moment.  In fact, I’m feeling pretty good about things right now.  Our mission like life, is full of ups and downs.  I won’t lie and say that when the time comes I won’t be happy and more than ready to return home, but in the mean time I am going to do my best to take one day at a time and try to live each day the best way I can.  After all, if you spend all of your time planning and dreaming of tomorrow, you can’t really live today! The Savior once said more or less the same thing in a little different way.  “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”  So… any of you who might be like me, and spend a little too much time dreaming of days yet to come… Let me repeat some simple but wise advise from my beautiful and wise mother…  (insert your own name here), Don’t wish your life away.


Marielle and Tessla








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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5 Responses to “Don’t Wish Your Life Away”

  1. Colin Dunne Sr. says:

    Love your blog, love your honesty, love your insights, love your faith, courage and example. Conditions here in the Philippines are not dissimilar, yes it is a roller-coaster of emotions but the good days out weigh the not so good ones and we have so much to learn from these people. The gospel blesses their lives and we are the better for it. We love you and pray for you every day. Elder & Sister Dunne


  2. peggy says:

    I have missed your blog additions and have been worrying about you. Your lovely, honest and heartfelt writings are important to me. Thank you so much for them. Keep writing. You give me insights and reveal so much of the world. I am proud of you. Much love.


  3. Kate says:

    As I read this I’m out on the front deck, kids are finally asleep and it’s so peaceful and beautiful. I am enjoying it for both of you!
    So interesting to me how each of your messages is always so timely. Thanks for this reminder, as I really do need it.
    I loved hearing about the FHE with that strong little family. It’s simple things like that that help you really feel the spirit of the work and know it’s moving forward.
    I also love your whistling legacy and that a lot of those kids are learning. I bet they can’t wait to show you their new talent once they’ve got it mastered.
    We love you and are so proud of all you’re doing. Thanks so much for writing again.


  4. I’ve been so anxious to see another post! many ask about you and tell me about their prayers for you. Jack said he prays for you every night. Anyways, like Kate said, your messages always are so timely and applicable. I always love reading them and feel inspired as to how I can/should be better. I love hearing about the faithful people there. Those kids all look so happy and sweet, and I love the pics and story of the family with whom you had fhe. It is also crazy how fast the time is passing. Almost 14 months down, and it only goes faster. We are so proud of you and so thankful for you. Love you!


  5. Ben says:

    I love the faith of these people. The presence of the elders cited as the reason that no one was harmed and the long walk to stake conference. We love you guys!


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