Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

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Elder Mukundi and Elder Mbelec greeting us at the Mbuji Mayi airport.  Those hats really do help shade their eyes and keep them cool in the heat of Kasai.  I love them!… the elders and the hats!

So… we have two and a half months to go and in a blink, we’ll be home.  Have we accomplished anything that matters?  Have we made a difference?  Well, I know Brent has, though he doesn’t see it. But the role of the “Mission President’s Companion” (that would be me), is somewhat vague and undefined.  My main role here is to take care of him, support him and do whatever I can to ease his burden.  I’m good with that!  I think that’s what I’ve always done! (and quite happily I might add)  However, there are other ways I thought I would be able to serve, that frankly, just haven’t panned out!

My eighteen month mission that I served in Italy, as a young missionary, was the most spiritually rewarding experience of my life.  I returned home on a spiritual high and a somewhat Utopian view of what I thought mission life, and therefore life as a Mission President and wife would be like around the world.  When we received the call to serve here in the Congo as Mission President, though we were surprised at both the timing and the place, we felt fairly well prepared (if one can ever feel prepared for something like this).  We thought we would be able to draw on our previous experience and put it all to use, in what we knew would be a very demanding two years.  The interesting thing is… we discovered that nothing we felt we might have to offer seemed to be needed, wanted or of any use here.  And that the character traits or skills that were needed, we just didn’t possess!  It’s like we spent our lives packing and preparing for a possible future expedition to the Sahara, and found ourselves dropped off in the middle of Antarctica instead!  Or like showing up for a renovation job with all the tools needed to do the electrical work, and discovering that it’s really the plumber they need!  I won’t bore you with even attempting to list the many frustrations of trying to fit a “square peg into a round hole” but I can say that we have tried our best.  I’ve just had a difficult time finding my purpose.

Well, enough of that!  Time to play catch up!  It’s been a long time, so here’s a few pictures of the past few months.  (You will notice that my pictures are rather dull. I seldom take pictures anymore.  What can I say?  I’ve lost my eye and my interest for new things I guess.)

2015-11-11_03.55.002015-06-18_02.56.57Speaking of someone with a purpose…  This is Ilunga.  He is one of the hardest working men I know.  He works from 6:30 to 5:00, six days a week, as the gardener for the Mission Complex.  Each day he greets me with a typical Congolese greeting.  Taking his hat off with his left hand and putting his right hand over his heart, he gives a slight bow, a big, beautiful smile, and a warm “Bonjour Soeur Thomas”.  He doesn’t have to work as hard as he does.  He works hard because he loves to work! If there’s nothing that needs doing, he makes work for himself.  About five or six months ago he decided to dig up all the “lawn” in the complex and replace it with clean new dirt into which he hand plants little sprouts of grass.  Simple and easy enough?  It has been a huge job (he’s still at it) and he has done all this with a shovel and a wheelbarrow.  I wish I could say that the results were worth the effort but unfortunately, I think it looked better before.  The sprouts he plants look like what we in Canada would call quack grass, and everything he weeds out of it looks an awful lot like our nice grass from home!

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Back in the fall, Brent met a South African business man launching a building project called Luano City.  He was able to connect him with the church employment specialist, which resulted in jobs for over sixty of our faithful members.  It hasn’t been problem free. Honesty and trust are always an issue here, but even for these few months it has been a huge blessing for so many.  The big question is, what will happen when Brent is no longer here to act as mediator?

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Though some of the men have been trained, thanks to the Church’s training programs (Elder Atkinson, you left your mark.) most of them have to learn on the job.  Measuring, leveling, and pretty much everything that goes along with it, is new to them.  This has definitely been a case of “two steps forward, one step back”.

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November took us to another Mission President’s Seminar in Johannesburg.  It was fun to visit a crocodile park and get up close and personal with some of the residents.  Even crocodiles can be cute… when they’re babies!

2015-11-19_06.14.46This guy was a wonderful spokesman for the reptiles under his care.  He had just the right balance of love and respect for these wonderful animals.  You could sure tell he loved his job!

2015-11-19_06.49.18_2Here’s Brent with an albino python… or is it an albino boa?  Well, whatever it is, it is a big yellow snake and I felt no need to hold him, no matter how friendly he was supposed to be. The guide told us about one of the workers that went into one of the cages to change a light bulb.  He thought the snake was asleep (not this snake),  but the snake got him by the leg and by the time the other workers got to him, the snake had coiled around him so tightly, he couldn’t draw breath.  I don’t remember how they got him free, but the guy said that he felt like he had a truck sitting on his chest.  By-the-way…  the Congo is full of snakes but we haven’t seen a one!  Well, Brent claims he saw one on the road to Likasi, but there were three other people in the vehicle and we didn’t see it!  Just sayin’!

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Okay.  Now this is more like it!  You still have to be careful of those teeth and claws!

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Brent LOVES cats!  He loves the strength and power he can feel, no matter the size.

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We drove through this lion park in a big vehicle protected with metal grating.  The young woman acting as our driver and guide, delighted in recounting the story of how a few months earlier, a tourist had been pulled through the open window of her car by a lioness. “Of course, she was half eaten by the time the wardens arrived.”, she added with relish. The moral of the story?… When the signs say to leave your windows rolled up… leave the windows rolled up!

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This giraffe ignored her handler and decided to check out the menu at the park’s food court.  She pretty much had the run of the place!  He was trying to bribe her out of there with some bread slices, but she wasn’t falling for it.

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Cute, right?  She all but smiled for the camera!

2015-12-11_01.41.56We have the worst luck with mission vehicles!  Immanuel was alone when he rolled the truck on the way back from Kolwezi.  Miraculously, he walked away from it without a scratch!

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Our first flat tire!  Trusty Godefroid had the wheel when it blew and we were all fine.

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Can you believe it?!  That was a brand new Bridgestone tire with only 80 km on it!  Luckily, we had a brand new spare to replace it.    Wait a minute!…

2015-12-15_07.09.54That’s “Brightstone”, not “Bridgestone”!   Hmmm… Well, what would you expect?! 🙂

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Our Mwene Ditu missionaries awaiting the Zone dinner.  As you can tell, the sisters like dressing as twins.

2016-01-08_00.20.22Homeward bound!  Gotta love the perks of flying CAA!  Who needs leg space, when you can squeeze on a few more rows of passengers?  David… I think you would just have to lay in the aisle!

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Our last Christmas in the Congo!  A fun and delicious dinner with the best people in the world!

2015-12-25_09.22.18Our dear friend Aimee.  Her second Christmas with us and according to her, they’ve been the best Christmases of her life.  We will miss you Aimee, or as they say en Francais, “You will miss us.”

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No, the missionary on the right is not heading off to the Yaught club.  He’s heading home in a few weeks and wanted to strut his stuff at Zone Conference.  This is just a sampling of what you can go home with.  I’ll just leave it at that.

2016-02-10_01.16.00And… We’re back on our way to Kasai.  As usual, Brent is asleep before we leave the runway.  It’s not that we mind Kasai really, though Brent does come home sick more than not.  But more than anything, it’s the whole airport rigamarole and not knowing if and when we can actually get back home to Lubumbashi!

2016-02-10_01.15.40I think that like most everything else here, the airplanes have had a few previous lives. We’ve also traveled on planes with bench seating!  You know,…  like the benches on a school bus?!

2016-02-12_00.28.36The Inn at the Dwiulu.  This is where travelers can get a little rest and catch a bite to eat before moving on with their load.  I’ve written before about the bridge at the Dwiulu River, aka Crocodile River, and how we hold our breath and cross our fingers every time we cross. Well, I guess it finally disintegrated to the point that it could only be used by pedestrians and motorcycles.  I’m just glad we were safely back home before it happened!

2016-02-11_23.43.04This road crew was hard at work patching holes caused by the hard rains and traffic.  This is the only road crew we’ve ever actually seen, and one can’t help but wonder how they can make a dent in countless miles of those wild roads.  I’m sure that within a week or so after moving on and the subsequent rains that follow, the road will look pretty much as it did when they began.  Oh well!  At least someone is trying.

2016-02-14_02.45.58_3Back in Mbuji Mayi for the big event!  Elder and Sister Anderson’s visit!  The sisters had dresses made in matching fabric, along with ties for the elders.  They even had a tie for Brent and a jacket made for me.  I was impressed.  The jacket fit me like a glove,…  a tight glove,… just the way they like them.  I asked how they knew my size and they said they just showed the seamstress a picture of me.  It’s a good thing she didn’t have me pegged for a couple pounds lighter or I wouldn’t have been able to get it on.  They were so excited!

2016-02-14_01.29.18Brent did the translating for Elder Cook.  We love that man!  Elder Anderson of course, didn’t need a translator.  His French was very good, with just a sprinkling of Portuguese. After all, when you speak several languages, there’s bound to be a few words that jump in there from some where else.  He was as warm and kind as one would expect.

2016-02-14_02.37.20Can you find them in the crowd?  There were close to two thousand who showed up.

2016-02-14_05.22.12Well, Sister Anderson may be tiny but she isn’t hard to spot in this crowd.

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Here we are back at The Flats, our home away from home in Mbuji Mayi.  They have done some significant upgrades since our last visit and replaced the sofa and chair.  They had even installed a toilet seat!  Now, if we could just get some running water.

Well… HAVE I done any good in the world today?  I hope so, but it sure isn’t easy to see OR feel, for that matter.  Recently, I found myself yearning for “simpler” days, when all six of our children were still at home.  I knew my purpose then!  I was needed!  But as Mom would say, “There is a time and a season.”  That season has long since passed and a new one has begun.  What I do know, is that whether we’re in the Sahara or the Antarctic, I’m good, as long as I’m with him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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7 Responses to Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

  1. Brittany Rutledge says:

    I loved the final note you shared, “What I do know, is that whether we’re in the Sahara or the Antarctic, I’m good, as long as I’m with him.”
    So beautiful. I love your words and your honesty! Soon you will be home and I can assure you, you have done MUCH good while you’ve been there.
    Much love,
    Britt

    Like

  2. Pamela Stanton says:

    So enjoy your blogs and am so inspired by what you and your husband are doing

    ________________________________

    Like

  3. Leslie says:

    Carolyn,
    I was beginning to worry about you when I hadn’t seen a post for a while. I was hoping you were just too busy to write. I always enjoy your posts and I love it when you include animals of any stripe or color. I look forward to seeing you when you do get back here. I will organize a Crescent alum gathering in your honor.
    Leslie Dorsett

    Like

  4. I am SO glad you blogged again! I love reading what you write. I love that Ilunga. What a sweet and good man. I love those pictures with the animals, especially the keets. It made me think of the way dad pets Teeg and Todd. I thought that was cute the way the sisters had a matching jacket made for you and tie for dad 🙂 and very impressive that they can sew to fit by looking at a picture!! SO so many neat, amazing, and UNIQUE experiences you are having. And I didn’t know that about Luano City and providing jobs for so many. How great. And dad wouldn’t be able to so any of it without you, as I’m sure he has told you. Love you both so much. So so proud of you and grateful that you’re serving, but also SO excited to have you home in just a little bit.

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  5. Kate says:

    I don’t know why I get teary-eyed every time I read one of your posts. I am so grateful for your example of faithful service, diligence, humility, and love for The Lord and your husband (dad😀). You may never fully see/realize how much good you have done in your sejour over there, but it is huge mom.
    I love how the sisters like dressing like twins, and how they had a matching jacket made for you. I’m glad that you’re able to see at least some animals. You and dad inspire more people than you will ever know! We love you and cannot believe you have only 2 months left!

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  6. Jessica says:

    I love reading your posts – you really transport us not to Africa exactly, but to a little of what you are feeling. I’m so grateful for your example – I could never do what you have done. Support David? Sure. In the Congo? NOPE! He would never fit on that plane. At all. The animal photos are great! I love the big cats, of course, but the giraffe is so cute! I even love the crocs and the snake 😄 Love you both. Come home safe. It is soon! Hurray!

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  7. Sarah says:

    Love you both so much! You are doing an amazing work there… it always makes me cry. Can’t wait to see you in person!

    Like

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