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.
A 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.
These 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.
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.)
These 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.
Some 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.
I 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.
This 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.
On 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