Monday, June 21, 2010
With heavy hearts, rumbling tummies, and encouraged spirits we prepare to leave Africa. We will have traveled over 18,000 miles in humble service to the poor and orphaned before landing in Saint Louis. We have been encouraged in a mighty way by God's love, faithfulness and commitment to his people. Along the way we have: laughed, cried, stumbled through many languages, eaten bizarre things, contracted food poisoning, slept under mosquito netting, suffered from altitude sickness, shared the gospel, enjoyed the smiles of strangers, worshiped in seven churches, made many new friends, held babies, fed the hungry, played with children, assisted the elderly, attended to the ill, shared resources, visited widows in great distress, wrestled with the sting of poverty, explored future ministry opportunities and have praised and prayed continually to our mighty God. We have been called a blessing but He alone is worthy to be praised! In two countries, under the oppression of rampant corruption and greed, we see the Lord's hand at work, his name being praised and his son exalted. On soil where whatever rests in your own two hands must be sold in order to have food for that day, we have learned more deeply about power of the holy spirit and the meaning of true faith. We now return to a land, also of great poverty....despite having an abundance of personal resources... we are a people that are poor in spirit, faith and belief in an Almighty and Sovereign Lord. The harvest is indeed ripe and the workers are few. We see great need for continued work in both Kinshasa and Addis Ababa, but also in our own hearts and in the cities oh America. Please be in prayer for our re-entry and for our future service to the poor and orphaned. Thanks to each of you that have supported our mission with faithful prayer and personal resources. We have been greatly encouraged by each of you and thank God for your partnership. We look forward to seeing each of you soon! Ciao and Mbote! Skip and Keary
Labels: MTW and ACT
We visited another beneficiary this morning. She had a friend in her home and they were preparing breakfast. Seven of us squeezed into her tiny, but clean, one-room home. We talked for 30 minutes as the coffee brewed for the daily coffee ceremony. They asked if we would take a photo of them. It was not clear though, due to the rising smoke from the burning incense. The two women and their children were beneficiary families. They were receiving help from the project and were praising God for the assistance. They admitted that the little they had was enough to help them survive and they were very grateful his provision. The homeowner had a 7 year old girl. I asked if she would like to see a photo of Madelyn. I shared one of Maddie holding a large hen from the Wylie's farm in Virginia. She grinned from ear to ear. We commented that the daughters might be friends if we lived in Addis! It was a very special time together. Skip prayed for both of the women and we left to see some other families. As we walked down the road children peeked out of their door frames and some from the afternoon clubs found us and walked with us. It is challenging not being able to communicate. We know zero Amharic but enjoy holding hands and smiling! A funeral procession ahead blocked our path and plans quickly changed to visit families at another time. We watched boys playing bottle cap games in the street, vendors selling mounds of fresh mangoes and avacados. For one of the poorest nations in the world we were impressed by the cleanliness of the public spaces and supply of food, as compared to the DRC.
We were invited out to enjoy a traditional Ethiopian meal. Our group of seven enjoyed a shared plate of wat, injera, beef and goat tibs, and berbere. There was music and dancing on stage. I hope I can upload a video clip for you to enjoy. A very delicious meal! So glad Skip is feeling better! At the end we enjoyed partaking in the coffee ceremony ...complete with burning frankincense!
Our afternoons in Ethiopia were spent at different locations helping with girls and boys clubs with beneficiary kids. One afternoon Keary was at the Lideta office helping with knitting and Skip went to the Bole office to play games. Our final afternoon was together with a group of ten boys playing American games, sharing stories and enjoying lifesavers!
A group of 50 doctors, nurses and medical students from the Medical College of Georgia are visiting the site and are running a clinic for the next 10 days. They anticipate seeing up to 1000 patients total. It was a joy to watch them set up and welcome folks off the street. Here is a photo of the "waiting room."
We had a good night's rest. Unfortunately Skip awoke feeling terrible. He has a headache and a slight fever. We are at 8,000 feet here in the city so he might be having altitude sickness. I left him in bed and went out on a few home visits with Mike Treadwell this morning. He is part of a larger team that services 400 adults and 750 children (called "beneficiaries") living with HIV. The beneficiary families receive medical care, free ARV medication, food assistance, school fees and other perks. He visits a few folks from the program each day. This morning we were in 3 homes. Each of the homes were found down rocky alleyways hidden between businesses, were simply one room and all were at any day going to be razed. They were constructed of tin on the exterior, had inner cardboard walls covered with newspaper and a dirt floor. The first woman we visited wanted prayer for her new marriage and for her child living with extended relatives. All of them were positive. It was explained to her that the virus can mutate (and become unresponsive to the ARV medication) between 2 positive partners if they did not use protection. She was not worried that it would happen to them. She was very grateful that we had stopped by to evaluate her health. The second home housed a women and her mother (sick in bed with TB). She wanted prayer for their health as well and for the TB culture results to come sooner than the expected 6 weeks. In the 3rd home was a bed stricken man with AIDS. He was no longer able to walk. He had a friend that would get him out of bed and take him out for fresh air (if that exists in squalor). We asked how we could pray for him and he refused. As an orthodox Christian he did not believe that we worship the same God. Our translator got into a deep spiritual conversation with him. In then end he admitted that he believed the Bible, but not some parts, including much of Romans. We had a friendly departure and he thanked us for our time together. My overall reaction was positive. It was a joy to be their homes, be a part of their lives and live out their struggles...if only for a moment. God is with us all, no matter our condition, and it was apparent that they were appreciative of the assistance they were receiving, especially the prayer. In comparison, people in Congo are living in much worse conditions.
Our final morning in Congo was spent packing and saying final goodbyes. We stopped by Papa Leon’s house after checking out of the Methodist Presbyterian guesthouse (MPH). Skip took some great photos of Leon’s family. They have welcomed us into their lives in such a warm way. The photo is of one of Leon’s daughters preparing the enormous fish we had purchased from the fishing village the day we arrived in Congo. We were caught in an hour long traffic jam en route to the airport. We really enjoyed watching the flow of people pass by as we waited for it to clear. Women carry everything on top of their heads: baskets of bread, 25 pound sacks of potatoes, bowls of green tangerines, sacks of fufu flour and anything else they want to sell. Men tend to sell their goods from roadside stands: gravel, car parts, household goods, cell phone minutes, wood and furniture. People are on the move in Kinshasa! One little girl (5?) with her smaller brother (3?) waved hello to me for at least 10 minutes. White women are rare in the city. Checking-in at the Ndjili airport was quite an experience. Our bags were checked 5 times at least. At every station we were asked to show our passports. Then we expected to give a tip (or bribe). Our flight to Addis was restful. We had time to reflect, diffuse and talk about what we had experienced and what is yet ahead. Our flight was delayed and we arrived about 2 hours late. Mike Treadwell on the MTW team met us at the airport and we are now staying in his home. His wife is Emily and they have a 3 year old son named Caleb. They have been living in Addis for 9 months and will be our hosts while we are here. We look forward to a good night’s sleep and some GREAT coffee in the morning!
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Over this week, we confirmed that many of the orphans' overall health had improved from last year and that support from New City had provided regular meals to the children in need. The C.E.F.O.R.E.A. feeding program was still providing weekly meals to several malnourished children. The two Compassion Health Clinics were providing care to area children and to their families. The sponsored children for educational support were learning at school and were being well cared for by their local pastors. Medical supplies and medications were delivered to restock the health clinic pharmacies. The nurses who check on the orphans weekly showed detailed records of their improved health and the frequency of their visits to the orphanage.
After breakfast we loaded the vans with the bulk of the team's luggage. Our friends arrived to pick us up and delivered a handmade dress or shirt to everyone on our team! We quickly put on our new gifts and headed out in two directions for worship services. Skip and I attended Cite Bethel Church. We had performed our first medical clinic of the week there. It was nice to see many of our patients again. New City pastor Barry Henning preached on Jesus and his interaction with the woman at the well in Samaria (John 4) this morning. Some of the children approached us after the service and proudly displayed some of the things we had given them on Tuesday. After saying Au Revoir to everyone at Bethel, we headed across town to a second church to hear New City pastor Tony Myles preach. It was great to all be together for our last of eight services in Congo this week. He did a wonderful job reminding us God cares for the orphan, widow and oppressed and is committed to us and accomplishing his plans for caring for them. The afternoon was spent checking team luggage. We were invited to share a meal with a Congolese family who had heard Barry preach earlier in the week. Our Congolese hostess prepared an enormous farewell meal for us. The meal was amazing and had both Congolese and American food! Mbise (fish), grilled chicken, Apple pie, potato salad, kabobs, and fresh green salad. It was amazing. We sat and talked together for hours and enjoyed a world cup soccer game too. Felix, a native from Ghana on our team, had been feeling sick all morning but was somehow revived when Ghana scored the winning goal! The team was dropped off at the airport before dinner and are headed back to Saint Louis. Four of us remain now and we are all leaving tomorrow. Our next post will be from Addis Ababa(if there is power.)
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Our work in Congo is coming to an end. Our first team leaders left today to return to the States after lunch. We spent some time shopping in a local market…WOW what an experience. There were so many wonderful things being sold…wooden carvings, money from Zambia (former Congo), baskets, parrots, monkeys, carved rocks and minerals, masks, figurines and paintings. There were so many vendors and when they see Americans they assume you are spending a fortune. After shopping we drove across Kinshasa to the edge of the city to the Bonobo refuge. What a treat to see these orphans in action! They were so adorable! As soon as we arrived they greeted us with loud screeches. After a few photos one Bonobo excitedly started running, wanting us to follow. He led us (one side of the fence) and the entire community he lived with (on his side of the fence) down a path. They screeched and played and rolled around. It was very entertaining. One older Bonobo had a smashed plastic coke bottle. He ran it along the ground (like a toddler would with a toy car) for our entire hour long visit at the refuge. An interesting fact…Bonobos only live in the DR Congo. The Congo River separates them from the Republic of Congo. They will not cross the river. The refuge has a river running through it and the water is used as a boundary. An unforgettable afternoon! We spent dinner along the Congo river at a restaurant that overlooked the rapids. Tonight everyone is packing up. The bulk of the team will start the “leaving process” after church tomorrow. Bags have to be checked in downtown before arriving at the airport, exit fees need to be paid and there are no electronic tickets in Kinshasa. It takes all day to get out. We are leaving Monday morning for Ethiopia and are getting excited about our time there too.
Friday, June 11, 2010
An after noon at La Grace de Dieu Orphanage. Forty children, supported by New City Fellowship, live together in a small compound. They are under the care of Sister Victorine. The children lined up, sang songs, and even did a dance for us in thanks for our partnership with them. It was a very special afternoon. We held babies, played games, helped feed the kids fufu and bean soup and thoroughly enjoyed a full afternoon of fellowship together. The kids were surprisingly helpful and caring to one another, seemed happy and were receptive to receiving us. It is always difficult to imagine life in an orphanage, especially one in this physical condition. The photos will give you an idea. We conducted a few medical examinations during our visit, drew some pictures and played some new games together before leaving. We donated quite a few baby clothes for their new arrivals as well. It was hard to leave these precious ones.
It was a long but fulfilling day today. We arrived back at the guesthouse at 9pm after twelve hours of service in the city. We spent the morning at C.E.F.O.R.E.A (Center for the Care of Abandoned Children) When we arrived there were fifty or more children (of all ages) waiting with mothers, grandmothers and caretakers to receive their only nutritious meal for the week. We are traveling with Pierre who used to be a part of this program until he came to the US for spinal corrective surgery and was adopted. He is greeted like a king in Kinshasa now. Many of the kids remember him and all admire him greatly. His grandmother “Coco” was the first to receive us. There were many welcoming hugs as we visited with the children while the ate. As they finished each family was sent home with small bags of fish, rice and cassava flour for the week. When lunch was over we began setting up our medical clinic to service the children in need. We never expected the townspeople to arrive and pretty soon we had a line of 40 or more patients waiting to be seen. We made priority for the orphans and got through as many in line as we could in a few hours. Today we saw a terrible case of rickets, intestinal worms, high fevers, several hernias and countless other ailments.
18 hours later, Keary is BACK! What a spell. Today we were on the run. We visited a partnering church on our side of town today. We arrived and greeted over 50 people waiting to receive medical help. We set up a make-shift examination room and waiting area and started to see patients quickly. Skip jumped in as an intake nurse so-to-speak and ended up serving assisting with diagnosing minor ailments, writing prescriptions and sending patients to the dispensary. Keary helped serve on an children art team for all of the kids that came with sick parents. We set up a coloring and a painting station. We believe that most of the children enjoyed brush painting, literally, for the first time. We had to teach many of them what to do. They painted designs or village scenes mostly. We concluded the clinic and headed off to visit some schools where different orphans attend. The first was a plywood structure divided into five rooms. Four were classrooms and one was an office. It sat on a widow’s land. The nominal rent paid by the school helps her to survive and the land allows a school to exist for her extended family and neighbors. Her smile was precious! One of the orphans there had a terrible fever (likely malaria) and we were able to tend to his immediate needs with some ibuprofen. Another orphan cried as she was remembering her parent's passing. It was sad to see them ill and upset. The second school was all cinder block. Two classes were in session, both taking exams. We met with around ten orphans there and spent some time learning about their school. They sit in a 12x25 foot block classroom with over 60 kids all lined up on wooden benches with only an old blackboard in the front. The darkness and basic feel was striking. The future leaders of Congo are learning in a traditional way. We ended our day at La Croix de Jesus Church for a very vivacious and loud church service and another huge meal presented by the church members. Hugs and kisses everywhere. The Congolese are so excited about our help and presence here. The pastors 3 boys befriended us and spent half the night taking photos of themselves with our camera. We arrived back at MPH for a early bed time.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
This morning we met a couple at our guesthouse who are in Kinshasa to pick up their newly adopted Congolese children…two one-year olds, a boy and a girl. It was a nice morning talking with them about their experience and sharing some baby toys with them.
We took a walk over to the American School of Kinshasa and walked the grounds. It is the only site in the city (43 acres) that is a true rainforest environment. There are 270 children on the beautiful campus and we enjoyed visiting the African history classroom. We saw a few parrots and many gorgeous tropical plants.
Mid day we sat encircled in a large room. The pastors form the local churches that we have relationship arrived to discuss with our team the plans for the week. It was an eye opening experience. In America we enter into a meeting on time, silent our cell phones, follow a printed agenda, discuss the items on the agenda and leave at the designated time. Nothing could be far more different in Africa. Meeting with pastors and visiting Marcel Mukendi’s widow and 12 children traditional dinner at the home of Pastor David. Michael Jackson, sharing lifesavers, questions about American Equal Pay for Equal work 20 month soldier, 25 month teacher $4 chicken Adopted baby might have Down’s Syndrome
Today Keary woke up very ill. We are not sure what is going on. She was unable to get out of bed….symptoms seem to suggest food poisoning or some crazy Congolese bug.. It was a very sad day not being able to visit the orphanage and medical clinic. It instead became a day of praying, sleeping and recovery. All in the Lord’s plan for us. Skip stood by my side all day. He attended to my every need….fetching bread, water, bananas and handwashing laundry to dry in the hot sun. This is why I love serving in missions together. The team had a very successful day but commented that getting around the city was quite challenging with the traffic. It can take 2 ½ hours to drive 10-20 miles. I hope I can get a photo of the traffic and pedestrians so you can you why. The potholes are enormous, there are no painted line divisions, lanes, or stop signs or traffic lights. Total traffic chaos.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
We delivered a suitcase of children's clothing/shoes and money to a widow who has 12 children. Her husband was a pastor and dear friend to many on the New City Team. He was a big part of the partnership and ministry here in Congo - He died recently from a complicated illness. Most of his children are under the age of 16 years of age -- youngest being twins age 3. When we left their home after giving them clothing and shoes, we could hear the children jumping around and joyfully shouting in excitement. Their needs are very apparent. The medical team did some assessments and set up a clinic evaluation appointment for one of her children who was very sick.
Praise the Lord -- They will need much prayer and support in the future.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Our group split today to visit different churches. One of our New City Fellowship pastors Tony Myles was invited to preach in one of these churches. The congregation had 2000 members at 3 services. He was a bit nervous but did an amazing job. Our Congolese friend Noel translated the sermon into French. The language is being resurrected from my brain and team members are starting to turn to me for translation now. Kind of scary! We were hosted by a woman and her friends for lunch in their backyard garden. We are being treated like kings so far. What an amazing buffet of traditional food. So far no grasshoppers on the menu. Their hospitality was a gift. I learned that they had no electricity for their preparations! Hard to imagine with the quantity of food and the size of our group. We gabbed for hours before realizing that we ran out of time to see the Bonobos. Boo! We spent the evening at Pastor Leon’s home. What a joyous time getting to know his relatives and grandchildren. It has been a high light of our trip so far to be inside a Congolese home, playing with children, learning to eat fufu at a table with Congolese women and sharing photos of my life with each of them. The grandchildren know all of your names kids! They especially enjoyed a video clip on my camera of our visit to the Scripps Aquarium in California from January. It featured a diver feeding a variety of fish in a huge tank! They screamed “Grand Poisson, Grand Poisson!” “Big Fish, Big Fish!”
Sunday, June 6, 2010
We drove for miles out of the city along a long country rode to a fishing village named Kibuku. Along the way we passed hundreds of folks selling their goods and traveling by foot to who-knows-where. We passed a refugee camp set up for Eastern Congolese who survived the war. What a sad site. The village at the end of the road was quite a place. I wanted to take hundreds of photos but after the event with the soldier we were a bit afraid. I personally don’t want to know what the inside of a Congolese jail looks like. We walked along the river, saw children swimming in the nude, long hand carved wooden canoes, families cooking over charcoal fires, fishermen pulling in HUGE ugly fish (sturgeon?catfish?) and barges being loaded with enormous bags of garlic, onions and other goods. We ate an amazing dinner of spiced fish, Kwanga (steamed fufu in banana leaves), and fried plantains. After relaxing and watching the border patrol officers paddle away in their canoe we pulled out our cameras to take a few shots. Enjoy!
Every seat on the plane filled with folks from Rome on our stop to refuel. Not too far past the end of “the boot” a man sitting beside us stood up, and then collapsed in the aisle. We quickly helped to find a doctor and an Italian translator while the Ethiopian crew stood by completely unresponsive. The entire time I was thinking…When is the right time to tell the pilot? How are we going to land on the water…or do we wait until we get to land ( northern Egypt in Africa) and hope he makes it? Fortunately a blood pressure cuff was located and the gentleman was cared for well. A sudden drop in blood pressure mixed with forgotten medication and no food was his diagnosis. Flying across the African continent was beautiful, especially across Congo. The Congo River winds distinctly through dense jungle for most of the way. Occasionally I would catch the glimpse of a few tin roofs…a small village I suppose. We arrive safely in Kinshasa and were greeted immediately. We were ushered through the diplomat line and never once had to touch any luggage. The local Congolese Christians took care of everything! All of our bags arrived and we met up with the Pastor Leon Mukendi, most of his sons, Dr Tim and Kathy Rice, Charlie and Pierre Svoboda. Someone suggested that we take a photo of the group while we were waiting for the luggage to get loaded. After a brief moment two Congolese soldiers approached us the group and wanted to arrest the Pastor and confiscate the camera. Apparently it is illegal to take photos in Congo. Fortunately he was used to the “system” and was able to convince the soldiers that they could not arrest American citizens, paid them ½ of the bribe they were asking from Daddy’s wallet and we were on our way! 22 hours of flying from Dulles to Kinshasa.
We departed on time today, Yippee! International flights require that you arrive 2 hours early. What fun! We enjoyed several interesting conversations while we waited to board. Our first was with a French-speaking nun and her English-speaking companion heading to Burundi to serve in a women’s clinic. We have an open invitation to visit them in the future! “Please come, and bring your friends!” We met a couple returning to continue their work in southern Sudan to help the Sudanese with agriculture, education and other health related self-help initiatives. They were intrigues with our mission and we shared resources as well. We are now seated next to a Kenyan woman studying economics at George Mason University so that she can return to her community in Nairobi upon graduation and initiate change. Right now we are 2191 miles from Rome, which appears to be about half-way over the Atlantic Ocean. We have been flying for 5 hours so far. We stop in Rome to refuel, then head out on a 5 hour flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. From there we will take 2 more flights (another 4 hours) stopping in Brazzaville before crossing the Congo River and arriving in Kinshasa! Ethiopian airlines has been great so far. A 3 year old Ethiopian boy is sitting in front of us and we are playing games with him through the crack in the seats. What a cute laugh and beautifully perfect smile. I am starting to realize how white I really am! KR
After many last minute errands, hugs and kisses we left for the airport. We are carrying 8 bags (280lbs), completely stuffed with medical supplies for the clinic in Kinshasa, clothes and shoes for orphans, and gifts for local family members from the Congolese living in Saint Louis. Our trip is going well but will take longer than the expected 23 hours. Our quick 2 hour direct flight from St Louis to Dulles ended up being 7 hours. New regulations do not allow a plane to sit on the tarmac for over 90 minutes so when the 90 minutes passed we had to return to the gate and start all over. Skip sat next to the official photographer from Camp Woodward….Stephen’s dream skateboarding camp in Woodward, Pennsylvania. He also happened to be the brother of Sayer’s teacher next year. Keary sat next to the president of a non-profit group that serves several villages in Myanamar. We enjoyed sharing stories about serving Burmese people and he passed along many useful contacts/organizations that could be of benefit to our service to orphans in the future. We had a late arrival into IAD but were happy to have some good rest before our morning departure. We were shuttled to the hotel by Carlos, from Lima Peru. We enjoyed exchanging stories with him about our time there and his recommendation of a Peruvian restaurant for dinner (at 9pm) that served amazing “pollo a la brasa.” in Leesburg.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Tonight we opened our bags, reshuffled items, weighed and repacked. New donations and items for the Congolese keep arriving. God is a mighty provider. We are picking up Grandma Tractor (Skip's mom) at the airport tomorrow at 1:00. Orientation to St. Louis will begin and we head out on Thursday. Some of our team members have arrived in Congo already and are preparing for our work. Please visit www.ncfbridge.org to check our team blog!