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Alex et Mosengo

May 18, 2012

In many poorer parts of the world, when the “rich” Westerners come in, they are expected to create jobs.  It is a cultural expectation, not merely a suggestion of good will.  The DR Congo is no different.  Hiring someone to do tasks for you could mean the world to that person and their family.  Some missionaries take this to heart and hire as many people as they can afford and assign them all sorts of duties.  Some instead find the concept too unusual.  Guilt can often be a factor – why hire someone to do work that I could do myself and might seem demeaning?  Trust me, it does indeed feel that way.

At first, we just let them do whatever they wanted on top of guard duty, not giving them any actual chores, because we just didn’t know what was going on.  They made their own work outside in the large yard.  Eventually, after talking to others, we realized that giving them specific tasks not only kept them from getting bored (duh!), but also helped build the relationship, increased trust, and gave them a reason to be proud of their work.  As an added bonus, we get work done!  We can spend less time trying to keep up with yard and house maintenance and more time trying to be effective missionaries.  Plus, we are providing two men with jobs so that they can support their families.  It really is a win-win, but we still struggle with moral, ethical, and social questions.  It is hard to get used to!

But, we can put that aside.  Let us introduce to you the two guys God put into our lives here to help us!

Alex

Alex came with the house.  The family who normally lives here has had Alex in their employment since 1999.  He came highly recommended for his trustworthiness and because he knew the house so well.  While the beginning was a little rough, we are so grateful he is here.  He does indeed know this house well.  For instance, he mows the lawn with an electric mower.  It is hard to find time when the grass is dry, there is enough light, and we have power to mow the lawn.  And, so far, every time he mows, the blade hits something and breaks, sending a chunk of blade flying through the air.  Now, in the States, most of us would stop mowing, perhaps we would jump onto Amazon or head down to Home Depot to find a new blade.  Maybe we would take in the mower to have it repaired.  Some might even go all the way to just buying a new one.  Not here.  It’s just not an option.

So, what does Alex do?  He grabs the arc welder and the goggles and goes to work welding the blade back together.  He was trained well by the man of the house here and takes pride in being able to do these things well.  Ten minutes later he’s back to mowing.

Once he’s done mowing, he edges. What, you don’t edge with a machete and a coupe while wearing flip flops? Weird.

Alex has also been a great help to me in the house.  He sweeps, mops, cleans the bathrooms, and dusts.  I know, you can be jealous.  I am SOOOO grateful!  He was already shown how to do these things, so I am extra spoiled.

Alex’s personal life has suffered tragedy after tragedy.  Just since we’ve been here, he lost a nephew in a car accident.  I’m told he is one of the few in his extended family that earns a living, so most of the financial burden is on him.  However, he has four kids and his wife is currently in the hospital in labor with twins!  I am waiting on edge to hear when those babies arrive and that everyone is healthy.  I hope to be able to meet his family, too, since we haven’t had the opportunity yet.  He speaks a little bit of English, which has been very nice.

Mosengo

Mosengo was hired by MAF to be our night sentinel.  He originally worked for another MAF family with small children who loved him and when they left late last year, he was without a job.  Everyone was so excited to be able to hire him back.  This man always has a smile ready and loves to play with Levi outside.  He can often be found pushing Levi in his trike, while making car noises.

Mosengo is so patient!

Mosengo, we soon learned, loves to work with the land.  The dirt and grass are perfectly manicured when he is done.  He is great at gardening, having built two gardens already (one for us, one for him and Alex), saving our plants from frogs and birds.  I even had him buy some plants and spruce up the lawn a bit.  (The ministry that typically takes place here is not conducive to plants, so the bare yard was a good thing.)

Oh, and can this dude fold and iron!  It looks professionally done and makes my folding looks so sad.  He is happy to do it when he’s here, and often has it done before I even realize the laundry is ready!  (Our washer/dryer are outside in a shed.)

Mosengo also has a sad personal history, including the loss of two baby girls and a wife who is not well.  However, two days after we arrived his wife gave birth to a little girl named Christine, and now they have five girls at home, in addition to his eldest son.  He told me just a few minutes ago that all are well.

This is a close-up of a previously posted picture from when we went to Nsango Na Bamoi – those girls are three of Mosengo’s daughters.

Mosengo speaks very little English, and I don’t think his French would be considered fluent, but we are able to communicate comfortably between my French/English dictionary, Google translate, and lots of gesturing!  (This is where I miss my iPhone and its handy apps the most…fix it, Canada!  I believe in you!)

Alex et* Mosengo are both Christians, involved in their churches.  I have often found both of them taking a rest under the giant mango tree reading their Bibles.  I have heard both of them singing or humming hymns as they go about their day.  They are both self-starters, finding work instead of waiting for one of us to prompt them.  They really do have our safety in mind.  When the kids and I go out, they watch outside the gate to be sure we’re safe.  If it’s dark, they’ll wait for us to return.  (We only go across the street when it’s dark, but still…)

Just this week I showed them how I like my dishes done and you wouldn’t believe the burden it has taken off my shoulders!  I can spend time teaching Levi and Amelia!  Yesterday I was able to actually cook a real meal, instead of faking it because I spent the afternoon catching up on dishes, or working around them.  I didn’t even realize the difference it would make.  I also recently learned that, instead of being demeaning, work inside the home, like dishes and cleaning, are considered a sign of trust and the relationship must be valued.  Alex, yesterday, even helped me by preparing the avocados for Amelia and washing the cabbages.  It’s the little things – they are a blessing!

It hasn’t been an easy road.  Providing food is traditionally part of the job and we have had quite the time of it.  There are many ways to do it.  Some provide just the basics, some provide just money.  We have decided to go down the middle of the road, providing their favorite food (fufu…that’s for another blog post), coffee/tea “service” and enough money for variety.  But, you know, men are men all around the world and providing good food is often the encouragement and morale boost that one needs.  When we first had the bulk bags of fufu supplies brought home, Mosengo was here and, upon seeing them, cried out in English, “Madame, you love he…no, me…and Alex! Merci!”  It was sweet.  Again, it’s the little things!

We are also expected to give gifts when babies are born, help with any other large expenses when they come up (often a loan), and perhaps provide a few other items that are needed…like a rain coat, flashlight, mosquito spray, etc.  I even gave Mosengo some diaper rash cream and baby powder when baby Christine needed it.

Mosengo et* Alex are now on alternating 24-hour shifts.  So, one of them is here all of the time.  Because one big part of their job is acting as “guard,” they answer the big gate when someone knocks.  However, it is expected in this neighborhood that someone is at your house at all times.  We are not at any acute risk, but it is in our best interest.

There is a little building in the back that provides them with weather-protection, a bed for sleeping, a two-burner electric stove, and their own privacy.  They have their own bathroom with toilet and shower.  They even have a fire grill if the power is out.

So, if you are financially supporting us, here is a small part of where your money is going: providing for these men and their families.  Hopefully they know how much they are appreciated and how helpful they continue to be to us.  Matthew and I realize, continually, that we could not handle keeping the house and still having a life outside of it.  What a unique opportunity, a learning experience, and a blessing this part of life here has been!

What do you think you would struggle with?  What questions do you have about having hired help?  What unique perspective do you see with these circumstances?

*et is the French word for “and,” pronounced “eh” – French vocab for today!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    May 18, 2012 0829

    I love the idea of forming those special new relationships. I know I would love the people.

  2. May 18, 2012 0829

    I applaud your use of help because you are in turn helping those around you make a living in their own country. I think it is very honorable. God Bless!

  3. ramblingmomma permalink
    May 18, 2012 0829

    beautiful post! Amazing how God works. I’d love to be a missionary

  4. May 19, 2012 0829

    “Alex came with the house”…. that statement – I find hilarious… and now – I have an expectation that when I buy a house – a “Alex” will come with it! As a matter of fact, if this is not the case, I will be extremely disappointed.

  5. Nic permalink
    May 20, 2012 0829

    I love reading these stories about practical daily life things. Thanks for sharing !

  6. Bill Pankow permalink
    May 21, 2012 0829

    It is amazing how things all work out sometimes. The locals depend on you and you depend on them. God’s hand at work, even providing Christian helpers. That’s great. You are probably already careful with the kids when these men are working. When you wrote about the mower blade breaking, I thought about a time when I was using a powered push mower in NY. I hit a small rock and the mower threw that rock about 100 feet and it hit my neighbors front door causing a dent in it. There is a lot of power there and to have a blade break speaks of that. For safety reasons, keep the kids indoors and away from windows and doorways when they mow the grass, but you already knew that. This is just a friendly reminder, hope you don’t mind. Thrirty-six years where I was employed and we had safety meetings all the time. Some things just stay engrained in a person. Just ask my girls, they call me Mr. Safety, along with some other things. Hug those kids there for us here in KY. Take care, God bless……..U.B.

  7. June 4, 2012 0829

    Very interesting blog. A great thing you are doing in many ways. Lisa, I might have missed this somewhere, but do you mention the process in which a person can donate a few dollars when they become available?? I don’t have much, but from time to time, I might be able to send a little something. Do you have a PayPal account?? Let me know. Red

    • June 4, 2012 0829

      Absolutely, Red – and thank you for thinking of us. MAF.org/lind will have a sidebar with a place to donate online to our account. I’m not sure they accept Paypal, but I’ll recommend that they should start! If you’d rather send a check, just make sure it says 8806-Linds on the memo line and make it out to Mission Aviation Fellowship. Their address can be found at maf.org as well.

Trackbacks

  1. Day 1 & 2 « Mommy Takes a Trip
  2. Saying Goodbye: A Cultural Education | lindfamily.org

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