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Our New Ministry

August 27, 2012

Sorry for the long pause in blogging.  Honestly, this time, it’s just plain ol’ laziness.  Our power and internet have been better.  Though, “better” than nothing is not necessarily saying a lot, they really have been cooperative.

Once again, each day could be a blog post (not actually true, because some days are very normal, and other days could be a month of Sundays’ blogs) and trying to pick out a few highlights from the last few weeks would be hard.  But, I’ll start with our biggest new thing.  We have happily agreed to help take over some aspects of a local ministry temporarily.  The overseers are a couple who live across the street, Lee and Becky, and have been missionaries here in DR Congo since, well, forever.  She was actually born and raised here and is a third generation missionary to the country.  She and her husband run a home/center for orphan boys.  The home is a few kilometers away, and the day-to-day operations are managed by a few Congolese folks, but they financially support it and manage those funds, as well as have the boys over to their yard once in a while to run around.

They asked us to take over while they return to the states for furlough with their two sons, both adopted out of the center.  We will oversee that the money gets distributed and is being used properly.  The fun part will be having the boys come over once a month to their yard, which has a large trampoline and enough room for some football (soccer, of course).

So, to start our journey and meet the people we will be working with, we went with Lee and Becky to their church, which they also help guide and disciple.  Their church is in the same network of Baptist churches like the one we attend weekly, and the one we visited in our last blog post.  This particular week was special because the congregation was voting in a new pastor.

The Sunday morning started out pretty early, because the church is 40 minutes away.  What we didn’t anticipate was that it was also the last day of Ramadan and that all of the Muslims in the area would be attending a city-wide service at the stadium.  Since we had to cross the city and pass the stadium to get to church we got stuck in traffic.  The “traffic” was caused by the Muslims walking through the streets (one of this city’s few multi-lane, paved highways) and taxis carrying more Muslims stopping in the middle of the road to let out their passengers.  Thousands of people, all dressed for worship, heading toward the stadium.  This city’s Muslim population is growing rapidly, but we never knew quite how many there might be.  Now we have a better idea.  It is also interesting to note that the stadium is famous…ever heard of Rumble in the Jungle, the big match between Muhammud Ali and George Foreman in 1974?  That is its home.

But anyway, we finally arrived at church.  We had taken two cars because we couldn’t all fit in one, but we got as far as we could go with a “regular” vehicle, being an SUV in this case, and all piled into the real Congo-ready auto: a Toyota Landcruiser with a lift, oversized tires and a snorkel.  It’s also bright yellow.  We wondered why we couldn’t take the other car.  Lee just laughed and said “oh, you’ll see.”  Sure enough, we drove through the jungle.  Granted, it was a crowded neighborhood with concrete block homes like any other Congolese neighborhood, but these “roads” had mud and ruts so deep, it looked more like a creek bed.  And this was an easy week.

We arrived at church just in time for Sunday School.  Amelia and I went with the ladies, with Becky teaching the class.  Her Lingala is as fluent as her English, and she translated the gist for me, and all of the questions the ladies had about Amelia.  Matthew and Levi stayed in the main building for the men’s class.

After an hour, it was time for church.  Becky played the electric piano, a first for any of the local Congolese churches, and then she translated most of the sermon in my ear.  It dealt with the best story in the book of Judges, chapter 3.

Once church had ended, it was time for the meeting to vote in the new pastor.  We stayed outside to wait.  Since this was important, and the Congolese timing is not as rushed as Western timing, we waited a long time.  We had brought plenty of snacks for the kids and we took turns poking our heads out of the church’s gate and having people shout “Mundele!” at us.  The boys visiting from the boys’ home entertained Levi and Amelia for nearly the whole time, though they spent a good chunk of time catching hornets in plastic bags.  Eek.

Finally the meeting was over and our next stop was to visit the boys’ home.  Getting back out of the neighborhood through the creek bed was made that much harder by the team of dudes who suddenly decided to fix a water line in the road and dug a ditch…in the middle of the road.  So, Becky jumped out to help Lee straddle the ditch and, at the last second, drive right over the ditch.  It was awesome.  One of the “foremen” on the job was also directing Lee, but he was trying to cause him to go into the ditch.  Why?  Because, if he goes in, he needs help getting out, which would be provided, but not without pay.  He did ask for money once we were over the ditch.  Something about passing, like a toll, perhaps?   The Congolese are never short on creativity in ways to make money.

Also, driving away during the lunch hour, when everyone is out and about, people called us a new-to-us term: Chinois.  We are used to shouts of Mundele! Mundele! but calling us Chinese is not something we’d bee associated with before.  Fascinating.

So, off we went.  The boys home is hard to describe.  It is a small lot, surrounded by a wall, which describes nearly every basic lot in Kinshasa.  The home consists of one building locked up and houses the supplies and office, the adjoining room is where meals are served (currently, they are prepared off site and the boys take turns picking up the food, because too much theft was occurring having the food kept at the home), though the boys tend to eat outside.  Finally, is the “living quarters,” where there are a few bedrooms with some bunk beds, but the boys prefer all to sleep in the same room for security reasons.  There is no electricity and the only water is a spigot in the courtyard area.

The home used to be pleasantly decorated to be as home-y as possible, but a former dorm dad sold everything off for his own profit.  The current dorm dad and his wife have their own house elsewhere and take care of some smaller children there, including a couple of young girls, and the older boys just stay at this house.  In the states, we might be appalled that these boys are not constantly supervised, but things are different in Congo.  In some ways, it’s fine; in some ways, it can’t be helped; in every way, it is what it is.

By now our kids were exhausted and tired of being on display, and so we started for home.  Lee and Becky had us over for dinner and we enjoyed chatting a little bit more about our new responsibilities.

Fast forward six days to Saturday.  The boys, and the girls, all came over to Lee and Becky’s for their last time before furlough.  Several of the boys had just come to the center, so Becky spent time analyzing their situation and getting to know them.  They are very careful of the boys’ background they support in the home.  They only want real orphans.  Many of the boys seek out the center, even though they are living with relatives, simply because they will be able to eat a regular meal there and be provided for, but Lee and Becky are currently only seeking to help boys who literally have no where to go, especially once they are a little bit older (10-12 years) and no other orphanage will take them.

We stopped in and out during the day as we could around our own kids’ naps and meals, and played with the kids.  Watching Matthew get his butt kicked by two little boys in football was hilarious.  One of the other boys, Jordan, took it upon himself to teach Levi how to play.  Levi kept picking up the ball and running with it, but Jordan was very patient with him.  The oldest girl, Josephina, loved Amelia and kept carrying her around the yard.

The new boys bring common troubles: histories of abuse, abandonment, stealing, fighting, and health risks.  A couple of the boys had chiggers.  Chiggers are like ticks that bury themselves into your skin and lay their egg sacks.  They exist in the states, but most of the time, people recognize and take care of the problem quickly.  Boys on the street are unable to keep clean or see the potential hazards. This Saturday they were able to get that taken care of as well as get haircuts.  They also have scabies and a few had ringworm.  Becky made sure to send them home with medicine and instructions at the end of the day.

We had fun with the kids and are excited to see them again soon.  Please pray for us that we are able to maintain good order so that the home can continue.  Pray that we are able to communicate to the other Congolese who help manage and run it, and that we won’t have any unpleasant surprises.

I hope to get in touch with someone who coordinates raising support for this center for boys and will post a link to the website as soon as I have it.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from the related adventures…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Whitney Harsh permalink
    August 29, 2012 0829

    Hi Lisa & Matthew,

    Wow! what a neat experience. I will be praying for you as you take on helping with this unique ministry. I admire your faith and hands and feet ministry. Thanks for bringing us into your world a bit with the blogging.


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