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Economiser the Economy

March 1, 2017

The verb economiser (euh-cah-no-mee-zay), in French, essentially means “to save.”  In the context of saving money, anyway.  It is obviously somehow related to our English word “economy.”  But I’m not a linguist, so that’s kind of where I have to leave that.  It’s confusing, though, to make the switch in my head.

All that to say, besides being interesting, perhaps, I’m beginning to feel the pinch of the economy here…and how hard it is to economiser l’argent (to save money).  Inflation has been real, and it is really becoming a problem.  Essentially, the prices of everything have risen almost 50% since last summer.  Think about that for a second.  If, in six months, everything around you suddenly cost 50% more than it does right now, but nothing else changed?

So, while I can use US dollars for larger purchases and feel less of a press, I do need to use Congolese Francs for many smaller purchases and local vendors and I’m feeling the weight of the bricks of cash that I need to carry around when I do.

But that’s me, and I can afford it (mostly).  The people around me….most of the other 12 or 15 million people in this city?  They can’t.  And people who are scared react differently than people who aren’t.  People who live in fear of their economy may not have the confidence to react well when their government is also making strange maneuvers.

Please remember this country in your prayers as inflation mounts.  Each month it goes up significantly.  Inflation can only go so high before something bursts.  Let’s be praying for God’s will in this situation, and for all those involved.

Random Thoughts on My Junk

February 22, 2017

I did it today.  I dumped my stuff on Africa.  Of course, that is hyperbole, as my nerdy 7-year-old would say.

I gave away almost four bins of stuff to my worker and told him I didn’t want it anymore and please make it go away.  Seems simple, right?

I didn’t need the clutter; I refuse to let my giant house fill just because I could; I don’t want to save things “just in case” even though I live in a place where that is actually logical; most of it is stained clothing, worn out clothing, books we don’t need, shoes the kids have never worn (and were hand-me-downs to us), and baby items that were no longer worth passing on (even though, yes, our team has a new baby arriving in a few weeks, yay).

All that to say, I couldn’t hold on to it, and no one else in my circle of friends wanted it, so I got rid of it.  Except that is the trouble with living in a place like this.  There are no thrift stores.  There is no Free Page on Craigslist.  There is a Facebook group for selling items (craigslist style), but it wasn’t that sort of stuff.  And offering things for free….trust me, you wouldn’t do that if you’ve lived here long enough to get to know the culture.

When you, who live in North America (I’m not really sure about Europe…someone enlighten me), don’t want something anymore you A) throw it away, or B) try to let it be redeemed by giving to a thrift store/donation center.  If I “throw it away” it will definitely be redeemed.  My trash gets “sorted” through each hand it passes.  But admittedly, most of the stuff I don’t want anymore still has SOME life left in it.  So if I throw it away, I FEEL like I’m telling the people who work in and around my house that it wasn’t even worth letting you decide if you’d like it…but you can dig it out of my trash.  Doesn’t that sound insulting?  Perhaps it is an error of my own perspective.  But that’s my reaction.  Because it’s happened before…ugh.

There aren’t places for me to drop it off.  So I asked around and pretty much everyone I’ve talked to does the same thing: they leave it somewhere around their property where their workers have knowledge that this is where stuff goes that is unwanted…and it disappears. One missionary even told me that she hands an unwanted thing to her worker and just shrugs and walks away.  It’s like, we (those of us who live here) all feel the same way…we know we are spoiled and we know we still don’t need that item, but we also know we want it gone and giving it away is our only chance to facilitate that.

But now I feel guilty for this crime against a continent that is flooding with the world’s crap.  The rich half (half is not the right word, I realize) of the world dumps its unwanted life onto Africa and economies are broken by this process.  Why make shoes when they are being shipped in?  Why make clothes when Goodwill shipping containers (or sea cans, for my Canadian friends) arrive daily?  Why bother with traditional basket-making when China sends over enough plastic bins to fill the entire continent?  (Though there are local plastic factories providing jobs and plastic bins are wonderful for sanitation and food preservation, so I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater.)  But, the crisis of junk flooding this continent is peaking.  And I feel like I have contributed in a small way.  I thought I was supposed to be here to help.

My worker was grateful.  He looked forward to looking through the books and building his English.  He was excited for my old clothes, maybe his wife could use them?  I pointed out the bags of baby items and, since he is also a pastor, suggested perhaps there are babies in his church.  He told me “God bless you.”  I don’t feel all that benevolent.

I go into our bedroom now, where I have been storing these bins since we unpacked from our mini furlough in December and I’m grateful for the return of the open space and the lack of cluttered bins in my face.  I’m glad that on the one hand, our unwanted items might make someone’s day.  They might help a bit.  They might be sold to provide a meal for someone.  Might.  But on the other hand…they might just make a problem worse.

So perhaps I’ve overthought my contribution to the crisis.  Or perhaps I’m just being thoughtful: being mindful of my place here in a foreign country.  We, missionaries and technical “experts,” bring talents and knowledge to the table of work here in Kinshasa, but we are no better than those we are here to serve.  We only add to the work to, hopefully, make it more productive.  Please pray that we are always mindful of what we bring, and the positive and negative consequences that result from us being here.

I know God’s plan is bigger than me and my junk.  I only hope that none of it gets in His way.

Not So Powerful

January 31, 2017

Living in a large city, we get a lot of perks.  One of them is electricity.  I talk to my missionary friends across Africa who are essentially responsible for their own power systems, whether it’s solar, generator, or a semi-powered 12v system, and I realize that electricity is definitely a privilege.

But we have talked in the past about frequent outages.  This is still true.  We do have regular outages, sometimes lasting up to 12 hours.  But, at our present house, we are completely spoiled by fairly consistent power, two different lines to choose from (often one is on when the other is off), and a landlord with friends in high places enough to get quick repairs done at reasonable prices.

Last week, though, our inverter suddenly called it quits.  Matthew, with all of his expertise, cannot figure out what happened, nothing burned or seems broken.  It just stopped.  Our inverter is responsible for operating our lights, wireless router, fridge and freezer, gas oven (the thermostat is electric) and the coffee maker (!!!) when the power is out.  Basically, the only things that aren’t on it are the air conditioners and the washing machine.  It’s a perfect set up, really.  The inverter is still under warranty, not that we’re exactly near to any warranty repair centers.  They have been quick to respond to emails and the back-and-forth diagnostics continue.

So, of course, the inverter died and suddenly our power decided to get finicky.  The main line that we use suddenly dropped to coming in at about 100v.  Normally, it should be between 210v and 240v.  100v and the lights were dim, the compressors on our freezer and fridge were struggling and given the right circumstances, things could have started to die.

We called our landlord’s engineer who is responsible for our house maintenance and he called his friends at the power company.  Not only were they all here the very next morning (after two days at low voltage), but they asked only for a very reasonable amount of money and within a few hours BOTH lines were fixed (the other, lesser-used line had had low voltage issues for months, even before we left on our trip).  The lines now had  larger capacity and have been operating normally ever since.

We still power share occasionally or the line breaks before our house/cabine (like a transformer station) and we wait in the heat, but mostly, we are very grateful for good, steady power and the peace of mind that comes with it.  We remember living here in previous houses where the power was unreliable and life rotated around activities for when the power was on and activities when the power was off.

So while we are grateful for good power, we still are a bit incapacitated without our inverter.  The parts and repairs are probably not going to come from within Congo’s borders.  Matthew will be back in Idaho for a bit of training in the spring, but it might mean more reliance on our generator, which is fine, just expensive and inefficient.  Please pray for a good resolution to the inverter issue and, in the meantime, that we will continue to be blessed with reliable power.

These things are, really, just perks and not always required, but internet, a functional fridge and freezer, and lights in the darkness (6pm-6am, year round) make for a life with more margin, more freedom to tackle other tasks and needs.

What We Miss

January 8, 2017

Recently, my fellow-MAF wife here in Kinshasa, Jocelyn, posted an excellent blog about those who also make the sacrifice when a family serves overseas: the family members.  Of course, friends and church families also are missing those who “leave” but there is something about family that makes it extra tough.  And while all this is completely true, it can sometimes feel lonely being on the other side of the planet, away from family.

Today, one month after landing back in Congo, I am feeling that most poignantly.  You see, today is my younger cousin’s memorial service.  She passed away just three days after Christmas, 18 months after being diagnosed with cancer.  It started as back pain, which led to a kidney removal, but the cancer had already spread.  She was just 28, married to a really awesome dude, Patrick, with a sweet two-year-old boy, Emmett.  She was a high school math teacher.  And she was the only one in our family who could truly wrangle our Grandma.  Grandma passed away last October (2015)…I jokingly wonder if God needed her help, because Grandma Grace is a handful.  She and I had especially bonded in adulthood over the saddest of things – we had miscarriages very close together.  So, I guess she’s getting to be with those babies, too.  These are the strange thoughts I have had while being away from my grieving family these past few weeks.

Please pray for my family today, as they are all gathered in Kentucky to share in Allison’s memory.  I really do wish we could be there, but that is part of the sacrifice.  And, honestly, today, it feels selfish.  It is hard.  But easy living isn’t an option until Heaven.  So enjoy it, Allison…see you on the other side!

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The last time we were together – my Grandma Grace with all five of her grandchildren at her 90th birthday celebration. Allison is on the left, next to her sister, Stephanie. (Photo stolen from Patty’s Facebook…because family.)

Back to Regular Life

January 4, 2017

Tomorrow marks four weeks since we have returned from our trip outside of Congo and I really do feel like we are finally back in the swing of things.  Someone recently pointed out that I hadn’t blogged since my ominous December 19 post, but hopefully most of you were regaled with my normal Instagram and Facebook fodder enough to know that we are fine.  The city is chill.  There is still a lot to work on for the next transition of power, but it does seem like the Congolese are mostly restrained, wanting to avoid violence and war.  Praise God for that!

Matthew is spending his days taking on two major construction projects and managing their completion.  I have less jumped and more tip-toed back into homeschooling and normal stay-at-home mom/wife stuff.  It is bizarre to take so much time off from such things and then suddenly have to do it every day again!

Our Christmas and New Year’s was rather normal and low key.  Since we were fairly celebrated-out, after having spent so much time eating and partying and gifting in the US, we decorated and tried to make it as festive as possible, without feeling like we needed to go all out.  It’s hard with the heat, and family so far away.

Looking ahead…we have a few things and events coming in the next few months, but mostly it will be business as usual.  Visitors, school, routines, hosting, etc will make up how we spend most of our family time.  I can appreciate these seemingly monotonous weeks so much more when I know that every two-ish years, we uproot and head out for months at a time.  I love that there is a season for everything.  And, of course, living in Kinshasa, there is never a dull moment!

The Elephant on the Blog

December 18, 2016

This week of being back in Congo has been a blur of jet lag, unpacking, rearranging, and year-end/holiday events. I am happily keeping you all up-to-speed via photos (follow that instagram feed).  We had a great MAF staff Christmas party at our house yesterday!  But the elephant on the blog is tomorrow.

December 19 has been setting up to have the potential to be a rather big day here in Congo. If you follow the news or care to Google it, please do. I won’t pretend to have any expertise in the politics or situation that is unfolding. The short version is that tomorrow was supposed to be the current president’s last day in office, and the future is uncertain. No elections, no decisions, no plan except that elections are now due to take place in April 2018. Some people are declaring this is not right. Some are suggesting protests. Protests could be anything.

But, here in the city, the capital city no less, I have been listening and asking people and have heard nothing alarming.  I see alarming things in the news, and in some emails, but when I ask Congolese people what they expect, I get a smile and a certain level of confidence that things will be fine.

You see, in the three months that we were gone, things were built.  The economy isn’t doing very well, but buildings have gone up.  Last Saturday, a friend took me downtown to gather some groceries and I couldn’t stop being in awe of how much had been built in such a short time.  Since we left, Kinshasa has opened its first movie theater, its first bowling alley, its first real shopping mall!  Plus, apartment buildings that, at least on the outside, rival anything I saw stateside.  This place is going places.  I have a hard time picturing the same people that have built these things also wanting to riot and risk seeing things destroyed.

But, one cannot predict what tomorrow will be.  I do not have a sense of fear, but I am watching vigilantly.  I am praying for the country, the leaders (both elected and not), the outside world powers who are trying to influence what they hope will be the best outcome. I am hoping you are praying and watching, too.  But, remember, just as sometimes weathermen make mistakes, sometimes the journalists predict the wrong things, and sometimes a country can change without violence.  Even Congo.  I am making plans beyond tomorrow.  I am not expecting the worst, but I am prepared.  Pray and hope!  And know that the Lord is still King.

For another hopeful perspective, please read my fellow MAF wife, Jocelyn’s blog

A Little Help from Our Friends

November 20, 2016

Here’s the thing, we are stocking up on all the little things that make life go a little smoother, a little easier, a little sweeter in a place that is difficult.  Want to help?  Here is our amazon wish list ready if you’re interested in helping us gather the things we missed the most, the things we are unable to get, or are unable to acquire in high quality.

We tried to focus this list on hospitality, which we hope is our speciality.  We host all kinds of people in our home and guest room – ex-pats, missionaries, team members, visitors from out of the country, and missionaries visiting the city from the village.  We try to make our home as welcoming and comfortable as possible.  This means serving some rare foods, creating a little escape from the jungle, and keeping it ready for visitors at any moment (hello, keeping it clean!).  We also hope to start in on some useful hobbies and projects, hence some odd items in there, with the long term goal of using these things to bless and teach the Congolese around us!

With that said, most of the items in this list, we are the first to admit, are NOT necessary!  Some of them are down right silly!  12 pepperoni sticks?  An ice cream maker?  But, if you put yourselves in our shoes (or flip flops), or even better, put yourselves in a village missionary’s flip flops, or in a out-of-country visitor’s shoes, and you can understand that having a little taste of “home” can go a long way in someone’s day, week, or visit!

So, help if you wish, or don’t worry about it.  We get a lot of people asking how they can help, but aren’t able to give regularly, so here is a perfect opportunity!

But here’s the catch: we are planning on flying out December 7th, so please be sure everything will ARRIVE by December 5!  Our address is ready if you add the items to your cart, though Amazon keeps it hidden for privacy.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts, for helping us out!

Start shopping by clicking HERE!

Sweet Hellos and Sad Goodbyes

November 18, 2016

In the months prior to this trip back to the US, we sweetly anticipated all of the hellos.  We were going to see family – ALL of Matthew’s siblings, no small feat when there are five of them, each one in a different state, plus parents, friends, some churches, and of course, there’s the food!  Somehow, food is a big draw when you live outside of where you grew up.  And the hellos have been as sweet as anticipated!

But we forgot about the goodbyes.  At first, they were difficult as we said goodbye, but then we drove off to the next hello and things were sweet again, with only fond memories of time spent with the family we had just left.  Now, as we are drawing to a close and all done traveling, we’ve essentially said all of our hellos and now must endure sad goodbyes.  Each goodbye has gotten progressively harder.  Tears have been shed, not just ours but the kids!  They realize these people that they enjoy, and who have showered them with love, are not going to see them again for a few years.  And years is such a long time to a child.

So, please continue to pray as we wrap up our time in the US.  Pray for Levi, Amelia, Axel, and, yes, even Piper, as the goodbyes are confusing and difficult the more time we are around people who are becoming familiar.  Pray for us, that we can know how to handle their hearts with the sensitivity and vision for the work God has called our WHOLE family to do!

We are also daunted by the amount of work that needs done before we leave back to Congo.  While this is a rest furlough, we have follow up dental appointments, just wrapped up two days of doctor visits (oh, to be a family of six), eye appointments, banks, etc. and the gathering of supplies in between visiting friends and family here in Idaho.  There is a bit of stress with how much is left to do and so little time!

Also, if you saw us in person, you are probably anticipating a word about our return date.  At this point, our tickets are for December 7th, but as Congo inches closer to what was supposed to have been the President’s last day in office on December 19th, we are watching and waiting, along with upper management, to be sure that return date is a wise one.  Don’t fear!  Not only is God in charge, but we aren’t in fear for our personal safety when we return, but rather the stress and expense of a potential evacuation might be worth just delaying our return a few weeks.  Because we are only ten minutes from MAF headquarters, Matthew is able to return to work even if we needed to wait.  So, pray for clarity and decision markers to be obvious.  Of course, pray for Congo, our team there, and the Congolese people!

Finally in IdaHome

October 23, 2016

So, we’ve been traveling for almost a full month now and I’ve essentially neglected you all, unless you’ve been following my sporadic pictures posted on Instagram and Facebook.  Here is a bit of a recap, along with a “Now what?” if you’re as confused as we are…

We landed in Atlanta on September 28, and it was unpleasantly and unexpectedly hot.  Oh well.  We spent a week there, with Matthew’s dad and his wife.  The first half of the week was spent recovering from jet lag and that initial blast of culture shock (Costco, Target, fast food, etc….it was mostly food related).  We did do a couple of fun things, like the Atlanta children’s museum and botanical gardens, but mostly we chilled and spent time with FarFar and CeeCee (what the kids call this set of grandparents).

We drove our newly acquired van next to Little Rock and had a lovely time with Matthew’s sister and her family.  The kids loved seeing their six cousins and they got along like they’ve never been apart.  We also got to experience a bit of fall fun, going along with the cousins’ home school co-op to the pumpkin patch and hay ride outing.  My most memorable moment?  When our kids stood nicely for prayer and then sat down and wondered why everyone else was speaking in unison, staring at the American flag…they had never seen that done before!  Oops…as long as no one thinks they were protesting.  Oh well!

Next up we drove into Texas.  We made an overnight stop in Dallas with an awesome family who had lived in Kinshasa for three months and we were able to swap stories and catch up (we had stayed with them on our big road trip three years ago).

We eventually landed for a few days in Austin with Matthew’s mom and sister.  During our time with them, we ran down to San Antonio to meet with a couple of special families there as well, both of whom we’d gotten to know in Kinshasa, as well.  Austin is a great city, especially if you love food, but it, too, was hot!  We were still waiting to cool off and get to Fall!

After Austin, we made a two-day drive out to Flagstaff, AZ where a lovely condo was waiting for us, courtesy of my parents’ timeshare trade.  We had a private hot tub and the trees were changing and the air was crisp.  Finally, Fall!  The first few days we were gifted with Matthew’s brother’s visit, since he lives a few hours from there.  It was super fun!

We left Flagstaff a day earlier than planned, wanting to break up the long drive north to Idaho.  The stop in Las Vegas was planned, but it happened a night earlier.  We wanted to surprise my parents by showing up half a day early.

And yesterday (Saturday), we finally arrived in Idaho.  We are staying with my parents, who live about fifteen minutes from MAF’s headquarters.  If you remember that we own a house here, you are correct, but since it is primarily an investment property, it is happily rented. We drove by it today and it looks well loved and cared for.  Besides, the kids love hanging out with grandma and grandpa.

We have plans to head over to western WA in early November, where we will be staying with yet another awesome family in Tacoma.  Mid-November we are heading back to Idaho until our planned return to Congo on December 7th.

Now, let me let you all in Idaho and Washington in on a little secret…we aren’t completely busy.  Here’s the thing: people assume that our time is filled with everyone else.  The problem is that everyone else assumes it, too.  And thus, people hesitate to intrude on our plans or overwhelm us, which is sweet, but then we are left without any plans at all because everyone thinks we already have plans!  So, if you’d like to hang out with us, LET US KNOW!  Send us an email or Facebook message.  We even have US phone numbers!  Even if you’ve already said, “Hey, we’d love to see you!”, please email a date that works for you!  Pretty please!  I forget stuff…something about Mom Brain.

So, now you’re mostly caught up on all things Lind and can return to your normal routine.  Unless you live in western WA or in Boise-area, ID…then, you should probably be checking your calendar and sending us an email.  Just saying…

Linds Across Europe

September 22, 2016

So, if you’ve been following along on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve noticed we’re enjoying our rest furlough thus far, as we start with a two-week vacation in France and Germany.

Our first five days were spent in Metz, France.  We discovered this little city by accident as we researched train routes into Germany and, after reading the Wikipedia page about it, decided it was a must-see and we were blown away.  It was a lovely blend of rich history and modern shopping (which we had sort of missed, even though we were never much for malls).  We got a perfect airbnb apartment right in the middle of everything.  Matthew had the pleasure of shopping and cooking for us.  We were surprised at how much those five days felt like going “home,” even though we had only lived in France for 11 months.  It was a perfect start to our trip and a good refresh for our French language as well.

Then, we trained down to Munich, and met up with Steven, our friend from Kinshasa who has been traveling and will soon be headed back to Congo, and Matthew’s brother, Andrew, and his friend, Melanie, for the world’s largest party.  I don’t actually know if it is the world’s largest party, but six million people attend Oktoberfest every year, 70% being Bavarians and roughly 60% in full costume.  Matthew and I had always dreamed of doing Oktoberfest in Munich and timed our rest furlough accordingly.  It was exactly what we’d hoped and so fun to be able to enjoy it with others.  The kids got to experience real rides for the first time and we enjoyed German foods and, yes, beer.

Today we left Munich for Nuremberg.  If you’re really clever, you’ll remember that we were here two years ago, during our first break in language school, and went to the greatest kid place on Earth: Playmobil Funpark.  The kids have not stopped talking about it since, so we felt it was important to come back – our kids need rest and fun, too!  So, tomorrow and Saturday we’ve reserved for the park, which, if we’re being honest, was as much fun for us as it was for the kids.

It has been lovely to see Matthew’s brother and spend some time making memories with him.  It has been great having our good friend, Steven, with us and he has been essential help with the kiddos.  We will miss them as they move on this weekend.

We are here in Nuremberg for a few days, then continue north to Frankfurt before flying to the US.  We are already feeling refreshed, despite how tiring traveling can be.  And, let’s make sure to emphasize, traveling, by train, with four small children, is no joke.

But, while we are here, having a grand time, we are praying for our team back home in Kinshasa.  If you haven’t been following the news, the people of Congo have been stirred and are tired of the current regime.  The protests this week were not peaceful and, while our team is okay and things are calmer for the moment, there are people now who are grieving loved ones, people who are frustrated at their country’s leadership, and people who are scared for their and their country’s future.  Please pray for peace in Congo.

On a more personal note, a few of our missionary friends have had particularly rough weeks.  Please pray for the Spann family as they grieve the loss of their baby through miscarriage.  Please pray for another family who is making a big shift and it is very stressful and sad.  We are saddened that we cannot be there, at their side, helping them.  We wonder at what God is doing, trusting fully in His sovereignty, but wonder all the same.

So, thank you for praying for us and for our travels, but also for the work that continues in our absence – that God may be glorified through it all!