Thursday, March 31, 2011

72 Dollar Cleats

Playing in the rain

Two updates so close together? Yep. It’s happening. I have to write an update RIGHT NOW because I need to tell you about our day.

So there we were, sitting at home. Taylor got invited to go play soccer again at four pm, and he needed to go buy a pair of soccer cleats to play in. We arrange everything to go, Kasavubu shows up to come with us, and it starts raining. Boo. We decided to wait it out for a bit, eat lunch, and then hit the road. We are finally on our way and we arranged to meet our friend Dominique downtown. The traffic on the way is absolute fujo (chaos) and it takes us about 20 minutes just to get there. Cops were stopping cars, there were cars stalled, it was just nuts. After a long while of this, we finally arrive at the place we are meeting Dominique (who had been waiting for us for a bit). We start walking around looking at the shoes and we don’t have much luck. Dominique suggests we go to Kadutu market, which is a taxi ride a little ways further. This market is very crowded and apparently has a lot of thieves, so Kasavubu called Brenda to see if it was okay that he took us there. She said yes.

Kasavubu found a taxi and we get in and discuss the price. The driver told us he would charge ten dollars for the ride up there, wait for us, then the ride back. Taylor talked to him to make it very clear what it was going to cost, five dollars up, five dollars back, ten dollars total, no more no less. The driver agreed. Off we go.

We get to the market and it is just awesome. I love it. So crowded and busy, people are all over the place. Kasavubu leads the way, Dominique and I follow him, with Taylor behind us. They are keeping an eye on us, and we are keeping an eye and both hands on our bags. We have to go down some long, uneven steps where people are selling things on both sides. They are touching our arms trying to get our attentions, “Muzungu! Muzungu! Madame! Mama!” They really wanted me to buy their socks.

We get to the shoe section, if you will. There are PILES of shoes we are looking through, and we only found one pair of cleats that might fit Taylor. These shoes look worn and used though, so Dominique suggests we go down another level. There are newer looking shoes down there. Kasavubu told us this might be hard because Taylor’s feet are so big. Haha.
We find a few more pairs, finally. After much debate and bartering, Taylor, Kasavubu, and Dominique talked the lady down to 12 dollars for the pair that Taylor liked. I sat back and watched the show. And it was quite a show! We attracted a crowd of people around us. And I’m sure they were all giving their input, it’s just the African way. Anyway, 12 dollars. Sold. We start to make our way back up the long, uneven stairs out of the market, trying to avoid making eye contact (except Taylor, of course, who was saying Jambo to everyone who made eye contact with him) with the people shouting and touching us. We find our taxi and our taxi man and try to get out of there. When we get into the car, I start to dig into my purse for our cell phone, but I can’t seem to find it. I ask Taylor if he has it, he checks, doesn't have it. Dominique checks her bag, Kasavubu checks his, I dump mine out and check again… it is nowhere to be found. So we go over our day. Last time we used it was when Kasavubu called Brenda to ask for permission. He told me he gave it back to me. I don’t remember him giving it back, but that really doesn’t mean anything because I’m a bit of a flake. If he gave it back, I either put it in my pocket and it got stolen at the market (not likely, becauseTaylor was watching like a hawk), or I held it in my hand and left it in the taxi when we got out. So we check around in the taxi. Nope. But then I start to remember that Kasavubu got a phone call in the market, and when he was on the phone, I checked for mine and didn’t find it it right away so I just gave up. I don’t think it was in my pocket. So my assumption is I left it in the taxi and the driver maybe picked it up. We ask him, he doesn’t say anything. No clue where that phone is now. And it really stinks because we just put ten dollars of minutes on it the day before. Dang it! We try not to worry about it too much, because that doesn’t help. We just accepted the fact that we owe Ed and Brenda a new phone. Sigh. Too bad. We start to pull up into town again and decide to go home so Taylor can change, I can grab the camera, and we can go to his soccer practice. The driver pulls up to where he wants to let us out and we get out to pay him. Taylor and Dominique each give him a five and we start to walk away, but the driver stops us and tells us we owe him another five. What?! No no no no no, we agreed on ten. Here is where the drama starts. The driver was saying that we took too long in the market, so we owe him extra. Dominique is saying that the driver never told us he would charge more and we aren’t going to pay more. Taylor made it very clear in the first place that it would be ten dollars TOTAL for the drive there and the drive back. No more, no less. He would NOT give up. They stood out there arguing about it, and of course, a crowd starts to gather. He starts telling the neighbors the situation and Dominique is snapping her fingers in his face trying to get him to just talk to us, not everyone else. Taylor and Dominique are both refusing to pay, and I figure it’s about over, plus I have to pee. So I run inside real quick, come back out and Kasavubu has stepped into the yard for a second, pulled out money and went back out and paid the man. Taylor and Dominique don’t like this, but it happened and he drove off. Kasavubu was saying he was a thief and a robber and wasn’t going to back down. Even after they paid him, he was saying he was going to call the cops. No he wasn’t. Plus, we were right. And five extra dollars is expensive in this city. We got ripped off. We paid Kasavubu back, and he went on his way. So as much fun as we had, those dang soccer cleats ended up costing 72 tiring dollars. Let’s do the math. And really, if any of you know me, I don’t do math. So I didn’t actually figure this one out, it was my husband. So here we go… 12 dollars for the cleats 10 dollars lost on the phone 25 dollars for a new phone 10 dollars for more minutes on the new phone 10 dollars for a taxi ride 5 more stupid dollars for a taxi ride TOTAL: 72 dollars. For a pair of African cleats that are a little bit damaged. Phew. But the day isn’t over, and in fact, gets a lot better. Taylor runs in to change for his soccer practice, Dominique and I sit and stress. Haha. As soon as he comes out and is ready to go, it starts to downpour. And I’m not talking just a quick rain, it was a MONSOON out there. Just insane. Taylor runs back into our bedroom to look out the window and he can’t even see the back wall of the yard. Taylor then says, “I have to go out there.” Naturally. And, with a little convincing from Dominique, we join him. The backyard has two steep hills in it, one on top of the other, so after we ran around for a bit, we decided to slip n’ slide down the hills. Oh, so fun. Although, I think we may be feeling the effects of that later. But it was great. We were absolutely soaked and filthy by the time we got finished. Oh, and freezing. Oh, and also, just the day before, I had a fever. I probably shouldn’t have been out in that cold rain. But whatever, worth it.

Dominique and Bonnie

When we finished playing and taking pictures and what-not, we came inside to get dried off and dressed into warm, clean clothes. We had dinner plans that night at Mama Kindjas with Joel, Liz, and Lewis. They picked us up around 6:30 and we head off to dinner. Such a good dinner, too. Between the six of us, we ordered two fish,  three orders of fries, four orders of goat, one chicken, an order of ugali (that doughy, bread-like thing Taylor is crazy about) sombe (green leafy sauce stuff), tomatoes, and fried bananas. A lot of food. Oh, and guess what? The fish had their heads still on them. Guess what else? I ate them. And they were delicious! Taylor thought they looked disgusting, but little does he know. They didn’t give us any silverware, so we ate everything as finger food. Holy cow it was so good! Ripping the fish off the bone with our fingers… mmmmmm.

We went to bed exhausted and happy, and I was way too full from eating too much. But all in all, it was a really good day.

The fish, before.
The carnage

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Good, the Bad, the Buggy

Much has happened. The Bairds came and have now gone. They got their house cleaned to a point they were happy to move in. So the house population is back down to 4 (6 if you include pets). We were able to have a little get away with some friends we made (Liz, Lewis, Joel, and Holly, all from an NGO called Food for the Hungry). Bonnie, Liz, Lewis and I wanted to go kayaking on Friday, but it didn't work out. So instead, we went to Holly’s house and ate dinner. We had Fajitas, THEY WERE GREAT. Then we went back to the FH house and stayed the night. Joel and I woke up early (4 am!) and watched Kentucky beat Ohio State… totally worth it.

Through Holly we have been put in contact with a guy named Soso Benga, which we haven't been able to get a hold of yet. Soso (not to be confused with Sopo the Choir Director) works with youth here in Bukavu , the first we have heard of. So we are currently trying to hook up with him to see his ministry and possibly jump in with him.

I have seen many places here that would be absolutely fantastic for starting a youth center. It would serve as a place for kids to get discipled, tutored, mentored, play games, hang out, and be a positive alternative to other activities that run rampant here. I talked to Ed and Brenda (keep in mind I am thinking pretty big here) and they said that you could have a youth center up and running in under a year easy here. It would be great for this type of ministry to exist here and be self-supporting, but that would be very difficult, and I would estimate that would take at least another 2 years if at all possible. I am just thinking big and being creative. I am not committing to anything, but just seeing how we might serve God here in the future. It is exciting, daunting, and perplexing to think of the opportunity.

Many take Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God,” to give them courage and hope in situation.  With my long ago promise not to go to Bible College, or my declaration that I would never do foreign missions, I take that verse to mean “Be ready for whatever God has for you, cause it can be anything.”

Been working on playing more soccer with people around, and got a little play time in today, but I will be going back to practice with a local team tomorrow at 4. Hopefully I will learn some African tricks to add to the books. Bonnie has been making leaps and bounds in different areas (trying new things and doing stuff she hasn’t/wouldn’t do before) and loving all of it. She has also been tearin' it up working on helping the Baird’s move in. So much so that she got sick. With the many misquote bites and the wrong medicine we were using for a while all the symptoms were leaning towards Malaria, but be at peace, she doesn’t have it and she is now well. She is done being cooped up and ready to hit the ground running.

Free time here in Africa is spent reading (Bonnie by book, me by audio book), sitting on the outer wall talking to passersby, Mensa sudoku, and working on Paintball skills. As you might know that last one is mostly for me, though Bonnie is a big help as a target many times. As you can see from the picture above, I have fabricated not only digeridoos out of bamboo, but also a paintball marker (a DRC Tac-1, if you will). Working on these skills (MOSTLY in the house) helps me to be ready for the season that awaits when we get home. We have also been running a bit, which at this altitude is saying a little bit.

God has been answering prayers like CRAZY over here. One of the local church leaders has a prison ministry. If it were not for the horrible disease ravaging (and killing) many of the prisoners here we would have been able to go and witness the baptism of 15+ inmates. It is very exciting. It isn’t just a “while in prison commitment” either, one of the guys got out before the baptism was scheduled, and he contacted us to get baptized. It is just awesome. We were able to cover all the expenses for the baptism service (buying water and everything) by the grace of God and his provision.

Yes, God has been answering prayers like CRAZY over here, serious. Though we are distant from family and friends, our prayers have been going out to many in different situations. And God is really working people, it is awesome to see. It is one thing to know and believe, and it is another to hear of it and see it. Praise the Living God who still joins in work with his people. It is tight, I must say.

Though it isn't a requirement from NCC as part of our internship, ACM International internship guidelines states that interns need to spend one full week in a bonding experience. What does that mean? Well, it means we will be spending a week living with a non-English speaking African family in their house. Bonnie is nervous about it but I am pretty pumped. We were working on doing it out at Chanapanzi (the place we had the really good food that is like 1.25 hours away).  Lots of prayer was happening for this because of the possible danger. The church leaders were excited to have our interest and happy to say yes to our coming. But before they could tell us yes, there was a shooting in the area (close enough for them to hear) and so that destination was out. Though this is a blow to my desire and heart, I know God has something awesome in store and we are looking at the place where we went to the medical clinic, Mudaka. We will keep you updated.

This week and next will likely prove to be pretty busy and hectic for the Congo Clinch Clan. Please keep your prayers coming people (thoughts don’t help, so just turn that thought to a petition to God for us, lol) it is truly a blessing. We love you and hope that we hear from you soon.

A soldier for Thee, God,

P.S. I am sure many of you have been praying that God would teach us and guide us (Ray, Matt and some other friends will surely have been praying for this specific lesson for a while). Well God has taught me something. So there I am, just walked outside and started to clean up some of my bamboo shavings. The day was a bit overcast but still bright, no rain, just overcast. As I am cleaning up my leftovers, an ant carrying something catches my eye. I glance over at it for less than a second and for some reason it lights up. Quickly I thought, why in the world would an ant be lighting up like that? I didn’t even finish the thought when “CRACK!” One of the loudest noises I have ever heard drove me to be at the door of the house in under a second, with a bit of warning yelling. Come to find out that God was teaching me a lesson. Lightning had stuck about 2 blocks away and when I came back outside I could see the small amount of smoke from the strike drifting away in the slight breeze. What lesson did God teach me? “You scare people a lot Taylor, but let me tell you something, I AM BETTER!”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


You are cordially invited to join Taylor and I, this evening, at Ed and Brenda’s house for a loud, messy, crowded party. You see, Ed and Brenda are leaving in just a few minutes to go to Kigali. They are picking up the Bairds and bringing them back here tomorrow afternoon. Taylor and I now have the house to ourselves today and tomorrow. We decided to throw a big party and all of you are invited!

And it’s no joke. If any of you show up at the gate tonight, I will gladly let you in. And we will party hardy.

Okay but really, here’s an update.

Sunday was church. We went to JP’s church, the man who picked us up when we first arrived in Rwanda and took us into Congo. He’s a good friend of Ed and Brenda’s. When we got there, JP told me if I wanted to walk around and take a few pictures, I was welcome to do so. I was thinking, “Okay, but why?” I asked Brenda why he said that, and Brenda told me that he just meant while Taylor is preaching. Blank stare. Taylor is preaching? We never got the memo. I asked Brenda if Taylor knew he was preaching, and she gave me a blank stare right back. Ed and Taylor were on stage because they were special guests. So Brenda went up to ask Ed about the sermon and Ed said they have it worked out. Ed ended up preaching and I think it was a good one, especially since he just winged it, but I don’t understand Swahili. So I’m just going by people’s reactions.

The mix up happened earlier this week. Ed told us we should both be working on whatever we’re going to teach about; Taylor needs to figure out a sermon, and I need to figure out a kids Sunday school lesson. When we were both working on them, Taylor asked Ed about his and how long it should be, and Ed assumed he knew he was preaching this Sunday. Ed thought JP told Taylor earlier in the week, and when Taylor was working on his, Ed thought he was being specific to this Sunday. Whoops. He wasn't. He was just preparing a sermon for some Sunday in case he needed to preach.

Well, God is good and worked it out.  Ed did just fine and Taylor will finish his sermon and preach it some other time.

Monday was a busy day for us. We are preparing for the Bairds' arrival, so we did a lot of cleaning around the house, then we went to their house and swept the whole place out, cleaned the bathrooms, and dusted. We got back when it was dark and rainy, played cards and went to bed.

Today, I am making curry for lunch, then hopefully Taylor and I can go kayaking. We need to clean our bathroom and move our stuff out of the Bairds' room and into the guest room before they get here tomorrow. Also, we have to prepare for the big party tonight. So, we’ll see you then?

Saturday, March 19, 2011


For three days we have wanted to write a blog. Then evening comes and we play some games with Ed and Brenda, then bedtime comes and we are too tired. “We’ll just do it tomorrow.” Three days later, it’s finally tomorrow. So, here we go. Both of us are contributing, starting with the wife.

Sunday we went to church in Tchanampanzi, an area up in the mountains about an hour away from where we are.  It was a full house that morning, which I guess is pretty normal for that church. Ed preached in Swahili, while another guy translated in Mashi, yet another tribal language here that we don’t speak. Ed had a really good sermon, there were three choirs who sang a whole bunch, and we got to visit two very packed Sunday school classes for the kids. After church we went to the preacher’s house where his wife was making lunch for us. It was an AWESOME meal. Very African. We had super delicious beans, rice, very tough, yet tasty beef, this green leafy stuff that kind of looked like cooked spinach, but had more flavor and was really good, and bugali, which looked to me a lot like the yeast bowl they have on Baby Mama, but it wasn’t yeast. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s mushy, you pull off a piece, roll it around in your hand a bit and either dip it or scoop up your rice and beans and stuff with it. It was made from some kind of flour they made from grinding up a root of something, and they add cornmeal and stuff to make it more nutritious.  It tasted good. I just wish I could describe it better! Taylor was absolutely crazy for the meal. He made a big deal to the wife when he met her. It was really good.

After lunch we went outside to take some pictures and hang out with the kids while Ed talked to some of the elders. Taylor is hilarious with these kids. Anywhere we go, kids follow us around. So every now and then Taylor will just be walking at a normal pace and turn around and scare the kids. They scatter and giggle. It’s really cute, although, these kids at the church seemed honestly scared of Taylor when he did this. There was one boy who lost his shoe next to him when he turned around once and would not come back and get it. His friends were pushing him toward Taylor and he was fighting so hard! He was so scared! Taylor eventually just threw the shoe to him to save him, but he was just so scared! Poor little guy! That tall hairy Muzungo is scary!
Monday we went to a school down the road a ways to help teach. Kasavubu set up a meeting Monday morning at 7:45 for us. We were told it was just a meeting with the Head Master to find out when we’ll be teaching and what we’ll be teaching, but when we got there the Head Master wasn’t there and there wasn’t someone around that spoke English. Haha... So we waited a bit out front when a lady came up to us and started asking us what we wanted and why we were there and everything.  Turns out she was the English teacher at the school! She brought us in and sat us down in the office where she called the Head Master. I’m not sure he knew we were coming that day, but he told her to just let us follow her around. We taught in four classes, helping them with their English. We went over body parts, colors, the Alphabet, “If You’re Happy and You Know it”, and a few greetings. We had a lot of fun, but it was really exhausting. We also got to watch them during their recess hour, though I think it’s more like a PE class. They sang all these songs and did dances and it looked like complete chaos but they were all doing the same thing at the same time. It was nuts. And it was a TON of kids! They filled the whole courtyard. I’m not sure how they all stayed together on everything they did. It was very cool. (don’t worry we have video we will show upon request when we come back, IT TOO WAS AWESOME!! –taylor) Tuesday and Thursday we went back to Choir practice with Sopo. I got to teach them How Great Thou Art in English, and I’m learning it in Swahili. Taylor helped them out more with their beat boxing, which they absolutely love!  We found out on Thursday from Brenda that this choir was asked by the President of Burundi to come and perform along with a few others, and they are the only choir that was asked to come back. They are pretty incredible. Every time we’ve worked with them though, it’s only been a portion of them. I hope I get to see the whole choir perform sometime before we leave. 

Well, I think I told my part. Taylor did some things without me that I think he would like to share with you, so I’m going to turn the computer over to him and go finish my third book. :)

Well hello hello hello…. Or Jambo Jambo Jambo as I say here (though it is right, I am sure, to just say it once).  I do not know where to start as I have been a busy bee. My free time seems even to be filled with sweat filled tasks. Man it is a blast to be here. We went up into the Jungle, close but not close enough to dangerous rebels. That was, as of yet, my favorite part of the mission. It was like getting to see a place you had always envisioned. It was like a dream come true and shattered all at once. I have dreamt many a days of such a place, and upon seeing it those dreams were proved wrong. It was different that I had imagined, but not in a bad way, just different. The trees stand tall, very tall, with no branches reaching out from their trunks till 75 feet in the air. At that point, quickly they all reach outwards for the coveted sunlight.  We drove uphill for what seemed like hours over a VERY rough bumpy mud road that makes the gravel road to NCC seem like perfect flatland (as much in Nebraska is). Even with the vibrations of the deep washboards below, the sights were still breathtaking; Tall mountains in the distance with trees as tall as described on their peaks, with even others standing double or triple their height dwarfing even the mountain itself; looking down in the a vast green valley covered in wild bush and farming land alike, set amongst the back drop of even more mountains; gazing at one tall mountain standing like Bear Butte above the rest of the mountains whisked me home. Seeing the Jungle dwellings in all their simplicity, let’s just say, I loved it.
The church service was a blast and even though it lasted 2+ hours, it didn’t seem to phase me much (even with not understanding a word). It was so tight to see the God of all creation worshiped all over His Creation by his creation. A very joyous time. People, if they are agreeing with the choir or the worship songs will dance, naturally (if only this was allowed in the states without weird looks or ex-communication lol). The women, in another form of worship will lift their voices up in a high pitch. It sounds like they are saying “lili lili lili lili lili lili”  (kind of like the flower) over and over. It is similar to “Hooray” or just yelling in the states as we heard it at women’s day as well. We ducked out of the church for a bit to visit the Sunday school classes. In our absence there was the announcement and celebration of 2 baby girls being born to some of the members. In the kid’s Sunday school classes we were received by welcome songs and got to teach them our names (something quick and kinda fun for em.) We went back up and Ed preached as the rain started and stopped (there was a hole in the roof right over Bonnie and Brenda lol).
After church we ate with the Pastors and Elders. And man I gotta tell you, it was a KILLER Meal. Some of my friends on the Old NCC Soccer team (yes there was one once) might remember eating at Boney’s house down at Ozark, and it was similar (but better) than that. It was a feast and as of yet, the best meal I have had here. It seems that both parties were honored by the other. It was great to hear their stories, one of which I will have to tell to you if you ask me about it.

We had planned on the way back to snap some pictures of those amazing sites we saw because we didn’t want to be late for church (which anyone that knows us knows  hat had to be the Buells, because we are always late lol). On the way back, the rain clouds had enveloped the beauty to hold it for themselves. We did take a few pictures, but they weren’t the same with the clouds.
Teaching at the school was tight, but unplanned and exhausting. We had skipped breakfast and arrived at the school BEFORE (I know crazy) 7:45 expecting a one to two hour meeting discussing what they would like us to do. At 2:30 we arrived home totally exhausted from teaching many classes and walking a couple miles. But I must say, their recesses here are AWESOME. I don’t think they have a PE class specifically, so after a 20 minute play period, it is time for organized exercise. I took some video of the whole ordeal that will show you how cool it was. Hundreds of kids were dancing and singing the same song with all the breath in the lungs. They did a shouting competition between the boys and girls while dancing in circles. Sadly to say it was girls 2, boys 0. Right after that we went and prayed for a friend of Kasavubu’s in the hospital that was just able to have an emergency appendix removal. It was super cool and really neat to be able to be with her and petition for her.
I slowly (sadly) ran a mile or so up to get some avocadoes for lunch, and that let me know how much I needed to keep running, but also hindered it by spraining (or something bad of the like) my ankle on a well-placed rock in the middle of the road. After a good lunch, I ventured down to a new fast friend’s house to play some table tennis. I got dominated that day by Bill Vinton (a long time 2 generation missionary to DRC). I haven’t taken a beating like that since I first began to get a feel for the game years ago. His top spin is KILLER and I cannot get my return for it down. So after a lot of sweat and many tears held back, I walked back home, defeated lol.
Friday Ed was taking a tree survey trip back up to Tchanampanzi so I decided to go with him again. On our return trip Sunday we stopped by one of the old mission stations up in the Jungle. It was huge, having a long aisle of trees on each side of the road leading up to what looked like a large mansion. The enormous white mansion was actually the church. Once we parked for our unexpected visit Sunday, we prayed with the leaders and took a tour of the old station. We got to see the old string of connected houses that the Crowls stayed in when they were missionaries here long ago. Additions were made for other staff that were there at the time, nurses and the like. But it all had been of little use in recent times and looked a bit abandoned, but still sturdy. The last of the houses was still in good condition and was occupied by the head of the medical center that was now there.  There was once a great pool there in the 60’s. They filled the pool the first time, and it had been built wrong and didn’t hold water, so it sat empty for years. Later some missionaries suggested digging out the ground around the deep end and making it in to a church. The Africans said they wouldn’t like to worship underground as it would feel like a tomb, but once the project was complete they loved it. It is now used as the sizeable church’s children’s center. The church that occupies the ‘mansion’ is very large and has many members, so it had quickly outgrown the pool church (shown below).

Alongside the Children’s building was the old orphanage. It was built years ago by the missionaries to house the many orphans in the area (some of which they were able to adopt). But when they left it was closed down (don’t worry, the kids were taken in by families in the community).  It was soon revived as a medical center, and it was a quite impressive one at that. The Head nurses office had every wall adorned with charts. Charts marking the number of people bandaged, people vaccinated, children delivered, malaria cases, etc. There was a lab, a delivery room, a treatment room, overnight quarters, and nurse’s offices. The building was a big square with an entrance on the east, and one the west that led into the courtyard that all the rooms emptied into.  The whole of the mission station was quite large and it was someplace I could see so many ministries popping up. They desire to open up the orphanage again and move the medical center to another building they have ready, but do not have the staff. One of the coolest things that was out there was a professional sized Soccer field. The church had decided to build it to give the youth something positive to do on Sunday afternoons (their only day off from school).
That Sunday there was a game. It was between the Civilians and the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) Army. So naturally there were some soldiers with RPG’s, Fal’s, and AK47’s. There was a running joke (by me) that the military came ready for a loss lol.  So many ministry possibilities everywhere we go.
Anyway, it is to this station that we returned to survey the possibility of getting a lumber mill going. I, sadly, am unable to converse in any other language other than English (something that Rosetta stone may be addressing upon our return) so I came prepared. I had brought a Mensa Sudoku book, my iPod with LOTR on it, my Bible and devotional, and a deflated soccer ball. I bet you can guess what I did the rest of the day. We arrived with a host of people around. They were at school, work, or in-between tasks. As soon as we parked, I tried using the portable electronic pump that Ed had in his car. But even with fitting the needle to it, we couldn’t get it to work. So we locked up the car after I changed and I went searching for a way to inflate it. I found one, and let’s just say I now know how to pump up a soccer ball using an old bike pump, a pen, and a bit of rubber.  The ball was out on the huge field, and so were a host of people. Within five minutes we had a legitimate game of soccer going. 11 on 11 is how we started, but from what I could pick up, the members of my team were mad when we were down 2-1 because the other team apparently had drafted 2 more players. After a good amount of time, we managed to tie the game, then a foul came in the box, penalty kick time! Who would take it? They eventually forced the reluctant Muzungo to take it. Normally a PK is taken with players and refs arranged in a way that there are no distractions for the player, no people near him, no one but the goalie ahead of the ball. But at this game there was a funnel of people starting from where I was standing to the goal posts of people. Hundreds of people were watching this white dude take this pick-up game PK. Once the ball was placed in the goal past the goalie, there was a lot of cheering. Feeling as if there was NOTHING else to do, I pulled my shirt up over my head and ran towards the center of the field yelling
“GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLL! This, for some reason, didn’t seem to silence the crowd. When we had advanced the score to 2-4 the other team walked off the field. It would be nice to say our skills were the cause of their leaving, but I am inclined more to think it was the school bell had a part to play.

After scaring some more kids, and sitting around for a little bit tending to an ant hill, classes were let out. I found myself surrounded by 100-200 kids. With not knowing  much more than very basic Swahili, and they seeming to not know any English besides “Give me ze money!” some beat-boxing seemed in order. A short time of mad beats passed and I could see my ride winding down the road to me. “How do I escape this ring of youth pressing in on me? “ The simple solution, as talked
about before, came in the form of a bit of yelling, a funny face and moving quickly to one side of the group. As the kids split like the Sea of Reeds, I made my dash for the truck. And we were on our way back…. I was drained, unable to keep track of my water bottle during the game, I emptied the one in the truck quickly as we set off.

Stuff has been picking up quite a bit lately and we are excited. Please pray for us. Keep praying for us. All these opportunities can be draining and frustrating. The weight has been showing on me quite a bit in that I have been making the horrible guy mistake of trying to “solve” the things my wife talks to me about instead of “just listening.” So as many of you guys know, pray for me to have patience. And as many of you ladies know, pray for me to “wise up.” With rain, sickness, and her not being allowed to come on some of the stuff, Bonnie has a bit of cabin fever so pray that we can get rid of that quick. We love you guys and thank you so much for praying for us diligently and earnestly. I cannot imagine this missions trip without it. It is weird, halfway across the world, I am finding myself praying a lot more for my friends at home then when I was there. Love you
guys. And thanks.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


[This was written last night.]

We’ve been so busy these past few days; I haven’t had time to write an update! Let me see if I can get everything in…

Taylor and I have made a new friend. Sopo is his name. He is a choir director at a church about 20 minutes from where we are. Taylor has been giving him lessons on the didgeridoo, including how to make it.  Then Brenda told him I sang, so he invited us up to work with his choir. We went there bright and early this morning to practice with them. Taylor taught the choir to beat box and I sang a little for them, we are going to combine everything eventually. It should be a pretty cool thing. They are the best choir around, and Sopo is the best choir director around, so it’s a lot of fun working with them. They are so open to new things, and they are SO talented! I couldn't wipe the smile off my face today watching them. I can’t wait to see what else we get to do with them.

Yesterday we went to a clinic with our English speaking Congolese friend, Henri, and our Canadian friend, Amy. They are both doctors and have had really good training, so they are doing what they can to help this small clinic out. And I mean small. The clinic had three rooms: a waiting room, an examination room, and a room where people are kept overnight if necessary. It was quite an experience, both awesome and heartbreaking. The people from that area are so poor, we could just tell from how they were dressed. The clinic hardly has any money coming in, either. The people who get treated don’t have money to pay for it, so the clinic can’t keep up on supplies. The doctors don’t know to wear gloves when dealing with blood, or they just don’t have any, which is really dangerous, especially in a highly infected HIV/aids area. The one table they had in the examination room was just a wood table with a piece of foam over it and a blanket. That has to be FULL of germs. Amy told them they need to put plastic over it, rather than the blanket. There is an outbreak of Measles right now in that area, so whenever anyone sits on that table, they are being exposed to that disease because of the blanket. And, with their immune systems already compromised, the risk is even greater. It is a very cool thing for Amy and Henri to be helping out here. The doctors are learning a lot from these two and their clinic will be greatly improved.

In other news, Taylor is still a romantic on the other side of the world.  We went on a walk Wednesday, and it looked like it was about to rain. I told Taylor we should turn back because we had the camera with us and I didn’t want it to get ruined. He says, “Truth be told, I’m taking you out to lunch”. He took me to the Orchid which is a really nice hotel with a restaurant we had heard a lot about. And it was a beautiful place... It was the nicest place I have seen in Congo so far. We sat outside on a covered patio overlooking Lake Kivu at first. They took our orders and got us our drinks, and we just sat and enjoyed the view. When our food was ready, they took us to a table inside. We ordered a burger and fries as sort of an appetizer and a pizza to split. Well, that’s what we thought we ordered. Turns out they thought we wanted to split the burger and fries, and each of us got our own pizza! That was an expensive miscommunication.  It all worked out though, we ended up taking it home and eating it for other meals.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we stopped at the front desk to call a cab because it was raining. We were flipping through the guest book sitting there and Taylor found Ben Affleck’s signature, dated February 2! We asked the lady about it and she said he was here! In the same restaurant we just ate at! So crazy. She also told us Angelina Jolie was here a few years back. Who woulda thought?

We have met a lot of English speaking friends from our English speaking Bible study. We actually have hung out with them the past two nights, we watched Red last night, and played ping pong tonight.  We have a lot of fun with them.

Tomorrow we are going to church about an hour and a half away, and then hopefully we’ll make it back in time to meet with our friends again for Bible study. Tomorrow will probably be a long day for us, so hopefully everything goes smoothly, Lord willing! But of course, we never know how things are going to turn out in the Congo!

And now, it’s time for bed. Six o’clock comes awfully early! Goodnight!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Happy Women’s Day!

Today was a fun day! All the women in the area were celebrated today. We all wore Kikwimbi’s (tradition African wear for women) and there was a BIG parade where groups of women marched down the streets singing and dancing. It was very cool! I wore a piece of fabric around my waist (it was the best I could do) and I got a lot of comments on my Kikwimbi! The women loved that I was there to support. I didn't march in the parade, but I followed it and took a lot of pictures. It was very cool.

This day was supposed to raise awareness for these women and their situations, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t do anything to benefit them. There is no one here to raise awareness to, really. Unless someone somewhere it got on the news? I don’t know. These women really do get the worst of it here, so I hope it made an impact somewhere in the world! They were all saying that the men today had to do all the cooking, cleaning, and taking care of kids! Of course, these men may not know how to do some of those things, so I hope that worked out for them!

We left this morning at about 9:30 with Kasavubu, a friend of Ed and Brenda’s who also works for Brenda. He knows a little bit of English, so we got along alright. We walked all the way downtown, which is a fifteen minute drive. So it took us a long time to get down there. We would have taken a taxi, but the roads were blocked off for this event. That was a LONG walk, without sunscreen. Whoops. Also, I wore a t-shirt. So I have some nice white shoulders and red arms. Now I look like a typical muzungo (whitey).

A few random things:

--We got a kitten! He is awfully cute, but awfully noisy. He (or she) cries and cries and cries. Just a little baby. We think he (or she) is too little to be away from Mama. But we love him. Or her. We named it Hershey, because it is a HE or SHE. Hershey (get it?!). We’ll figure it out.  Hershey is currently sleeping in my lap.

--I went to a choir rehearsal on Saturday. I’m going to sing with their choir some Sunday, and hopefully Taylor will play drums.  I have to learn a LONG song in Swahili, but it’s really pretty. Also, I have to dance with the choir. I’m stoked.

--Taylor is currently sitting on the wall next to the front gate talking to the Congolese kids on the other side. This is part of his routine every night. He learns Swahili from them and they learn English from him. The other night he was bored and wanted a piece of wood to carve. He kept saying to the kids “I need a piece of wood!”  They eventually started copying what he was saying, and he made it into a chant. “I need a piece of wood, I need a piece of wood, HI HO THE DARIO, I need a piece of wood!” We heard them chanting it next door later that night. They love him.

--Taylor also got another piece of bamboo to make another digeridoo.  Or to teach someone how to make it. I’m unsure. It was quite the event getting it, too. We were walking back from Tracy’s Heart and we stopped at some guy’s house and asked if we could chop one down. Well, Kasavubu asked. We stood and watched. Then Taylor got in there to show him which one he wanted and tried to help get it. At this point, people were gathering in the streets to see what the muzungos were up to. When Taylor stepped on a bench to grab the bamboo to help, he lost his balance and completely wiped out! The bench was on some not so stable ground and he just biffed it! The locals were laughing at him a lot. Clumsy muzungo.  It was quite graceful, really! He sort of caught himself. He now has a nice scrape on the side of his leg, and he said it is going to bruise quite a bit. Poor Taylor. :)

--There is an English speaking Bible study we are starting to attend on Sunday nights. It’s refreshing to meet other people who actually understand us. Friday night Taylor and I get to hang out with some of the people we met. There was talk of a ping pong tournament. It should be a good time!
--Taylor is now teaching the Africans to beat box.

That’s all for now. I’ll write again soon!

(The picture below is taken from the back porch on a rainy day. The path leads to the backyard, where there's a better view of the lake.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

thoughts and feelings.

Today I am homesick.

We went to church today. The service was only three hours long and we got to sit in the back. All through church I was a little grumpy and irritated. The benches we sat on were uncomfortable, I couldn’t keep my skirt from getting dirty on the ground, and I was annoyed because I couldn’t understand anything. Taylor finally asked me what was wrong and I just told him I don’t know, on the verge of tears. Now I know. I am homesick.

Please pray for me. Brenda says it’s about time for me to be missing home, and it’s normal. I hate it. I would rather be focusing on the work we can do here, rather than what it’s going to be like to go home. I miss my friends, my family, even my students!

I want to be entirely here. I want to completely dive in and really soak up this trip. I want to see God at work in really big ways and I’ve only seen glimpses. My attitude is no good and I hate that because I don’t want to ruin this opportunity for us, especially Taylor. He’s been dreaming of coming here since I’ve known him, and now we’re here and I want to go home. Please pray that this passes. Pray that I lean on God for my strength, that I get rid of this stomach ache I get when I think about the time I still have left. I want that stomach ache to be excitement, not sadness.

I’ll be home when our work is done. That will be a good day. But I can’t keep thinking about that day. I need to think about these next seven weeks spent here. We will be doing some great things. I’m ready for it.

Anyway, rant over. Thanks for reading.

One more thing. I just talked to Taylor about this blog, he’s also homesick… for paintball. He is seriously considering making a fake gun out of bamboo and practicing some techniques. I guess I’m not the only one. :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A quick jotting from Taylor

Things are well. We got a permit from the government to take pictures in public while here in DRC. It would have been nice to get one for the whole time we are here, but it is pricey, so we will just use what we got. We are taking lots of pictures and video. If we could, we would upload our video blogs, but it would prolly take till the last day we are here to upload just one.
We just got back from choir practice at one of the local churches. It was mostly youth with two older people there as well. Bonnie is learning a song in Swahili and will sing with them one Sunday. I did a lil beat boxing, and some drumming, and some beat-boxing with a harmonica as well. I hope to have a couple digeridoos made that I can use as well. It takes some time to get bamboo here cuz nothing ever happens fast in Africa. I have 1 made thus far, it is taller than me and is the lowest pitch i have heard out of a digeridoo. Being that low, it takes LOTS of air to sustain. Circular breathing with that much air required is much harder, so we will see how it works. To make it even more finicky of a Digeridoo, it is hard to even get the right pitch at all, it always wants to force too high a pitch... enough about bamboo.

We will be going to a different church tomorrow, the one the wedding was held at.

It is raining again. it rains just about every day, but i don't mind much. I am still on the search for a soccer field close by. I see kids playing soccer with a plastic bottle, but no fields because land is worth so much in the city, anyone who has it either develops it or sells it to be developed.

We toured a primary school yesterday as one of the stops on our 7 or 8 mile walking tour. After the tour of the school was over, we were invited back to teach some classes later in our stay. we are really excited about the things God is laying before us and hope and pray we get time to bless as many people as possible.
Bonnie made some KILLER Guacamole today with lunch.
I (Taylor) am always last out the door and into the car... I was born in African time, as many of my friends will attest to. lol
What to pray for? Bonnie’s ear was acting up and seemed like an ear ache could be coming on. Her stomach isn't adapting the best (just hurts sometimes, but it did that in the states too). I think i am eating to much salt, and it is causing my stomach to be not happy with me, so i am trying to balance that out. Praise God for his wonderful design and his character. Do that for/with us.

A soldier for Thee, God,

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A bit from Taylor...

CAUTION: This post has joy and sorrow in it, continue with prayer and praise ready.

Well, yes people, the wedding was awesome. It was the type of event you wish we had in the states. Not that we don’t have weddings, but we don’t spend as much time celebrating them.  It was interesting to see how honor was bestowed to individuals, whether it is missionaries, relatives, the bride, the groom, parents, friends, employers, or even some young white people from America.  The food was pretty dang good.  Of course I was quite distant from the fish, but the peanut butter was scrumptious atop the waffle. The beef was tough but still tasty (nothing like Nebraska beef). The bread stuff that was fried tasted just like Indian fry bread, the stuff at the bottom of an Indian Taco, and made me think of Raymond and Matt and a basketball tournament we played in. Overall the actual wedding ceremony lasted 4 hours, but it didn’t seem too long for me. There were 4 choirs (though one might have been forgotten in a previous post, lol) that sang multiple times about the blessing of children, to praise and worship, to funny songs talking to the groom.  Weddings are a serious occasion anywhere, and here that was very evident. The seriousness was apparent on the stoic faces of the bride and groom. This remained true until Ed said we wouldn’t leave the place till the two of them smiled (which they irresistibly did right then). It was an awesome celebration and we were glad to have been invited.

The church services were so tight. They had like 5 different choirs sing and let me tell you, these people can SING! They lift their voices up to God with such power it makes me wish I could offer such praise as well. The irresistible dancing by the children was contagious to the adults as well, so that eventually about a quarter of the church was breakin it down before God on one of the children’s
Oh and don’t worry people, I didn’t go to a wedding or church over here without cutting the power beard off. I did, however, take some ridiculous pictures with different designs as it was being cut, so expect to see those in the future.
Taxi’s here are a blast. Driving/riding here is a blast. There is always action. If you are not watching the driver barrel at a motorcycle, then you are astonished as a car inches through an ultra-narrow gap.  If that isn’t fun enough, then just look at all the people walking around and see what they are doing. Some might be carrying a coffee table on their head, some might be heading goats, some might be selling phone time, while still others walk about their business.  The culture here is so rich, and the dress is so diverse that is interesting to just be out and about.

Though we have not just been partying and driving about. We have had our share of sickness and distress. There has been some “slap in the face” moments for sure. The first that comes to mind is from yesterday…

We have had some of the Tracy’s Heart ladies stop by throughout our stay thus far. Tracy’s Heart is a ministry that Ed and Brenda Buell started and Brenda now directs. They shelter, council, rehabilitate, and train rape victims for employment. Brenda described the situation to us…

Rape is a horrible thing, no matter where you are. It is a bit different here than I the states, however. Here it is not just a lust from the sensual, it is a lust from hate as well. People live in the outer villages near the rebel populations. The Hutu rebels will come into and raid these villages killing many of the people. If a family is not killed, there are a few dire situations they face. The husband is ordered to rape his wife in front of the whole village; when he refuses he is shot. The children (if not kept for sex slaves) have been killed using garden hoes while the mother watches. The mother can then be killed or taken to the rebel camp at the whim of the rebels. If taken to the camp, they face a future of daily rape and abuse. One of the women trying to get into the Tracy’s Heart program was able to escape from a rebel camp after six months of this horrible life. Once free she was then caught by a different rebel group with the same intentions for the next six months. After a year of this treatment and one failed escape, she made another escape.  While in the bush (jungle) she was at the edge of a clearing searching for her family. She looked over to have her heart sink; there was a wild dog not 10 yards away from her. Knowing the power of these animals and the state she was in it was a most horrible situation, only made odd by what the dog was doing. The wild dog was carrying a pineapple in its mouth, which it would have to drop when attacking the woman, but instead of attacking, the dog opened its mouth, dropped the pineapple and walked away. The woman later praised God for sending this dog with the fruit because it gave her enough energy to find her remaining children and escape to the city.

As I said, rape is not done for merely pleasure, it is done out of hate. The men raping the women hate them. They not only want to scar the women, but also commit genocide. So they use sticks, guns, and any other ravaging objects in the raping process to prevent future childbearing. Rape is a horrible thing anywhere; it is just different here in Congo.

This is plight of some of the women who are served at Tracy’s Heart. Not all have this story, some have worse, and some just different. But all… horrible. It is hard to be detached from these horrors when it is right in front of you. Brenda translated for us as a woman told how she doesn’t belong anywhere. She was chased from Rwanda when the Genocide began. ALL OF HER FAMILY WAS KILLED; mother, father, brothers, sisters, husband, everyone.  She has no one to turn to with her two children and nowhere to call home. To add to this, she too was raped more recently when Hutu rebels caught her. She now cares for her 3 children (one of them from the raping) on the streets trying to survive. It is 75 dollars to put one of these women up in Tracy’s heart building for a month, and I spend that on entertainment in the U.S. It is hard to be detached.  When Brenda told this woman sitting in front of us that she was trying to get sponsors for her to get her into Tracy’s Heart, she immediately dropped to her knees and praised God.  Looking at her life, and assuming I was in a similar one, would I do the same? Aside from my convictions, it was amazing to see.

Brenda went inside to get her some money to help her get by, she, unable to communicate because of language barrier, repeatedly pointed upwards and gave a thumbs up with tears in her eyes. It is hard to be detached. There is great work to be done, but the limits are frustrating, because they deal with money. If you want to help or feel God’s leading then by all means here is the info. If you decide to give and think that is enough, it isn’t true, we all must pray, for it is our contact with our greatest ally.

Tracy’s Heart
619 Washington Avenue
Terre Haute, IN 47802

I constantly think of how much could be done here. Skilled people, in ministry or just trades, coming here to offer themselves as servants to God and his people… Youth centers that offer a place for kids to hang out and learn (skills, education, music, etc.), A security company to train and resource night watchmen, people to help offer other classes at the Bible institute, counselors dedicated to working at Tracy’s heart, someone to put on basketball camps (and thus reach the upper class with the Gospel), Soccer camps, a chiropractic clinic, English training, and so on and so on… I cannot help but see ways that so many people I know could be INSTANTLY plugged in. I see my ministry possibilities as well, but cannot help but desire a larger kingdom impact with more friends/family involved.I have praised God for all of you many times, and continue to do so. But I wanted to thank you all for the support you have given us all along the way “THANK YOU.”
There is a lot I am thinking of and conversing with God about, so if you could pray for guidance, that would be tight. If you could pray for wisdom that would be sweet. If you could pray for health, that would be nice. If you could pray, that would be essential.
A Soldier for Thee, God,