I often hear the words of the beautiful hymn, "Let your heart be broken for a world in need" in my head these days. The needs we have encountered in the past months have been many and varied. How best to help them all?
"Be the hands of Jesus serving in His stead".
How many mornings we've prayed in the cool african dawn, "Let us be your hands and feet today Lord. Use us to bless others".
When we walked into the church a few weeks ago, I didn't even notice her. My hands were full of baby Cao and Tammy's with Shiloh as both of our husbands preached. (Luke in english with Keith translating). The moment I looked away from my charge to take a picture, he seized the opportunity to taste the dirt and chicken feathers under our pew. No, I was not noticing the great need just an arm's length from me.
But Luke saw her as he preached. Hunched over in her chair with swollen foot and leg covered by dirty dressings. After church he investigated and found a dear lady who has been suffering with large open sores on her feet for months. This story could be long, but I will make it short for today. We took pictures (you who are medically minded or curious might want to see them)
and promised to come again.
Two days later, we bumped along the road on the motor bike the 50 kilometers to the village. She was there, shivering in a dark hut. We stayed overnight and started her on a regimen of antibiotics, vitamins, hydrotherapy, charcoal poultices, and various natural supplements (such as papaya leaf tea). Providentially, a very capable nurse was visiting his father (the church planter) in the same village and was able to continue the treatments in our absence.
One week later upon our return, we found her in much improved spirits. The pain was nearly gone, allowing her to sleep and hobble around with the help of a cane. The secondary infections were under control and her foot was neatly wrapped in a good dressing. The fungal infection that remains is extremely difficult to treat, but we arranged for her to go to the hospital for further evaluation.
When we squeezed her hand goodbye, she broke down and cried out her gratitude. Said that God had sent us. What she did not realize is that we were the privileged ones.
"Blest to be a blessing. Privileged to care..."
I have heard that phrase often since coming to French Africa. Sometimes I'm being asked for money. Other times for food. Or attention. But today's request was unique.
I was in a fabric shop purchasing some cloth. The clerk approached me and appealed in good english:
"Please Madam, please. Give me your sister to marry. I want to marry her!"
I had not expected to receive Natasha's first proposal of marriage, but strange things happen at times.
He was very polite about it (apparently he remembered that I was married from my last visit to the shop with Luke and proposed to an unknown person instead). In spite of that I graciously declined on behalf of my sister.
Sorry for not checking with you first, Tashy. ;)
He turns 30 today.
And I'm so thankful that I now share his life.
I thought when I married him that he fulfilled all my hopes and dreams. After only three months, I've discovered that he is more than I ever could have asked for or dreamed of! My
heart is full of thanksgiving to the Lord Who led us together in His perfect time and way. I look forward to many more years by his side.
I love you, Luke.
Four dug-out canoes and a few salvaged bridge planks.
We took an overnight trip last week, driving along the dirt road that follows the Congo River downstream. We followed the track until it ended: at least for vehicles with a wheel-base wider than a motor-bike. Our purpose was to visit and encourage the new churches in that area as well as to pick up some equipment that had been used in several evangelistic efforts. It was quite a trip. We had to cross several rivers with ferries. The first one was a nice antiquated metal barge ferry. The second was much more local... The bridge had gone out and several canoe operators were making the most of their fortune. $30.00 USD each way for vehicle passage.
The whole Mosier famiy came along, including 2 year old Shiloh and Caleb at 10 months. It was both of their first time camping and they had a grand time. They also made quite a scene. Most rural Congolese have never seen Wazungu (white/foreign) babies. And the Mosier kids are about as blonde-haired and blued-eyed as they come. Excited crowds gathered at every stop, pointing and shouting about the watoto wazungus that had appeared among them!
We arrived, after dark, unannounced at the village where we had hoped to spend the night. Within a literal minute of arrival, the local church members (and all their friends, and every child in the village?) had gathered into a swarming welcome party and were singing(shouting) a welcome anthem. We slogged our vehicle off of the road in attempt to enter the church-yard and promptly settled very deeply into the road ditch. A bit of shoveling, many hands pushing, and a hundred more shouting encouragement, we crawled our way out of the ditch and on to our resting place. Upon arrival, Chantee entertained the crowds for while, taking lessons in Swahili and French and teaching the kids words in Engish as a distraction so that the rest of us could unpack and Shiloh could go potty in peace.
The ride home was harder and faster than the ride out. It was a race to make the last ferry before it closed for the night. We made it with minutes to spare. While waiting for the ferry to chug over to our side of the river, I bought an ear of boiled maize from a road-side market lady. I was hungry, but the corn didn't taste quite right. I had eaten 3/4ths of the ear before I decided that it was spoiled. I stopped the eating there and washed it down with a banana to get the taste out of my mouth and 6 tablets of charcoal for intestenal prophylaxis. No ill effects noted.
We got home on Thurday night, did some laundry and bread-baking on Friday, and then took an all day trip on Sabbath, dropping an itenerant missionary preacher and his wife at 36 bumpy kilometers out of town. The remaining group continued another 10 to small village church where I preached. Sermon topic was on lessons from the life of Gideon. I noted a lady in congregation that had a towel over her foot. After the service I went over to investigate. Findings and their aftermath to posted on a seperate blog entry :)
The days here are suddenly flying by. Each packed with unique experiences. Loading the motor bike with a dental table and supplies and people. Making new friends. Preaching. Teaching. Gardening in the tropics. Cooking and baking with a new set of ingredients. Smiling. Loving. Living for God.
The policemen here in the Congo are a special sort. The other day we ventured again into Kisangani on our motor bike (the first trip since the day of the riots). We were stopped right off by the policemen at the roundabout in town. The CFM driver was ahead of us on his bike and facilitated a smooth interaction which included document inspection but no fines. For the next few hours, they would wave and smile at us as we drove by.
After looking all over town for cheaper mushrooms, I asked Luke if we could go back to the original store to purchase what we should have procured the first time around. As we approached the roundabout from a different angle, an officer who was apparently unaware of our friendly terms with his comrades waved us down. As it turned out, he didn't need to see our documents. Only needed a five dollar donation. As Luke used his limited french vocabulary to reason with the man, the helmet he had removed (to be polite) took the opportunity to drop off the motor bike and roll away... right into the open sewer that lines every street.
For a moment the five dollars was forgotten as helpful hands reached down and pulled the helmet out of the offensive canal. Luke attempted to wring out the foul smelling liquid from the padding while the officer stood by and a little crowd gathered. The effort was rather futile. Riding home without it would give our friend a real reason to fine us five dollars. With a half smile, half grimace, my husband put the smelly article back on his head. The police apparently felt badly that he had caused such misfortune and promptly let us go with all our pennies intact.
Yesterday we were not quite so fortunate. We ran into town to buy flour and were stopped at a main intersection. The police ran out and surrounded us, all speaking rapid fire french at once. A traffic violation, they said. (Without going into the nuts and bolts of it, they were very creative in their description of exactly what our violation was). The bottom line? A $50 fine (discounted from the $100 we would pay if we went to the station).
Luke protested good naturedly that we had only come to buy flour, and such a fine was not in our budget for the day. They dropped their price to $20 and encouraged us to pay quickly and be on our way. "We know you very busy", they said helpfully. Luke shot that argument in the foot by saying, "No, we have some hours. It is okay. We wait til you give us a fine we can pay." And we leaned against our bike to demonstrate our lack of deadlines.
That incentive foiled, they had another pow wow and came back with the question, "How much money you have?" Luke's eyes twinkled as he pulled out a great wad of cash from his pocket. 10 dollars of local money, all in increments of 100 franc bills (worth about 10 cents a piece). It was an impressive stack, but as he fanned it out and waived it around, even the official police could not keep their faces straight. The joined us in laughing at the hilarity of the situation and quickly scuttled us off to a tiny restaurant where they could do their dealings out of sight. We agreed to split the money half and half. They would have some to satisfy the traffic violation, we would have some to buy flour. Luke counted out fifty 10 cent bills and we were on our way.
And thus continues life in the Congo. :)
Visiting with church members after the service last Sabbath (Swahili dictionary in hand). Luke and I ventured out on our own and had an interesting time communicating. :)
Preaching at the campus church.
I love this after church african tradition... shaking every hand and singing.
I never expected to love looking into people's mouths so much. Ever since Luke began teaching a dental class here at CFM, I have been an eager student. A portion of nearly every day of the past three weeks has been spent learning, practicing, and actually filling cavities. Last week was a marathon as we filled (or extracted) the students' teeth. Their gratefulness is touching. What a joy it is to serve...
Working with the help of my able translator, Joshua Mtenzi (seated in background).
The makeshift dental clinic.
We're starting mobile clinics now, which is even more enjoyable! I'll post pictures of that later.