Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Update on the little boy of the rape victim

Ed sent some pictures of the little boy who had surgery on a tumor. Thanks to the folks who gave so this little boy could be helped! Him mom, one of the rape victims we met in Bukavu is overjoyed!

Update on Offering

With the extra money we raised last Sunday for the earthquake relief, we were able to help repair one of the pastor's houses that was heavily damaged.

His name isRutakangwa Murhula. His house was totally destroyed in the earthquake. He received $60 to get his family into a rental house for 6 months but needs to rebuild. He has given me an estimate of $813 for all of the material and labor to get it done. This would be a house made from poles to which bamboo strips would be attached inside and out so that in between they can put small rocks and then coat with a layer of mud. It would have a metal roof.

He has come to work here every day since he got the $60 so he could help with the building of the wall without expecting any pay in return.

Thanks to those who gave and now have seen a blessing from the Lord!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Some good news on repairing Sopo's House

Mick Adams one of our Unit guys shared with our congregation this morning about Sopo's house and what we were doing in trying to repair it after the earthquake.

We gave people an opportunity to help us withe the expenses, needed about $1,000. The folks came up with almost $2,000! God bless you all! What a joy it is to pastor at a place like Maryland! You guys rock!

To God be the glory!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A night to hear about the Congo Trip

There will be a dessert and coffee time on Thursday Feb. 28, 6:30 pm in the Atrium at MCC for you to come and hear, see and learn about "The Unit's" mission to Congo.

There will be pictures and some video.

Love to have you there! Plan on coming.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday At MCC

It was great seeing all "the Unit" at church this morning! Some of us were a little ragged and still getting over jet lag and some tummy issues. But it was such a joy to be back worshiping with our family at Maryland.

My son asked me, "was culture shock harder going to Congo or coming back?" Good question! I told him they were both very uncomfortable and each was hard.

The sheer lack of normal comforts was everywhere in Bukavu. I missed my wife, my recliner, my shower, my bed, my TV, my good internet connection, my cell phone, electricity being on all the time, running water all the time, etc. The constant onslaught of poverty and the ravages of war were all around. One amazing cultural difference was the huge honor and respect the church of Congo gave us. We were treated like royalty and their humble respect was overwhelming.

Back here in the USA I was just overcome by all the things that were available to me that I had taken for granted. The sheer ability to be comfortable was just awesome. I don't think I ever want to take it for granted again. As I walked into MCC I was overwhelmed by the huge difference it was compared to the three churches we had worshiped at in Congo. Sometimes you just have to distance yourself from what you have to appreciate it and even understand it.

It was so hard after church to try and explain to a reporter about our trip. How do you put it into words. They seemed to fail us. But we tried. I found myself even disappointed in all the pictures that just didn't quite communicate what I saw and felt. In some ways I find myself thinking, wow, no wonder Jesus had such a hard time communicating the Kingdom of God! Talk about foreign concepts!

The little phrase we were taught by Ed Buell, was "TIA" or That Is Africa is really almost impossible to communicate to somone who hasn't been there and experienced it.

Hopefully over the next few months the six of us will do our best to communicate about our neighbors in Bukavu Congo. They taught us so much about faith, living for the day and hope. We learned what it meant do something in the name of Jesus and have it make a difference. Some lives were change, including ours.

I want to live more "in the moment" and not so much in the future. Easy to say, but I know how hard it will be. I think, "one day at a time" really hit me between the eyes in Congo.

Well so much for that rambling, forgive me, I am still kind of working it all through.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


We arrived home safe and almost sound at 10:10 pm in Indianapolis.

We had a slight detour through St. Louis after missing a connection in Chicago from a delay in Brussels, but that is minor with all this in perspective!

We will all be reorienting for a few days for sure.

God has been good! I have truly enjoyed and been blessed by the five guys; Mick, Dutch, Denny, Paul and Jim who joined me on this mission. Way to go UUNIT, you were awesome!

Thanks Ed and Brenda, you two were amazing, we are so blessed at MCC to partner with you and African Christian Mission.

From a tired but blessed Pastor Vinny.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

On our way home!

We left for home on Tuesday morning 9 am Bukavu time. We flew out of Bukavu to Kigali; interesting flight but all went well. We stayed in Kigali for 8 hours before we left for Brussels. That was quite an experience. Not your airport with a lot of conveniences! A ragged internet connection, but it did work with only two electrical outages!

We met a woman who works for the American Embassy; she is a believer and was worshiping at a church in Rwanda when the earthquake hit. We share our "rock and roll" stories. She was excited about what we had done and we gave her the blog site to check it out.

Met two guys in disaster relief that were stuck at the airport; one from New York the other from L.A. They said they were going to be on Oprah on March 2; we will see if we see them!

Met to missionary ladies from Phoenix also; Dutch had a great time talking with them and sharing stories.

We arrived here in Brussels at 7:30 am Brussels time; 1:30 am Terre Haute time. Have a four hour layover before an eight hour flight to Chicago. We are glad to see some things that look like home!

I am having a great cup of Espresso Mocha; not sure what I paid for it, but it was worth it! The internet is working like a charm and I am in a little bit of heaven until we real set foot of the mother land! Not looking forward to more airtime, but if that is what it takes! Dutch said it beats the vans and taxis in Bukavu!

See you soon!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Monday Evening 2.11

Monday evening 2.11

We had two groups of Congolese come to say good-bye to us. JP and his family was a precious time that we all deeply appreciated. What a great blessing from the Lord they were to us and continue to be to the Buell's.

Then the executive committee from Ceca 40 came had some tea and food with us. They formally thanked us from coming. Muganza, the President (Jeff & Peta), read from John 13:14-15 and told us that we had come to Congo and washed their feet. They gave us a certified thank you letter and invited us to come back any time. We likewise invited them to come to the U.S. some time. They laughed and said it was a pretty long walk and swim!

We closed out the night with a couple of more tremors, why not! We will not miss those things for sure.

None of us slept well. We were physically and emotionally exhausted. I just kept flashing back to my walk through the crowded market going to Sopo's. Then scenes of their house. Jambo'sana kept going through my head. The scene of washing feet was also on my mind. I have taught on that example many times. But this teaching to me was powerful. To say that people's feet are dirty around here and in need of attention is no overstatement for effect, it is reality.

The scenes of beautifully dressed Congolese women and smartly dressed men walking in mud and sewage will never leave my memory. The extreme measures they go through to be clean in the middle of all this dirt is exhausting.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sopo's Housse

Monday 2. 11

Today we start work on Sopo's house in the mountains. We are leaving in two crew's; the car Dido is using can only take four of us at a time.

It rained all night and we had a pretty good tremor this morning. We are praying that the conditions will be the best they can be so we can get the house all under roof before dark.

We were able to put the generator out under the new lean-to in case the electricity goes off. That was a real relief to Ed and Brenda. Brenda is so pleased with the bright newly painted dinning room at the mission house.

We are all getting the things we are leaving out of all our bags and condensing what we have for the trip back home. We will be leaving at 9 am for the Bukavu airport to take a short flight to Kigali. We will stay for about 5 hours in Kigali before our flight out to Brussels.

We have some real mixed emotions for sure. We all talked at our devotion time about where do we go from here with our partnership. We will seek the Lord's leading and work with the Eldership as they partner with Ed when he returns. On a short-term basis we will try to raise the balance of the money for the rebuilding of Sopo's house; about $1,000.

The scene of walking to Sopo's house was breathtaking. It made all our other experiences of walking in Bukavu pale in comparison. The poverty and filth was magnified by a hundred. Little shanty houses beyond description.

Sopo and Josephine were just overwhelmed with our generosity. She proudly showed me her home. We got a shot of five of the seven children at the door. You see it here on the blog. They were precious.

We drew a crowd, I would estimate between a hundred and a hundred and fifty little children just enthralled with all the "muzungo" (white man) at our house. Josephine said she had never dreamed a white person would ever be at her house let alone be so generous to them. She said several times in broken English that God had blessed her and her house was beautiful.

Denny and Paul did the lion's share of the work along with a Congolese roofing guy and his helpers. We all felt frustrated at not being able to help more. We drew more attention than help!

The view driving down the mountain was breathtaking in its beauty mixed with the raw ugliness of humanity. I am just in awe at how the two are mixed here. The lake, the mountains and the plants are simply some of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. The sheer filth and poverty is totally contrasted against it.

We have offered a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus. It seems like a drop of water in an ocean of pain and suffering. Please Lord, multiply it a hundred fold for your glory.

The six of us ache for a beautiful people suffering from the ugly result of war and hatred.

Abba Father, love on your hurting children for us, we can't get our arms around all of them but know you can.

Sunday Church

Sunday 2.10

We got up early to catch our 7:30 am van. We are off to Mudaka church about 15 kilometers (9 miles) north following Lake Kivu. That is a bit misleading! It took us 1 hour and 10 minutes to get there. I wish I could describe the drive. All six of us would tell you it was a ride in hell on our way to a heavenly experience! It was on roads that are literally beyond description. We got beat up on the ride and I do mean beat up. Ed said if he had known how badly the roads had deteriorated he would have never had us make the trip.

When we arrived they treated us as royalty. We entered as a group and sat on wooden planks that had been placed over their baptistry at the front right side of the building. The building was a really nice brick structure that Ed Nickles helped them build in 1983.

We worshiped the Lord with them in some great rhythmic motion. The pastor introduced Ed and Brenda and then Ed introduced each of us to the congregation. I preached the same message as last Sunday on hope, shortened a bit due to the fact it took us longer to get there than we all anticipated and I needed to adjust for time sake! We arrived at 9:30 am and the service ended at 12:30 pm. We shared in times of thanksgiving, the Lord's Table. They dismissed all the non-baptized people prior to taking Communion, a unique way for many of us.

Forty-Seven people came forward after my message to repent and be prayed for. They placed straw mats in the center of the room and they all knelt as the Elders prayed over them.

They then had the sick come forward in a large group; not sure how many, and then they invited Mick one of our Elders to come and pray over them.

There were 466 present at the service; there were three other locations having services also from this congregation that totaled 1,000.

At the close of the service the pastor invited me up front and prayed a blessing over me and asked they our congregation pray for them. He read from I Thess. 5:16-25. I was in awe. That is our Shalom passage about being sanctified in Spirit, body and soul. It was a God moment.

After the service we were given a tour of the grounds, shown the original mud and board building built in 1972. They have a really small and deteriorated building for a medical clinic.

They treated us to a chicken, rice and banana lunch.

We took our long ride home and got back to the house at 3:30 pm.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Building a Lean-To

Saturday 2.9

We had two tremors last night; some of us felt them and others just slept through them, I think we are getting a bit used to it!

Mick, Dennis and Ed took off to do some more supply shopping and a trip to Sopo's house to get a visual on all that is going to need to be done. Looks like all we are going to be able to do is put the tin roof on.

Meanwhile the three carpenters, and a go-fer (me) staid at the mission house to build a shelter for the generator. It was quite a planning session in trying use the not so perfect African lumber and tying it in to the back of the house. Once there were enough discussions and a lot of figuring we got to work. We missed "engufu" the strong man (Dennis) but with the four of us we made up for him!

It was a gorgeous morning, one of the most pretty so far. Nice 80 degree temperature and a beautiful blue sky. We took a few breaks to enjoy the scenery and rest our weary bodies. We all plan on awarding Paul a "purple heart" for the most blood shed. The band-aids and neosporin have come in rather "handy" and I am sure when you see him you will be able to tell why!

I am "tweaking" my sermon from last Sunday to change a few words that will make it better for Ed to translate. We are all looking forward to our worship withe the Congolese church again. Ed is making final plans as to which one we will attend. He would like to take us a little farther out of the city so we can do a little more sight seeing on the way.

We all ate popcorn and watch an old flick called "The God's Must Be Crazy". Ed and Brenda thought we would get a kick out of it. It is about a bush-man in Africa who deals with some pretty strange folks and an "evil thing" he needs to get rid of. The picture looked great on the computer projector as we shot it up on the freshly white painted wall of the kitchen. Dutch nodded off a few more times than was polite, but to say we were all a little "bushed" ourselves was an understatement.

I am working to get both these blogs (Friday and Saturday) up, not sure I will get a chance on Sunday. We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We face that with some mixed emotions. We are all anxious to get back to the states and our families, but at the same time there is just so much to do. Ed and Brenda are kind, they know things just take a little longer to get done around here.

We are planning to go to Sopo's house on Monday if we can get the supplies ready and begin the rebuild on his mud house. Please pray about helping us with that in any small way you an. Check out my Friday post for the details.

Helping Re-build a home

Friday 2.8

We have made a great friend of one of our Congolese brothers in Christ named Sopo. Brenda says they are the best choir in the district and get requests to come sing all over town. He is a choir director for one of the Ceca 40 churches that Ed and Brenda work with here in Bukavu. His wife Josephina is the head of the women's ministry. Our friendship began the first day we began work at Tracy's Heart. All six of us converged on the rooms we were going to paint and were kind of working out some details when in walked a tall Congolese man.

Ed introduced him to us as one of the volunteers from the church that was going to give his time to helps us paint. He waved his hands in a choir leader fashion and stated that he was a choir leader. He addressed me as "pastore" and was really pleased we could work together.

Every day we were there, so was Sopo. He worked long and hard right along side us not getting paid just like us. Some of the Congolese men were being paid due to their expertise and the needs that Ed had to have some important projects on the house completed.

We learned he has seven children, he brought a handmade guitar one day and began playing it for us. Denny was impressed! He picked it up and did a little jamming with Sopo. In case you didn't know it, Denny used to play a lot of guitar (I hadn't known that until our trip here).

We learned that Sopo is one of the many who has been effected by the earthquake. He has a mud house that has one whole wall tilted away from the house and beyond repair. One of the things that Ed and Brenda have been trying to do, much like us at MCC, is to get people to help each other as brothers and sisters in Christ. Sopo has been doing that in helping to remodel Tracy's Heart.

The six of us here along with the Buell's are going to start the project of rebuilding his home as an act of love from us and for his contribution to Tracy's Heart. We believe we are going to need about $1,500 to get this small mud house completed. We know we can't get it all done before we leave, we are going to order materials and do what we can on Monday before we leave. You can tell by the pictures that we have our work cut out for us.

If you can help us show Sopo and his family how his family in Indiana care just get a check to me at MCC as soon as you can. Anything will help! We will wire it to Ed and Brenda and get it done!

As you can tell from the pictures, we painted inside the mission house today and finished up some roofing. Ed ordered materials for building a shed to house the generator. It was quite a site watching the materials being delivered. There was quite a chaotic moment as the dump truck was attempting to back into the drive and dump the sand for concrete. He finally decided after a lot of directions from about everyone that the best thing to do would be to dump it just outside the gate, we all breathed a sigh of relief.

We had some great comic relief at dinner time when Mick tried to complement the cook about his doing a great job on the chicken. "Cuku" means good in Swahi. The cook thought he was calling him a chicken!

Mick and Dutch got a treat of going downtown to do some shopping (won't tell you what they bought) it was quite an experience. Brenda actually made it back with both of them and not so usual, they got a good deal on what they were looking for.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Thursday 2.7

We had a quiet nights sleep! No tremors after four days. We are all relieved.

We divided and conquered today. Some went to Tracy's Heart to finish some plumbing, painting and tile work. The bathroom there is really beginning to look nice. New toilet, shower, hot-water heater, tile and fresh paint.

The others worked at the Mission House (where Ed and Brenda live and we are staying). Paul and Chu Chu did their high wire act on the roof. Lots of repairing of nails on the tin roof, patching and replacing some well worn pieces. Don't worry Kerri, we yelled at him real hard! The pictures make it look a lot worse than what it was (he told me to say that). Scot Telle wanted some creative shots, how about that one of Chu Chu! Looks like he is really a magical man! (Eat your heart out Jim Avelis---now that was a shot!)

Dutch, Jim and Mick took a cabinet out of the attic, lowering through the ceiling, yes that is what I said, and putting it in the kitchen (Mick and I caught it!). Now Brenda has some nice storage space. A mason put a tile top on the sink and it really brightened it up with a fresh coat of paint thanks to Mick and Dutch.

Dennis did some finish up plumbing and hung a really nice mirror in Ed and Brenda's bedroom.

Brenda and I worked hard at trying to get the blog up at the internet cafe this morning. Spent and hour and a half trying to get things done on the blog. Was only able to get one picture and the words. Very very frustrating. But as they say TIA (that is Africa). Hopefully I can get more uploaded today.

This afternoon Ed arranged for about seven guys to come by the house and show us their things for sale. This is much easier and less of a problem than if we all went to the market. Ed and Brenda did the bargaining for us and we all made some purchases for loved ones----yes, some of you reading this. Won't tell you what, but we got some really nice things that we were grateful for the help the Buell's provided. It was a pretty wild and crazy place on the lawn as they all had their things for sale all scattered out for us to see. We really hated not being able to buy something from each of them. They need the income so badly.

Four ladies and a baby came to see Brenda today. The baby had fallen during the earthquake and hit his head. They sang and prayed and asked God to protect the little boy. The songs and prayers in Swahili were a pleasing sound to God and to us.

Today we feel like we have made some great progress. We are getting a little frustrated that we can't get as much done as we had expected but everything just takes so long! Between the purchase and the travel it is not like going to Lowe's or Walmart!

Dido, the driver the Buell's have hired for us to run us around, told me today through Brenda that he felt bad about the way he is beating us up in all trips on the rough roads! He says it really wears him out each day as he drives. If you all only could experience a two mile trip in a taxi in Bukavu you would understand.

We had some fresh tomatoes for lunch today from the market that you all in Indiana would just die for! Fresh from the vine and delicious. The passion fruit juice and pineapples are wonderful. We eat a lot of rice, they grow it hear and it is a real staple. The sauce that the cook makes to pour on it is delicious, have no idea what it is make of. Of course Denny and I manage a nice cup of Starbucks at 3pm-----when we can! Had to bring an American staple with us!

Ed led us in a devotion from James 1:2-3 on " Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." Here was a comment he made that really struck home to us. "pure joy is not the absence of pain, it is the presence of God."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

An Answered Prayer!

Wednesday 2.6

We started out at the internet cafe this morning and had a lot better success at getting on and using a good connection.

We continue to have small tremors and that always keeps you a little on the anxious side. The article I found on the BBC says it had the quake at 6.1 on the richter scale; 99 buildings down with over 200 damaged; 5 people killed. With news the way it is around here it is all hard to tell but that is the best we know.

An old friend of Brenda, Christina, came by and told her that she and her family have been sleeping on cold concrete outside. She related to us that it was ok, they still had God and he would protect and care for them. A local pastor came by and talked with Ed, he has lost his mud house in the quake and is looking for another place. Ed was able to give him $60; six months rent until they can get a new mud house built; probably about $500 or so.

I shared out of Hebrews 12:25-27 at devotions. "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. The words, "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken----that is, created things---so that what cannot be shaken may remain."

We are learning what being "shaken" really means. As the earth has moved, we have been moved. Nothing and I mean nothing can remove us from the love of God. Not even an earthquake.

Wanted to update you on the little boy of Bernadette, the rape victim from the bush I mentioned. The money has been pledged by some of you folks back in the states. GOD BLESS YOU! He has been glorified. This woman's life is being touched by the love of God through His people.

We got a lot done today. Ed was back and forth with supplies and trying to find a lot of plumbing pieces.

We had glass replaced in windows. Sometimes it took some create carpentry from Paul, Dutch and Chu Chu. The guys were not impressed with the window glaze stuff we had to use but it got the job done.

Jim and Dennis did some serious plumbing. They got hot water line ran to the kitchen, a faucet in the kitchen and the water heater hung in the bathroom. They were working on the lines to the water heater and should get them pretty much finished today. A local mason was installing a bathroom stool----yes, mounted in concrete.

Sopo one of the local choir directors has been awesome painting with us and we got a second coat on three rooms.

Been without electricity since early this morning when Brenda fixed us eggs and toast, it is 3 pm and no electricity. Makes the day challenging. Lwahira (the cook at Buell's) fixed us fried rabbit, cooked carrots, and rice for dinner using charcoal and a kerosene burner. It was delicious. We had put in a hard day at it really hit hit the spot. Brenda kidded us about little bunny fu fu but we just ignored her!

We have really grown to appreciate this African brother who gets paid $12 a week to come and cook and clean for us. It costs his $4 of that to travel. Don't get it wrong, he is blessed by that. But is sure puts a new bent on the value of a dollar.

We are finding some lanterns and getting ready for our evening devotions. It has been a good day, we hope we don't do any rocking and rolling tonight.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday 2.5

We had fairly good nights sleep, still a few rumblings, but believe it or not, we have almost gotten used to it! Many people still slept outside out of fear of falling homes. If you could see them you would understand.

Things are back to pretty much normal at the market and stores. They have cleaned up, and I use that term lightly, but most are open for business. JP's wife did not work today because the store she worked at is still closed.

While Ed did some preparation for our work today, all us guys hand carried bricks to prepare for the repairing of the fallen wall. These bricks are not your "hard as a rock American bricks". They break very easily, about a third of them were in pieces.

Ed did some shopping for materials today for repairs on Tracy's Heart. He found an 80 gallon water heater, some faucets, some piping but still lacking on some connectors that they are trying to track down.

The bathroom was almost beyond words, Dennis and Jim jumped in and drained the shallow concrete basin that remained of the tub that was taken out. They cut metal pipes and removed a non-working toilet. Mick, Dutch and I did some painting in the kitchen and living room. Paul and Chu Chu one of the Congolese guys from the church repaired the metal corrugated roof with new nails, replacing some pieces and patching quite a few holes.

Some of the rape victims came to meet us today. Diadota one of the rape victims that has been helped by Tracy's Heart has become a Christian and worshiped with us on Sunday. She had a smile that was electric. They brought a new victim from the bush with a little baby boy that was quite sick. He had a "tumor" like growth. Her name was Bernadette. She was terrified to come in the yard, but the other women helped her. By the time we had talked and made her welcome she was willing to let us pray for her and the little boy. Brenda arranged for her to be taken to a doctor for an exam for $15. It will be a $1,000 for operating on the little boy we found out later this afternoon. They are going to try and find a less expensive place that will do the surgery.

We learned today that the word for strong in Swahili is "engufu"; that is what they keep calling Dennis. We like that new nickname only we think it is a little closer to "goofy" than he would like to be called! Don't worry Rita we are taking good care of your man.

We had our first taste of a local food for lunch today; it was called Sombosa. They were a little like egg rolls only a lot more spicy. We enjoyed!

JP is going downtown to renew our visas for another seven days. We bought airfare from Bukavu to Kigali. We all decided that the short airplane trip would be a little better than the six hour van ride back through the Rhwanda mountains. We will see! Don't be nervous Bob Brown, we are told they are very reliable planes. I must say, the risk couldn't be much worse than that van ride we took! I can't even describe the wild ride and all the dodging of people alongside the roads.

It is 7:35 pm here in Bukavu. We were having our devotions on Mt. 6:25 ff. "Do not worry about your life...." and a sudden quake hit. We are not positive, but it was real close to the power of the first one. We were all ready to head for the door and it began to settle down. We are really concerned for the poor people here who have already lost their homes. There is a volcano about 60 miles north of here and some are concerned about that. Wow, this has been a little more than what we bargained for! I don't want to overly concern you folks in Terre Haute, but this is quite a local tragedy. People don't have much before this started, now there have been people sleeping outside for the last three days.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Rocking and Rolling in Bukavu, Congo!

Sunday 2.3

The Church of Buholo, Bukavu
Pastor Gaston, Pastor Buhendwa, Pastor Ngoy, JP Nshombo (Elder)

We started for church after our morning devotions given by Brenda Buell. 9 am.

We took a ride in a van that was quite a sight! A new van had been rented but broke down; this van was running but that is an overstatement!

The trip literally brought some of us to tears as we drove the 20 minutes to the church. The scenes of poverty and suffering is beyond words. The roads will have me never complaining about a pot hole again as long as I live.

The church of six years old meets in a lean-two shelter on the back of a home that one of the members lets them use. These are people who escaped to Bukavu during the war. One of the testimonies was by a man who told his story of escape in the war. One mother testified that she was so happy to be there this morning after the Lord had healed her son that she thought was gong to die for several weeks. She then started a "thank offering" with her gift to God. They took this offering along with a building offering in addition to the tithe offering. Ed had given us some Congolese Franks ($10 worth) that we had divided into three gifts.

We had many choirs come and sing for us after we were introduced. The children's choir, students choir, women's choir and several special numbers. One of them was the English version of "Lord We Lift Your Name On High" just for us. We sang and did the motions and they were thrilled and loved watching us as we sang! A brief moment of the universal Church!

Mid-way through a congregational song led by one of the choirs, the earth began to shake, and I mean shake! An earthquake hit the city! We found out later in the day; 4.5 on the richter scale with an epicenter 35 mi. east of Bukavu in Rhawanda. JP one of the Elders that took us had a phone and he received a call. They were telling him about the damage. His house had some small damage, but a house nearby had severed damage and a wall fell on a little boy and he was killed. A market came down and killed about six people we were told, we saw the market on our way home. The house we are staying at, Ed and Brenda's house has some damage inside with the concrete walls and a back privacy wall that came down. We heard that twenty-three were killed in nearby Rhawanda about sixty miles away. We praise the Lord that we are all ok; about four aftershocks have made us a little nervous.

I preached and Ed Buell translated. They wanted the pastor of the Mission couple to preach for them. They really considered it a real treat. I was truly humbled and it was so difficult to speak to them. You all know me, speaking is a natural part of who I am, but speaking with a translator is really really hard. I wanted to say so much but just had to limit myself to a written message that I could go slow and have a translation going. I spoke on hope. Wow, if any group of people I know that needs hope it is this group of people.

Our Elder Mick Adams had the precious privilege of joining the Elders of this congregation in blessing a baby. He was brought to tears and the privilege of praying for the baby and his parents. We were treated to bread and coke after the service and many goggling children. They are just amazed at us white folks. They all wanted their picture taken and Dutch and Mick were more than happy to oblige. I picked one picture among more than you can imagine.

As we broke bread together and shared in the blood it was truly a God-sized moment. "Glocalization" was becoming really really visible for the body of Christ from Maryland Community Church. Our Elder in the group, Mick Adams, was honored by being asked to help pray for a baby that was being dedicated. He was so surprised that he asked if "he was to pray in English?" We kidded him that it would have been a good time to pray in tongues!

Four hours later we left to go check out the earthquake damage at JP's home, Tracy's heart and the Buell's. We sat down to eat about three o'clock after making some quick calls home to some wives we could reach. We didn't know if the news of the quake would make it back home or not.

Ed and some of the guys have called a taxi to go see what we need to do in damage control at Tracy's heart tomorrow. The rest of us are here at the house, feeling a few tremors and just in awe of all the good, scary and amazing moments of the day. God has been gracious to us, we grieve with the memory of the sight of the house near Tracy's heart with the family of the little dead boy killed by a falling wall. The feelings are overwhelming and we struggle. We have went from such a spiritual high to such a spiritual sorrow. Please father God, wrap these hurting people in your arms of love for us. We seem so incapable of helping more.

My message today ended with the words of Paul, "Christ in you, the hope of glory" from Colossians 1:27. I am so reminded of the truth of those words, without Christ in us, there is no hope. This world fails us, people fail us, we are surrounded by suffering and death. One day, all the tears will be wiped away., all suffering and pain will be gone. Maranatha, come soon Lord Jesus! I will one day stand around the throne with my Congolese brothers and sisters.

A Lord's Day I will never forget.

On a lighter note; make sure you ask Brenda how Paul Robinson marks his socks. Then ask Mick what "anopheles" is, he thinks he is so smart! Or if that doesn't get your attention; ask him what "a great concert with a second movement" is.

Monday 2.4

We had a pretty restless "rock and roll" night in Bukavu. We had two more strong aftershocks. Ed and Brenda ended up sleeping in chairs in the living room at about 2:30 am. The wall in their bedroom was losing some concrete and making it a little uncomfortable! Most of the people in Bukavu slept out in their yards. The last we knew there were 6 dead and 110 injured. Ed went to buy some supplies for lunch and most of the stores were closed for cleaning up; shelves emptied!

We joined many of the Congolese Christians in doing earthquake repair at Tracy's heart in the morning. There were somewhere between 30-40 young and old that joined us. We broke up mortar off the fallen brick walls; cleaned the bricks and stacked them in large piles. We did it under the tree that a monkey was tied to and he wasn't too happy!

We shoveled dirt and rocks from a retaining wall so it could be rebuilt. We found a few snakes and a couple of friendly scorpions, well at least Denny said their were friendly! All this while there were guys white-washing and running conduit for electricity. I will post one picture of the conduit for Norm Cheesman to see. Denny wanted to make sure you saw what a real electrician could do!

Norm, you won't believe the skill this guy had. He cut six one foot pieces with a putty knife by scratching it and then breaking it. He took the pieces; chewed some cardboard, stuffed it in the ends. He then poured sand in the six tubes. He then took a charcoal pan and heated them over it slowly and then did 90 degree bends. If that wasn't enough, he then heated the ends, used a cold piece and made joints! What do you union guys know anyway!

We took a break for lunch; bought the Congolese guys some rolls and Cocas (Cokes). They loved it! They don't usually have lunch.

We then regrouped and took on the safety wall that had fallen down at the mission house. About six of the guys from over at Tracy's Heart joined us there.

I don't have room for all the pictures of kids that where gogling at us, but there were a lot. Dutch pestered them and Denny fed them, go figure! We were all impressed with how hard all the Congolese boys worked. They were barefoot but kept pace and out did us at times. They shoveled in their bare-feet. When one of them cut his hand handling the bricks; Denny gave him his gloves, well then they all started showing us their hands so we gave up our gloves too!

The pastor of the congregation we worshiped at Sunday joined us; he was awesome. He had a big smile on his face and wore a 50 Cent t-shirt. We kidded him of course. This was a great opportunity for volunteerism and team-work for them and Ed was thrilled with the turn-out and the energy they displayed in working with their American brothers.

Well, guess I have stalled long enough, better get out and help The Unit work on the Wall!