Saturday, February 02, 2008
The Unit In Bukavu
What a whirlwind of a emotions and tiredness! We took a six and a half hour bus ride across the mountains of Rhwanda to the border of Congo. The ride was quite a thrill ride; hard to even explain in words. But let's just say we did a lot of sliding on the seats and praying for all the little children walking along the road. I guess you could call most of it a road! We enjoyed seeing the monkeys as we went through the national forrest. Little black and white flashes of fun alongside the road.
When we got to the border it was quite a scene that still takes my breath away. The definite difference in poverty from Rhwanda to the Congo was staggering. There were large crowds of people, men women and children all battling for the privilege of carrying our 26 pieces of luggage or so across the rickety bridge. JP negotiated terms and gave out the work. It seemed like it took forever to get our health cards and passports all cleared on the Congo side. Rhwanda was computerized but not so in Congo. Ed said it was one of the more difficult and long ordeals of getting everything squared away he has ever had. We enjoyed that! That was a joke by the way.
Once we got to Bukavu, we were rushed off to the church building to be greeted by three choirs, the executive team from the organized church in Congo. It was quite humbling and overwhelming. The choirs were awesome even though we couldn't understand a word. The smiles, joy, clapping and dancing had a language all of its own. We were taken to the English school room at the bottom of a hill; quite a hill; and had a meal as special guests. The rice and potatoes were awesome and very delicious. The meat was very very tough; not any grain fed cattle here! We drank warm "Coca" or a coke for you Americans. How the bottle tops were taken off the one of the dignitaries from the Congo government offices is hard to describe! She took one bottle and with her fingers and a great act of leverage opened the second bottle! Never saw that before but quite ingenious!
We came home on some roads that I have never even imagined down through the city square and through the market. A pretty amazing sight, one I don't think I will ever get out of my mind. The level of poverty and desperation is quiet beyond words and only can be absorbed by your heart. Your mind can not even begin to process it all.
We all got situated in our bunks; mosquito nets and all! We had varying degrees of success at sleep.
We got up pretty early; 6 am or so. The electricity only went off for about 20 minutes, just enough time to get the generator outside and going! That was the only outage we had for the day. We were so busy, we were never able to get to an internet cafe on the first day of actual work.
We had several projects we tackled.
1) We screened the windows; at leas one in each room around the mission house. This was a long and hard task for measuring, cutting and then stapling the screen to the white washed windows. That was an easy description. The windows were all bared up; so getting the stapler to the window and stapling was the real tough part. Paul used a less that OSHA approved ladder on half the house! He was the smallest guy and the one we felt had the best odds! The rest of us cheered him on and held the ladder.
2) Dennis and Jim built some vert strong and large saw horses! Then they tackled a bench that proved to be very helpful in the evening for the meal we had with a large crowd of people!
3) Dutch, Paul and a lot of advisers then tackled a small but difficult task of building a box around the front door screen in which you could put your hand back through the screen door and lock it from the inside with a padlock. This amounted to some great engineering, some tactful hinges, some not so graceful cutting of a piece of metal and and very handy piece of rubber tire! But it got done! I must say the Dutch was a great deal of inspiration as he cheered Paul on and hassled Mick's sage advice.
4) Vince took a lot of pictures, prayed a lot by practicing the presence of the Lord in every small task! And of course tried to keep Dutch from totally breaking our silly bones.
5) Dennis and Jim tackled a new fauset in one of the bathrooms. You will have to ask them about the great washers they built and the wonderful experience of righty tighty and lefty lucy. Enough said.
6) We celebrated Ed's 57th birthday with a wonderful meal and good friends! JP the Buell's right hand man and all his wonderful family came over to eat with us and share in some cake. JP''s little two year old grandaughter stole the show! She was adorable and gave everyone big kisses. She was really decked out and full of energy, needless to say the camera's got a lot of action and the tired old men just were in awe!.
The jet lag kicked in for us in ways we had not expected. Some light headed kind of sugar low feeling; don't worry dear; it really wasn't, a little queasiness and a mid-afternoon point of exhaustion.
Ed and Brenda spent hours down town going from shop to shop trying to find some hinges, nails, paint and some tile. It was very frustrating and only about half successful. They will try again in the morning with some further help from the son-in-law of JP who knows some connections and places to look.
I am writing this at 5 am on Friday morning; woke up about 4 am and took a shower; nice and warm! Having a cup of spiritual Joe and trying to clear my head and heart of so many thoughts.
I will say, I will never feel unfortunate again. I will never feel poor again. I will never feel more humble than I am feeling at this moment. I say that knowing that the next days the lie ahead will probably turn out that it will only intensify!
Ed took Mick and I (Vince) to a hardware store; not exactly what we have in the states, to purchase paint for Tracy's Heart. It took us two and a half-hours to finally get 20 gallons of paint. It was a much better quality of paint than he had found in others places but it went from one extreme, really thin, to really thick. We had to cut this paint to get it able to use.
A couple of the guys, Paul and Jim, had to hang around the house and do some sleeping and hydrating for the day. The jet lag and dehydration had really got to them. They look a lot better today!
The rest of us cleaned and painted three of the five rooms we needed to get painted. At least we finished one good coat on two of them and two coats on one. We will finish the two other rooms and a hall way on Saturday morning and then take some time to hopefully get some rest and visit the internet cafe to get this posted!
Mick, Dutch and I spent a little time at breaks just viewing the scenery from Tracy's heart and praying. It is quite a site, pictures don't do it justice. You have the UN camp high on the hill on the left and the Congolese camp far on the right. Below them are a lot of houses in all kinds of sizes and shapes that just breaks our hearts for the people. It is impossible for us to comprehend their daily existence, and I mean that quite literally.
Dennis gave a little guy a snickers candy bar and sat him on his lap. It was quite a site, not sure he ever had a snickers!
The choir director from one of the churches came and volunteered his help with us. He really worked hard! We had quite a time communicating with him. But his eyes and smile were awesome!
We finished up some painting at Tracy's Heart; 4 rooms and a hall way. Looks much much better!
Finished some screen work on the mission house.
Took a while to get lunch today; the electricity was out all morning; used charcoal, etc.
You should see the charcoal iron ladies! Getting our Sunday morning best prepared.
Used the generator to do the first load of laundry on a brand new Japanese washer that is quite interesting!
We are at an internet cafe that is less than up to speed; but we are grateful!
Pray for us tomorrow as we go to worship service. They said to be prepared for 3 hours worth!
I don't ever want to hear about too long again!