Monday, February 04, 2008
Rocking and Rolling in Bukavu, Congo!
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.
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!