Monthly Archives: June 2004

Moving on

On Monday I will begin giving the courses which I prepared for the guys I trained back in the days we lived at Karawa.  It is hard to know what is relevant so I will follow up on any specific requests for info as I can.  I’m sure we will talk about many things besides dentistry too.  Some of the dental topics we are going to be doing are infection control, manifestations of diseases of the mouth, local anesthesia techniques, and some different restorative techniques. 

Songo sent me a message that he ahs a couple of difficult cases he wants me to see.  I hope I am up to doing whatever they need.  Difficult cases out there could mean surgical stuff that I haven’t done for years. 

I also want to work through a few topics with them on spiritual issues.  One of the things that I am happy about is that all the guys that I taught are alive.  As far as I know not one of them has developed AIDS – and they have remained respected leaders in the community.  That may seem like it should be a given but since we left, many of the nurses and leaders at the hospital have died.  Aids is a big killer in a promiscuous culture – and it is that.  I spent a lot of time with these guys as I was training them – pretty much one on one for a period of two years at a time.  Although I did not specifically teach them Biblical subjects while they were getting their dental training we would discuss Christian ethics and moral values.  And I tried to hold them to certain standards of honesty and respect for the patients.  It will be very good to hear their faith stories.

I should be at Karawa teaching and working until July 10.

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Somewhat live, from Linea

This came in from Linea, Friday June 25.

Not quite a week has passed for us here in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  If you check a map of this part of the world, I am north of the Congo River, north of the equator, south of the border between Congo and the Central  African Republic. About in the middle of that corner of the Congo at a town called Gemena.

I am staying in the home of Jacques Kongawi a doctor with the American Leprosy Mission.  I am typing this on a azerty keyboard and that in itself is a challenge.  This will be sent by SAT phone in few minutes.

Since arriving I have become reacquainted with many people.  Tonight we went to the Catholic mission where an old friend Pere Marcel is living.  He was like a grandfather to my children and so we spent time looking at photos together.  He visited us once in Canada and has fond memories of that visit. The priests at this mission stayed throughout the war.  As he said” What did we have to lose by staying.  We had no families to worry about”.  That made a big impression on the people here.

Next door to Jacques lives a man who has begun what is a fairly popular way to extract money from the poor.  He has his own private brand of religion – pseudo Christian – and people bring him their earnings and produce.  There are lots of these cults springing up.  These false leaders seem to have no fear of God.

Today I had visitors from the CEUM – that is the local church of the Covenant variety;  two women who want to see their daughters go on in their education.  They have finished high school.  Without  funds that are sure- some sort of scholarship or bursary they will be faced with an impossible dream.  Or be forced to obtain their marks by what is  referred to as CST “cĂ´tes sexuallement transmis” or sexually transmitted marks.  Not what any parent would wish for their daughter but a reality in  this promiscuous society.

I hope to send some more reports by e-mail.  I have no access to the internet and I am missing that.  So are my girls – deprived of their MSN.

Greetings to all,

(Posted for Linea, by Randall Friesen)


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Live update, well sorta.

This email was sent by Linea June 21. She wrote:

We are back in the Congo.  It is a bit incredible!  No flights missed, no
luggage lost.  No hassles getting stuff through customs either here or in

Today we flew by small plane(SIL) from the Central African Rep. to  Gemena
in the Congo.  Part of our cases of dental supplies came today and the rest
will come tomorrow.  We received all of our luggage but other people
traveling with us lost all of their luggage en route.  Those of you praying
for us as we traveled – thank you – but don’t stop now.

This part of Africa has not made a lot of progress in the thirteen years
since we left – in some things.  In other things, the change is incredible!
My girls just got off the phone with Grace’s great aunt in Kinshasa.  No one
could ever just pick up a telephone and call back in the days!  And they
watched TV this afternoon powered by battery, received by satellite.

But there are more buildings abandoned, sometimes with visible evidence of
bullet or mortar fire.  And the roads are thirteen years worse.  Glass was
mostly gone at the airport.  But the people were still there to see the show
and we were it!

The smell of wood smoke is in the air tinged with the slight flavor of the
palm oil used for cooking.  And then there is the smell of the roasted corn
that lingers on my hands from our afternoon snack.  My hopes of loosing gobs
of weight on this trip are going fast.  But I like it here anyway.  The
senses are reawakening to Africa.  It is good to be here.  It is good of God
to have brought us here again.


(posted by Randall Friesen, for Linea.)


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If this is Tuesday…

We should be in Gemena.  Gemena is where we will be visiting Dr. Kongawi for about a week.  Kongawi is the father of the two boys we have had living with us for the past ten years.  So now it is my turn to take advantage of his hospitality.  He is a great guy – good sense of humor, hard working and very hospitable as most Congolese are.  I haven’t seen him since 1999 when he visited us up here in Prince Albert.  Our wonderful government decided he is too big a risk to allow into Canada since his boys claimed refugee status while the civil war was raging in their home area. 

Jacques is the Leprosy and TB Co-ordinator for the northern part of Equateur province.  He works under the American Leprosy Mission(US) and is responsible for this branch of the health services for about 4 million people. 

And from what I hear, the UN peacekeepers are staying in his guesthouse next door.  Meeting them should be interesting too.


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Crossing over

If you have been following my travels, you will know that today is the day I should be flying by small plane to Gemena.  An SIL plane will come down from Cameroon and fly us across the border into the Congo.  The border between the Congo and the Central African Republic is officially closed.  So we get around that by flying over and entering at Gemena. 

The mission in Bangui has a guest house where we will be staying.  I have fond memories of staying there in the past.  It was a sort of vacation spot since we lived in the “bush” and Bangui is a city with stores and in those days restaurants.  It has gone through a few civil uprisings so may not be exactly as I remember it. 

One memory I have is taking our children to a restuarant and having David order a steak – well done.  The chef made a trip out to our table and appologised but he just could not do that to a steak. 

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Another overnighter in the plane.  Saves on hotel accommodations!  The only trouble is that our clocks will not have had time to adjust and we will be landing in Bangui at about midnight Saskatchewan time.  We will be craving sleep and everyone will just be getting up bright and chipper to start the day. 

We will not only be fighting sleep but will undergo a serious shock to our thermometers.  From the air conditioning of the plane we will step into the steam bath tropics of central Africa.  I can almost feel it hitting me as I write this from my naturally cooled home in Saskatchewan on this rainy morning. 

Greg, who returned not long ago from Africa tells me that I may be surprised at the airport.  I guess most of the glass was shot out in the last uprising in the Central African Republic.  It was not a bad airport back in the days – pre 1991.  I guess airports fare poorly in wars.

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À Paris

Bonjour, bonjour.  If it is Saturday morning Paris time that is where I will be.  For a few hours.  Our plane for Africa doesn’t leave till 11:00pm Paris time so we have about twelve hours to see all the sights of Paris.  Think we can do it? 

This is going to be my first time in Paris without little kids that have to be carried.  There are some things that one learns not to attempt as a parent when the kids are that small.  This time we had better all be able to walk on our own, jetlag notwithstanding. 

Planning to see the Eiffel Tower and someone suggested the Latin quarter.  I’ve always wanted to see the “rive gauche”  We’ll see what we will see.  Just got to keep moving so sleep does not overcome us!

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