Monthly Archives: July 2004

Good advice for my day

This came up in my reading through of II Corinthians.  For me it came as timely good counsel.
II Cor. 4: 7,8 and 9

But this precious treasure – this light and power that now shine within us – is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies.  So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.  We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken.  We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit.  We are hunted down, but God never abandons us.  We get knocked down, but we get up and keep going. (NLT)

I guess it was never in God’s intentions for me to be supermom/superwoman.  And that is good ’cause I sure am not!  I always think the weakness part of my life is so blaringly obvious. I wonder if even my kids will see that if I don’t give up and quit it is largely because of God walking with me through the difficult times.  

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Gemena – My Africa Story – Part2

SIL (aka Wycliff) has a Cessna five seater plane stationed in Yaounde, Cameroon.  This is the closest plane available to fly us across to the Congo, to Gemena.  Officially the border between the Republique Centrafricaine (RCA) and the Republique Democratique du Congo (RDC) is closed.  Flying into Gemena avoids the border hassels at Zongo and saves us a 20 hour road trip by truck.  We take off with four passengers and half our baggage and arrive in Gemena 45 minutes later. 

In Gemena we again must pass through customs and immigration but on a smaller scale.  The church’s truck brings fuel down to the plane for the return flight and loads up our trunks.  One of the pastors takes our passports to take care of these formalities.  Again our bags are undisturbed, unopened.  We are well cared for almost as if we are under divine protection.  God is very good. 

Hungry, we arrive at Jacques home in the early afternoon.  There is a meal ready for us -fuku (a sour corn meal mash), spinach greens, plantains and goat.  As we sit around the table and share this first meal in the Congo, I am reminded of communion.  This is a reunion meal, for me a remembering meal.  Foods eaten again for the first time in thirteen years, friendships renewed as we share at the same table.

Gemena is a city of eighty thousand or more.  No one knows the true number of people living there – no one knows when anyone last counted.  Of the buildings lining the main street, four appear to be used – the local political party, Campus Crusade for Christ and two stores selling cell phones and airtime.  The others, the bank, the pharmacy, the shoe store, etc. are empty, windows broken. 

The most dramatic change in this part of the world has been the introduction of the cell phone.  They are just about as common on the streets of Gemena as on the streets of Prince Albert and they, like the phones here seem to begin ringing as soon as anyone sits down to eat.  A call from Gemena to Bangui is just a local call even though the cities are in different countries.  Of all the changes that have taken place in the Congo, cell phones have to be the biggest progressive change.  Other changes were more in a regressive manner.  The cell phones were just totally wierd!

The stores may be closed but all kinds of merchandise is available in the “Grande Marche”.  One can buy almost anything – cans of Coke, toothpaste, baking powder, baby powder, bicyle tires and repair parts, batteries, cloth, used clothes and soap.  Even toilet paper!  And food – like a grand farmers market.  There is a section for meat, another for fish, another for greens, fruit, hot peppers, peanuts.  Meat and fish are sold freshly butchered, “on the hoof”,  or dired and smoked – accompanied by clouds of flies.  Sugar and salt are sold by the cup.  Gas is sold in jugs at the stall next to the soap or flour. 

Barganing is an art.  Jacques has it almost perfected.  But I am white – white people have money – and the price doubles.  We look and Jacques makes note of what he wants.  Then he sends someone back later to buy at the normal price when I am out of the way. 

The girls stick pretty close.  There are masses of people here and it is hard to pass through such a place without being jostled by the crowd.  They are unable to speak the common language – Lingala – and although they can communicate in French it also marks them as foreigners.  I am wondering if after the meat market experience if they will decide to become vegetarians.  I know that the Congolese all cook their meat very well – no rare steaks in this country.  And I am very glad. 

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Check it out

Just posted some pictures in the gallery – the market in Gemena.  Check them out.

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Same old …

In some ways coming back to the same old life with the same old problems is tougher than going off to the Congo where everyone anticipates problems. Today we are back dealing with major kid problems. And then yesterday there were family issues. And there is work stuff to deal with. It is hard to see where God is in all of this, even though I know he is here and never deserts us. But it sure is hard to see the way ahead sometimes!

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Losing independance?

Last night we had a family meeting – one of those family meetings where some tough decisions had to be made.  My aunt, who broke her leg about a month ago, is facing some major changes in the way she lives her life.  She has a very limited income and has almost a compulsion to give what little she has away.  She is easy prey to certain people who take advantage of her generosity and inability to say “no”.  I understand her too well.  I am tough when I am being taken advantage of but it is easy to feel like others needs are my responsibility when I see people in need too. 

So last night we talked about how we can best help her to make some changes to her life style.  Age is not always kind and there are many things she has to deal with – slower healing, a poorer memory, loss of the ability to drive and so loss of a lot of independance. 

Fortunately, she is recovering from her broken leg now in a wonderful care home.  This is making the transition easier in some ways since she can see that this place is a good place to be.  She still needs to make the final decisions herself – she is still capable of that.  We just have to be there for her, guarding her best interests, supporting her.  It is time for us to give back to her.  We are praying that she will have a real sense of peace about her place and her future.

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It is good…

to have spent 34 years married to Leo.  It sounds like a long time, and I guess it is.  But it has been a good long time with my best friend. 

Today we spent together – alone – after the kids took off to the lake to enjoy the sun and hot weather.  So we vegged out in front of the TV under the fan.  Tonight we are going to a movie – The Bourne Supremacy.

It has been a great weekend.  Our friends were married and that was a good and fun event.  I was the Matron of Honor(that sounds old, but anyway…) and this is the first wedding I have been part of except my own and my childrens since I was a flower girl when I was 5.  But I am very happy for my friends and I think they will be very happy together.  I will put some pictures up in a couple of days. 

Today I also got all my Congo pictures downloaded.  So you can look for them in the gallery in a day or so.

I think I can put in a picture of the wedding yesterday. 

I look back over the past 4 or 5 years as I have gotten to know my partner and as I watched these two fall in love.  I am very happy for them.  They will be good for each other. 

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The Return – My Africa Story – Part 1

We landed in Bangui at the beginning of the day, before the heat became unbearable – 7am.  There are no fancy gates sliding out to meet the airliner, just simple steps rolled out and down we go down to the tarmac in front of the dingy airport which has lost all of its glass to the war. 

We aren’t alone.  Other mission travelers joined us in Paris.  Z’s returning to see what is left of their belongings; returning to see if the proposal of working for a private well drilling company is feasible.  Can they do it psychologically?  They left their house by the back as the rebels came in the front and that whole experience still stings.  Are they ready to try this again?  Can they subject their children to this again?

G. L’s are, like us, transiting to the Congo, only in Bangui long enough to visit a few friends and stock up on staples for the stay at Karawa.  We (my girls and I) are only in Bangui overnight.  In the morning we will take a small SIL plane to Gemena in the Congo. 

We see our contacts waiting in the reception area, just past immigration.  In Africa, if traveling by air, it is essential to have contacts someone who knows the routine, someone respected and recognized by the local authorities.  You do not want to arrive alone, easy prey for the immigration officers, the customs inspectors and the hordes of porters all waiting to exploit the unwary traveler.  They wait for you and your luggage like crows after road kill. 

All of a sudden, a woman turns back to the gates barring her return to the plane where luggage is being off loaded.  She is screaming; the soldiers are holding her back.  Hysterical, sobbing and screaming she is creating a scene worthy of an African woman of high standing whose bags are being pilfered.  She claims the bag and continues to sob for the things she has lost. 

We are still waiting for our paperwork to be completed.  Waiting, part of a moving mob of people, jostling to stay close behind our friends.  Knowing that pushing will not make the line go faster, but also knowing that we do not want to be the last in line the last chance to become their victims till the next plane arrives.  First our health cards are checked for vaccinations. (One does not want to travel without the required stamps in this card risk of being vaccinated right there in the airport, dirty needles and all.)  Then our visas are examined slowly what is the rush?  Passports are stamped.  We are in oh no another line the passports must be checked to make sure they were really stamped! 

Finally we too are in the baggage claim area – about a hundred people and luggage in a space only marginally larger than my living room at home.  We and our traveling companions claim a spot by the wall and begin collecting our bags which amazingly come in on a turning carousel.  As I sit on one waiting for the others, I realize that here I am in Africa again.  In the midst of all this confusion God comes.  I realize that the bags will come and that even if they don’t, we will be just fine.  He will arrange for us to have just what we need.   There is none of the panic and anxiety that I remember from years gone by.  This is God’s trip and I sense his control in the chaos.  Our bags arrive all seven trunks. 

Romans 8:31 What can we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?”

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