Monthly Archives: August 2004

Animal Voices – My Africa Story – Part 7

Houses in rural Congo are very open.  Windows are screened and only occasionally have glass windows that can be closed.  Even those are usually left open to provide ventilation.  Air conditioning is rarer than glass and so is the electrical power to run them. 

Open windows allow sound to travel. 

The early mornings are full of sound.  Sometimes the nights are too.  Waking up to the sound of a rooster outside the window is pretty common – and it is likely the neighbors rooster.  All animals seem to wake up at the first signs of light.  Chickens, goats, parrots and the neighbor’s small children share this trait.  That seems to be about half an hour before the alarm clock that you set goes off. 

I was given a goat which travelled with me to Karawa – alive.  It seemed like a good idea at the time not knowing what the refrigeration situation was going to be when we arrived.  After the first night at Karawa it no longer seemed like a good idea to anyone.  It not only woke early but every hour on the hour all night.

Lament of the Sleepless Night

We took  a goat
Wedged between packing cases and door.
Live food,
Refrigeration not required.
So we  – and he
Endured the four hours
Confined together.
His bleats of  protest
At each sudden drop
Of wheel
Each sudden brake;
Vied for attention
With Bam Bam on cassette.

So we arrived,
Unpacked the beast.
Entrusted to the watchman’s care.
The night watchman,
Who sleeps
Guarding my bleating feast
Under my window
Where lies my sleepless head.
That goat will die today!


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The Church at Bokude Moke – My Africa Story – Part 6

Bokude Moke is the location of a Catholic mission on the outskirts of Gemena constructed about 15 years ago by the Pères de Scheut (sp?), a Belgian Catholic Missionary order.  By the time this particular mission was built, our friend, Père Marcel, had been working in Gemena with Wycliff for a few years. 

I seem to have had several reasons for thinking about the significance of Wycliff over the past few weeks.  For one, I read a novel based on his story or rather on the story of the translation of the Bible into English.  Second, we are having a woman speak in church tomorrow who has come up here to Canada to participate in the translation of the Bible into Cree.  Third I have a cousin and husband who were missionaries to Papua New Guinea with Wycliff and who still teach and work in Dallas with this organization.  Fourth, it brings to mind my good friend who I got to see again while visiting the Congo.  He is a linguist and co-operated with Wycliff in the translation of the Bible into Ngbaka. 

The Ngbaka are one of the larger tribal groups in the Ubangi Mongala region of Équateur province in the Congo.  Since it has a significant population more than the province I live in it is a language still spoken as the first language by the inhabitants of that part of the Congo.  Even if you are from one of the smaller tribes surrounded by Ngbakas, you will probably know how to speak the Ngbaka language.  The Catholic missionaries speak Ngbaka.  Protestant missionaries and other people foreign to the area tend not to speak this language.  It is a difficult language to learn very tonal and with short words, many one syllable.  You need to have a good ear to hear the differences in tones and most of the protestant missionaries have been content to stick with the simpler trade language of Lingala.  Maybe we were in too much of a rush to get to work or simply too busy with what we were sent out to do” to take the time needed to learn this language.

Let me tell you a little about my friend.  I think he is a remarkable man.  He is the guy with the little goatee in the foreground.

Père Marcel entered the priesthood a long time ago.  He was getting ready to go out to China and had spent four years studying Chinese in seminary when the political upheaval there ended all chances of going to China.  So he was redirected to Africa to the Congo to the Ngbaka people.  And that is when he began his study of this language.  When he got out to the Congo, he perfected it as he lived closely with the people.

We got to know Père Marcel as a friend when he was living at the mission of Bobadi.  We would visit there from time to time.  It became a place we could go for a break.  The Dutch sisters and the Belgian fathers were welcoming, even to Protestants and even to a lapsed Catholic.  It was a place we could go and talk about things that were important to all of us and where Leo could enjoy a cold beer in good company away from abstemious watchers.  We began to care for each other on many different levels; medically, dentally, psychologically and spiritually.  Père Marcel also spoke English fluently and for our children he became a substitute grandfather.   We visited his family in Belgium and he visited us in Canada after we returned here.

I didn’t know that Père Marcel was in Gemena when I arrived there.  So, when I heard he was over at the mission at Bokude Moke, we headed over there for a visit.  It was so good to see this old friend again.  We exchanged hugs and tears.  I honestly did not think that I would ever see him again in this life.  He is now well into his seventies and living in this part of Africa throughout a war is not gentle on one’s health. He has a very pronounced tremor but is still working.  His latest effort has been to put together a French Ngbaka dictionary.  The draft copies have been published and he is working on bringing it to perfection. 

We talk about what the church” really is.  To me he is part of it and when we sat and talked I experienced it.  He is part of the community of Christians that has helped to shape me into who I am now as a follower of Christ.  We have loved and cared for each other over the years and there is a bond between us that can’t be disrupted by distance or time.  This aspect of church has absolutely nothing to do with buildings or services or worship on Sunday morning at eleven.  It has a lot to do with being part of the body of Christ.

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A busy Friday off

Today was my bi-weekly Friday off – from the office.  It was a busier, harder day than I usually put in, or maybe the work was just different and I am not used to it.  Grace and I went to my aunt’s appartment and cleaned the kitchen.  I think we got things pretty ship shape.  She is a collector – of everything!  I hope she doesn’t mind that I threw out stacks of margarine containers and rolls of used and reused plastic bags.  She just won’t need them up at Abbeyfield house. 

Tonight I am tired and a bit stiff and sore.  I guess that might be from the weeding of the garden I did early this morning before beginning the cleaning.  The garden is sorely in need of a gardener’s hand.  The weeds have taken over some things.  I just have not had time to do much in it this year.  I am glad I have lots of perennials otherwise it would really be in bad shape.  With all the rain and now with the bit of sun we are having, the lupins are in full bloom as are the lillies. 

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Getting to know them

Every summer, we at the office, experience our own little invasion of Canadian greatness.  We lay claim to a hockey wife – yes a real NHLer’s wife – for the summer.  We’ve done this now for about four years, I guess.  It works great.  She gets a chance to practice dentistry and keep her skills honed, so to speak.  We, Roger and I,  get a chance to take some vacation time without having to close the office or slow down to a crawl. 

So here we are, Roger and I, about the least hockey minded of all people getting to know the family of a guy who actually was on the team that won the Stanley Cup a few years ago.  She really is a fun person to work with.  Very laid back.  And they have the cutest little girl.  This year they are going off to Germany – an NHLer no longer.  He is there.  She joins him in a couple of weeks.

This summer we went all out and had another hockey wife with us part time.  She is a dental assistant.  Today was my last day of working with them since I have tomorrow off.  She heads back down to Indiana soon.

Both have been great to work with.  Very fun people.  They have raised my opinion of hockey players.  Guys that have such great wives must be OK too.  Even if they are hockey players. -:)

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Leighton over at his blog talks about the great time we all had at the lake and in particular the way he connected with Dave and Mike.  He said, It was another experience which I could sit back and say, “yeah, THAT was church””

Then do we have church” that exists within Churches and at the same time extends beyond the walls?  Getting together with good friends, really sharing what is going on at a deep level, listening and caring, discussing scripture and good books that make us think, being together because we want to be and praying together seem to me to be part of what church” is.  But then there is more too
        like being part of the music of worship either as part of a congregation or musician
        like being involved in ministry and missions
        like teaching children (ours and others) about our faith
        even like helping to maintain a space where worship can take place
        or even like being a pastor to people

And then there are those connections between believers that cross all sorts of denominational and cultural lines that are simply great because of the common ties we have to Christ.  That is also church.

The time at the lake was church.  Coming back from the lake to interact with a missionary couple was also church, as was sharing in the service and communion the next day in my own Church.  Jamming last night with the worship team and then sitting and talking for another hour with a friend while the rocking” guys jammed after was also church” 

Do we try and separate out the spiritual” connections from all the rest of our human connections and set those up as church”?  If so isn’t that like being a Christian only at church and being something else the rest of the time.  Or is it just the connections at a deeper level, the powerful life changing times” with fellow Christians the sort of connection we can call church?

Maybe church just comes in such a variety of forms that when we try to define it by what happens or by the form it takes, we will always come up short.  Maybe blogging is sometimes church” too. Can we call church” all the different ways that God connects us to himself and at the same time to other believers (and seekers) around us? 

Just asking.

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Licenced to go.

She did it!  All the time spent driving with her, all my “meanness” giving her advice.  Yesterday she got her licence.  She is one happy girl.

Now she can borrow the car. 

Yesterday, I had to call her to get a ride home from work.  And wait. 

Was I saying this was a good thing???? 

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Only in Saskatchewan

One of my assistants has children in swimming lessons.  She called to see if they had gone to their lessons.  It is sunny today but cool.  Her husband has the kids in the bathtub – warming up.  Only in Saskatchewan do you send your kids to swimming lessons and then have to treat them for hypothermia!

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