Monthly Archives: August 2004

The Lesser One Rules The Night

We are there at the full moon.

It rises bright over the village,
Throwing shadows to the ground ‘neath the palms
Where the dancers move in circles
Between the drums and the forest edge.
The rhythm throbs through the night.
And in the church up the road
The choir rehearses
Praising the Maker of Light.

For God made two great lights
And the lesser one rules the night.


The night sky in Africa has always been strong in my memory.  This visit was no disappointment.  We were there at the full moon.  There are no other lights in rural Africa to diminish the light from the moon and the stars.  They rule the night and are splendid.

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Sermon time

Today I was the speaker in the morning service.  Someone told me afterwards that I had given a good sermon.  I don’t know that I would give it that name but I suppose, when the pastor is away, it could be interpreted as such.  It was just a telling of things God did for me on my trip to the Congo. 

Another young man who spent six months in the same area also got up and told a couple of stories of people he had met and how they affected him.  He is very taciturn by nature and did an excellent job.  He spent time with Dr Jacques Kongawi and his impression of the love which comes through as Jacques works was the same as my observation in an earlier post.

I shared with the congregation this morning an experience from my trip.  So here is part of what I told:

God was very close throughout the whole time – I had a sense of his presence and protection but I did have a couple of moments of panic.  So I will share one of those with you because I learned something through that too. 

I was nervous about carrying the large amount of cash with me that I knew I would need for to pay for my expenses out there.  But we made it to the Congo with all the cash we started out with no problems.  No mugging attempts.  Nothing unusual.  But when a problem arose that was bigger than the resources I could put my fingers on, I panicked.  I thought I had taken enough – but I was wrong.  And I could see when I began calculating the cost of the seminar, feeding the participants and paying for their rooms, that I would have barely enough to cover those expenses.  That would leave us with nothing to spend on souvenirs and nothing to leave with people in Kinshasa.  So I told the girls that they would have to be extremely careful.  People came and asked for money and I had to let them know that I first had to pay for the seminar and that I didn’t think I would have any extra money.  Maybe that was actually a blessing – to have an honest reason to turn down their requests.  But when I first realized that I was short and I sat counting up my cash on the bed in my room, I had a moment of sheer panic.  There is nowhere to get cash out there.  If you don’t bring it, then you go without.  I could not ask the missionaries out there for cash; they have a hard enough time getting it – having to actually make a trip out of the country to pick it up – and I did not want to be a burden on them.  

As I sat there panicking, God reminded me that his resources were sufficient for me.  I didn’t know how he was going to get me the funds I needed but He was very real to me at that point.  I had to admit that, yes; he could make enough funds available.  I didn’t know how.  And I sure couldn’t see how it was going to happen short of money falling out of the sky.  Maybe it would mean just not having any spending money in Kinshasa.  Maybe it would just mean the girls would not be able to buy any cloth.  Maybe it would mean we would just have to eat more simple food (although. it was hard to see how that could get simpler since we were eating mostly local food.)  And so this was for me a lesson in trust.  He had brought me this far.  He would help me do what he had brought me out to the Congo to do. 

Our trip to the Congo coincided with another visit.  An American woman was visiting, representing an organization that assists pastors to improve their education kind of a bible school but more for continuing education given in short sessions.  Her daughter Anna and another medical student, Tim, were also visiting the hospital at Karawa. 

As we were sitting around the table one evening, I began to talk to Glenna about the difficulties of having to carry large amounts of cash out with us, how difficult it was in this land where no banks function properly.  I did not tell about my shortage of funds right then.  I think I was too embarrassed at my poor estimation of the costs.   But she told me just how much she had brought.  I thought I was at risk carrying about $1500 US.  She had brought many times that.  And she said I actually am not going to need all of it.  I think I will see if the G’s would like to buy some of it from me.”  Well, I don’t know if they or Nancy Jo needed more cash right then but I sure did.  God provided just the right amount.  I was able to get enough to pay for everything I really needed, help out some deserving people that I had wanted to help, and even have enough for buying a few little souvenirs.  It is a lesson in trust that I won’t soon forget I hope, although it is sure easy to forget how much we need to, and can, rely on God to provide for us.

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Driving lesson?

My evening last night involved another driving lesson.  Test is coming up on Tuesday. 

It appears that I am not a very fun person to be with on such an outing.  I am not sure how I said whatever it was that I said but I guess my instructions for parking were not given in the right tone of voice.  I didn’t know that telling a certain person that the angle she was backing up at was too sharp was being mean.  I thought I was just giving her information.  The angle was too sharp and she hit the curb long before she could get behind the car in front. 

But I think the driver instructor is probably much nicer.  After all it is not her car.

After that episode, I had to finish off my talk (I won’t dignify it with the word “sermon”) which I am giving on Sunday – about my trip to the Congo. 

I have much sympathy with those of you pastors out there that live with teenagers and must prepare to impart the word of God to us in the congregation after a session of misunderstanding with a teenaged child.

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Watching Jacques at Work – My Africa Story – Part 5

On the way out to the farm at Bodenge, Jacques pointed out houses in several of the villages we passed. They all were marked with wooden plaques indicating that they had been provided by the American Leprosy Mission (ALM), sometimes by a particular group such as “staff” or “The Holland/Zealand Women”. 

Jacques has worked with his own people under the ALM for over ten years.  He has reached out to help a sector of his own society that usually finds itself at the bottom of the heap – those suffering from leprosy and tuberculosis.

Now although leprosy is treatable, many cases have advanced too far before treatment starts, either from neglect on their part in seeking early treatment or ignorance. These patients may already have nerve damage with the resulting deformities and sometimes are stigmatized. 

In one village, a woman with leprosy was abandoned by her husband. (Women are often the providers, planting and harvesting, providing food for the family.  If a woman loses this ability what is her value in a relationship not based on love?)  He remarried and she was left ill and destitute.  Jacques was able to help her with a home and some animals (usually a goat or some ducks or chickens) so she could continue to raise some livestock and have a source of income.  When her husband saw her good fortune, he decided to return – second wife came too.  There were problems.  This time she thew the husband out.  A short while later, back comes the repentant husband – without the second wife!  True love?

That day we went to the farm, we also stopped at a village to check on a woman with a suspected new case of leprosy.  A few days later, I went back with Jacques to see her.

Some things about watching Jacques work really impressed themselves on me.  One was his ability to communicate with this woman he was examining.  He conversed with her in their native language and he took time to talk to her. 

Secondly, he showed respect for her as a woman worthy of some privacy in her examination.  The village people were pulling up chairs for the show.  Jacques asked them to take seats under a tree in the yard.  Then he invited one son to come with us to a private area at the back of the house where she could be examined without a crowd of onlookers.  My role was to record the location of her skin lesions and the areas of insensitivity.  I felt the enlarged nerves and saw the wasted hand muscles.  Jacques started her on treatment that day.  He will check on her progress when he passes by on his way to his farm. 

Another thing that impressed me was the way that Jacques knows his patients.  He knows where they live, their social and economic circumstances, their families.  And he cares.  I suppose that is why he knows them so well.  I watched him touching his patient’s skin, checking for enlarged nerves and insensitive areas; listened to him explain the disease and the treatment that was needed.  I was watching a healer not just a medical doctor. Knowing that God is there at the foundations of Jacques’ life, this time of watching was a time of blessing to me.  He examined this woman with hands that were so caring that he could be touching the skin of God, with love and reverence, rather than the ulcerated insensitive foot of a poorly clothed woman.

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Foggy sight


I just got off the phone with my daughter.  She is going to be a junior counsellor at our church camp out south of Edmonton in Alberta.  For us the camp is about a seven hour drive away.  I am speaking at church on Sunday and work till four tomorrow.  She has to be at the camp by 4:30 on Saturday.  I like driving but was really hoping to send her on the bus.  The only problem with the bus is getting from the bus out to the lake where the camp is.  So I have been working on connecting up with someone in Edmonton but – you know how reluctant teenagers can be to meet up with someone they don’t “know”.  Today I made connections with the pastor of our church in Edmonton and, voila, all was arranged in no time. 


Then my mind snapped into recognition mode.  How like the old Israelites I am.  I often think they must have been so dense.  God would do some wonderful deed for them and then they would turn right around, before the paint was even dry, so to speak, and forget he ever existed. 


Well, here I am, just back from an incredible trip to the Congo where God was so obviously in charge, and I am getting all bent out of shape about getting my daughter to camp.  Duh!   I’d better be careful how I talk about the folks back in the Old Testament times.  It’s a bit like looking in a mirror some days!  Actually most days the mirror is so foggy I don’t even recognise where I lack trust.


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a new site that I had not come across before.  The Portal   It actually looks to me like a rather new place to visit.  Got some interesting stuff going on – has potential for a place to exchange views.  Check it out.

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Bodenge – My Africa Story – Part 4

Jacques has a farm at the village of Bodenge about a  45 minute drive from Gemena.  This is his place of retreat.  He took us out there one day. 

On the way we stopped and attempted to make our way to a large outcropping of rocks, a high cliff, below which we could see the dark opening of a cave.  Jacques says that people will go there to  pray.  No one seems to have been there for awhile.  The sobi grass is tall and thick.  We followed a path that took us past some gardens but then disappeared into grass and brush over our heads.  We gave up since we had no machete with us to clear the way.

We continued on our way to the farm which is reached by taking a turn to the left partway through the village, between the rows of huts that line the road. 

Jacques isn’t the chief but acts the part of benevolent landowner.  The village benefits from his presence with access to a clean water source and a certain level of security.  He knows the political leaders and is not afraid to speak out against injustices like theft of livestock by passing soldiers.  But his goodness isn’t always repaid in kind.  One of his herders, from this village, disappeared one night.  So did three head of cattle. The timing was a bit suspicious. 

There is a mud brick house with a small cookhouse off to the side.  The thick sobi thatch keeps it cool.  Out behind is a covered area and “goi goi”  (lazy) chairs.  Jacques brings out a large cooler.  There is cold pop for myself and the kids.  Jacques enjoys his cold Mitzig.  While we relax our meal is being grilled over a charcoal fire.  Authentic barbecue- the way most food is cooked in this country.

Afterwards Sara, Grace, Tantine and I walk down to the water source, a fresh water spring that has been capped so that pure water flows out of a couple of pipes.  There is still a pool for washing and bathing but the drinking water can’t be contaminated.  Bruno comes along with us but is warned by his father that at this time of day it is the women’s turn to go there.  And, sure enough, we are there a few minutes and a woman comes to bathe.  He hikes off back to the house while we women and girls enjoy the coolness of the water.

The girls have brought along one of their soccer balls.  Before long there are dozens of village kids – the boys – eager to play.  It has been years since they last played with a real soccer ball, maybe the first time for some.  When it came time to leave, my girls presented the ball to the village.  Jacques made a little speech.  All the kids told Grace and Sara “merci”  but the sparkle in their eyes spoke more than their words.  The girls will become part of the villager’s stories – how the girls from Canada brought them a ball.  That is part of how things happen out here.

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