Brad what was the Congo like when you returned in 2007?
“The Congolese were never trained to be leaders. Each tribe wanted to be in power. Tribal warfare broke out all over the country. There was no understanding of what it took to preserve the country’s infrastructure. None of the Congolese had experience or the education to maintain order. Nor did they have the understanding of economics, or politics, or how to keep up or repair mechanical services.
“When my wife and I landed at the Kinshasa airport, the runway was full of potholes. A junkyard filled with broken and rusted planes lined all sides of the airport strip. When we de-planed we couldn’t figure out where the main entrance was to the terminal. There were three doors. About a dozen Africans yelled at once. They all wanted us to do something different. They all wanted to be in charge. We chose the entrance were the majority of Africans entered the building.
“Inside, we wondered what all the noise was on the other side of the wall. We had to stand in line to go through the door. On the other side was pandemonium: a sea of people, all milling about, shouting at us, and demanding money. Ninety percent of the people were there to make a living by accosting people. They tried to grab suitcases. There were no signs telling us what to do. We could have been taken advantage of by all of these people. We had to fight our way through the crowd.
“Before we left for Africa our mother gave us this advice: If you get in a jam, try speaking Tshiluba and see what happens.
“I yelled above the din, ‘Does anyone here speak Tshiluba?’
“The people calmed down. Three or four people came forward who spoke that dialect. Eventually someone from the church arrived. They helped us navigate the chaos and the bribes. It was a relief to get into a taxi outside the airport.
“Everywhere we went we were shocked by the appearance of the city. The buildings were deteriorating. No one fixed anything, partly because they didn’t know how, partly because there was no money, and partly because there were no supplies or reserves to fix anything.
“Colonialism had its flaws, but after the country gained its independence the cultural instability and economic hardships increased.
“Previously, under Belgian rule, everything was orderly and maintained. There was a beauty to the order. Palm trees with painted white trunks lined the roads. Buildings were kept clean and painted.
“During the rainy season the roads washed out. The Belgians had a system in place to fix the roads. Each village was assigned a certain amount of road to maintain.
“The people ate much better. They had better access to fruit. They had crops. After the rebel movement, the Congolese allowed everything to self-destruct. The coffee and palm oil plantations, which were the main Congolese exports, were all gone. These plantations had provided jobs and money for the people.
“Now, no one wanted to work. They all chased the wind, looking for a quick buck through mining for diamonds or gold. Or living off bribes. The average Congolese person will do whatever it takes to survive.
“When Mubutu came to power, he raped the country through his dysfunctional leadership. He filled his coffers with the country’s bounty and left the country desolate.”
It’s heartbreaking, Brad. No wonder the Lord opened your heart and Stan’s to begin this ministry.