Growing Up in the Congo

IMG_1775

Stan (Grandpa now) with his wife, Bonnie, and two of their grandchildren

Stan is the oldest of the two brothers. I’ve asked Stan to describe his childhood memories of Congo.

“The first memory that comes to mind is learning to ride a bicycle. It was commonplace for the Missionaries to hire natives to stand watch and guard the mission homes. This gave the Congolese pay that they could count on, a sense of pride in their responsibility, and an opportunity to observe these Christians up close.

“The missionaries also hired cooks and gardeners. Thus freed from these tasks, the missionaries could concentrate on the reasons God had sent them to Africa: to teach the people about Jesus. They came as translators, as doctors, as nurses, as preachers, and teachers. Many of the native languages had never been translated into written words. By turning these spoken languages into written languages, the missionaries gave the people an opportunity to read God’s Word for themselves in their heart language.

“The Congolese are very generous people: An example of that generosity was a young man named Yambu.

“Yambu, was hired to be a sentry by my parents. Yambu owned a bicycle. He taught me how to ride. We became such good friends that Yambu told me, ‘What’s mine is yours. You may ride my bicycle any time you wish.’

“In Congo bicycles are considered valuable assets. They not only provide transportation, but they are lifeline—a means of getting food to the market for sale or trade.

“Yambu was sharing his most prized possession. This was a precious recognition of friendship. My name became Kanyinda.”

Loosely translated, Kanyinda means that Stan is a friend.

Kanyinda, people will want to know what foods you ate in Congo?

“The fruit was amazing: Mangoes, papaya, oranges, and pineapple. I also liked roasted palm nuts and fried plantain (this looks like a banana, but is more starchy like a potato).

“Our mother had a garden and employed a native gardener. We had fruit trees and vegetables. We also bought eggs, bananas and other produce from the Africans. We paid for these items wit Belgian francs and sometimes my folks traded ties for eggs.”

Excuse me? You traded what?

“We traded men’s ties and colorful scarves for eggs. The Africans like the bright colors and patterns of men’s ties. They like to dress up—wear suits and ties.

“They dress up for special occasions and for church. Teachers and preachers might dress up more because of their position. Office workers in the city also wear business suits and nice dresses. Usual sights to see in the city are workers carrying their shoes while they walk miles to work barefoot. They save their shoes to keep them nice.”

What was school like Kanyinda?

“Another missionary who lived on our station home schooled us for our early grades. In fourth grade I went to the missionary children’s boarding school. It was a two-day trip by car to that school. That first year I was very lonely, missing my parents, but then I made friends. In addition to school we had a great deal of freedom, we went hiking, etc. Although we had school work to do and cared for our rooms. I guess I had so much fun in my daily life that I didn’t realize I was doing chores.”

Children reading this may become jealous of your childhood, Stan. What kind of pets did you have in Congo?

“We had several parrots, a squirrel and a few monkeys. The Congolese would often bring birds to sell us for pets. They still sell them for pets or for food. Even small birds are eaten. They use a very sticky sap that they spread on tree branches to catch the birds.

“When we were in Africa this last time someone wanted to sell me a young Civet Cat for a pet. It was kind of a cute little thing with the black and white rings on its tail and its long snout. But of course, I couldn’t bring it back to America with me.”

©2015 Hope4Congo