Christmas in Congo

h4c-wisemenLast year Stan and Brad’s mother, Gladys Graber shared her memories of Christmas in Congo. It was so well received, we’re repeating it this year. We’re adding some photos we didn’t have access to last year. The black and white photos are from celebrations in the 1950-60s. The color photos were taken more recently.

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Christmas in Congo
Guest Post
by Gladys Graber

Suppose you could spend Christmas in the Republic of Congo, Africa. You could leave your mittens, caps, boots, and coats at home. No chance of a white Christmas.

You would avoid the many weeks of preparation, the busy streets, and all the glitter of the season.

On Christmas morning people marching through the mission compound blowing goat horns, singing, and shouting, would awaken you before dawn. Later festively dressed people would gather at the church for worship, coming in clans and being led by their chiefs. People would bring an offering of produce or money carefully folded into a handcrafted envelope.h4c-angelvisit

A program at the church is planned for the evening as people come bringing kerosene lanterns to light the church. Talented young people enact the tableau of the manger scene. Not-so-quiet goats complicate the scene.

Most dramatic are the wise men who enter at the rear of the church and slowly make their way to the front all the while looking overhead where a large star is moved forward on a wire strung along the rafters. It takes a long time for these searching wise men to reach the manger.

Gift giving is not a part of the day, but one year our family gave a dinner for the Bible Institute students the day before Christmas. Gift boxes were given to each family. Among other items there were simple, small purses intended for the women and t-shirts intended for the children.

On Christmas morning we noticed that some “re-gifting” had taken place: The men had the purses and the women were wearing the t-shirts.

h4c-kingherodMissionaries appreciated the wild poinsettias for decorating as well as some small berries that could be gathered in the forest that were a good substitute for cranberries.

The most important part of your Christmas in the Congo would be to see the difference the Gospel message has made in so many lives.

They understand the love of God in sending His only begotten son to be the Savior to all who put their trust in Him.

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PRAYER REQUESTh4c-christmas-pageant-luebo-1
Please continue to pray for peace in Congo. May all the leaders reach a wise resolution to their conflict. May they lean on God’s wisdom to direct them.

We wish our Congolese brothers and sisters a joyous peaceful Merry Christmas. We wish the same for each of you.

©2016 Hope4Congo

Road Trip, Part 6

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Kasai River

It’s after 2:00 a.m.
Stan and Brad are exhausted from their long jarring road trip. They have finally arrived at the Kasai River across from their desired destination, Ndjoko Punda. Dr. David and several young men are ready to take them across the river in their canoe. Only one problem….

The young men from the village were almost finished packing the canoe when the policeman came. His drinking buddies trailed behind. Together the men formed a line, blocking Stan and Brad’s way to the river.

In a drunken drawl, the policeman yelled a demand. “Let me see your papers!”

“You don’t need to see their papers. These men are the children of former missionaries. They’ve come to help our village. They’ve brought supplies for the hospital,” Dr. David said.

“Are you interfering with me?” The policeman bellowed his question. He waved the doctor aside.

Stan and Brad produced their papers.

The policeman staggered over to the fire. He squinted at the papers in the flickering light. Teetering unsteadily, he returned to them. “State your business here.”

“We’ve brought supplies for the hospital at Ndjoko Punda.” Stan’s voice was quiet and respectful. Brad nodded his agreement.

Dr. David spoke again, “Alright, you’ve seen their papers. Now let them pass. We need to get these men to the village.”

“You can’t go across the river tonight,” the officer said. “The river is rushing too wildly. It isn’t safe to cross at night.”

One of the church youth flung his arms outward. “It isn’t safe to stay here at night.”

“These men are my guests.” The doctor stepped between the policeman and the brothers. “We’ll get them safely across.”

Four of the policeman’s sidekicks surrounded David.

“He’s the policeman!” one of the sidekicks shouted.

Another man screeched in a high-pitched voice, “He’s in charge! You have to do what he says.”

“That’s right. You need his permission to do anything!” a third comrade hollered.

A fourth man rubbed his fingers together. “Yes. Permission. You need permission.”

Stan and Brad collapsed under a tree as the argument continued.

“They want money,” Brad said. “And lots of it.”

“Yep.” Wearily, Stan rested his elbows on his knees. “All the authority, but no pay. It’s no surprise they depend on bribes to feed their families. A drowning man will grab at anything that comes along,” he quoted the Congolese saying.

Brad fanned his face with his hat. “I think he’s taking his courage from the bottle and his buddies.” He leaned against the tree. “I’m beat. A whole day just to get to the river. Now this.”

The babble of voices increased to higher decibels as several of the youth joined in the shouting match. Tempers flared. Arms flailed in excited gestures. Enraged shrieks split the night air.

“This is going nowhere fast,” Brad said. “What are we going to do?”
***

What would you do if you were in this situation?

Join us next Thursday to see what Stan and Brad do.
©2015 Hope4Congo

Road Trip, Part 5

H4C.Kasai.Ndjoko.PundaToday we start part 5 of the journey Stan and Brad took to Ndjoko Punda along with their driver and his mechanic. They are all exhausted from the difficult journey.

About 2:00 a.m. they pulled up a quarter mile from the Kasai River. What little road or track they had followed previously now ended completely.

Stan and Brad grabbed their backpacks and walked the remaining distance to the river. The steamy night air pressed heavy on them. The whole jungle felt like a giant sauna. No escape from the oppressive heat and humidity.

Brad took his hat off and fanned his face. It was the only breeze in the stifling air.

A short distance down river a Congolese policeman and several of his friends gathered around a large fire. They passed a bottle. One of the men fell over. The rest of the circle burst into raucous laughter.

The Kasai River roared past at the bottom of the embankment. Swollen from the rainy season, the wide river was treacherous. A group of young men lounged beside a thirty-foot canoe pulled up on the muddy bank.

A tall thin youth ran toward Stan and Brad. “It’s them, Dr. David. They’re here,” he called over his shoulder in Tshiluba.

Tshiluba, the language of the brothers’ childhood—its rhythm and pitch resonated with their souls. Like a welcome breeze, it rushed over them and refreshed their weary spirits. They were nearly home.

Dr. David came forward. “My brothers! I was getting worried you wouldn’t make it through tonight.”

“It was a long hard drive. We’re bone-tired, but we’re here.” Stan stretched out his hand.

Dr. David grasped it and pulled Stan into a hug. “So good to have you come back to us. God has answered our prayers for your safety.”

“He’s also answered our prayers. We’ve brought all the medical supplies you asked for,” Stan said.

David hugged Brad, too. He grinned broadly at both of the men. “We are honored you have come back to us.”H4C.Kasai.Canoes

Fifteen Congolese young men surrounded them. Brilliant white teeth flashed a welcome from their dark faces.

The doctor gestured toward the youths. “I’ve brought good workers from our church to help. Come boys. Let’s get everything loaded into the canoe.”

The young men chattered as they returned with all the bundles. They were almost finished packing the canoe when the policeman came. His drinking buddies trailed behind. Together the policeman and his friends formed a line, blocking Stan and Brad’s way to the river.

In a drunken drawl, the policeman yelled a demand. “Let me see your papers!”

“You don’t need to see their papers. These men are the children of former missionaries. They’ve come to help our village. They’ve brought supplies for the hospital,” Dr. David said.

“Are you interfering with me?” The policeman bellowed his question. He waved the doctor aside.

What do you think will happen? Why does the policeman want to see their papers? We’d love to hear from you. Join us next Thursday for Part 6.

Quick call to prayer:   Just saw a prayer request from the Congo Leadership Network.

12004675_10153630140289473_3460302600411861859_nOne of their coaching team members, Albert Mulamba in Tshikapa, Congo was returning from a meeting of provincial church leaders on Sunday – where among other things he was sharing with them about the Congo Leadership Coaching Network – when a drunk man stepped in front of his motorbike. The man’s head cut a large and deep gash in Albert’s face (Albert was wearing a helmet, but not a face guard).

He received internal and external stitches and is now at home recovering. Apparently the drunk man, while undoubtedly bruised, was largely unhurt and stumbled off. Albert, on the other hand, was left bleeding profusely from the face and somehow got himself to a clinic where he could receive help. He now describes his whole body as racked with pain. Thanks for keeping him in your prayers.

Silver lining here: Fortunately his wife Aberty just returned to Tshikapa from Kinshasa where she was with the rest of their family and had planned to stay through Christmas. Now she’s returned just in time to take care of Albert.

You may remember our story about Albert titled, “A Lonely Ride.”

©2015 Hope4Congo

Summary of Congo 2015

Fred has returned safely home. Dale returned three weeks earlier. It’s time for a summary of this year’s trip to the Congo.

As reported earlier, Dale and Fred along with their drilling crew were disappointed that they were unable to successfully dig a well. Although two attempts were made and they did strike water, both wells collapsed. This is a problem that needs to be investigated further with the company that engineered the equipment. Pray for wisdom and a solution to this problem.

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Fred and the potential new businessmen

Before Fred left the Congo, he and his crew were able to attach rainwater collection systems to four houses. Using roofing tin, the team devised guttering to carry the water through a downspout into thirty gallon plastic containers. These containers, readily available in the Congo, make fine water reservoirs. The system should work quite well during the approaching rainy season.

Pray for the success of the collection systems on these homes. The Congolese have never tried to collect rainwater before. If the Congolese people see these reservoirs as effective, they will be more willing to utilize this method to provide safe drinking water for their families. This could be such a wonderful solution for these dear people since they have a plentiful supply of rainwater.

Pray also for the Congolese crew members who learned how to create and install these rainwater collection systems. This could be a fine business venture for these men, a much-needed source of income for them and their families.

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Candid shot, Dale on left, Fred on right

Finally, we here at Hope 4 Congo are so grateful for the work of Fred and Dale. They were not only willing to go, but joyful for the opportunity. Dale developed malaria upon his return home. Fred contracted malaria while in Congo and was quite ill for a few days. Please pray for the full recovery of both men.

©2015 Hope4Congo

School and Pets

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Stan (Kanyinda) and Bonnie with two of their precious grandchildren

We continue our interview with Stan about his childhood in Congo. Kanyinda, what was school like?

“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.”

Next week Brad will tell us what it was like to return to Congo in 2007 after an absence of many years.

©2015 Hope4Congo