Congo Trip July 2014 – Update 7, Back in Belgium

Congo Trip July 2014
August 15, 2014

Dear Friends,

Back to Belgium. Three words describe the present situation but hide what seems like a lifelong experience. The joy of reuniting with loving wife, family and many friends, experiencing a nice warm shower, falling asleep sitting on the couch… seem to be overshadowed by a lot of work to record, analyze, remember and evaluate what took place in 36 days in another world.

Now that good Internet is available, I can show you a few of the 1500 pictures that were taken, but there is the problem of choosing. Neither pictures nor words can adequately portray the emotions and feelings.

First, thank you for your prayers, help and concern. We experienced God’s protection, keeping and provision. Charlotte translated my hurried sms messages, reading between the lines and deciphering misspelled words, often written from a bouncing truck or interrupted by intermittent air waves. Life is different when nothing is certain and everything is late.

Along with the pastor and friends at Matende, David, Nelson and I were able to thank God for what had taken place and ask Him for his help on the 400-mile trip ahead. We trust that our time spent there has contributed to the life on the mission station: many hours of discussions, practical work on the buildings with clear explanations of every step, a new wall of the church building, a whole new roof on the visitor’s building with the most important job, large rain gutters all the way around and connected by four pipes to the rain water cistern completely cleaned, refurbished and painted. The goal of bringing water to Matende had been reached although we had to leave before the first heavy rainfall to test all the connections. We pray that when the cistern is full they will have about 13,000 gallons of water reserve and no more rain water washing away the foundations.

final touches rain gutters - Congo Open Heart

Final touches to rain gutters.

Final job at Matende: put a cover on door of rain-water cistern

Final job at Matende: put a cover on door of rain-water cistern.

Big progress at Matende is that the teams of local carpenters and masons, apprentices, were able to have practical experience with training and do most of the work. Since Congo Open Heart provided the materials, they could get experience doing what they normally don’t have supplies for. A supply of boards, sacs of cement and extra concrete blocks was left for them to work with as well as sufficient paint to cover many inside and outside walls, a job we didn’t get to. Nor was there time to think about new tin for the church roof.

New wall for Matende church building - Congo Open Heart

New wall for church building.

We left Matende August 5 at 9 am with 20 sacs of grain and 40 people in the back of the truck. David Torrini sat back there with them. A mother with a two-year old covered with skin sores also was given a ride and $10 for her to take him to the hospital in Kikwit. We will try to get information of what followed.

The passengers got off with their sacs in Kikwit. I stopped at the bank where the cash machine was a great help. The machine is behind the bars in front of the bank, in an enclosure with a glass door, guarded by a solder with his rifle and managed by a man who tells people when they can go in. This particular man was an enthusiastic friend, pastor of a church in Kikwit and trained at Matende. He proceeded to tell everyone that came by about the history and ministry of the missionaries. He asked me to wait about a half hour because they had to fill the machine with cash from inside the bank. I sat in a plastic chair beside the soldier while waiting.

National highway N1, just two narrow lanes, is inching its way across the country. Going to Matende from Kinshasa Nelson drove the truck with no problem, but the last 10 miles before Matende, the Chinese builders seem to have run out of tar and the blacktop is broken up and converted to deep holes bringing traffic to a stop.

Leaving Kikwit just before noon, we were able to reach the town of Kenge for night, about two thirds of the trip. We arrived at 8 pm, very late for Congo as the sun sets at 6. We thought that the Baptist pastor had been informed of our arrival but he was not aware of it. He sent some of the church members who showed us the little hotel in that town. Nelson Kayamba and three men slept under the tarp next to the truck while David and I each had a hotel room, very rudimentary, but a bed to sleep on covered with a sheet. The toilets were the typical African system, a slab of concrete with a small hole in the middle. The toilet room without light or air was full of cockroaches on all the walls. There was some water in the truck that we could wash with.

We paid $10 each for the night and were on our way by 6 am with no possibility of dinner or breakfast. A little further down the road each village has a market for passing vehicles and we asked a women to boil some coffee for us while someone went to find some small packets of milk and sugar. We bought a few beignets or heart-shaped doughnuts hot out of the pan. We reached the big city of Kinshasa by afternoon but had to wait until nearly 10 p.m. when someone finally brought dinner to us.

roadside "Starbucks" in Congo

Road-side “Starbucks” (notice the charcoal stove at left)

Good cup of Congo Coffee

A good cup of coffee.

So travel in Congo is not like driving down the freeway in the US or Europe. Fortunately there are girls along the sides of the road near the villages carrying good bananas on their heads, happy to sell for 20 cents each, (200 francs,) which keeps your stomach from being completely empty.

We will save other information for future letters as this one is sufficient to let you know we arrived safely in Belgium. As usual we left part of ourselves back there. One can’t make this trip without being changed.

Gratefully yours in Christ,

Bud Kroeker, David Torrini and Nelson Kayamba

D. M. Stearns Missionary Fund
P.O.Box 1578
North Wales, PA 19454 USA
designate gift to Congo Open Heart, account 116

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