Congo Trip July 2014 – Update 5

August 2, 2014

Dear friends,

Since my last letter, the work continues at Matende. I made another trip to Kikwit to meet with Church leaders, and then this week David accompanied me on the trip to visit two other missions.

Wednesday, July 23 

Back from Kikwit with boards and screws.  Good discussion with church leaders and Dr Benza, the head of Mennonite Church at Kikwit. On the trip back it took us one hour to drive the last seven miles to Matende because of holes. We had two bananas for lunch. Cold soup in evening but big bowl of rice and crispy Congo cane sugar and big slices of pineapple! 

Friday, July 25

Worked on grinder today, Drain pipes finished tomorrow.

Saturday, July 26

Normally we stop work at noon on Saturdays. But the men doing the building and roof work wanted to keep going until after 3 p.m. All of the rain troughs are finished and connected to the rain pipes. The wall going up in the Church is clear up past the windows. At noon we fed 40 men their lunch. Yesterday I tried to get the grinder functioning properly. It is the machine we ordered from the U.S. and brought with us in our suitcase, for the women to grind manioc flour. I am not yet satisfied with it.Will have to keep trying.

Sunday, July 27

Sun evening, we are sitting out on side of house in a breeze, rather hot this afternoon. Preached in church this morning. This afternoon we tried out the grinder again.  The grinder does not work the way we’d hoped.The women aren’t really satisfied. It doesnt grind the flour fine enough. Too slow. Need to try other settings. Fufu needs to have very fine flour because they swallow it without chewing. When set fine enough, it is hard to crank. But it could be used for other things such as corn or peanuts and can always be used  here in the house. I tell Char the women need to learn how to make corn bread. We eat her granola every morning for breakfast with the powdered milk we brought in our suitcase. No where to buy bread and no ovens for baking.

We are outside talking this evening, David dreaming of a nice pizza or bread and butter. 

Monday, July 28

Hot day even in evening. Good progress. We can hope to finish tomorrow. Macons have got the wall up to the roof. Nelson hauled more water, sand, stones. David connecting drain pipes. We will leave Wednesday for Iwungu-Nsamba. 

Tuesday, July 29

The end of a long day, and the end of the work on the house here with its new roof.

The cistern is all cemented up and painted inside with a nice coat of epoxy.

The rain gutters around the house are finished and pipes are connected to the cistern to capture rain water;

The new wall of cement blocks in the Church is completed

We gave out 34 French Bibles to all the workers and men who are in charge at Matende.

Wednesday, July 30

Today we made the trip to the Mission Iwungu Nzamba, leaving Matende at 10 a.m. and arriving at 3 p.m. The roads are very bad. The buildings of the Mission are in poor condition, and no electricity or running water. But we were given a wonderful reception, and we are happy to be here for the night.

Thursday, July 31

Just finished the meeting at Iwungu. David gone down to where there is the spring where the folks get their water.  When they get back we will leave for Idiofa, at 1 p.m. We arrive around 6:20 p.m. Only 30 kilometers but five hours of driving on bumpy roads, very tiring.

There is no electricity or running water, no connection to internet all this week. I had hoped to be able to send some photos this week but it will have to wait until we return to Kinshasa next week. We stay here tonight. 

Thank you for your prayers. We know that God is at work and we praise Him for his strength each day and protection along the roads.

I Timothy 2:1, 3 and 4: « I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone… This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. »

God bless you each one,

Bud Kroeker and David Torrini

Congo Trip July 2014 – Update 2, Arrive in Matende

Congo Trip # 2
July 11, 2014

Dear Friends,

Thursday night we finally arrived at Matende! Passing through Kikwit on our way, we stopped for dinner at the home of Nelson Kayamba’s sister. She is a very active Christian and mayor of that section of the city. We enjoyed the meal after two days of travel with only bananas and other fruit.

There was a wonderful welcome at Matende when we arrived at 7 p.m. even though it was already dark. The children were singing and laughing along the road as the truck pulled in. We were very touched.

Our stay in Kinshasa took longer than we had expected, but we were very happy for:

The friends we were able to talk with

Dan Gring’s sister and husband who helped us find addresses for stores and places we needed to find, Osée, our truck driver from last year (who is a pastor with their mission), Nelson’s family. He spent the five days with his mother. And then she took a bus to Kikwit on Wednesday to meet us and be able to ride in the truck the last 50 miles to Matende, her home town where all her children grew up.

David Dehan, the Belgian fellow who is an agricultural missionary, came to Kinshasa to meet with us and exchange news and ideas and information. It was good for David Torrini, my Belgian co-worker to have this visit right at the beginning of our trip.

The truck was waiting for us

Saturday morning Osée and Nelson drove it to the Hostel where David and I were lodging in Kinshasa. Nelson decided to apply for a Congolese driver’s license, since his is from Germany where he is a truck driver. So we knew there would be lots of errands on Monday. Passing inspection, paying Insurance, tax, getting the right documents..

Finding all the stores that sold the materials we were looking for

We needed to find paint, a special product for lining the inside of the cistern, boards less expensive than in Kikwit, and even pieces of corrugated tin for the rain gutters we hope to build at Matende. David saw men making them along the side of the road as we passed through the city Saturday. So we stopped and ordered some we could pick up Monday for loading into the truck.

Immersed into the local culture

Saturday afternoon Eric Kumedisa invited us to his daughter’s wedding supper, and this was a wonderful occasion to see first hand the way another culture dresses, eats, talks, sings, preaches and celebrates a very special occasion. David fit in very well, and is totally at ease talking with people and making friends; His smile is contagious in any language, but since everyone there spoke French with him, there were no linguistic barriers. During our time in Kinshasa the weather was actually cooler than normal, so we had no problem of heat. Just a few mosquitos one night. Set up the mosquito nets. David has no problem trying new foods or tastes. And doesn’t mind going without a meal.

Finding a place to spend the night

We stopped half way along the road to Kikwit this time, and found a little hotel in a town. The truck doesn’t go much faster than 45 miles an hour, and the 700 kilometers is long when trying to go clear to Kikwit in one day. So this way we could get a rest before the second stretch of the voyage to Matende.

We found the Congolese Bank (BIAC) in Kinshasa, and they agreed that our Congo Open Heart Bank account had been opened in Paris back in May, and that some money had been transferred, but hadn’t yet arrived. This was disappointing. We had counted on drawing out money for all the purchases in the city, and we purposely wanted to test out their transfer system. More time was wasted looking for bank machines that would take the Visa card in order to draw out cash. I think we tried four or five machines and took out a little at each one. This is the first trip that I didn’t bring much money in my pocket. Fortunately some had been transferred to Eric Kumedisa ahead of time for all the truck insurance, papers, lodging, etc. This bank has also opened a branch in Kikwit, so pray that things will work out there.

We are so grateful for the gifts that have been coming in for this trip. From the U.S., from Belgian friends, and also four transfers were made to the Congo Open Heart bank account from Germany! (in euros) People who know Nelson wanted to contribute to the expenses of the trip. This is the first time we have seen this.

We are filled with joy and thankfulness to God for his protection along the road. He provides day after day in spite of our weaknesses and failures. Pray with us that He will supply us with the necessary strength and wisdom as we face the challenges ahead.

2 Corinthians 4 reminds us: “since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart… For God, who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,  made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

(verses 1, 6 and 7)

In Him,

Bud Kroeker

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

Congo Trip: Matende July 26, 2013

Friday, July 26, 2013

Greetings from Matende,

I haven’t written for over a week. Plunged into another world here with no internet connection, I’ve lost contact with the outside world and even forget which day of the week it is.

At 5 o’clock this morning, all is calm. Life begins peacefully in the quiet of the daybreak. A cool breeze passes through the open door and the birds sing in the mango trees. We can see the mist rising from the valleys around Matende.

Our daughter Caroline and Peter Cunliffe arrived in Kinshasa Thursday evening and will come to Kikwit Saturday where I will meet them with the truck. I will no doubt be able to send off this letter then. It is difficult without Internet. On other trips we could get a connection through a small modem such as a portable telephone, but I think Vodacom has become too overloaded. Now we can barely send a cell phone message from Matende if we go outside to the highest spot. So I have to stop writing when the battery gets low on my laptop. (which happened this morning). At 6 a.m. the sun is rising and already people are coming to say good morning. At 8 a.m. the day’s work begins.

There is a team of five Congolese who work in the construction of the roof, to replace the framework. Half of the roof was damaged by a heavy storm, the tin roofing bent and twisted, all which had to be taken off as well as take down the rotting beams before starting to re-build. Then there are two cabinet makers and two other helpers working with me on the doors and windows. All the windows in the building were boarded up with branches and slats of bamboo filled in with red mud, all very dirty. We’ve taken out all of this which was keeping out sunlight and fresh air. Now the rooms are cleaner and filled with light.

We went with the truck to Kikwit last Monday to buy boards and tin roofing, nails, etc. We are so grateful for the safe arrival of the truck at Matende. We are thankful for the generator bought in Kinshasa and brought in the truck. We keep it running four hours each day. This has permitted the use of the table saw, an electric drill and a small hot plate for cooking — all at once. It is a blessing to have the truck here to use and the container sitting next to our living quarters at Matende, still full of tools and machines. A neighbor lady in Belgium gave us the new table saw to put in the truck. The men had to get used to using electrical equipment rather than hand saws and machetes. We bought 20 boards, each over 5 yards long last Monday in Kikwit. And all the boards for the four doors and five windows have now been cut. We are working with very heavy, hard, unplaned wood over an inch thick. One room is already finished. We will get more wood and supplies in Kikwit tomorrow. We didn’t have enough money last Monday, but Caroline and Peter have more with them to use for building supplies: 30 boards and 50 corragated tin roofing panels, each 3 yards long. This building or house, which will be used as a Training Center, is actually quite large (30 ft x 60 ft). There are 18 windows, three outside doors and several inside doors going to the various rooms.

Training in schools seems quite often to be a memorization of rules to apply in a given situation without reasoning through how to put them into practice in a given situation or adapt to when you lack the necessary materials. My helpers wanted to make beautiful shutters for the windows but had to come to the realization that priority # 1 was to be able to close everything up tight so that the storm winds can’t get inside to lift off the roof again. In working together with them, I can see that some have had more theory in their training than I ever had. .. But haven’t had the practical experience and practice of solving problems and thinking through the solutions.

Sunday, July 28 from Kikwit

There are obstacles of course. I packed a lot of screws in the truck but not enough. They are hard to find here. Caroline brought an extra suitcase of screws and other things we need but unfortunately it didn’t come with their baggage. Maybe got stolen. We don’t know how to recuperate it even. Kinshasa is 600 km away and who would bring it here even if they did find it?

Early this morning a woman in the village started giving birth to a pre-mature baby. She lost a lot of blood and didn’t make it to the hospital in Kikwit in time. She died on the way, riding behind the motorcycle driver. Too bad that I wasn’t there with the truck. And too bad the Health Clinic is not equipped at all.

We are constantly evaluating our reasons for being here. What is really our end goal?

It isn’t just to give folks  better living conditions, or certain material benefits. I think first of all we are here to show God’s love in a practical way, to show them that God has not abandoned them, to help them realize that they don’t need to flee to the big cities to have a better life, that there is still hope right here. We realize how urgent it is to get the Health Clinic at Matende up and running.

Pray for Caroline and Peter Cunliffe that they might be an encouragement to the folks at Matende these next two weeks. Pray that we might have wisdom and guidance in choosing the projects God would have us undertake., that all might be done according to God’s will. Pray for the family that is grieving.

In Him,

Bud Kroeker

Truck for Congo

MAN Truck

Dear Friends,

We greet you this Easter season in the name of Jesus Christ our resurrected Savior. Each country in the world is going through crises and problems, but no matter what the situation may be, we renew our hope that Jesus is alive and coming back.

Here in Europe, names in the daily headlines take us back to the cradle of Christianity: Greece, Macedonia, Cyprus and other places in the book of Acts where Jesus’ plans began: “the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it” (Matthew 24:14).

There have been deaths and pillaging again in Bangui, Central African Republic where we have friends just across the big Oubangui river that separates them from the north of Congo. From the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo comes the good news of the arrest of the man they call the terminator, Bosco Ntanganda, who has been taken to the International Court of Justice.

Far from there in the Bandundu province where we work, life goes on, unfortunately without big changes, where the people have become too used to living in their miserable conditions. With Congo Open Heart we pray, communicate and look for solutions and the means to make them work. There is some progress but there is still much to do. We would like to finish the roof building next.

DSC_0345In preparation for the next trip, Congo Open Heart Belgian committee has found a possible solution to the transportation problem. Instead of expensive rented jeeps— a truck big enough to carry boards, bricks, sacs of cement as well as medicines and furniture and to transport the village produce to market.

There is the possibility of buying an army truck that is especially adapted for the mud and sand roads that lead to the mission stations in the Congo bush. It is a high truck with front and rear wheel traction, dual tires in back and load capacity of 6 tons. When the team went to see this vehicle, everyone was surprised to see that it had on the back a big container 16 feet long that served as an army field office or medical unit. We could fill this metal box, about 670 cubic feet, with tools and supplies that we wanted to ship by ocean container.

It is a MAN diesel 150 HP truck, 4-wheel-drive, model 11.136, made in 1980, but has only been driven 7,000 miles. Specialists agree that there are some problems with a vehicle of this age, but several of us who are mechanics have examined it from all angles and apart from replacing some rubber parts like belts and hoses (the tires seem to be fine) it looks and runs good. The price includes a complete paint job in non military colors, probably cream colored. We contacted all Congo dealers and none of them had even a new vehicle that would meet our needs.

We want to be sure that what we see as a solution will not just bring other problems. So we bow in prayer, first of all to seek the Lord’s will. If it is his will, we need his wisdom to solve these technical problems, and to supply the funds needed.

The price is $13,000 plus the ocean freight and customs for about $7,000. Congo Open Heart does not have this amount in the bank. Maybe you know of an organization or anyone that might be able to help. Every dollar counts. Thank you, those of you who have sent in gifts this past month, or have promised a gift!
The son of one of the first converts at Matende is a truck driver in Germany and he has offered his help.

Last night I sent out this letter in French and mentioned that ‘’We are looking for those who have served in the Belgian army and are experienced in maintenance of this type of vehicle so we can prepare training for repairs and upkeep in Congo.’’

DSC04348-BA few minutes later (9 p.m.) an answer came back from a Belgian man saying ‘‘Greetings in the risen Christ! I got my truck driver’s license in the army on this type of truck and can find all the maintenance manuals, the notes given in class and other instructions. Actually my work is directing the military driving Centers in Belgium, but am also a construction engineer. Please let me know how I can be of help.’’

So we realize that God has the answers to our every need. Pray for the man who sells these army trucks. He ‘‘happened’’ to hear Yves Pascal play his violin at a concert and came up to get acquainted. The discussion turned to Africa and Congo Open Heart. The man was immediately interested in the work at Matende. They became friends and Yves Pascal, one of our committee members, found out that the man sold army trucks. So we have been to visit in his home and pray that God would touch his heart, that he and his wife would come to know the Christ who rose up from the grave that first Easter morning.

Thank you for your prayers and cooperation with Congo Open Heart.

Happy Easter!

Bud Kroeker and all the team

Congo Trip 2011: Day 1

Day 1 Congo trip: Leave Brussels

Getting the luggage checked at the Brussels airport, we find that we have too many kilos. The huge suitcase of tools and a printer for the Congo office is over by just 2 kilos so several screw drivers are taken out. Another suitcase is full of  medical supplies donated by Belgian nurses, doctors and drug stores. Since it is lightweight, we add a donated laptop for Erik Kumédisa, a frying pan and projector to make the weight. The third suitcase of clothes, books, hot plate, personal items like malaria medicine and mosquito net is fine. They check in even the hand luggage.  I have only my laptop to carry on the plane but even it weighs 8 kilos because of the paper in the briefcase..

After walking a half hour to the new side of the airport to board, I hear my name over the loudspeaker. The baggage department notices some things in the suitcases which make them suspicious. So I go with them to open up the luggage. The battery for my electric drill, a flashlight with a crank, the hot plate and the laptop are inspected. Then I can close everything in time to board the Brussels Airline plane.

My seat is next to a window and no one is sitting next to me, so I sleep comfortably. I awake to see the coast of Algeria under the clouds, all green and populated, but a little farther on the desert appears. There is a lot of mist over the Sahara desert so we don’t see much. But soon we pass over central Africa where it is all green, and descend down to land in Douala, Cameroon. I’m surprised to see a large part of the city flooded. Those who have nicer homes often use blocks made of earth not baked. When the floods rise, these homes give way. It is just a short stop to let off passengers, but I can feel the warm African air coming through the open doorway. We are no longer in Europe.

The plane flies high over the equator and the 1200 kilometers on to Kinshasa. There is a lot of turbulence and nobody leaves their seat during the hour and a half. It is dark as we arrive at 8:10 but we can see under the clouds the part of the city that is lit up, and the huge black ribbon of water which is the Congo River.

The plane lands and we climb down the stairs to set our feet on African soil once again, and feel the warm, humid air. A bus takes us to the terminal which has all been remodeled since my visit last year. The walls are painted blue and white. What was before a crowd of people asking if they can serve you, now is a line of official people in uniform, courteous and anxious to help you save time. A nurse in white uniform checks my yellow card and the policewoman asks me a few questions.

There is actually a baggage area with carousel and a man comes up to me to ask if my name is Clement. He has access to the baggage department and has been informed of my arrival. He takes two suitcases, I take the others and we head for the door. Eric Kumedisa, the Congolese secretary for Congo Open Heart is there waiting with a joyful welcome. We take a taxi for the hour long ride into Kinshasa.

The taxi driver is a careful driver, watching out for the holes in the road, cars stopped along the side, broken down, and people walking across the road in the dark. He only has one headlight, a bit crooked, and the gears grind and get stuck but he gets us there safely.

I am installed in the Protestant Rest House. This place has been a stopping place for many missionaries during its 100 years of existence. It is near the center of the city on a street called Avenue de la Mission. One of the oldest missions in Congo, the British Missionary Society, had this huge complex of buildings put up. It was a huge property going clear down to the Congo River, containing church, houses, print shop, bookstore, etc. Now it is divided up by concrete walls and metal doors.

I have a room with another small room next to mine for welcoming visitors. There is a shower (cold water only) and a small air conditioner which makes a lot of noise and only circulates the air, not cooling it. But I am very thankful to be here, and very happy as in the morning I can open the window and hear the birds and see the palm trees.


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Credit: Brussels Airport image by Niels Sienaert. Used with permission via Flickr.

“When are You Coming Back?”

In March 2010, Clement “Bud” Kroeker and Olivier Engels traveled to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to begin meeting with local Congolese to learn what is most needed and what can be done. Here is what Clement reported at the conclusion of that trip:

If we had to choose two words to express our trip they would be joy and sadness. We were welcomed so joyfully everywhere we went by a large number of people and pastors who expressed their gratitude and thanked God we had come to visit. We were touched meeting so many faithful Christians.

But the sad part was to see things in such a poor, run-down condition. Former buildings of schools, churches, and health centers lying in ruins or very dilapidated, or nothing left at all. The people have not been able to rebuild since the wars and rebellion of the Mulele troops in 1963 followed by Mobutu’s troops. Here and there a few metal roofs cover a torn down wall or two. Pieces of bricks or other walls give evidence of buildings that were built there over 50 years ago, but now the tall, wild grass covers everything. Besides this there is a total lack of Bibles, Christian literature or education materials for the schools.

We had hoped to visit 15 of the old mission stations, but the condition of the roads makes it impossible. Nor was there time. Nor were the vehicles in good enough condition to make the trip. But we were able to visit six mission stations that I knew well in my youth, plus three cities of the province in addition to Kinshasa that makes ten centers of contacts. They were happy that I still could understand and speak Kikongo, but getting back into practice, we used French most of the time.

Before returning to Kikwit at the end of our time in the bush, we went back a second time to Matende, the last mission station where I lived with my family until 1950. Everyone agreed that this area is the most logical place to rebuild. It is closest to the highway, and closest to Kikwit. The leaders of the Matende area are eager to rebuild and show the most enthusiasm. Parts of a clinic and a school still are used although in terrible condition. A Christian doctor comes to work several days each month. The mission still owns its plot of 25 acres of land plus 150 acres of agricultural land.

We talked with the Christian leaders and pastors at Matende, again in Kikwit and again in Kinshasa and discussed ways of turning this land into a center for spiritual refreshment, education, agriculture and communication. The project has no funding but there is a desire to pray and work. If it is God’s will, there will be help for the building of schools, churches, dispensary and housing for volunteers and personnel. Also discussed was a way to use clean energy, have Internet connection, and start a library or even a small printing press.

Each time they asked the question: When are you coming back?