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

Congo Trip 2011: Day 2

Day 2 in Congo

I eat a breakfast of bread and coffee, then people begin arriving to greet me, and others start phoning me on their cell phone from here and there, even the village of Iwungu Nsamba and Matende. I spend the day discussing with Erik Kumedisa, talking over the agenda and what needs to be purchased here in Kinshasa before going to Kikwit. We will be here a few more days.

We take a little walk down the street where the British Missionary Society had built very sturdy houses constructed entirely with steel up off the ground to avoid being flooded if the Congo River ever rose that high. It has never happened yet. The Scottish builders were famous for metallic construction of ships and the expression «Clyde built» used for anything really sturdy, can certainly apply to these houses, which are still standing. The Mission brought the metal parts pre-fabricated from Scotland.

Another thing that strikes me is a huge machine out on the lawn. It is the motor from the first missionary boat going up river. The Peace, was built in Scotland in the 1800s and from the port of Matadi had to be taken apart and all the parts carried by men up past the rapids to Kinshasa on foot, then re-assembled. Then the River boat was used by missionaries to go up and down the rivers of Congo, carrying missionaries, doctors and medicines, and spreading the gospel everywhere.

We are so fortunate today to have modern means of transportation, cell phones, and even E-Mails, but are we able to do as much as those first missionaries?

May God give us courage and strength to at least try to do our very small part. Thanks for all your prayers, gifts, and words of encouragement.

“The Peace” on beach at Bolobo

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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.

Destination: Matende

In a few days I will leave my heavy winter coat in Belgium and, eight hours later, walk down the steps from the plane into a nice warm evening in Congo.

Wouldn’t you like to join me?

In just over a week on Monday, February 28, I will catch the plane from Brussels for Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Preparations have been moving ahead and the long lists are coming to an end with urgency toward the last. Passport visa for RDC, shots, beginning of malaria medicine, E-mail and phone calls to Congo, difficulties of contacting people with no electricity, things they ask us to bring, last-minute purchases, medicines donated for the little clinic at Matende, tools for basic carpenter work and cooking, personal medicines for 6 weeks…

How to fit everything into two suitcases? Brussels airlines has strict baggage requirements for Congo because everyone wants to take the maximum cargo. I can have two suitcases of 50 pounds each plus my carry-on, but I elected to pay $270 for an additional 70-pound suitcase.

The flight with Brussels Airlines arrives in Kinshasa in the evening where I will be met by Erik Kumedisa, the friend who accompanied Olivier and I last year, and who has been going ahead with the forming of the Congolese office, and meeting with the other men interested in Congo Open Heart.

Our exploration trip last March helped us decide that it is at Matende mission that we want to begin the work of Congo Open Heart.

We hope that some of those people in Kinshasa, crowded up with garbage and noise and pollution, can come back and live in this beautiful countryside and rebuild this Christian oasis and conference center. It can become an educational and health center as well as a training center with a farming operation to help cover the operating costs of the mission.

At Matende we will meet up with three farming specialists to help evaluate the situation and begin training. Two of them will be traveling with me from Kinshasa.

Buildings put up before the rebellion of 1963 had all been looted and robbed of anything of value, the corrugated tin on the roofs, doors, windows and frames and any lumber and fixtures. Only a few columns are still standing of the house the Kroeker family lived in. Blocks have been used to patch up elsewhere. Only one corner of the church is still standing with a grass roof. The garage workshop is gone. The roof has been replaced very roughly on the long school building and the two missionary houses. Student housing was destroyed and abandoned. Two buildings of the medical center are standing with roofs but no medical equipment or beds.

We promised the local staff to try to bring in some work teams to help rebuild and find funds for materials. Our job on this trip will be to discuss with the Congolese leaders to see just what can be done.

The following plan of action, depending on how things work out, is what I visualize at this point:

  • Fix doors and windows on a few rooms where we can lock up tools, computers and important items.
  • Dig up the sewage system and drains at one house and see if it can be fixed or completely replaced.
  • Install at least one inside toilet.
  • Fix up a kitchen for cooking and eating.
  • Clean out one of the rain water cisterns, find storage for clean water.
  • Find small electric generator and fuel.
  • Fix shed to store the tractor that we hope to get from the government, and find fuel in Kikwit and transport it to Matende.

Three important steps include:

  1. Completely evaluate the situation for budgets and plans.
  2. Prepare the logistics for teams to come.
  3. Encourage the Christians to have a new and enlarged vision of what God wants them to do.

Praise

  • We look forward to meeting with the local pastors and teachers again, to gather their ideas and hopes for the future. To be able to offer them some literature and show them on a screen portions of the Bible from my laptop, or projector using videos.
  • We praise the Lord for the group here in Belgium who have formed the committee who meet to discuss the needs, and how best to meet them. They have been busy collecting medical items for me to take in my suitcase to the doctor in Matende where even the basic medicines are lacking.
  • We praise the Lord for work on this website. You can read any news I can send in: CongoOpenHeart.org
  • Praise for meetings with other non-profit Christian aid missions.
  • Praise for Christians in Belgium who want to help out financially.

Pray

  • Please pray for my health, I had a light flu hit me this week which slows me down. Otherwise, all medical exams, shots, and purchasing of my medicine went well.
  • Pray for my preparations this next week, correspondence and phone calls to Kinshasa.
  • Pray for arrival in Kinshasa and meetings with pastors and officials there and in Kikwit.
  • Pray for local transportation. A pickup is needed to drive to Matende with materials.
  • Pray for the purchase of lumber and building supplies, funds for local salaries if needed.
  • Pray for funds to purchase an electric generator, probably $1000 or more in Kinshasa. We need to run a few power tools and charge our computer, cell phone, and light batteries and use a hot plate for cooking.
  • Pray that we will actually get the tractor with some implements. We hope it will have at least a trailer to haul sand from the river after we scratch out the abandoned road.
  • Pray for our example and witness that we might be an encouragement to the local Christians, and share our testimony with all, old and young alike.

I truly would love for you to join me. Won’t you follow along on this journey, this mission, by following updates on this blog or our Facebook page?

Clement “Bud” Kroeker

“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?