Monday, January 10, 2011

A few last memories on our Luputa trip

(Actually this is just things I need to put to writing - I don't want to forget them so read with that in mind or skip it if you have had too much Luputa news.)

You may want to scroll down to the CELEBRATION blog it is much more interesting.

Our fond farewell to Luputa was just "till we meet again."  We had said those farewells 2 years ago and thought that would be the end and here we were back celebrating so this time we just said, "Till we meet again."  who knows where or when that will be.

Before we left we visited the Luputa General Hospital.  We had done a large project there in 2009 and the hospital though not where it needs to be was better than it was.  We found the beds were still in tact but the vinyl mattresses were shredded due to the rough springs on the beds.  The ecography machine was not working due to the prob being cracked.  There was a new surgical building being built by another organization but they had no new equipment to put in it.  We hope that the next humanitarian couple that comes will think about how to help this hospital that is serving over 200,000 people as the only hospital in the area.

While we were touring Marie Josee showed up and invited us to visit her orphanage.  We hated to make this visit as it is always a tearjerker and there are so many needs at the orphanage.
When we arrived at the orphanage Marie put a baby into my arms and told us,
"Meet baby Barlow." 

They had named the baby after us as the baby came the same day as our last visit two years ago and we had given her a little money to buy vitamins and some food and so they named the baby, Barlow. 
The Christensens handed out baby clothes to the infants that they had brought from their home ward.  Marie said that they had many children who had been brought to her malnourished and many are so far into starvation that she has a very hard time nursing them back and often looses them before she can get any nutrition into them.   We asked her about Admet the supplement the church uses in areas where there is famine and she asked if we could get her any.  Sis. Christensen said she would work on sending her some when she got home to the states.  We wish there was more we could do to support her.

We left the orphanage feeling sick that in this world of ours there truly are children who are starving.  Most of these children are deep in the bush and when their parent dies they are on their own until someone finds them and gets them help.

On our trip back to Mbuji Mayi we rode with the Ericksons, Eustache and Daniel.  It was eventful as we got a flat tire in the middle of no where.  Our driver was prepared and we were back on the road in no time.
But first some photo ops

 Passing by - doesn't look like any one here went to school today.
 Some school uniforms but most look like they have been in the field working.
 Daniel wanted to try out the machete.  it was very sharp.
We could have taken the truck taxi to Mbuji Mayi,
or hitched a ride with someone going to town.
We also had to stop for Daniel to try pushing one of those heavy laden bikes up the hill.
Easy, no sweat! (ha)
 Good by beautiful country.
 Good by grass mud huts and beautiful villages without safe water.
Good by beautiful women of the Congo and your bright, colorful, beautiful dresses.

We left Luputa with a new bag full of memories to take with us.  The best was memories of old and new friends.
 Mimi and Wivine, the vendors near the apartment in Kinshasa
 Dr. Arthur Ngoy, the NRT champion saving thousands of babies.
Bishop Hoboko, our bishop when we were in the DRC.
 Eustache, a friend, a mentor, a son.
 The Nguwa family looking beautiful with Jean Pierre on the phone, always.
 The new Kinshasa - where is the traffic?  Where are the potholes?
Elder and Sis. Renlund, South East Africa Area Presidency
 Marie and Van Christensen, our predecessors in the DRC - kindred spirits.
 Owner of property at water site with Elder Erickson
 Pres. and Sis.Tshisangas, always got us through the Mbuji Mayi airport safe and sound. 
 Daniel DeAlmada, head of Temporal Affairs in Kinshasa - a new friend, great travel companion.
 Pres. and Sis. Packer, Lubumbashi, DR Congo Mission President
 Sis. Moody, never did get a pic with her and her husband.  They were too busy running the show and taking care of all of us.  They followed us into the mission as humanitarian country directors. 
Elder Moody
 The Chiefs - warmed our hearts to see those smiles
Elder Kola, Area Seventy and a spiritual giant
Elder Erickson, Public Relations for Africa So. East Area
(sans his hat)
Sis. Christensen, Public Relations for Africa South East Area
 Nestor - site monitor for the cassava project.
Domoinique Sowa, ADIR water contractor
Pres. Willy Binene, District Pres. Luputa District of the church
Missing Daniel Kasadi, site monitor of the water project - can;t find one picture of him.
Did I miss any one else?

I just have to document the amazing outfits of the Chiefs that attended the celebration.
Note the bandelo which looks like it is made totally out of beads.
This headdress was very colorful.
Not sure what it said on it but if was beads with  real horns and some feathers.
He was a big chief of something but we didn't know him and we only saw him at the ceremony. 
Chief of one of the 4 villages - many times we have seen the chiefs wear this white long dress.  He is usually carrying a wand of sorts that has a goats tail on it that he waves or points with.
This hat shows the beautiful red feathers with sisal finials and beads as decorations. No horns on this one unless you call the nobs horns but note the sheep's wool and what looks like a tail on the back.

This chief was also wearing the long white dress.  It had a flower on the crown and a cross of beads in front.
 This piece included shells and many glass beads and unique carved beads and metal beads.  In some areas of Africa the metal beads are used like money. 
 Chief Benini was the most regal.  His headdress was covered in glass beads.   Two horns stick out either side of the hat, and point forward.  I read that these are in imitation of buffalo horns and refer to the chief's authority - the chief is expected to be strong and powerful.

 Again the beautiful red feathers and looping and chevron patterns of the beads.
 The skirt of his costume was Kuba clothes.  Kuba clothes are unique to the Congo and are used for many things such as ceremonial skirts, burial clothes and just for decoration.  There is a real history to the art of making Kuba Cloth that you may want to read about.  this Kuba cloth seemed to have all the many decorative elements of the cloth and was so very  beautiful.  Note the cane he carried (and used) with the snake wrapped around it and some carvings.
The jacket was a site to behold with thousands of beads and shells sewn in beautiful patterns.  Part of the jacket was two bandelos that crossed the chest.  It looked very heavy and was quite a creation.
We complemented the Chief on his beautiful outfit.  He said it was very old and had been worn by the Chiefs of his clan for many years. . .  his father, his grandfather, his great grandfather - he wasn't sure how many generations it went back.
 When Chief Benini walked in to the celebration we were all craning our necks trying to take in the magnificent site

Ah, these are some wonderful memories we will bank and pull out again and again to remember the wonderful people of the DRC.  It was an honor to be a part of this experience and to know that life in Luputa is better now.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Celebration of Clean Water in Luputa

The morning of the Celebration we arrived at the District chapel and found the women had been cooking all night.  They were tired but dinner was ready. 
They would be feeding people at several sites but only the dignitaries as they would not be feeding all those who wanted to come.  There would be thousands at the celebration.

The water tanks were finished and large banners were placed on them ready for the program.
For Peace So The Church of Jesus Christ OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS
could complete this project
The crowd was already gathering when we arrived.  It was estimated that 15,000 people were in attendance.  The Youth Church Choir (in white shirts) sang hymns while the dignitaries walked in.
There was standing room only for the crowds coming in from the villages.
Some found special seats, albeit rather precarious but at least they could see something.
As always in Africa there were children everywhere.  they are quite good at mugging for a photo.
How great it was to get all three Humanitarian couples together for this great celebration.  Each of us had our own thoughts and memories but all of us shared a love for Luputa.
Can't have a celebration without a little music, African style.  All instruments are made locally by hand and their sound is distinctively African.
There had been two gazebos erected for the honored guests.  We shared a spot with all our friends from ADIR (the contractor). and the other one held all the Church and government dignitaries.
Before the chiefs of the villages arrived a lady came on to the grounds and danced and chanted.  We weren't sure if she was cleansing the ground prior to the Chiefs coming or warding off evil spirits.
Then the Chiefs of the villages started to arrive.   We recognized them all as we had visited with them in their villages when we first started the water project and many times thereafter.
 They came dressed for the occasion in very interesting, official regalia.
. . .very dignified and very happy to see this day come to fruition.
Beautiful Congolese women were there dressed in their best.
 While waiting to get started we heard a holler of hello from the dignitary  gazebo.  Some one had recognized Elder Barlow.
 They were as happy too see him, as happy as he was that they recognized him.
Everyone was in their places and it was time to get started.  There was a buzz of conversation from every corner of the grounds and many were pushing forward trying to get a place to see the ceremony.  The pressing got pretty dangerous at one point and the police had to push the crowd backwards.  To us it seemed like a disaster waiting to happen but no one else seemed too concerned.
Pres. Willy Binene Sabwe, District president of the 2000 members of the church in Luputa spoke as the local leader for the church
.(Of interest about Luputa and the church is that several years ago some members fleeing violence in the Lubumbashi area came to Luputa to settle.  They taught their neighbors about the gospel and finally petitioned the church to be recognized with a branch.  When the mission came to investigate they found many people wanting to be baptized.  They were made a branch of the church but have never had full time missionaries in their area.  The church has grown there by members teaching their neighbors and friends.  That congregation is now a district with 8 branches.  This district has sent out many young elders on missions to serve all over Africa.  They have returned to the village and have given great strength to the church.  They are dedicated, and have a pure love of Christ in their countenance).
Elder Kola, Area Seventy for the church spoke.

Government dignitaries gave their thoughts on the gift of pure water.
Some looked very official in their dress.
The Minister of Rural Development, Charles Mwando, spoke wearing a big black cowboy hat.
There was a play about the value of clean water and the penalty for misusing the gift.  It was staged by the Hygiene Sanitation Trainers that were teaching in all the villages about proper use of the gift of water Training on hygiene and sanitation is always done where ever the church gives a clean water project.
After the speeches we all headed to the water spigots to have a ceremonial turning on of the water.  Just one of the crowd.  Can you find a familiar face?  Kind of like 'Where's Waldo',
 There are dozens of these water taps around the village of Luputa.  Pretty amazing when you think about it, just last month these people were dipping water out of a stream and now they have piped water near their homes.
 Well the ceremony is over and now it was time to do the press interviews and some interviews for the video spots and movie that the church was putting together.
 Hey, what happened to the Minister's big black cowboy hat? 
He told Farrell that he was a member of the church and was taking the missionary lessons. It is true he is taking the missionary lessons but he hasn't been baptized yet. He is very interested in the church and it's doctrine.
 Daniel DeAlmada representing the Church in the DRC and Eustache Ilunga, Kinshasa Stake President, presented the minister with a medallion as a thank you from the church for his support and his efforts in helping the church with the water project.
With all the ceremonial part of the day over we headed back to the District office.  It was time for the long awaited food to be served.  On second thought  . . .
The District compound was to be the site of the celebration feast for all the church dignitaries and their invited guests.
The Chiefs weren't the only ones dressed up for the occasion.
 From the beginning of our trips to Luputa there is one site you would always see.  It was the crowd of children that were always waiting right out side the gate of the District compound.  They are there no matter when you come or when you leave -  we have never been quite sure if they have a built in radar or if they live right there on the porch of the building adjacent to the District compound.- but it is true you will always find the children there ready to greet you.
 Waiting at the compound when we arrived were all the chiefs from the villages.  This was a delight and an unexpected opportunity to speak to each of them.
The Chief of the Chiefs was there, Chief Raymond Binene.  He was happy to see Elder Barlow. 
We had been warned by Bro. Christensen not to try and shake his hand as he does not shake hands.  We were grateful for the heads up and Elder Barlow was able to greet him appropriately.   
 His wife was with him.  She did not speak French so I asked him if I could give her a gift.  He said that it would give him great pleasure if I were to give her a gift.  I gave her a strand of Ugandan beads that I had brought with me.  I am not sure who was more delighted, the Chief or his wife. 
 We all wanted a picture and Chief Binene was very accommodating as long as we would promise toshare the pictures with him.
 Eustache and Daniel didn't want to be left out.  Daniel will return to Luputa in the near future and promised to bring him the pictures on his next trip.
 It was a rather historical moment to have Elder Kola get a picture with Chief Benini.
The Chief does not eat food prepared out side of his village.  Nestor (the site monitor for the cassava project) brought gifts to the Chief, a goat and two cases of soda - a gift from the church in Luputa.  The goat would be taken back to his village and prepared for his meal that evening.
 It's hard entertaining Chiefs.  Nestor had had enough of this very eventful day.
 Ahhhh! Omer, our trusted friend and chauffeur who had driven us to Luputa many times in the past, came dressed up in a suit for the occasion. He had good news for us.  He is getting baptized.  For four years he has been shuttleing the missionaries from Mbuji,Mayi to Luputa.  He has put up with our "Mormon" ways and been preached to many times always accepting and treatiing us with such grace.  We truly love him and now he is going to join the church.  What great news.  We wish we could be there for that event.
 Hey, is that the Ministers cowboy hat?  Seems Bro. Kubingila told the minister that since they were such good friends tht the Minister should give him something to show his friendship.  The Minister gave him his hat. 
Not long after giving up his hat to Bro. Kubingila, he turned to Elder Erickson and said he liked Elder Erickson's hat and the Minister took it and put it on his own head.  That was the last Elder Erickson  saw of his hat.  He told Bro.Kubingila that he thought that the big black hat must belong to him since the Minister had his hat now but Bro. Kubingila would have none of it.
Sorry Elder Erickson but - well, it is the African way.
It had been a great day, a historical day and we got to be a part of it.  Less we forget though this whole celebration and more than three years of effort by many people could not have been possible without the large to small humanitarian donations received by the church.  Thank you to all of you who fiinancially support the church's humanitrian efforts with your generous donations.  This is your project and it has brought clean water to thousands of children in the Democratic Republic of Congo with over 200,000 beneficiaries.

Visit the website and see what good is being done.