Last month we were traveling in the car to visit a proposed site for some new clean water wells. We got stuck in traffic (happens all the time -- 10 million people in Kinshasa = traffic jams). So as we were creeping along, a Congolese man walking along the side of the road dressed in white shirt and tie came up to my car window and held up a folder, indicating that he wanted to give it to us. He was a total stranger. Normally I do NOT roll down my window for anyone, including policemen (ESPECIALLY policemen), but I did for this man. He said something to us in French, handed us the folder, and disappeared into the crowd. I looked at it briefly and saw that it was a proposed project for hand-dug wells. It was all in French, naturally, so I just told Elder B "It's another potential project" and chuckled that this man happened to know who we were and was able to hand his project over without even having to go into the office to see us. Then we just forgot about the whole incident and went on our merry way. When we returned to the office I nonchalantly threw the folder on the top of all the kazillions of other projects that had been submitted since we had arrived.
Because lots of well-meaning non-government associations know that the LDS Humanitarian couple can help them financially with their projects, we have been inundated with people coming into our office and telling us (ok, telling our interpreter, who then tells us) all about their causes. They are all good, but we have to explain to them that while we would love to help every single group with their worthy requests, we are limited financially, and so we have to make the very difficult decision of which projects we can do for the year. It is really heartbreaking to have to tell people no. We finally were counseled by other Humanitarian couples, and even our own interpreter that we needed to have some control over who comes into our office. It is extremely time-consuming, and we were getting very little done because of the many interruptions, most of them without appointments. So we gave the gate-keeper a notice to show people showing up at the gate that we were not taking any more project appointments until June. What a great idea!
But it didn't really work. People still some how got through the gate, or our interpreter himself would tell people to come see us.....We were getting a little annoyed, and losing patience, though we did try to give everyone who came in some time.
One day, in spite of our best laid plans, a little man knocked on our door. "Oh, no!! Not now!! We are too busy trying to write up projects for another interview!!!" But we invited him in, he sat down, and he said (in French) "I gave you a project last month and I wanted to know if you have read it." We said, (in English), "Which project?" He answered that it was the one he gave us on the road. We dug it out of the pile. "Tell us about it" we said patiently. And so he did. We discovered that the project was beautifully prepared, typed up and detailed (how do they do that when they have so little? Where do they get a computer to type it? A printer? Paper? That is always a surprise to us.) He then told us that he had gotten up at 4 am to walk (no $ for a taxi) to Kinshasa to come to our office and present it to us personally, and then (there are no coincidences) he saw us on the road and recognized our name tags and dad's white shirt and tie.
We were blown away that he would walk that far in that heat, just to bring us the project. So we started listening a little more carefully. 6 hand-dug wells in 3 communities who desperately need water; children sick with diahrrea from drinking contaminated water; moms having to walk horrible distances in the middle of the night to get their 40-liter bidons filled, then walk home again, sometimes not returning until afternoon; fights breaking out amongst the people waiting in long lines for their turn to get water; etc. etc. When he finished, we asked him when we could go see the project. He told us he would arrange it with the village chiefs and call us. Because we don't speak French, it is a little hard to get a phone call from french speakers. We then decided to give him our interpreter's phone number, who would then communicate with us. In fact, Dede, our interpreter, was so touched by Brother Bekele that he said he wanted his number even if Bro. Bekele wasn't going to call him first. He said, "I feel this is a special one". We felt that way too. (There are no coincidences.) How did Bro. Bekele get past the gate guard? How did he know we would be traveling along his road that day? Why did we agree to see him without an appointment?
So last Thursday we went to the potential sites, met Brother Bekele and his wife, the engineer, and 3 village chiefs. They showed us all 6 sites. It will be a good project. We actually saw a fight break out at one of the water sources, just like he had said.
Bro. Bekele is in the white shirt and tie. Notice how dry this area is? It was so hot! Fils, our interpreter, is in the greenish shirt. Sis. Bekele, a very sweet little lady, is on the end. The engineer for the project is in the blue shirt next to me.
We love the way Heavenly Father is so patient with us. He tried to tell us that first day that we needed to do this project by putting us on Bro. Bekele's road. We weren't listening. He then made sure Bro. Bekele got into our office. Finally we began to see.
Speaking of seeing, do you see this cool ceremonial mask? Elder B bought it at the Thieve's Market, a craft market here in Kinshasa. He is sure it is authentic, very old and is worth megabucks. He thinks he will take it to the Antiques Road Show when we get home and we will find out we are the lucky owners of a very valuable item. It is hanging on our wall in our living room.
Here are a couple photos of home sweet home. I would rather you thought we lived in a hut and were really making all kinds of sacrifices to be here, but I can't let you think that anymore. We are extremely comfortable, even though the furniture is NOT.
You can see the size of the mask. I think it will scare some of my grandkids!