Sunday, June 26, 2011

Children, Wheelchairs and Cotton-eyed Joe

Welcome to our week! I will begin with this disclaimer: This blog will be the death of me yet. On the page that I arrange the pix and type the text, it looks beautiful, all is lined up and makes complete sense. But the preview changes the location of the text and pictures. I simply CANNOT, WILLNOT do it all over. You will have to figure out which pictures goes with which description. I apologize, but what you see is what you get. Maybe someone out there can give me some advice???? And it took about 2 hours to download the video. We really really hope you can get it to play. Good luck!!
On our last trip to the orphanage, a special children's program was being held. When we arrived, the children were all sitting up on a raised area under an awning, waiting for the program to begin. We were told to be there at 10 am, and we were early. The program began at 11:30. During this whole time the children sat calmly and obediently, no fussing or complaining. While some rock/salsa music was being played, two little boys in the front row stood up and danced in place. (Two pictures below). Where they learned their moves is a mystery to us, since they've been in this orphanage for most of their lives, and they certainly don't have tv or videos. I think it's inborn. And Dad got to hold our little guy who was sick last visit and is doing great now. What a cutie! For the program, the children sang a sad song about being abandoned by their parents, but the Lord would never abandon them. Then they presented some skits about their circumstances that brought them to the orphanage. Very eye-opening. Our little guy has a sad story == he is the tash baby. His mother was told by her pastor right after his birth that the baby was possessed by an evil spirit and had to be thrown away. She broke his arm, tied up his ankles, and the pastor began to drown him. Luckily he was rescued and the man was put in prison. He swears when he gets out of prison that he will kill the woman who turned him in, who is the owner of the orphanage.
At a visit to a Health and Hygiene training in Nuna. Whenever we construct a water syster the community is required to have this training to teach them how to take care of the clean water and how to stay healthy. We always find beautiful children to photograph wherever we go. It was a very well-organized event, with the village chief walking around the village using a megaphone to announce the training. The presenters were gifted teachers. It was such a treat to see this
training take place.
Some of the children outside the Health and Hygiene training in Nuna. They are so very curious about us Mondeles coming to their village! They love to shake our hands. They love to beg for money or food. They love to imitate our words. We just have a very fun time with them, wherever we find them.
We have been purchasing some local 3-wheeled tricycle type wheelchairs with some left-over funds from an old wheelchair project. This has been such fun, because we can just give them away wherever we choose. This picture is of Bibi, a member who hasn't had a wheelchair for years and can't get to church anymore. Today we attended her ward, and there she was in her new wheelchair!! We met the young man, Koki, when we were shopping in a fabric store. He came into the store on the back of his friend. Koki contracted polio as a baby, and has never walked. His friend carries him everywhere. He came into the store begging for money for food. Of course we were approached by the two of them, (whiteys = $$$) so Elder B. pulled them to one side and talked to them, using an interpreter, and found out that Koki, age 34, had never had a wheelchair. Elder B asked him, "Would you like to have a wheelchair?" Koki said yes, but didn't act like he believed that would be possible. Elder B told him to be waiting on the corner at 1:00 that day and he would bring Koki the chair. Koki said ok. And Koki was there on the back of his friend, waiting, when Elder B arrived. Now he was beginning to believe. He asked about the Church, and was familiar with it. His friend said, "Now I will have nothing to do. Can you get me a job?" So we helped Koki, but put his friend out of a job. Can't win 'em all.

And finally, our Congolese Young Adults doing the Cotton-eyed Joe, taught and led by our wonderful Office Couple, Elder and Sister Hatch from New Mexico!! The Hatches have given so much to this mission. They are totally into the YM and YW of the Church. Elder Hatch tried to get the Boy Scout program started here in Kinshasa, but the Church said the Congo wasn't quite ready for BSA. He was sad. But he has introduced the Duty to God program to the nearby stakes, trains YM leaders, teaches in the Aaronic Priesthood class, is organizing a Stake YMYW Conference next month, and plays basketball with the YM every Saturday. Sis. Hatch teaches in YW, teaches English classes to 90 young adults every Wednesday evening with her husband, and is teaching the Personal Progress program to the nearby stakes. Then on Friday nights they drag the Binghams and the Staggs to these dances to teach the young single adults how to dance some good ol' American moves. These activities are totally voluntarily -- no one asked them to do them in the beginning. Talk about giving your all!! They are our heroes!

(Please excuse the immodest clothing on the video.) These kids have learned the cha-cha and the Virginia Reel, too. They call that last one "The Pioneer Dance" because Elder Hatch told them the pioneers used to dance this one on the plains as they trekked to the Salt Lake Valley. Next: the bunny hop!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Operation Smile and an Orphanage

Another highlight of our mission took place this week. One of our new projects was to donate funds to feed the patients at this Operation Smile mission for cleft palate repairs. The hospitals here do not provide food for their patients, and because many of the patients had to come from long distances, getting food was a major difficulty. We were thrilled that this project was approved, and more thrilled when we attended the event. We were taken through the entire process, from screening patients to post-op. We were very impressed with the caliber of volunteers (Doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, etc. from all over the world) who came together to make this work. They LOVE thier work and it shows! We will share some videos about it when we return.
We were allowed to go into the operating room where two patients were being operated on. It was amazing to see the difference in the patient going into surgery and going out of surgery. We feel we were witnessing miracles. We followed these two children into recovery and post-op.
The picture of the man with the raised arms was a father who had just seen his daughter for the first time after surgery. I was there. He took one look at her face (she was a double-cleft, extremely deformed) and first held his hands to his heart, then lifted them to praise God for the miracle he was seeing. You could not keep from crying.
We learned that the reason we haven't seen children with cleft palates around Kinshasa is that their parents hide them. Some feel that these children are 'devil' children and should not be seen. We only saw mothers and fathers who love their little ones and want a normal life for them.
Don't mourn over these children. They now look wonderful!
On an outing to look at a potential project for capturing some springs, we had to walk through this river. The people with us are the contractor, the president and vice-president of the organization that brought the project to us, plus various and assorted other villagers who are always interested in seeing the moondellis. Even though the water looks very dirty, it really felt wonderful and we wanted to go for a swim!
We visited an orphanage recently. That's where Elder B is, holding a sick baby. He's a natural at such things. Several of these children are being adopted by US couples. Some of the children are here at the orphanage because their parents can't afford to care for them. Others do not have parents. One is referred to as the "trash baby" because he was left in the trash. The Hatches, our wonderful office couple, found this place and have asked the rest of the couples to help them build a fence across the front of the property to keep the children's balls and toys from rolling down the hill into the road. Elder B can't wait to get to work and actually get his hands dirty!!
We are so blessed to be doing this work. It is hard, sometimes things are out of control because there are so many different aspects of the work we have to be involved in at the same time, but we love the work and can't imagine doing anything else. There are frustrations, but we are learning how to stay calm. For example, we have one of the Operation Smile nurses staying overnight with us tonight. She just came out to say her bed just broke while she was saying her prayers and the light stopped working at the same time. She is from SL City and this is her 18th Operation Smile mission!! I told her I knew she could handle it. She agreed that as long as she could have running water and a flush toilet, she was A-ok. At least those things are still working.
There are many more pictures we would love to share, but this will have to suffice for now.
We love you and appreciate your prayers.