Sunday, July 31, 2011

Babies in Buckets

Here we are at the Club Foot Clinic again, one of our favorite places to visit. This little guy has been casted multiple times, and each time he returns to the clinic, his mom sticks him in the bucket of cold water to soften the cast so it can be removed. No cast saws here!! After the cast is soft enough, the mom takes a huge serrated-edged knife and cuts off the cast. This process takes 30-60 minutes. IF there was electricity and IF there was an electric cast saw, all this would be done in minutes. But the moms expect to do this, and they patiently work with those casts with a smile on their faces. Such dedicated moms!

A beautiful little princess and her beautiful mama, waiting for her turn at the clinic. This was her first visit.

This little cutie is lying on is stomach on his mom's lap while she is hard at work doing the bucket thing. He was having a ball just talking and laughing, while all the time .......

exposing his little hiney to the whole world!!

This is the clinic cook making foo-foo. This is the most popular food in the Congo- the staple - It is made from the roots of the cassava plant. The roots are peeled, chopped up, soaked, pressed,
spread out in the hot sun and dried, then ground into flour. The flour is what foo-foo is made of. They boil the flour with some corn flour in water, then stir stir stir. The consistency is of very thick cream of wheat. It is eaten with some sort of gravy and fish. Eating utensils are not usually used, so the foo-foo is rolled into a ball with the fingers and dipped into the gravy. We plan on trying some real soon. It doesn't have much nutrition, but it fills the belly.

Yesterday (Saturday) we went to the second Youth conference, this time a two-stake affair with only 600 YM & YW attending. We all learned a lot from our previous one, so this one went much more smoothly. We were dreading it because it was held in a much smaller building and we heard there would be 1000 attending. Thank goodness it wasn't quite so big. Elder B spent much of his time in the kitchen with the ladies yukking it up and making sandwiches. They sang Church hymns to him in French while working. When it was time to clean up, he tried to do some cleaning, but they wouldn't let him. At the end of the conference, there was to be a little dance (sort of talent show), but it got a little rude (again, like last week.) During one of the numbers (terrible rap song) the electricity suddenly went out. So the kids went home. It turned out that the electricity didn't really go out....Elder B just decided it was over and went out and pulled the power switch. Perfect way to end the day! He felt a little guilty about it later, but everyone else thanked him over and over.

We will end this with a bit of good news from Lafayette Super Market. Not only are Ali and Prem promising chocolate chips, they are saying that they will begin ordering PEPPER JACK cheese!!! I will give them a few weeks before requesting corn tortillas and green chili enchilada sauce.

Life is good.
From these Mundelis we bid you Botakala malambu! (Lingala for good bye)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

First Youth Conference in the DRC!!

For the first time in the history of the church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a youth conference was held. It was a tri-stake event. It was the idea of Elder and Sister Hatch, our awesome office couple, who have been involved in the youth forever, first at home (New Mexico) and now here in Kinshasa. They knew that if they did all the planning and all the work, it wouldn't teach the local members anything at all, so the whole event was delegated to the local Stake and Ward leaders. And it worked!! There were close to 800 youth in attendance!! (The picture above is only about 80% present.) We were hoping for 300. Yikes!!! And they kept coming and coming, up until lunch-time. Finally those at the registration tables said, "Just go find a class and enjoy! Don't worry about registering!" The classes taught were on Temple Marriage (taught by a darling couple just returned from the temple), Missionary Preparation taught by our own interpreter Fils, Singing taught by Joseph, an outstanding musical guy and return missionary, Duty to God for the YM, Personal Progress for the YW, and Outdoor Games taught by two US guys who are temporarily working here in Kinshasa. Classes rotated every 45 minutes.
In spite of some logistical problems, it was a huge success and we hope it gets in the Church News. But even if it doesn't, the purpose was accomplished: To get the youth together to have a spiritually uplifting day, and to have lots of fun at the same time. For the adults, a sampling of what they themselves can do for their youth.

For closing exercises we tried to get everyone inside, but didn't quite make it. This is the chapel and cultural hall. You may notice that not only are there YM and YW-aged attenders, but also Primary age (their older siblings couldn't come unless they brought the younger ones) and some young single adults who just couldn't stay away. We think we also attracted the neighborhood youth, but figured why not? What better place for them to be on a Saturday?

Three young men who were begging to have their picture taken. We had just broken for mid-morning snack -- peanuts and a 'biscuit'.

The whole event was just what President Gingery used to say about his missionaries in Jamaica: herding cats! Imagine herding 800 youth at one small building.

So much was learned! (by the leaders even more than the youth). For example, what a 'dance' means to Congolese youth. Not where everyone gets on the dance floor and dances. Oh no...It was more like a talent show. Small groups got on stage and put on a dance exhibition. Unfortunately, they are in love with rap, and the exhibitions (very suggestive) had to be ended almost before they began. Now we know what a 'dance' is. Another 2-stake conference is being held next Saturday, and there will be a few changes - especially in the dance category. That is how we learn!

Above is one of our club foot babies who will begin treatment to straighten her feet.

We revisited the Club Foot clinic this week to follow our little baby girl. Last week you saw her before she began treatment. Here she is in all her glory -- and all her casts. After we left, her casts came off, she was assessed, and re-casted to turn her feet gradually. You will begin to see a difference this next week when we return for our 3rd visit.

That's all for this week. We may be taking our third trip to Luputa next week to check out the water system there and offer support to the water committee. Our recently written projects are getting approved and we will start signing contracts now and get busy with the work. It has been a great (complicated, frustrating, scary, worrisome) experience, and we look forward to the future in serving the Lord this way in the Decmocratic Republic of Congo.

Our love to you all.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our First Handing-over Ceremony

African dancers at the St. Joseph Hospital handing-over ceremony. Drummers were drumming, singers were singing, and we were enjoying!

Sister Bingham getting into the act.

Yesterday we attended our very first handing over ceremony (closing ceremony). These are put on when the project construction is completed and it is time for the Church to 'bow out' and hand the project over to the community. It's the way we tell the community that the Church no longer has any responsiblity for whatever we funded -- in this case a drilled well at a local hospital -- and that now the community (or hospital) will be fully responsible for the repair and maintenance of it. It is also a celebration that the project is finally completed and can be used. We had dreaded these events because we were worried that we wouldn't know how to plan and carry these out. Sounded like a lot of detail work. But as it happened, our very wonderful Site Monitor for this project, Francois, came to us and told us he would do it all -- and all we had to do was pay for the event and attend it. We still had some reservations about how it would play out. To our delight and astonishment, it couldn't have been done any better. When we arrived, the chairs, tents, food, sound system, PR people, entertainment, speakers and attendees were already there, and it BEGAN ON TIME!!! The picture you see is of one of the African dancers. They put on quite a show!! They danced before the ceremony began, and then again during refreshments. It was absolutely astounding -- what you see on PBS but WE WERE RIGHT THERE!!! We took some videos of the dancers and the drummers, but it won't upload on the blog. So sorry about that -- you would have heard as well as seen the whole thing. At the end of the ceremony, we were all led over to a covered (tablecloth) water faucet, surrounded by a tape (torn strip of tablecloth) which they ceremoniously cut, handed a piece of the tape to the Catholic Priest (it is a Catholic hospital - St. Joseph's) and then gave out glass goblets to all the important people, including us, to take the first drinks from the faucet. The engineer even spoke, the priest blessed the water tower and pump, the hospital director spoke. And we just got to sit back and enjoy. All the other senior missionary couples attended, and so did the Jamesons, our new Mission President and wife. They all loved it. The great thing about it is the Church got some great PR, in fact our name is painted on the tower. We also learned that the site monitors always plan the ceremonies. Yes!! We have made up a certificate of achievement for Francois -- he deserves it.

Below is a three-week old baby's club feet. In a short two months this baby's feet will be normal. We will put up pictures on the blog as her feet are gradually straightened in the casts.

To the right, you will see a baby's leg being casted. This is a little clinic where we have written a project to provide the plaster of paris bands and some cotton for casting children with club feet.
We learned that the incidence of club foot is 4-5 out of every 1000 births. The baby's foot (feet) can be straightened easily by just casting the foot every week for about 2 months. That is only true if the child is under 2 years of age. Older than that requires surgery. So this clinic is treating about 15 babies each month. Too often if the baby isn't casted, the cost of the surgery is too much to have it done, and then these beautiful babies grow up to crawl around Kinshasa begging for money to survive. A very worthwhile project, we think. We submitted it last Friday, and we think we have a good chance of it being approved because the medical personnel here at this clinic are training nurses, doctors, and physiotherapist on how to assess and cast these patients so they can then go to other clinics and do the same. Self-reliance is the best!! By the way, this little clinic was being held outside in the back yard of the clinic because there was no electricity or water that day and it was too dark inside to work. We all sat under a nice shade tree and were entertained by these beautiful babies, mothers, and clinic people.

Just an interesting sight as we travel the roads of Kinshasa. Much of what is hauled around the city is not done by truck, but by pouse-pouse. They are carts with handles on both ends for pushing and pulling. Single axel with car tires. They haul everything, including whole cars, as you can see. Nothing stops the pousair! (operator of the pouse pouse.)

Our first clean water project that WE wrote up and submitted was approved, and so we have just learned how to write contracts with the contractor and site monitor. Everything we do here is a learning experience, and being old and forgetful, it is all difficult, sometimes seemingly imossible. So we have to stop and ask ourselves, "What did we accomplish today?" Then we can say, "We learned how to do contracts." or "We went all day without getting stopped by the police." or "No fender-benders today." or "We got through another day without being able to speak French." That way we can put things in perspective and feel like we are making headway. But no matter what, we are having daily adventures that we would never have experienced any other way. (Friday night we went dancing again and took a young man visiting from the US who taught the Young Single Adults how to ballroom dance. ) We have been reminded over and over how blessed we are to be here, and totally humbled by these amazing Congolese who are happy to be alive but have so very little. They are teaching us!

A closing thought from Elder Neal A. Maxwell regarding our testimony of Christ: "It matters very little what people think of us, but it matters very much what we think of Him. It mattters very little, too, who others say we are; what matters is who we say Jesus is."

Take time to tell your family who Jesus is.

We love you!!