Sunday, October 30, 2011

We're Back and Better than Ever!

Hello all!
Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have been away from our blog for nearly two months, and if there is anyone out there actually reading it, we do apologize. But we are back and running, and running with a new camera, at that! Hopefully you will see some benefits.
We begin with a photo of a rather unique part of Africa -- this is a picture of Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, across the mighty Congo River from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the only place in the world where two country capitals are separated only by a river. We have not yet been to Brazzaville, but we have a stake there and have a project that includes the Brazzaville Stake, so we probably will be going there in the next few months. To do that, you must, of course, travel by boat. We understand that it is a very interesting, sometimes scary, but almost always inconvenient experience that takes most of the day. The boats have been known to get hung up on a sand bar while crossing, then the passengers are transferred to another boat to complete the trip. And these boats aren't just for passengers. Oh no. These boats are the #1 way to move ANYTHING from one country to the other. So you have bags of vegetables, flour, and live animals traveling beside you.
But we wanted to show you how beautiful Brazzaville looks from our side of the river. We love walking along the river in the evenings. Today when this picture was taken, it was sunny and clear, the birds were singing, and the trees were in bloom. Just a beautiful day and we wanted to share it with you.

Moving on to our work, the picture below is a latrine (bathroom) nearing completion at a local school. There are no sit-down toilets in most latrines, only holes in the ground. And a bucket to flush with. But since there is no water at this school, we are funding a rainwater catchment system to provide hand-washing and flushing water for the students. When it rains, which it does nearly every day during this, the summer season, the water that runs down the corrugated tin roofs of the school building is collected in gutters that drain into large tanks. The tanks have a spigot where the buckets are filled and transported to the latrine. There are 600 + students at this school, and they have been using a single-hole latrine up until now. Count your blessings!
Another project of ours that is well underway is a spring catchment. It's a little hard to tell from this photo that this is a spring, but under all the concrete and rock there is quite a nice spring. It used to come out of the side of this hill and created a beautiful little pool that we named "The Waters of Mormon". However, we had to sacrifice the pool in order to capture the spring to keep it from being polluted by rainwater drainage, animals, and nearby latrines. Unfortunately, this simple project has turned into a huge project as it became necessary to expand the work to stabilize the hill and channel the rainwater runoff to protect the spring. But it is nearly finished, and then there will be two pipes with beautiful clean water running out above a concrete platform where the empty biddons can be placed to fill. The community is very happy to have this work done as it will improve their health by having clean water to drink.
Here is our Mission President's wife, Sister Jameson, holding a little girl at Church today. The hairdo just had to be photographed. Most of the hair is fake, extensions that are braided onto the ends of her own hair (takes hours to do, but is very common in both the young and old). Hair is a very big thing here, and we think that sometimes it is more important than even eating!! We love seeing all the varieties of braiding and extensions. Lots of beads, barrettes, clips, etc. And the wigs!!! We often struggle to recognize the women because each time you see them they have a different wig/hairdo!
Look at this precious little boy! His name is Russel, and he is the son of one of the bishops we work with at Temporal Affairs. His mom was attending the sewing class (background) which is another of our projects. Russel didn't even flinch when this whitey lady picked him up. Often just seeing us sends children running and crying to safety away from those Moondellies!
We wanted to show you two things in this picture below. This sewing project provided each of the 5 Kinshasa stakes with 20 sewing machines. The goal is to help women learn a marketable skill in order to improve their family income, thus becoming self-reliant. It has been a huge success! The machines we provided are Super Singer hand-crank or pedal machines (no electricity here). Imagine sewing with only one hand because the other is cranking the wheel. Very awkward, but they do it just fine!
If you will notice, two of these women are wearing glasses. The day we visited this project we brought along some reading classes, many of which were collected back in the US by two of our perfectly adorable granddaughters. They received permission to ask for donations of used glasses at their school and also at church. Then a couple who were coming here from the US brought them to us. Thank you so much, Holly and Kadee. We love you!! And these sisters can now see to thread those needles.
This picture is out of order and should have been up with the first spring picture, but the blog didn't put the photos in the order I attached them. Oh well. Just a small frustration. Anyway, this picture is of the same spring, but taken from across the valley as we were walking down to it. We thought the surroundings were so pretty and typical of the areas we work in that we had to share it. We love the zoom on our new camera!
If you could only hear what we were hearing! This is a group of workers who are hand-digging a well, one of 10 in this project. They are singing as they pump water out of a nearly finished well. They are a wonderful bunch of men, and they entertain us every time we visit.
Here's another one out of order, but oh well. Below is our own Brother Bekele, who spied Elder B's camo hat and just had to have it. Elder B said no, you can't have my hat. I need it. Brother Bekele said, you need to give this hat to me. I like it. I need it. Brother B said no, I need it. Brother Bekele finally settled for a picture in the hat, but Elder B had to promise him that when we leave the Congo, the hat is his. We love Brother Bekele. We are funding a big well project with his company. His sweet little wife comes out to the project every day to stay with her husband while the children are in school.
Now back to the last well. This woman lives near this well and has been looking forward to the day that she will be able to get her water from this well rather than walking so far down to a polluted river and carrying back a heavy biddon on her head. This particular day Masha, our engineer, called her over and said, "Mama, you be the first to pump water from this well!" And so she did. That's Masha pumping along with her, teaching her how.
We are having such a blessed time here. Words just can't describe the feelings we have. We are so thankful that, in spite of not speaking French, we were sent to this incredible place. We are well and happy. We have amazing friends, supportive family, and truly are surrounded by angels.
A la prochaine (until next time),
Elder and Sister Bingham