Sunday, March 11, 2012

A few weeks in review

We begin on a sad note. One week ago we felt a series of horrible, loud, scary booms at 7 am. Similar to the first big shake of an earthquake, but 100 times louder and bigger. New cracks appeared in our ceiling. We didn't know what the source was, but suspected some sort of bombs or explosions. We went up the roof of our apartment building and saw smoke billowing up from the city of Brazzaville, capital of Republic of Congo across the Congo River from us. We learned that a munitions depot at an army base had an accidental fire, and the munitions exploded, leveling the entire Army base, and causing damage to homes and buildings in the surrounding area. The death count is over 300, and there are at least 5000 homeless. Humanitarian Services is involved. We quickly wrote up an Emergency Relief project to purchase $35,000 worth of basic food items. As soon as it is approved and the money is transferred, we will boat over to Brazzaville with one of our translators and begin purchasing the food and help to distribute it. A very good man, Bishop Gaetan, gave us these photos above of the desolation. The top photo is what is left of the army camp, and now it has been deemed too dangerous to go in and look for survivors or bodies as explosions were still going off as of yesterday.
Below shows the damage to some of the buildings in the areas near the camp.
This experience, watching Bishop Gaetan get his Welfare Committee together immediately, forming a plan, working directly by cell phone and e-mail with us so we could get the information we needed to contact the Area Presidency about the needs, has been a humbling lesson to us. We find that we get a little too lackadaisacal about just how the Church operates under the Welfare plan. Sure, we donate to the Humanitarian fund, but do we really consider just what those funds are used for, and how the money gets to those in need? It just wouldn't work without the organization demonstrated by great Priesthood leaders like Bishop Gaetan. It is an inspired program from Heavenly Father, who loves his children so much he has provided them with ways to serve and be served. We thank you for your Humanitarian donations and assure you that these sacred funds are blessing lives as we write. We again declare that we love this work and feel privileged to be part of it.

Now back to the events of the past few weeks--

Yesterday we attended a closing ceremony in a place called Camp Luka. This area is the most densely populated and poorest area of Kinshasa (do we say that about all the places we go?). We funded 6 hand-dug wells in this neighborhood, and the project has now been turned over to the community. Above are some of the members of the community who will now be getting clean water versus contaminated water. We love these water projects!

This is the ceremonial first glass of water from the well, soon to be sampled by the village chief. After drinking the water, he declared it to be "bon!" (Good!) Then the glass of water was refilled over and over and we all had the chance to drink the bon water.

The local district president is speaking here, telling the people that the Church has now given the well to the village to take care of. In the yellow shirt is our Albert Embimen, the engineer and president of the organization that dug the wells. A very good man who just became a new father to baby girl Esperance.

Sister B below with two of our faithful gate guards. Ohdoh on the left, Sebastien on the right. We are trying to teach Ohdoh how to smile. Below is a spring that someone attempted to capture and improve, but failed. We are interested in tearing out the work and re-doing it. It has plenty of water and there are many many people who try to use it as is. But look at that dirty water they walk through to find a little bit of clean water. We can do so much here to make it right.

Below is a favorite place for the Senior Sisters to go. It is called "The Beach", a very busy area near the Congo River beach where boat rides are taken to go to the other side of the river. What you see on either side of this outdoor market is a plethora of fabrics...each about 6 yards long, priced at from $10 to $20. You can't really tell from the picture, but this market stretches back several blocks, just one aisle you walk down. The variety of fabrics is awesome and overwhelming. That's why we have to go back again and again -- impossible to see it all in just a couple of visits.

These two women really wanted their picture taken, so they posed near this tiny spring. This is where they wash their clothes. A slow process, and a scary steep trail to get there, but good clean water. The entire hillside is full of these small springs. One just above this one is another we would like to contain and improve. Just need the money!

In the same area as the spring above Elder B spied this beautiful waterfall. You see, there is plenty of water all over Kinshasa, or we wouldn't be digging so many wells or capturing so many springs. They just are a bit hard to get to.

Just one of our cute Congolese children strutting around in his daddy's big pink flip flops. Couldn't resist the photo-op.

One day traveling in the rain and driving through this magnificent puddle on the HIGHWAY, we decided we were pretty lucky to be inside a comfortable 4-wheel drive truck sitting back and letting the truck do the work. Not so for this guy.

Above is Salomon, one of our very sharp engineers, teaching about water at a Health and Hygiene training for a new project that is about to begin. Not only is he a great engineer, he is a gifted teacher. We didn't understand a word he was saying, but loved watching the discussions and interaction Salomon had with his students.

Tomorrow we head for South Africa (Johannesburg) for a Humanitarian Conference, along with Dede (our trusty translator) and his new wife Joselyn who are being sealed in the Temple there. We hope we can slip out of the Conference to attend their sealing. We will see and hear from the many other Humanitarian couples in the Africa Southeast Area, exchanging experiences and stories. We look forward to learning how to do our work better. We will also take advantage of the availability of food items we can't get here such as wheat flour, good granola, raisins, oats, maybe even chocolate chips that don't cost $6/12-oz bag. We are now, along with one other couple we were in the MTC with, the "old timers" of the couples. HA!! One year ago we both were the greenies and we were too dumb to even know what questions to ask. Amazing what one year can do!

We will keep you posted on the Brazzaville relief project.

Have a great week! Happy Birthday to Kadee Jane (10 years old!!!) and Heavy D (3 years old!!)

We love you..........