Sunday, December 25, 2011


AT THE JOHANNESBURG TEMPLE WITH ELDER JOHN HUNTSMAN - PHILLIP AND JENNIFER'S YOUNGER BROTHER WHO IS SERVING HIS MISSION HERE Merry Christmas From Africa. We celebrate the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ today. We wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Years. We are grateful for the love and sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are thrilled to be serving our mission at this time. We know that this is where we should be. We miss family and friends this year, but know that we are doing the Lord's work.
ELDER AND SISTER WEBB, FROM LAKE OSWEGO, OREGON - OUR HOSTS IN SOUTH AFRICA We are still refugees in South Africa. Our refugee camp is not all that bad. We are being housed and hosted by the Africa Southeast Area. We are staying in a very nice flat across the street from a nice mall with many nice restaurants and grocery stores - and a movie theater. All things we do not have in the DR Congo. The new Mission Impossible is playing at the theater. I really wanted to see it, but questioned if it would be appropriate as a missionary. Then, our mission president told us that they had just seen it at the recommendation of the area president (a member of the 1st Quorum of Seventy), so we saw it also. We miss the DR Congo and the people. We hope to return on Wednesday. If you are following the news, you know that the presidential elections did not go smoothly. The incumbent was announced the winner, ratified by the supreme court, and sworn in. The opposition has dis-avoid the legitimacy of the election, and sworn himself in as president. So, now the country has two presidents, both claiming victory. It is a little tense in the DR Congo right now. We stay in close touch with the Embassy, the news, and with our associates and church leaders there to know what to do. At present, we will try to fly back on Wed., but will have to monitor what is going on on Monday, after the Christmas holiday.
While, here in Johannesburg, we have had the occasion to visit the Temple. Also, we have seen some South African sites. Our friends, Norris and Carol Webb, from Lake Oswego, Oregon, have been our hosts. They are also Perpetual Education Missionaries, so we have been going into the office with them and working. We have visited a game reserve, an African Cultural Center, African War Museum, and other sites of interest. We call South Africa, Africa-lite, as it is more European than African. (the locals don't like that we say that). It is a very modern city with many points of interest. It seems funny to drive on a road that actually has pavement on it. We live not far from the Zoo, and walk mornings around the outsides of the Zoo. (It also seems strange to be able to actually walk around the city with out fear). Oh, by the way, it is 80 degrees here. Christmas has been a little different this year. Being refugees, we have not decorated or anything. Saturday, the senior missionaries who work in the area offices (about 40 couples) held a pot-luck brunch. It was good. Then in the evening the four couples from DR Congo got together for pizza and Christmas eve time. This morning we went to Church and then this afternoon, the mission president and his wife will host us to a turkey and ham dinner (not a lot of turkey and ham int he DRC), so that will be nice. Suzanne is in the kitchen making her famous and delicious rolls for the dinner. We wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a most HAPPY NEW YEAR

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


It has been a while since our last blog. We are currently in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you are following the news, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the midst of its second only democratic election for president. The winner will be announced on Wed.Dec. 8, sometime. FOR MORE ON The events running up to the election and the post election issues. Google DR Congo Current Events to learn more detail. The situation was becoming very tense. Both candidates for president announced that they had won the election and were therefore the president.
The incumbent claims victory and assures the world that he will remain in power. The opposition claims he won the election and will take over the country. There are 4 missionary couples - counting the mission president - and we have watched the situation closely. When it was getting very dangerous (it is always dangerous in the DRC, this was really dangerous), the mission president in consultation with area authorities and Salt Lake City, decided we should leave the country temporarily. The attached photo is of the plaza in front of our apartment the day before we left. We decided to fly out to South Africa. We think we probably got on the last plane to leave the country before they closed the airport. The blue vehicle in the plaza is an armored personnel carrier with riot police PICTURE OF US GETTING OUT OF DODGE.
We left our apartment around 6:30 AM,while it was still somewhat dark outside to get to the airport while everyone was still asleep. Our flight was at 1:30pm, but it takes like two hours to get through all the red tape at the airport, and the road to the airport is one of the most dangerous hot spots in the city with the election issues, so we sort of sneaked out of town. We are sad to leave our great friends and associates, but it is best. As of yesterday, the government shut down all text messaging in the county, army and police roadblocks are everywhere. All embassies except the US have pulled their people. US embassy personnel are confined to quarters, and the city is a powder keg waiting to off. Whichever candidate is elected, the other will be pretty unhappy, and will cause trouble. The opposition party does not have an army or weaponry, so it will be street rioting etc. So, we are safe and sound in South Africa. The Church's South East Africa Regional Offices are here. We are being hosted by the missionary couples and the Area Presidency. We are referred to as the "refugees." We are staying in apartments that are owned by the Church and happen to be available. Yesterday we went to the Temple. We fasted for the people of the DRC and ended at the Temple. It was a great day. We keep in touch with people in DRC and they say it is calm but very tense. Our apartment in Kinshasa is a US Embassy building housing the offices of USAID, and housing for US Citizens. We understand that it is cordoned off and heavily guarded right now. HERE ARE PICTURES OF BEAUTIFUL JOHANNESBURG.
Tomorrow we are going to a game preserve. (I think it is the big cat preserve of which Johnny Huntsman sent picture) Then to a bird reserve. That will be cool, and we will do a game reserve blog. We are also doing some shopping - and eating. I actually had a Red Robin type hamburger and fries for lunch. We even had strawberries last night for dinner. We can even drink the water. We have been able to go to stores. We don't have to by bread and bananas from the people with baskets on their head in the street. However, we look forward to quickly returning to the DR Congo. We love the people, the country, and we have a lot of work left to do. Please pray for the DRC and the great people of that country.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


One of our friends recently gave us these pictures of the very early days of the Church in the DR Congo. Tommy Muhendy joined the Church when he was 14 years old. His was one of the first families baptized into the Church in the DR Congo. He is the young man third from the left. Like others of his time, he was active in the Young Men's program, served a mission, and worked hard to put himself through college (a very rare occurance). He graduated with a degree in accounting, and became CFO of a large non-profit organization here. Then, the Church approached him to become Finance Manager for the Church (Temporal Affairs) in the DR Congo and other countries that comprise our mission. He is a great young man, he serves as first counsellor in the Stake Presidency of the Kinshasa Stake.
Tommy today.He is just one of a great generation who, individually or together with their families, joined the Church in the mid 1980's. Standing with Tommy are two individuals who joined about the same time. They are faithful fathers, husbands, and Church leaders. I will insert the rest of the pictures at the end of this blog article. In these pictures you will see early members. The whites are either missionary couples, mission presidents, and the family was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa. Also, you will see David M. Kennedy, then Ambassador at Large for the Church. We had previously been Chairman of the World Bank, and I think Sec. of Treasury. Also, is Marvin J. Ashton.
Bishop Edgely, of the Presiding Bishopric, Visited the DR Congo and the Republic of Congo this week. Today, we had a meeting with all of the Church employees and the missionary couples. The Church employees include Institute and Seminary, Temporal Affairs - finance, building construction, building maintainance, distribution, transportation, legal, real estate, etc. In his address to us, he told the group that if they lived to see their great grandchildren, they would see a miracle of growth as great as it would be if the six original members of the Church in 1830, could see today's growth. Of course, much of the focus of his visit was the new Kinshasa Temple. No site has been announced yet. But, much work is going on to find a site and start the approval process.
Early Primary
Youth Organization
Leadership Meeting
Group with David M. Kennedy

Sunday, October 23, 2011

GREAT BREAD/subtitled you know you have been in Africa a long time

The Humanitarian Couple now have about 20 clean water wells and latrine projects going on around Kinshasa. The latrines are either associated with schools or hospitals. Each project has an engineer and at least 2 site monitors. It is these people's job to keep the work moving forward and being done correctly. The Binghams, the Humanitarian couple, must tour each site frequently to assure the above. Whenever we have free time, we love going with them. This Saturday, we went to a site that has a wonderful spring coming out of a rock cropping. Their project is to build a covered collection point with water gathering stations that will keep the water cleaner and provide a better method for capturing the water. We took an interesting walk down into the village. We drove as far as possible, the made our way down the canyon of uck, to reach the bottom where the village and spring is located.
The first picture is of Mom and Sister Bingham climbing their way back up the canyon of uck.
There are always children along the way to greet us. These are the reason the clean water, latrines, and basic health training, are so important, and so dear to our hearts.
Villagers currently use the run off pipe to collect water, do their wash, and even bathe. It will be a nice project when it is finished.
Everywhere we turn, there are more children following up.
If you look closely at the tree in the picture, you will see a boy about half way up the tree. As we were leaving, Elder Bingham told us that we could get one of the beautiful papayas in the tree if we gave a boy 500 francs (50 cents) to climb the tree and get the papaya, and 500 francs to the lady who owns the tree. So we did. And, up he went shimmying up the tree as fast as he could go. He picked the fruit and tossed it down to Elder Bingham. We had it for dinner today, it was great. On the way home, the Binghams said that they had found this great Boulangerie (bread bakery) on their way home from this village - which was really out in the sticks. They said the man made the bread in a wood fired brick oven and that he bread was wonderful.. Well, as the title indicates - you know when you have been in Africa for a long time. We went to the bakery. The following pictures are of the bakery and finally the end product. And, it is the best bread we have had here. Remember, the Belgians left a legacy of awesome bread, but this was the best so far.
Prep area inside the bakery - note the metal making racks stacked up against the outside wall.
The multi-drawer oven.
Branches from a near by hard wood tree to create the fire and smoke.
Mom standing in line - there actually is no line, Mom is just standing there wondering what happened to our sense of caution we had 8 months ago.
MAN WAS IT GOOD BREAD. And, you can never be in Africa too long.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Here are some great pictures of African sunset across the Congo River. The sun sets regularly at 6pm. This sunset followed a heavy rain storm. The picture was taken out of our kitchen window, looking across the Congo River into Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo. We have a 6pm curfew. I know we are too old for curfew, but the sun sets at 6pm and it gets absolutely dark. 1) the mosquitoes come out mean and hungry. 2) it is not really safe to be on the streets after dark. So, we get home by 6 and watch beautiful sunsets.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Water and Sanitation

We always have a good day when we team up with the Binghams - the humanitarian couple. Since they arrived in Kinshasa, about a month before we did, they have started several really good projects. The Hospital well that we showed earlier, was their project, start to finish. They found and have started several well project and sanitary projects in the small villages in and around Kinshasa. Today, Saturday, we took off with them into the bush. We saw incredible scenery, met interesting people, and learned some new things. The village to which we were traveling was at the end a very narrow, very windy road. On the way down the road, we came upon children carrying water on their heads from the little stream back to their homes - about 1/2 mile. The water is not clean. This is why the clean water projects are so awesome.
There was barely room for one car on the road. As we came around the corner, there was on the road a Volkswagen van (about a 1972 model). It was out of gas. It was loaded with plastic chairs on the way to the training. Many people buy gas along the side of the road in litter bottles. This guy was about a 1/2 liter short of getting to his destination and completely blocking the road. We tried to push him to the side just enough to get by, but, the drop off was to close, so we had to sit. Then, from somewhere, someone produced a 1/4 liter of gas, and off we went.
We started out be visiting a village where an NGO (non-government organization) generally non-profit organizations, was teaching members of the village the basics of sanitation. The Church funded the training which was conducted by the NGO. A professor of biology was teaching the class. It was in a little building with about 40 chairs set up in the room, as we arrived, the room was almost full. Most of the NGO people were members of the Church. Whenever the missionary couples arrive at an event they are treated almost like royalty. So, we arrived at this little building, and were ushered into the front of the room, introduced to the room, and invited to say something to the people. This village was being trained on hygiene as part of the project that will bring 4 wells and latrines to the area. Elder Bingham and Sister Bingham, whose project this is, do not speak French. Their interpreter was, as usual, late to meet us, so Elder Bingham asked me to be the translator for the day. However, there was one of the NGO guys who spoke French, and Lingala, who wanted to translate. Elder and Sister Bingham spoke to the group through the interpreter. They thanked them for attending the class to learn hygiene, spoke of the benefits of clean water, asked them to take care of their families, and avoid disease. By the time that they finished the room was completely full, and the adjacent room had filled up. The Church had printed a nice booklet that taught (in pictures) how to take care of bodies and food through good hygiene practices. The training was excellent with good audience participation.
Then we set out on foot to see the sites where the wells were going to be dug. Everywhere we went, the village children followed us. We were like the Pied Piper. They followed hollering, "Mandela, Mandela," which means white man in Lingala. Or they shout "Chinois.: There are many Chinese in the Congo, and they can't tell us apart. I am sure that for some of the children, we were the first whites that they had seen up close and personal. Last time the Binghams were in a village like this one, they had bottles of pop with them, and when a few children gathered, they gave them the soft drink bottles. Suddenly, out of no where appeared hundreds of children surrounding them and their truck wanting some. So, this time we knew better.
"By-o," is good bye in Lingala. As we left the village, all the children lined up waved and shouted "By-o." The project engineer is a nice young man who has done a wonderful job of structuring the project, selecting sites, and supplying good data. He is very fond of Elder and Sister Bingham. He asked me (since I was the only Mandela who spoke French) if we would like to see his house and meet his family. He said that his house was real close and just over there. Well, in Africa, close could mean next door, or across town, so we said we would be honored to see his home and meet his wife. Well, his home turned out to be African close. So, up and down more dirt roads and ditches, we arrived at his house. It was a wonderful house by African village standards. He had built it himself, one bag of cement at a time. When he had money he would buy a bag of cement or a few concrete blocks. In the end it was a very nice home. He was so proud of it, and had a wonderful family. Wife, 3 children. The baby is about 1 and a half months.
We came upon a group of children - sent by their parents - gathering water at a small dip well. The girl would drop the bucket down the shallow well, come up with water, then pour it into the adjacent containers, which the children would put on their heads and carry home.
Then we went to another village to check on the progress of the bathroom (nice latrine) that the Church was building next to a school. This school had no bathroom facilities for its students. After this we went to see two wells that were being dug. First we saw where they were making the rings of concrete that form the sides of the wells. In an earlier blog, I mentioned that they make these rings, then as the men are digging the wells, they dig down three meters and drop these rings into the hole, then dig the next three feet and drop the next ring into the hole, and so on until they are deep enough to find fresh water. They had completed the digging of one well, down about 35 meters. We could look down and could see the fresh water below. They would then build a cover, a water gathering area, a concrete area for washing area. Then a hand pump would be installed. The next well we visited, the men were still digging. They were down about 20 feet. As they dig out the hole, the concrete pipes are lowered down. One set of pictures show a well where one man is down in the hole digging and filling a bucket. The men at the top, haul the bucket up by a rope and dump it, then send it back down. When we pulled up to the work sites, the workers started signing work songs, and seemed to work harder.
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It was a very hot day, but it was well worth the ride. We ran into several of our PEF students, and some of mom's piano students in the villages, or volunteering as helpers at the training. By-o

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Temple in the Congo

Bonjour du Congo We are very excited here in the DR Congo. As you probably know, President Monson announced that there would be two new temples in Africa and one in Paris. We Francophones are very excited about that. Our dear friends and fellow Greshamites who serve in Durban are also very excited about the temple in Durban. We listen to General Conference via the internet. However, the internet is very slow here, and sometimes intermittent. So, we were hearing about every other paragraph. But, we had connection when President Monson announced the Temples. We were beside ourselves. Then, the emails and Skype started from our friends and family, who were also excited. Most people here do not listen or watch conference. 1. it is in English, 2. few had electricity, 3. no one has internet at home. The Church sends a translated CD to the stakes, and they have conference weekend a few weeks after conference. So we started calling our friends. We called one of our friends, who started to cry and then shout for joy. We could hear noise in the background, he said that the church employees were having a meeting when everyone's cell phones started to ring. They were getting calls from those who had been listening or watching - mostly they were missionary couples calling. So, it was a great day (actually evening here) in Kinshasa. Currently those wishing to go to the temple must travel to South Africa. This is very expensive, and complicated to obtain passports, visas, etc. The church has a "patrons assistance program," (President Monson mentioned it during the announcement) which provides financial assistance for one trip to the temple for a family. So, most people only get to the temple once in their lives. We have several friends who have made the trip to Johannesburg to the temple recently. It is really difficult on them financially. Our friend Mardo, the sec. to the Institutes and Seminaries will go with her husband and two children this month - they have saved for several years. Rusell, our friend and associate manager of Employment, will take his wife and two children to J'burg later this month also - they have been saving for two or three years to make the trip. Now, they will be able to go frequently to the Kinshasa Temple. It will take two or three years to complete the Temple. We do not know the exact location for the temple yet, but will know soon. It will certainly be built in the center part of Kinshasa. It will serve the DR Congo, Republic of Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon, Burundi, Gabon, Central African Republic, and probably other Francophone countries. There are 5 stakes in Kinshasa, 1 in Congo-Brazzaville, 4 in the other mission area of Lubumbashi, soon to be one in Cameroon, and probably one or two more in Kinshasa by the time the Temple is built. Cameroon and Burundi have districts. Gabon and Central African Republic does not yet have a church presence. Gabon has many people waiting for government approval for the church to operate there - probably before the temple is complete. This is my opinion only that with the Temple coming to DR Congo that the Church will then establish an Missionary Training Center here. Currently missionaries who will serve in on of the two Congo Missions, go to Ghana for the MTC because Ghana has a Temple. It is very expensive and difficult for missionaries who are from the DRC to get visa and passorts and to travel to Ghana. Of the 300 plus missionaries serving in the Congo, 95% are from the Congo. Most missionaries from Kinshasa area go to the Lubumbashi mission and the Lubumbashi missionaries come to Kinshasa mission. As I have said before, they do not send white missionaries to serve in the countries of DR Congo and Burundi. There a a few white missionaries in Point Noire in the Republic of Congo, but none in other Republic of Congo cities. (get out your map if you are completely confused.) So, my take is that they will put a Missionary Training Center next to the new Temple along with patron housing, like they have in Ghana and South Africa. All in all it is very exciting. The temple is coming not only because of the number of members, but they are spiritually prepared for the Temple. Now, there is a renewed excitement to really prepare for going to the Temple. Family history work will take on a greater sense of urgency We feel very blessed to be here at this time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It takes a village

Recently, a charitable organization was here in Kinshasa doing a great humanitarian service. There were doctors, nurses, and clinicians from many parts of the world. One recovery room nurse was a member and we got to know her. She related that one of the clinicians, upon finishing his work and heading for the plane said, "how could anyone live in the god-forsaken place." Well, this is not a God forsaken place. God loves the people of Africa and is blessing them daily.
We wanted to share an incredible story with everyone about God's bounteous love. There are many small villages in and around Kinshasa. Some are too remote for the missionaries to visit and teach. It is sometimes impossible for the villagers to get to a church to worship and to receive priesthood direction. There is one village, however, about 30 minutes drive (1 hour walk for many villagers) to the nearest stake center and ward building. This is a village without clean water or electricity. Like many such villages, women and children walk great distances to bring back water - if they are fortunate, it is clean - but, mostly it is not clean safe water
This is a little farming village. A return missionary's father has a farm there. On weekends, this great young return missionary goes there to help his father with the farm. While he has been there, he has told people what he did for two years as a missionary, and told them about the Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (The return missionary is the young man in the suit and red tie.)

He came into the mission office one day and asked if he could take pamphlets and material out to the village to share with his friends. They, of course, gave him some materials. Then he returned and asked if the missionaries could come visit the village sometime. He came back and asked again.

Well, last week he came in with a letter signed by 140 members of the village asking to be taught more about the Church. Last Friday, the mission office couple, the returned missionary, and the assistants to the president, loaded into the van, with copies of the Book of Mormon and other pamphlets and headed for the village.

The return missionary had called ahead and told the village they were coming. When they reached the turn off to the village, a man in a bright orange shirt (you will see him in the pictures) was standing at the roadside waiting for them.

As they approached the village, people were lined up along the roadside singing and clapping their hands. They were dressed in their Sunday best. In anticipation of the arrival, they had fashioned a covered area with palm branches and flowers. Also out of bamboo, they made a seating area with a bamboo pole held up by stakes. There were too many people there to sit. The group became about 250 - not counting the children. This would create a ward.

Primary presidents and teachers, how would you like to organize this primary.

One woman came up to the Elders and said, "my brother is a member of your Church, I would like my family to be like his." Her brother, it turns out, is our bishop.
They sang hymns, taught the group, answered questions, and promised to send missionaries to teach them further. Next week they plan on taking the stake president out to meet them.

This is not a-typical. When the missionaries first went to Burundi, the country just west of DRC, and part of the mission, and famous for its wars and inhumanities, they found 1100 people waiting to be baptised. One man saw a wheel chair with an inscription, "Presented by the Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints." He was so impressed, he looked up the church on the internet, studied it, gained a copy of the Book of Mormon, and Gospel Principals, and began teaching the principles of the Gospel as he understood them. Most of the people who initially joined the Church were taught by him.

In Bandundu provence of DRC, there are 1400 people who have written stating they are waiting for the Church to come there. Unfortunately, at this time Bandundu provence is too far away and far too dangerous for missionaries to go there right now. (Remember, there are only 200 miles of paved roads in a country the size of the US-east of the Mississippi) But, the Lord will provide a way for these people to receive the gospel ordinances.

In Gabon, a country in our mission - just below Cameroon (aslo in our mission) and west of Congo-Brazaville (another country in the mission) - there are several hundred people waiting for the government of Gabon to allow us in, several members also live there.
Truly, God has not forsaken this place.