Wednesday, June 29, 2011


First of all, I had to include the great picture of Suzanne and one of her piano students. He is a really cute bright boy from a very very poor family. We takes a taxi to Wed. to have is piano lesson. We always feed him before he leaves.

EDITOR NOTE: Sorry, I got a couple of really blurry pictures, and can't delete them.

As you think about the end product of our efforts with the Perpetual Education Fund (le Fonds Perpetuel d'Etude) is EMPLOYMENT. We are not in the education business, we are in the employment business.

We work closely with the Church Employment Services.

With Church Employment, we are holding a series of Employment Firesides. Over the past months we have been visiting schools. As part of the Firesides, we are inviting the heads of the schools to come to the firesides and talk about the educational value of their schools. Our PEF applicants are invited in order to learn more about their choices.

Last week we were at the Kimbaseke stake and had a large turnout. We had a representative of a journalism school, Cisco Software Academy, and a management school.

I have to tell you about the management school. We had visited it the other week. The founder and director is a man who went to the US and finished with a PHD in business management from Syracuse University. He returned home to the Congo and saw the need to train people in management. When we visited the school, we became friends instantly. He is a real character. But, he has a great concept. He teaches (preaches may be a better word) that everything in life is about management. Sure, you can get a degree in engineering, but without a basis of management, you will not build a business.

We toured the school - starting with K-12 and on through University. We went into a classroom. Typical of the school culture here, everyone jumps to their feet, and greets the professor. He has a mantra: He shouts, "management," the class responds by shouting "Treasure." Repeated three times. Management, Treasure; Management, Treasure, Management, Treasure, Treasure, Treasure, Treasure." We even went into a class of 4th graders, they knew the chant. He let me lead it in one of the classrooms.

We invited him to our fireside. He took over the audience, had everyone on the edge of their seats with his management philosophy. As he started to sit down, I said, "wait, what is the mantra?" He of course lead everyone in the Management-Treasure cheer.

Then, the next week, he sent us an invitation to attend his wife's graduation of her receiving her PHD from the University of Kinshasa. We need more educators like him here. You will see him in the pictures. He is wearing the brightest ever yellow shirt with matching tie and pocket square.

We have also been asked by stake presidents to help find creative ways to find employment for their people. We are looking at entrepreneur training, English classes, etc.

The Church is sponsoring sewing classes in each stake. The Humanitarian Services are providing several sewing machines to each stake in order to teach the women to sew. Because of the lack of electricity, the two options are pedal machines and hand crank machines. Most of the women prefer hand crank to pedal. So, the Humanitarian Services are buying hand crank machines. Singer still makes them.

A person can make a living sewing. Most women dress in traditional Congolese dress. These are not available at Macy's. In fact, Macy's is not available. So most of these dresses are hand sewn and sold to friends and neighbors.

Once a person learns to sew, she or he could start a little business for themselves.

We have a hand crank Singer we brought from the U.S. with us, thanks to Jason's friend. We will give it to someone who has completed the sewing class and the upcoming entrepreneur class.

Elder Hatch and I are working on an entrepreneurial class to teach here. We are using several sets of resource material, that can be taught to our members. The basics of free enterprise and entrepreneurship are not taught or even experienced, so we are tailoring the class.

Also, we will start visiting businesses, governmental organizations, and NGO (non-governmental organisations - like red cross, etc. ) to encourage them to offer internships to people. Many people will work at non-paying internships, simply for the experience, and the opportunity for future employment.

English classes are also a key to employment. With English skills, Embassies, NGOs, etc. are great options. One of our PEF students who speaks good English and is taking networking at Cisco, just got a great job at the U.S. Embassy.

We really love what we are doing. If any of y'all are thinking about missions, do it. With the new Couple Missionary program, it is really doable.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

wheel chair for one (or one and a little one)

Some days just turn out to be the best ever. So, today we are out visiting schools with our friend and assistant manager of the Employment Resource Center, Bishop Russel Mbaya, when the phone rings. It is the Binghams, our Humanitarian Couple. Elder Bingham asks, "have you seen Bishop Mbays?" "He is sitting in the car with us right now," we responded. " Good, we have a wheelchair for the sister in his ward who needs it." said Elder Bingham. "Well, we can meet you at your office."
And, we did. They had two wheel chairs in the back of their truck. One for the sister in Bishop Mbaya's ward, and one for the son of the man who works as a janitor at the Church's Temporal Affairs building. When we arrived just before the Binghams, we were talking to the man. When the Binghams arrived and he saw the wheelchair, he ran to Elder Bingham and hugged him. (Elder Bingham is the 6'5' giant and this man is about 4'10", so it was a cool sight). His son is 50 years old and has been unable to get around for many years.
So, the Binghams told him we would be back for him. (Actually, I told him the Binghams would be back for him, as Elder Bingham does not speak French.)
Then we all loaded in the truck and went to find Bishop Mbaya's ward member. We went down the back roads and to her house. She was sitting in front of her house where she sells vegetables to the neighbors. When she saw us, she was beyond herself. He chair had broken some years ago and she could crawl to the street to sell her vegetables.
The pictures are of her, her new chair, and her bishop and the Binghams.
It was quite an event and the whole neighborhood turned out.
Note the little boy sitting on the front of the chair. He must be no more than two years old. As soon as she got into the chair, he scrambled up onto it and would not get off.
The children of the neighborhood thought it was a great sight. They all wanted to have their picture taken.
This is your welfare dollars at work. Please don't let anyone tell you that these funds are not necessary and urgent.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Most of our work involves the Young Single Adults. Last blog we showed you how we taught the Young Single Adults of the Mgaba (pronounced GABA) ward how to dance.

This Friday, we went back and danced some more with them. Then on Saturday, we attended a three stake Young Single Adult conference. Over 350 YSA in attendance. Suzanne played the piano for a couple of groups who sang. Can you imagine the power of 350 young single adults all living the gospel, happy, and loving life. It was incredible.

The young man in the blue shirt is Joseph, he is Suzanne's music buddy. He is very talented and engaging. He and Suzanne work together on musical numbers. He is also one of our new PEF students.

Our Ngaba Ward YSA kids showed off their dancing skills, much to the delight of the rest of the kids there. I am afraid that every ward will now call us to come and teach them. However, as part of our on-going sustainability program, we will have the kids who know how, teach the others.

The theme was "Eternal Marriage." The Area Institute Coordinator led a discussion on why get married in the Temple, then one of the stake presidents spoke on the subject. After that each stake did songs, poems, and a small play about marrying in the Temple.

It is a long standing tribal custom here that the bride must provide a dowry to the husband's family. It has become outrageous. The family members demand all sorts of monetary items from money to clothing, to televisions. Now, remember this is a poor country. Many are unable to marry until they satisfy the dowry.

The Church leaders are teaching that this is a practice that is not right.

For a young person to go to the Temple to be married is expensive. The nearest Temple is in South Africa. Most struggle to find money to go to South Africa to the Temple, and with the dowry requirement is becomes almost impossible.

The country requires a civil marriage, so most couples do a civil marriage then off to the Temple. At the civil marriage, the justice of the peace asks if the dowry has been satisfactorily paid. If not, no marriage is performed.

At the conference, many young people talked about their feelings and talked about how to overcome this tradition.

One young couple, a picture of them standing, recently married and worked hard with both sides of the family. (he is one of our PEF students) They paid a very very small dowry, got married civilly, and then flew immediately to South Africa for a Temple marriage. They are the example of the new Congo.

One very cute play was about a young couple who wanted to get married but the family demanded $35,000 in cash, new cars, TVs, etc. The bishop counselled them, they struggled, and finally, with the help of the bishop, the got agreement from the family to settle for $40 dollars in dowry. The kids did it with great humor and mocking of tradition. The entire audience was constantly in stitches. The point was made very strongly, by the kids, that there needs to be a new standard and this is the generation to change things.

We are constantly amazed be the understanding, commitment, and power of this young generation.

Also, we had our first completed classes of Planning for Success. The Mont Ngafula (pronounced moan gafoola) stake and the Kimbensake (pronounced Kim -ben-say-key) stake. The pictures are of the Mont Ngafula stake and their teacher - Bishop Haboko.

Also attached are pictures of the 2010 and 2011 classes of PEF Students from the Masina stake. This was taken with Elder Rendlund of the Seventy. Unfortunately, in this picture, he stepped behind a taller student. Also is a picture of Suzanne and me with Pepetho, our start student.

These kids are so much fun. We are so thankful to be here. AFRICA ROCKS!!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011


This weekend started Friday night at the Ngaba Ward. The Young Single Adults (YSA) invited the Hatch's, they are the office couple, to teach them dances. (For John Standing - it is the obvious mistake, a white man teaching a black man to dance.) They are young for senior missionaries. They are from New Mexico and are really fun. They love to run, dance, and have a good time. What makes them more fun is that they do not speak a word of French, but communicate extremely well. They just use enthusiasm and speak loudly. Well, anyway, we all loaded up, the Hatch's, the Binghams, who are the humanitarian couple, and us, and off we went.

The kids loved it. We taught the Cotton Eyed Joe, The Virginia Real, and some weird cha cha dance that the Hatch's brought from New Mexico.

They asked us to come back next week and do it again. Actually, next weekend is the Masina stake YSA activity, so who knows. We are invited to that activity also. Suzanne is playing for a girl who will sing, and we may have to dance again.

Saturday am, we decided to go see a near by monkey reserve. On the way we stopped by a potential clean water well project. As we can see from the pictures they have an extraordinary farming project. With the hot weather, and the rain, the soil can grow crops if taken care of. This land was terraced and made available to the families in the area. They rent space, grow crops, and then use, trade, or sell what they can.

The crops are watered by a series of ground springs. It is these springs that the humanitarian couple have proposed for a six water site project. The people now draw their water from springs that are contaminated by the ground and surrounding environment. We saw women and children who walked several kilometers to collect water. Note: there are no pictures of the people or the springs as they asked us not to take their pictures.

Kasava is the main crop grown here, but there was also celery, chard, etc. Also, bananas, Papayas, coconuts, and pineapple. We purchased several of the fruits.

On down the road towards the monkey preserve, we passed the orphanage that the office staff has sort of adopted. We had to go there, Suzanne and I had not visited it. When we arrived, we met a woman we know who works with adoptions. She was there with a couple from Bend, Oregon who were picking up the little girl they had adopted. It was a rare occasion. The lady from Bend had brought dolls from home for each child, you will see them in the picture.

Mom and Sister Hatch sang with the children. About 30 children. It was very clean and well organized. Last week, the Hatch's and the mission presidents wife (Pam Headlee) took our some little tables and some small soccer balls. The play area is on a hill and the balls roll down onto a road below. So, next week we are going to build a fence around the play area to keep children and balls in play.

There was a new little child there who was ill - probably malaria. I have said before that we do not have the remitting/recurring type that you see in the Pacific area, but still the little guy was sick - probably taking him to the hospital tonight. Medication usually clears it up. Elder Bingham, the humanitarian Elder is about 6'5'' and a gentle giant. For you Greshamites, he is Lindsy Holmes' uncle. The little guy really took to him. Here is a tender photo of them.

Well, then we went on and found a quite pretty place and took some pictures.

We never got to the Monkey Retreat, it was too late, and we had to get back for Young Women and basketball with the young men, so we came home.

Tomorrow is stake conference at the Masina Stake, and we have been invited by the stake president, I hope that doesn't mean he will call on us to speak. That usually means me, since I am the only Francophone.

So, it is a pretty full weekend. Next weekend will be also. Then we start a series of Career Workshops on the next several Saturdays.

We love it here and are grateful to have been called to Africa.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


We pass this place on our way to one of the stakes. We call it the Furniture Super Store. All the furniture here is made here. Pretty much out of doors. There is not electricity, hence, no power tools. Everything is done by hand. They make beds, chairs, couches, dressers, tables, etc. All by hand.

They even make rattan furniture here. a little man sits on a stump and whittles the branches of some tree, maybe the rattan tree, to the right size for weaving, then the next man weaves the furniture. The couch and chairs in our apartment here came from this place.

They do not joint or veneer it is all hard hard wood. Some of the work in very impressive.

They don't like you taking pictures, so I had to fake phone call on my iPod and snap what I could, so the quality is poor, but I thought that some of you wood workers might appreciate this.


This is just a fun blog today. I have snapped several cool flowers and thought you might like them. Sorry, no philosophy or stuff today.