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.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Young Men Soccer Match

Saturday was one of those rare weekends when we did not have meetings, firesides, training sessions, etc. We had nothing on our agenda. So, we travelled out to Masina to watch the championship games of the Stake Young Men's Soccer program.

You should note some things in the pictures:

1. The boys are all bare footed. They do not wear shoes because they don't have shoes.

2. The field is not grassy. It is sand and junk. The sand is the loose sand that is everywhere here. It is several inches of loose sand. Which, of course, makes it hard to run and maveuver, let alone know where or how the ball will bounce when it hits the ground, or, when you try to kick it, just how much sand you will kick along with it. When they had a goal kick or any other placed kid, the rules allowed them to make a small sand mound and tee up the ball.

3. These guys play soccer very well. It was a full game of rough and tumble soccer.

4. Pink Sock guy and green long sock guy were my favorite players. one had one pink sock the other had green soccer type socks, with no shoes. Who knows where they got them, but they were proud of them.
5. In the pictures with the blue striped shirts, all of them had white socks - no shoes, but white socks.

6. We don't know where they got the uniforms - someone must have donated them.

7. We were surprised to see the unauthorized use of the yellow - Helping Hands - vests, and suggested to the Stake President that this was not the authorized use of the vests. He agreed.

8. We watched two games, the 3rd and 4th place teams, then the championship game.

9. Afterwards, they all went back over to the stake center for award ceremonies.

10. The field is about 3 blocks from the stake center. Africans are very big on protocol. The stake president and bishops were there, and of course the three missionary couples. So, young men were sent to the stake center to bring back enough chairs for the president, each bishop, and for the missionary couples. So, we sat in the shade and watched the game. After the game, the young men picked up the chairs and took them back to the stake center.

11. It was a fun day with lots of good sportsmanship and true competitive spirit.

12. There were no team moms, or half time refreshments, or after game treats.

In pictures:

The man in the center with the white shirt and pen in his pocket is President Jean Claude Mbaya, president of the Masina Stake. He is an awesome man who loves the kids and really is a great friend to us.

The ref came in a white shirt and jeans suit and shoes with his own whistle to ref the game.

The refs wer very good at officiating. No one argued with them.

Mom and others with one of the players.
Short video of soccer in the sand