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.