Monday, April 9, 2012

CBS 60 Minute view of DR Congo

This was sent to us. We do not have TV here, so we did not see it first hand look at the street scenes.  That is how it is here.  The walk those boys take to rehearsal look just like the trails we go on with the Humanitarian couple when they show us well sites.  The boys house is pretty nice and far above the standard place to live.  The conductor has a really nice place!  Way, Way above standard.  We wanted to share this as it is very true to life Congo.;contentAux   Or  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Building Chapels, Building Self-Reliance

In the DR Congo, the two missions realize approximately 500 convert baptisms per month. That amounts to almost a ward a month. The retention and activity rate remain high. The Congolese people are very spiritual, open, and love the Lord. They have very few books to read, however most have a Bible. They read the Bible, are conversant with the scriptures, and easily accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They live in great poverty and difficulties. Unemployment, disease, and poverty. However, one of the favorite hymns that they sing whenever hymns are sung is, "Count Your Many Blessings." A joy comes into their lives with the Gospel. Temporally, it remains difficult, but the hope, faith, and promise of eternity fills their hearts. A dual problem arises with high growth rates and unemployment. 1. What do we use for meeting houses if we convert a ward a month? I recently saw retention figures showing 95% retention over the past 13 month period. Many wards have 110% attendance at sacrament meetings - high activity rates and many non-member visitors. 2. How to we help provide opportunity for members to gain the requisite skills to find work. This question has pre-occupied the thinking of the Church, as the member population grows rapidly in developing countries. BUILDING CONCEPT
Last year, the Church announced the intention to create a pilot program in the DR Congo. If the Church could facilitate training of members in the building skills, members could find employment or create jobs for themselves. The First Presidency approved a plan to build more modest chapels using the membership to do so. As a young missionary in France, I briefly participated in the volunteer or missionary building efforts then in place. As I finished my mission, my mission president asked if I and a few others would extend our missions for a month or two to help with the construction of a chapel in Nice, France. There, French, Swiss, and Belgian young men were called as labor missionaries to construct the new chapel. It was a wonderful program, these young men learned skills and trades as well as providing a great service. This program was discontinued in the mid 1960's. Revisiting the concept, the Presiding Bishopric, under the direction of the First Presidency, put a new plan in place. A program to train worthy individuals (focusing mostly on return missionaries) in the building trades, then hiring some of them to construct chapels. Suzanne and I were fortunate enough to be in a small meeting with Bishop Burton, the Presiding Bishop of the Church, as details were set in place. Because the Perpetual Education Fund should play a role in the education process, we were invited.
There, Bishop Burton made it very clear that "this is a training program, not an employment, or building program." And, that "Return missionaries are the prime target for this effort." A native French Brother was assigned to direct the effort. He is from Salt Lake and has been involved in building and has spent much time in Africa directing temporal affairs of the Church. Also, an extremely talented and spiritual brother from France was assigned to lead the projects here in Africa. In 6 months time, the plans were completed, working with LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, instruction manuals, "how to" videos, and curriculum were developed. And the program initiated. About this time a brother retired from a Salt Lake City college where he had taught construction techniques for 30 years. He and his wife decided to serve a mission. He mentioned to his sister that he would love to serve a mission teaching building principle in an emerging nation to help return missionaries become equipped with skills that would help them become employed and self-reliant. His sister happened to work at Church headquarters and mentioned to Bishop Burton about her brother's desire. To which Bishop Burton replied, "you just answered my prayers, where is he?" Elder and Sister Billings arrived in the DR Congo - Kinshasa Mission three weeks ago. They are truly an answer to prayer.
Here is a typical class at work with Elder and Sister Billings. preparing the site, laying a foundation, and basic masonry. The young man in the green shirt in front is one of our PEF students and former volunteer at the PEF Service Center. Elder and Sister do not speak French, and this young man was hired as their interpreter. We hated to lose him, but are pleased that he found employment and can be of great service while the Billings learn to speak French. (For the Huntsman family, he served with Johnny in South Africa.)
Yesterday, Elder Billings was teaching them to make a "saw horse" in order to learn basic measuring and planning skills. The interpreter had no idea what a saw horse was. It took quite a bit of explaining to get that point across. It was perhaps the first saw horse in the DR Congo. By the way, the name for a saw horse is "trétaux."
There are very few power tools in the DR Congo. Most of the work is done by hand saws, hammer and nails, etc. These pictures were taken at the training site behind the Kinshasa Stake Center. The Seminary and Institute Building which houses the Seminary and Institute facility, the Center for Young Adults, and the PEF Service Center are adjacent. They hold classroom theory in the class-room next our our office in the morning, then practical application on the practice area outside.
Elder Billings on the training site doing the two things he loves best - teaching young people how to build properly - and serving the Lord as a missionary.
Sister Billings using a desk in our office to keep up with the administrative and keeping a journal of the progress. There are currently two chapels being built by previously trained teams of return missionaries in the Kinshasa area. 20 more chapels are in the planning stage to meet the growing needs in throughout the DR Congo. One does not have to look very far to see the hand of the Lord in the work in Africa.