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Disciples Travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo

October 15, 2010

David Owen, Global Ministries Associate for Resource Development, is leading a group of seven Disciples on a pilgrimage to the Democratic Republic of Congo where they will visit the Disciples of Christ Community in Congo (CDCC). Half of the group is made up of members of the Disciples Amateur Radio Fellowship (DARF). They will be working with the leadership in the CDCC to install some radios and do some training on the operation and maintenance of the equipment. The trip members are:  Rev. Barry Loving, Rev. Michael Passmore, Debra Passmore, Megan Shumaker, Rev. Dr. Dan Owen – part of the DARF radio team, Rev. John Park Winkler– part of the DARF radio team, and Rev. Fred Erickson – part of the DARF radio team.

A brief overview of their itinerary is as follows:

Thursday, Oct. 14th - Arrive Kinshasa at 8:35 pm
Friday, Oct 15th - Spend the day in Kinshasa
Saturday, Oct. 16th  - Fly from Kinshasa to Mbandaka
Sunday, Oct. 17th  - Worship with local church in Mbandaka
Monday, Oct 18th – Friday Oct. 29nd - DARF/U-CAN team will be conducting radio installation, operation and maintenance training in Mbandaka/Bolenge. The rest of the group will experience the life and work of the church in the Mbandaka/Bolenge area, at Ikengo Farm, and go on a trip (approximately 5 days) to the mission posts of Lotumbe and Monieka.  This will be along the Congo river and tributaries through tropical rain forest.
Saturday, Oct. 30th - Fly back to Kinshasa from Mbandaka
Sunday, Oct. 31st - Attend Sunday worship services at Disciples congregation in Kinshasa. Depart Kinshasa at 11:05 pm
Monday, Nov. 1st - Arrive Chicago at 12:55 pm

Congo update #1

This is the first “update” I’m sending from the DARF/U-CAN team which has traveled to Congo to do the training and to assist in setting up the eleven stations which have been purchased for the Disciples Community of the Church of Christ of the Congo.
I will only be able to send these updates when we have internet access, so they may be rather infrequent.

This first update is very rough, and the other members of the team have not seen it, nor have they been able to make corrections and additions. A final version will be prepared later.

Fred Erickson

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Congo Diary 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A hectic day, trying to pack to leave tomorrow, plus trying to shop for all of those health, sanitation, insect repellant items I thought we might need.  I plan to leave any I don’t use for use by the church.  The last time I did this, I left almost everything I brought.  In addition, we had to buy various tools and supplies to help set up the stations for which we were going to Congo in the first place.  We needed multi-tools, VO meters, chargers, adapters, 12 volt soldering iron and solder, plus any gift items we might want to take.

In addition I had to do all of those tasks at home and for the church that I would have done over the next three weeks if I were here if I had been home, but which I now had to do ahead of time before I left.   Tuned out all of us with DARF/U-CAN were all in the same boat. A trip like this demands a fair amount of physical exertion, so I had prepared myself by engaging in a regimen of exercise.  I later transitioned this regimen into a healthy amount of cutting and splitting firewood for the upcoming winter heating system, thus killing two birds with one stone.I also took advantage of the fact that one of the members of the church for which Sally is pastor is a private investigator who teaches self-defense on the side.  I began to prepare myself for the unlikely event such skills would be necessary.  I learned some very cleaver thingsI could do with my camera monopod and my elbows. I was fortunate in that the shots I had taken for the 2006 survey trip were still valid. Of course it still cost me $60 for the doctor visit where I learned that.

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Wednesday, October 13

The day began at 5:00 a.m., getting up and getting on the road to catch my first flight to Chicago from St. Louis.  Sally drove me to St. Louis which was nice. As usual, I had trouble getting through security with my artificial metal hips.  They are always caught by the metal detector which results in my receiving a full inspection and hand inspection.

I had previously checked with the Brussels Airlines website, and had learned that I was okay with a second bag to be checked, as long as both being under 44 pounds (20 kilos).  Unfortunately I hadn’t checked with the connecting airlines, American.  They charged me $50 for the second bag. I think it was the best way to go anyway in that I would have been limited to 44 pounds per bag to Mbandaka, and I would have had to drp 16 pounds to get under that.  We really had no choice.  We had to get these tools and supplies to Mbandaka.  I turned out that Dan and David Owen also faced the same dilemma and chose to bring an extra bag.  This kind of expense is just the cost of doing business.

Sitting in the plane caused me to realize that I should have brought all of my receipts so far.  This would have been a good time to begin the financial accounting for the trip. I dozed a little on the way to Chicago, tired for the exertion of getting ready.  We were a little late getting in because we were late taking off because of rain in Chicago.  I remember the days of long holding patterns.;  Now they keep you on the ground until you have an actual slot in which to land.  It saves a lot of wasted fuel.  One just flies straight in. Lunch at O’Hare was $11.41, with no drink, for just a salad. Met up with the team in Chicago.  They are a really sharp and fun group.

It was particularly wonderful to get meet Barry Loving, Pastor of the First Christian Church, Amarillo, TX.  One day on the 20 meter we were discussing our need to find a congregation that would be willing to mail the “Mission-Aire” so we could take advantage of its bulk mailing permit.Alan Pickering, KJ9N, suggested to John Bridwell, KD9VVJ, that he see of hat congregation would be willing to do that.  John did, and the minister, Barry Loving, agreed to do that.  This has greatly assisted thework of DARF/U-CAN, and the work of the Division of Overseas Ministries by relieving us of the high cost of first class postage for 380 newsletters. They have also mailed a fundraising letter for DARF/U-CAN.

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Thursday, October 14

The closer we get to Kinshasa, the less English we hear around us and on the public announcements. Stopping in Angola on the way down added another country to those I have been in. The trip was long and tirering.  From beginning to end, it was 34 hours. I had decided that one of the things I would do on the plane was to use my new netbook computer to organize all of my e-mail address so I could send “updates.“  I had made a back up copy of the e-mail addresses in my Outlook e-mail program  What I didn’t realize was that Outlook wasn’t on my new computer, and none of the programs I did have would read the data. I had planned to send updates whenever we had internet access.  I should have brought reading material for the plane.  I also forgot my Congo shirt.

We finally arrived at the guest house of the Church of Christ of the Congo at 10:30 p.m.  By the time we got checked in and made plans for the nesxt days it was 11:30 p.m.  I then had to go through my bags and decide what I would carry-on to Mbananda, and what I would send ahead first thing in the morning.  The protocol officer will pick up our bags 24 hours ahead of time to get them checked onto the plane. We are not at the Methodist/Presbyterian Guest House (MPH) as before.  We are at the guest house of the over-arching ecumenical Church of Christ of the Congo (ECZ).  It is really nice.  Whereas the MPH was more like a dormitory with restrooms down the hall, the ECZ Guest House is more like a fancy hotel with private bathrooms, air conditioning, and television.  It also has wireless internet which is accessible from the rooms.  These room even have in-room refrigerators.  The bathrooms were full bathrooms with tub and shower.  It will be real culture shock when we arrive in Mbandaka.

We went into the bar to order bottled water. We discovered that it was $3.00 per bottle, but they wouldn’t accept one-dollar bills.  They said dollar bills were still the old-fashioned style with small pictures, and too easily counterfeited.  Therefore, we would have to buy each bottle with a five-dollar bill.  We figured out that we could buy 5 for $15.00 and beat the system.  It took quite a while to get the water because the bartender had to go to some other source to get them, and had to make several trips.  He compensated for that by giving us six bottles for the $15.  So I compensated him for that good gesture by buying a $5 bottle of beer.

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Friday, October 15

First thing today was getting up and getting to breakfast.  We had agreed to meet at 7:00 a.m.  I was there, but none of the others.  It was interesting trying to communicate with someone who didn’t understand English.  Apparently omelet, toast, banana and papyra was the breakfast of the day.  Not understanding, I got a “simple” omelet, which meant no meat. We weighed our bags with a portable scale Dan had brought.  We were well overweight with all of our tools etc.  I will have to pay $60.  All told, our excess baggage expense will be over $350. Bossuet, protocol officer, was on time, collected our bags and our surcharge for the baggage.  We will. Now have to live with what we held out as carry-on.  I’ve already discovered items I wish I had held out, such as the cable which would have allowed me to dump some of the pictures I’ve already taken. First up was a tour of the Protestant University of Congo.  This is trulya modern facility started by the church.  It was begun by Disciples, Methodists, Presbyterian, American Baptists and British Baptists.  The university began at Kisangani (?), later moved to Kinshasa.  Ben Hobgood was one of the later directors, as was Elonda Effefe, both Disciples.   They now have 7,500 students, expecting 7,800 for the current year.  300 of those are preparing for ministry.  The first faculty for the university was devoted entirely to ministerial training.

The university is truly protestant, not governed by any one denomination, and the degrees are fully accredited.   The undergraduate degree for ministry takes three years, and the masters program takes two years.  The graduates then return to their own denomination for ordination.  Ben Hobgood still helps raise money for the university. They have started a new college of medicine and are currently building the buildings which will house it, even though classes have already started. When the university celebrated 100 years, the then dictator, Mobutu, asked the then head of the ECZ to find a place for a national protestant churchthat would be truly ecumenical.  The current site next to the university was chosen, and the Centennial church is now located there.   It too is purely protestant, not connected with any one denomination.

The university has 9,000 volumes in its library.  They are in the process of referencing all of these volumes and including them in their electronic database.  The are half finished.  The primary teaching language is French, although English is required for the degree in medicine. The rest of the morning and afternoon was spent visiting several churches in the Kinshasa area.  Some were large congregations with large buildings with separate ministers for French and Lingala services..  Others were very small, with small lean-to store-front building with dirt floors. These smaller churches often worship in space that is leased, without houses  for their ministers;  yet, in their simplicity, they are doing a great work with no resources.  They exhibited real joy in their work.

We were led in this tour of Kinshasa churches by the Post Supervising Pastor of the Kinshasa area, Maria Louise Liaafo.  She is the first woman to hold that position. We were exhausted after spending the day in Kinshasa traffic. Fortunately we had an awesome driver, even though he did get into an argument with some government official trying to throw his weight around.  This official had sped ahead, cut us off, got out of his car and began challenging our driver.  Our driver stood up to him, and Maria jumped out and took him on. Not knowing what was being said, I assumed everything turned out okay.  Traffic congestion is incredible, and it is amazing that it works out okay without any traffic signals.  Stop signs seem to only be advisory.

Upon returning to the guest house, we bought some more water and returned to our rooms for naps. Dinner this evening was an incredibly enjoyable experience.  The guest house has a very fine restaurant with meals running in the range of $15 to $25--unfortunately the 10-page menu was all in French.  The only phrase I recognized was filet mingon, so that is what I had.  Becky Culp, who works at the American Embassy, and was partially involved with the grant from the state department toward the radio project came, with her husband, to meet with us.  Dan had known here when he worked here as a missionary.  They brought with them Ruthie and David Schaad.

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October 17

Hi all,

My husband, John Park, called me today (Sunday) at 3:30pm (my time) and 9:30 p.m. Mbandaka time. He reported that he and the other ministers were given 24 hours notice that they would be preaching in churches today. He said it was an amazingly wonderful experience! He said the worship started at 10am and ended at 1pm. The offering took 45 minutes. First they gave a general offering, then an offering for the children and youth, then one for the men and women and another for the guest ministers. The money given to him went to the Congo Radio Project.

He and his radio team have 5 days to teach 6 months worth of information to the approximately 50 people who have come for the training of the radio communications system. Some of those have been traveling for 2 weeks to get to Mbandaka. They have one week to train and then will start their 2 week journey back home.

The accommodations are more primitive in Mbandaka. There is no electricity at night. The mosquitos are terrible and they are sleeping under mosquito nets. They are sharing rooms at the Guest House. He told me he was standing about 30 feet from the Congo River while he talked with me.

Everyone is well and doing fine. It is hot! The trip is amazing!

Wishing all a blessed day!

Shalom,
Ruth Winkler

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October 24, 2010

Friends,

Yesterday I spoke to my husband John Park for a few minutes. The cell phone was nearing the end of the minutes so we couldn't talk long.

He was pleased that the workshops with the Congolese to teach them how to set up radio stations went well and the 50 who participated felt they could return home and set up theirs. That was success!

They were to worship again in Mbandaka today. That is really all the time we had. I could hear him fine. He could not hear me so well. My voice kept cutting out.

Have a blessed day!

Shalom,
Ruth

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October 25, 2010

I talked to Barry yesterday and he said they were going down the river again today and wouldn't be back until Thursday.  He said he preached to about 600 yesterday and it was awesome.  Last week the trip down the river took about 9 hours but he said this week it would be about 3 hours by car and 3 hours by canoe.  Sounds like the trip is a great success.  I'm sure we'll hear more when they get back.

Mary Loving

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I talked to Megan yesterday (Sunday), and she indicated that all was good.  The group that had gone on the one-day boat trip to the village and then back the next day were enthusiastically welcomed there and given gifts of two goats and a crocodile and a duck.  They took the two goats back with them to Mbandaka, and Megan was happy that they found that one of them was pregnant so couldn't be slaughtered.  Most of the people in the village had never seen a white person before, so our group was stared at.  It was a good trip, and today the whole group is traveling by car to another village for this night, and then will launch from there in boats to two other villages for the next two nights, then back to their land transportation back to Mbandaka.

Blessings,

Dianne Shumaker

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