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Travel Journal: The Democratic Republic of Congo and The Republic of Congo

March 12, 2010

TRIP PARTICIPANTS:

HOOD, NICHOLAS III
Senior Minister – Plymouth UCC Church
Detroit, Michigan

LEARNED, ROBERT
Son of former missionaries to the Dem Rep of Congo
Major Contributor to the Pediatric Wing
Tucson, Arizona

MCCRAE, LINDA
Co-Chair of Common Global Ministries Board
Minister – Central Christian Church
Indianapolis, Indiana

SCHAFER, DARLA
Member of Common Global Ministries Board
And Wider Church Ministries Board
Bismarck, North Dakota

SPENCER, SHEILA
Disciples Homeland Ministries  - Women Department
Merger Staff of National Convocation
Indianapolis, Indiana

WHITMAN, JEFF
Conference Minister
Mid-Missouri Conference of the United Church of Christ
St Louis, Missouri

GOURDET, SANDRA
Group Leader
Executive, Africa Office
Global Ministries
Indianapolis, Indiana

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2010
DREAM DEFERRED
Sandra Gourdet – Journalist

The delegation of 7 travelers was scheduled to leave today for the Democratic Republic of Congo but was grounded because of a severe winter snowstorm.  Both domestic and international flights were canceled.  Two members of the delegation (Nick Hood of Detroit and Robert Learned of Tucson) managed to travel on Tuesday before flights were canceled.  The international segment of the trip has been  re-scheduled to Friday, February 12, 2010.

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2010
SNOW! SNOW! SNOW!  BUT PROGERESS!
Sandra Gourdet – Journalist

The members of the delegation from St Louis (Jeff Whitman) and Indianapolis (Linda McCrae, Sheila Spencer and Sandra Gourdet) arrived in New York early evening.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2010
FINALLY- THE DEPARTURE
Sheila Spencer- Journalist

When Darla Schafer (Bismarck, ND) arrived, we gathered together in the international terminal to check in our luggage at Air France.  We shared lunch and orientation together before leaving on the evening flight to Paris. 

During our time together, we learned some basic greetings in Lingala and more about our assignments once on the ground.

a)  Jeffrey Whitman, Linda McCrae and Nicholas Hood are scheduled to preach in congregations in Mbandaka if we are able to arrive in time for service. 
b)  We volunteered for assignments as journalist and chaplain of the day. 
c)  Sandra agreed to record events in the journal on days assigned to Robert learned. 
d)  Nick agreed to be the group photographer.

The evening flight to Paris was long.  Some of us were able to sleep on the aircraft better than others.

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 13, 2010
PARIS
Sandra Gourdet – Journalist

Construction work continues at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris making it a very user unfriendly airport.  After leaving the aircraft at terminal 1E, we walked approximately 20-25 minutes before reaching the point where we took a bus to terminal 2C for the connecting flight to Kinshasa. 

We arrived almost two hours late in Kinshasa.  Mr. Bossuet Ikedji, Chief Protocol officer for the Church of Christ in Congo ECC (the national ecumenical organization of Protestant Churches) was present to get us through the entry formalities.  Rev. Berthe Nzeba, head of the Women's Dept of ECC, was present to greet us and accompany us to the hotel/guest house.  We got settled into our rooms and had a late dinner at the hotel's restaurant.    

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2010 
ARRIVAL in MBANDAKA and HOSPITAL DEDICATION
Darla Schafer – Journalist

We had an early start – 5:30 am! – as we needed to get on the chartered plane to Mbandaka.  We left on our flight around 8:00 versus the planned 7:00 am due to the necessary paperwork and formalities.  Our pilot, Rod, proved himself for the mission of getting us to Mbandaka safely.  As we encountered some very turbulent weather, we all gained a lot more faith along the way!  The flight took 2 hours 20 minutes.  The view of the Congo River with clouds hovering over at sunrise was spectacular.

When we arrived at the Mbandaka airport in the rain, we were greeted by a choir of children and adults, as well as dancers.  We were serenaded for almost an hour.  What a joy!.  Some of us even tried out a few dance steps!  The Rev. Bonanga, President of the Community of Disciples in Christ in Congo (CDCC) greeted us warmly, along with other staff members present. 

While we were being serenaded by the choir and praise dancers, Jean Robert, the CDCC protocol officer, completed our entry formalities and had our luggage loaded in the designated vehicles. As it was close to noon when we finished at the airport, it was too late to attend any of the church services where three from our delegation were scheduled to preach.  We went to the guest house to leave our luggage and then proceeded to the home of the Vice-Governor for the Equator District to pay a courtesy visit and to be officially welcomed by him.  He was present with his Minister of Health and Associate Minister of Social Affairs.  They informed the delegation that they would be present at the dedication in the afternoon.   

We gathered for lunch at Rev. Bonanga's and his wife Anna's home.  She had prepared a wonderful meal for us.   After lunch, we went back to the guest house and had a few moments to unpack our bags and rest before attending the dedication of the new pediatric wing of the Bolenge Hospital.   Because of the rain earlier in the day, very few persons were present when we arrived.  Shortly after we arrived, hundreds of persons appeared.  We celebrated with the Bolenge community as they unveiled the new wing and the long term model of their hospital complex.  Speakers included the Vice-Governor of the Equator District, the district Minister of Health, Rev Eliki Bonanga – President of the CDCC, Sandra Gourdet – Global Ministries' Africa Executive, Linda McCrae – Co-Chair of Common Global Ministries Board, and Robert Learned for whose young sibling the hospital was dedicated. 

Memorable moments were Sandra's presentation of a Global Ministries' plate on behalf of David Vargas and Cally Rogers-Witte and a $5,500 check for additional equipment, Linda's presentation of a quilt with hand prints of the children of her congregation, and Robert's moving story of his parents' missionary time in Bolenge and the death of his infant brother there.  A wonderful time of refreshments, singing and dancing was enjoyed after the ribbon-cutting ceremony and visit of the facilities.

The evening unwound into visiting on the deck of the guest house, watching the Congo River flow by, enjoying another wonderful meal prepared by Anna Bonanga and her team at her home, and a time of group sharing and devotion.

We all feel that today we were both challenged (weather) and blessed (people) by the Congo!! Thanks be to God!!

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2010
DEDICATION OF RENOVATED SCHOOL BUILDING AT AIR CONGO
Sandra Gourdet- Journalist

Today we started with the reminder by our chaplain that "this is the day the Lord has made.  We shall rejoice and be glad in it".  Following a leisure breakfast, we proceeded to the dedication of the renovated primary school at Air Congo, Later in the day we visited the church headquarters and spent time with Pastors' spouses in the afternoon. 

Air Congo is a heavily populated area and was one the neighborhoods that received extensive damage during a violent storm 18 months earlier. When the school was not immediately repaired the Department of Education threatened to close the school because of the extremely hazardous conditions to which the students were exposed.  This was a concern for the church, but even more so the parents.  There are few schools to meet the expressed needs of the community.  The options available are either to send the children to the Catholic primary school that accepts its own students or settle for no school at all.  The church leadership submitted a request to Global Ministries which allowed the denominational education department to provide the bare necessities for re-opening the school.  Later, through the Indiana/Mbandaka partnership, funds from Indiana were sent through Global Ministries that allowed the school to reach the present state of the building making the dedication possible. There is still a lot of work to be done – the ceiling, the blackboards, the flooring and teaching materials and books, but the church is getting closer to reaching its goal.

One of the special moments during the program was the presentation by the children themselves.  They stood tall and fearlessly as they pronounced their prepared speeches.  In them, one could see future teachers, lawyers, doctors, pastors, politicians and all the other contributions needed to preserve the country.

In her words of encouragement, Sandra Gourdet thanked the government and the church for making it possible for the children of Air Congo to have a school.  She expressed concern for the difficulties faced by the government in meeting its obligations to teachers and staff.  At the same time she encouraged the Provincial Minister of Education to advocate on behalf of the teachers and those struggling to give an education to the children.  She asked Rev Bonanga to continue to be a thorn in the flesh of the government by constantly reminding them of their obligations.  She praised the teachers for their noble work under very difficult conditions knowing that many think of it as "the dirty profession" meaning hard work, little pay and lack of gratitude from others for sacrifices made.  She exalted the students to take advantage of this "jewel" given to them. They must work hard in the classroom and try to preserve the building so that others after them can benefit.

Following the ribbon cutting and celebration, the government dignitaries left and everyone returned to the church to conclude the program.   Rev Ilumbe, Mbandaka District Minister and the local pastor expressed words of gratitude for the visit knowing that it was very difficult to arrive given the snow in the US and the rain in Mbandaka that threatened a cancellation of some programs.   With that in mind the district minister presented a gift to Global Ministries. He reminded everyone that when the missionaries arrived in the late 19th century that the principal means of transportation was by water.  The dugout canoe was generally used.  Although times have changed and it is no longer required to go long distance by canoe, it is still very difficult to travel to many parts of the country.  A canoe was presented as a symbolic gesture of how partners work together even during difficult times to supply each others needs. 

In the afternoon we visited a women's microcredit meeting. A group of 25 pastors' wives, under the leadership of Mrs. Anna Bonanga, pooled their resources together to start a savings and loan association.  A grant from Global Ministries allowed each one of them to borrow $50 USD to start a business or reinforce an existing business.  Several women shared stories of the hard work involved but the joy of finding a small measure of freedom and independence.  Some of the women are engaged in selling manioc, palm oil, vegetables and spices.  One woman has a small restaurant and specializes in fish.  She works in association with another woman who sells manioc for those wanting something to go with the fish. 

Women are required to pay back the loan and 10% interest in 3 payments.  Although some women have known some difficulties in repaying, the payback rate is 100%.  The women gladly pay back because it has been liberating.  They meet regularly and save money that is also placed in the box.  One woman was proud that she had repaid $15 in loan and saved 8 dollars. One should not assume that there are not many difficulties.  We heard the success stories, but we also heard how the many obstacles can cause discouragement, one being the transportation.  One lady explained how she must hire two bicycles to get her ware home.  She rides on one and the merchandise on the other.  She lives about 10 kilometers from the center of town.

After hearing the many moving stories, Nick Hood spoke of being married to a pastor's wife for 33 years and how much he appreciated their struggle for liberation.  With that said, he offered the gift he had prepared for Sunday's service which we had not had a chance to give.  As the women sang and ululated, others joined in this instantaneous worship celebration.

In the evening, we shared another wonderful meal at the home of Mrs Bonanga and returned to the guest house for evening prayers and reflection.

TUESDAY FEBRUARY 17, 2010
BOYEKA VILLAGE – 180 kms from MBANDAKA
Linda McCrae – Journalist

Today was quite a day!  We were up and ready to go by 5 am, and ended up leaving around 6 am for Boyeka, 180 km from Mbandaka.  (Boyeka was one of the first mission sites established by the church upon obtaining autonomy.  It is home to a large number of the ethnic pygmies who have been discriminated against historically.) We were in three vehicles – our delegation and several of the church leaders.  We went south and west from Mbandaka on a well graded road with minimal potholes.  Along the way we stopped at four or five villages with Disciple churches where we were greeted warmly with smiles and waves and sometimes singing.  At locations where we did not stop, palm branches were prominently displayed to indicate "our" churches. 

We stopped at the side of the road for breakfast and Jean Robert, Protocol officer, pulled out the fish, bread, fufu, plantains, peanuts, fruit, coffee and tea we had brought.  Quite the feast!!!

We finally arrived in Boyeka around 11 am.  As we neared the church, there was a kind of archway set up, made of palm branches.  There were dozens (maybe hundreds) of people waiting there who broke into song and dance, clapping and smiling to welcome us to their village.  It was a "palm Sunday" welcome.  I wondered about the source of their joy, which overflows so joyously and generously onto strangers like ourselves.  There in the road, after the singing, the principal pastor of that district, Pastor Alain Bolembo Sanza, prayed.  Then Sandra received flowers from a young girl who offered words of welcome.  Then we walked to the church, all along the way greeting pastors throughout the district, assistant pastors, elders, chiefs, and teachers who formed a kind of receiving line.  It was an overwhelming and emotional experience for us.

A covered shelter was behind the church and we were led there to rest for a few minutes before the church service.  A choir composed of about ten boys sang to us.  There were pygmies, and their ages ranged from about 10-18.  They sang with beautiful harmony and dancing.

The church had more wonderful singing, prayer by the local pastor, and scripture and sermon by the district pastor.  He preached from Luke 4 and spoke about sacrifice – the sacrifice Jesus made to help us and the sacrifice we should make to help one another.  Then came the offering!!  Two people came to the front and held baskets, one for the women's offering and one for men's.  Music started and the dancing began.  It was a slow, rhythmic procession down one aisle, across the front, and up the other aisle, lasting maybe 15 minutes or more.  It was wonderfully satisfying to the heart and soul.  Jeff was asked to give the offertory prayer.  The service ended with a period of announcements, during which we were introduced and Sheila asked to give the closing prayer.

After the service, the district pastor shared with us about the situation and needs of the churches of the district.  One of the big problems is transportation.  Pastor Alain has 28 churches spread out over more than 100 kilometers, and his only mode of transportation is his feet.  For that and other reasons it sounded like a very challenging job.

Then we walked around the village.  We saw the water source and heard about their efforts to teach hygiene and their hope of building a tank to keep the water clean.  We saw the schools- elementary and secondary, and latrines built by UNICEF and a pump installed by UNICEF as well.  Their concern about pumps is that when any part of it breaks, it will be impossible to get replacement parts.

Our tour completed, we were led back to the shelter where we were fed a wonderful meal of pork, plaintains, fufu, greens, etc.  After lunch they presented us with gifts to thank us for our visit – two ancestral war weapons and some cash so that we can buy something symbolic to remind us of them.  (We later purchased two music cassettes that will be copied and shared with members of the delegation).

We got on our way home by 2:30 or 3:00, and on the way back to Mbandaka stopped at Lake Tumba in Bikoro and again at some of the Disciples churches where we were given gifts of bananas and pineapples, sugar cane and a chicken or two.  We were told these were gifts of thanksgiving for our visit.

We arrived in Mbandaka sometime after 7:00 pm, exhausted but grateful for a wonderful day.

WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 17, 2010
IKENGO FARM PRJECT
Jeff Whitman - Journalist

Today we boarded a motorized dug out canoe for a journey on the Congo River from Mbandaka to Ikengo.

The Congo is a river of life.  Along the banks of the river there are people washing clothing and children swimming and laughing.  On the river there are people in canoes taking things to market to sell.  We passed a group of canoes lashed together to form a type of barge to transport goods to Kinshasa (700 km downriver).  And of course, we saw people fishing.  So the Congo is source of food, livelihood, commerce, transportation.  The river of life!

When we arrived at Ikengo the people were lining the riverbank singing their welcome. We were welcomed by the District Minister for the Bolenge District (Rev. Ngoy Bondjokote)  He prayed and thanked God for our safe arrival.  He then introduced the Ikengo Farm Manger who explained the work and ministry of the farm.

The land for the farm was donated by the church and the original project was started by Peace Corp workers in the 70s.  It was later revived by the church as an income generating and community project.  It has received tremendous financial support from One Great Hour of Sharing and Week of Compassion. 

At the farm, they raise vegetables and one section is an experimental farm where they test and evaluate different strains of plants.  One plant is the "moringa" which has been discovered to have many vitamin and medicinal properties.  They also raise pigs, chickens, goats and ducks.  The farm is also a teaching center where young people can come and learn how to improve their farming techniques.  They are also reaching out into the community.  They sell their produce in the local market and they also have taken in 8 children (from the pygmy ethnic group) between the ages of 8-12.  The children live at the farm, go to school in the local community and work at the farm in the afternoon.     The farm manager shared that this was one of the ways that the church has committed itself to improving the lives of pygmies in the community. 

The Ikengo farm is an example of active and faithful discipleship.  In the name of Jesus, we are feeding the hungry and teaching people how to feed themselves.  We are reaching out to the pygmy community inviting them to send their children to train and work at the farm.  The surrounding community is empowered as they are able to supply the farm with locally grown corn to supplement food for the animals.  They receive plants and seedlings from the farm for their own gardens to improve their nutritional needs.

In the evening we were honored to be invited guests at a dinner hosted by the Minister of Health.  Other invited guests included representatives from WHO, the World Bank, UNICEF, various government ministries, and other international organizations that play a critical role in the health and well-being of the Congolese population.   So ended our fourth day in Mbandaka. 

THURSDAY February 18th, 2010
VISITS TO BOLENGE and  MBANDAKA
Sandra Gourdet – Journalist

Today was the long awaited visit to Bolenge.  We had been to the hospital on Sunday for the dedication service.  We passed it along the river as we traveled to Ikengo.  Today we would visit the other sites.  The visit started at the kindergarten, where more than 30 children and 3 workers greeted us.  The children enchanted us with prepared speeches and recitations.  The headmistress thanked Global Ministries for the support over the 14 years of its existence.  The Education Coordinator announced that the school has finally been recognized by the government and will soon be eligible to receive subsidies for the workers. 

We then visited the high school – a school with a long history of excellence and the formation of many of the country's leaders.  Given the country wide crisis, the school is suffering financially.  There are many buildings to be renovated and there is need for more classroom space at junior high level.  Words of encouragement were given by both Sandra and Rev Bonanga.

After leaving the high school, we visited the two primary schools across the street – Polele and Mokumba.  As time was limited, we did not spend much time at either school.  The children at Mokumba gathered under a shade tree.  Again words of encouragement were given. 

From the primary schools, we returned to the high school campus to visit the administrators of the newly established "University of Fishing" whose purpose is to train students in the art of professional fishing and management.  Other options to be added are agriculture and forestry.  The idea is to prepare the community to exploit many of the natural resources found locally to benefit the community.

We went to the seminary at Bolenge, that is now called the Protestant University of the Equator.  There were visiting lecturers from Kinshasa and we did not stay very long so that our visit would not be disruptive.

From the university, we walked to the Bolenge cemetery.  This was an opportunity for Robert (Bob) Learned to visit the gravesite of his young sibling, Intole.    This was very moving, yet very meaningful.  Here was the site of his young brother, of whom he had heard stories for so many years.  A few days earlier, we had celebrated the sibling at the hospital dedication.  Bob remembered many of the stories and songs his parents taught him as a child.  Now to come face to face with Bolenge and all that it represented was truly a spiritual moment.  

We returned to Mbandaka for a short rest before going to Mrs Bonanga for lunch.

In the afternoon, we visited several churches in the Mbandaka district.

In the evening, we returned to Rev Bonanga's home for a final evaluation and gift giving.  Each member of the delegation was presented with a Congolese name. 

Rev Nicholas Hood ----------------------------------- Rev Mpasa
Mr. Robert Learned -----------------------------------  Mr. Lofoso
Rev Linda McCrae ------------------------------------  Maman Wendje
Mrs Darla Schafer -------------------------------------  Mama Bambula
Rev. Sheila Spencer ---------------------------------  Mama Mpuma
Rev. Jeffrey Whitman -------------------------------  Rev. Ilanga

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2010
RETURN TO KINSHASA
Linda McCrae – Journalist

Today our "mission" was to return to Kinshasa, and we succeeded!  We are here.

The morning started out in a relaxing way, with breakfast and some time sitting on our "porch" enjoying our last view of the Congo River (from that locale) and conversing with one another and with our Congolese hosts.  At least a dozen of the church leaders came by at one point or another, and most of them came to the airport to see us off.  At around 11:00, we loaded up and went to the airport for our goodbyes to these generous, faithful, inspiring people.  They devoted a great deal of time and energy to us and we are grateful

The flight back to Kinshsa was much smoother than our flight to Mbandaka on Sunday!  We flew through only a few clouds and very mi nor turbulence arriving in Kinshsa around 1:30 or 2:00 pm.  On the way to the hotel we stopped at the arts market, which is right next door.  That is an intense atmosphere, with many people who are eager for you to look at and buy the artwork they were selling.  A woman who works with ECC women's department, Maman Tshizungu, helped us negotiate prices as did Sandra, and I think we all managed to find some lovely things.

By the time we got to the hotel about 3:30 pm we were fairly hot and tired.  We have had time since then to rest and relax, talk with Maman Nzeba and others that work with her, and have a leisurely dinner at the hotel restaurant. 

The staff or the Department of Women and Families of the Church of Christ in the Congo (Maman Nzeba and her colleagues) also gave us gifts – shirts for the men and dresses for the women – and thanked us for our visit to the Congo.  The sense of being honored by someone's visit is stronger here than in the United States. 

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2010
TRAVEL TO BRAZZAVILLE
Darla Schafer – Journalist

We woke up in air conditioning!  Very different from the equatorial heat in Mbandaka.  We ate breakfast together.  I think we were all adjusting to the changes from the Equator region.  The area has sure left an impact on us.

We appreciated the free time we had this morning.  A few of us headed back over to the market.  It was much quieter and it was easier to look at the goods for sale.

We loaded our luggage and headed to the boat to cross the Congo River to Brazzaville.  The dock is very crowded but we manage to stay together.  The trip took about 20 minutes.

We were greeted warmly at the dock on the Brazzaville side by the people of the EDCC (Church of the Disciples of Christ in Congo).  We loaded into four cabs and headed off to the church.  We exchanged greetings with Rev. Kobele, President of the EDCC.  This church denomination has been in existence for about 14 years.  It started as a missionary effort of the Disciples' church in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  It has been an autonomous church for the past 5 years and, as a young church, it is still growing and learning. 

We had a wonderful lunch at church.  The hospitality was wonderful!  We checked into our rooms at the Eclipse Hotel and had a little time to rest and to collect our thoughts.  We later met with the youth of the EDCC and listened to their hopes and desires for the future.  They compiled a list of the ten most important issues of the youth for the EDCC with Education being the number one priority.

We went to the home of Papa Chylle and Maman Jacquie for supper.  Papa Chylle serves as the moderator of the church's Assembly.  They had prepared a wonderful meal and were very generous.  Mama Jacquie let us sample three of the natural juices she makes  -- one from a natural plant grown in the country that produces a red juice, (The indigenous name being ngai-ngai),  passion fruit, and a juice made from ginger.  They were all delicious!

Papa Chylle was very proud of his family of 10 children and 15 grandchildren.  He introduced all the family that was present.

It was another wonderful day!!

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY  21, 2010
WORSHIP in BRAZZAVILLE
Sandra Gourdet – Journalist

Our day's activities started with breakfast at the home of Rev Kobele.  His wife, Michelle, and several other women prepared and served breakfast in their modest home.  We were joined by some of the church leaders

Following breakfast, we walked the short distance to the church where many members had already gathered.  Linda was the designated preacher of the day.   The choirs sand songs of praise and glory as we waited for Kobele, Linda and the elders to emerge from the Pastor's study.  What a glorious time of praise!!!

Linda preached a well received message of love and unity -  salient themes our hosts would repeat throughout our stay as they worked through some of their own challenges.  

Lunch was served at the church.  Our schedule called for visits in the afternoon.  One was a short visit to the church property where the church leaders are boldly dreaming of and planning for future church growth and expansion. The property is in an ideal location just outside of the city where city expansion is taking place.  The visit to the future site of the church's headquarters was combined with a very comprehensive tour of the city of Brazzaville providing valuable historical and cultural insight.  Members of the church joined us on the bus, so it was a time of sharing and fun fellowship – one of the few moments for intimate mutual sharing outside of the formal setting.

Just as we were beginning to think that perhaps the driver was lost or that we were seeing the same sites twice, it was announced that we had arrived at the home of our dinner hosts – the Mangassas.  As others took their places in the outdoor court area, the delegation was invited inside to meet the family and offer a prayer of blessing on the home.  We then went outside and joined the others for a traditional meal that included crocodile – a delicious delicacy. 

A very l-o-n-g, but enriching day where rest and sleep will be a welcome luxury!!.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2010
WOMEN'S SOAPMAKING PROJECT and HOMEWARD BOUND

A wonderful breakfast buffet served at the home of the Kobeles was once again the beginning our day's activities followed by the short walk to the church.  According to the program, we were to meet with the staff followed by time with the women. 

Given the internal issues that needed urgent attention, Sandra felt it was important for staff members to meet on their own without the presence of the delegation.  As they met, the rest of us spent the morning in a very well organized "soap-making class" where the women led us step by step in the process of this tedious task.  This was a highlight of the visit.  The women were so knowledgeable and dedicated.  They answered our spoken and unspoken questions.  At the end of the process, they presented each one of us with a bar of soap with a charge to tell their story in our churches in America. 

As we sat around absorbing everything we had learned in the morning, the women surprised us once again by presenting each one of us with outfits to express appreciation for our visit.  Each outfit had a special unique touch based on our character and personality that they had observed.    Some small gifts from the delegation were presented to the women. 

The men finished their meeting and joined us outside.  They expressed a heartfelt apology for taking advantage of our visit to air their personal issues and internal church politics, thus creating an unhealthy atmosphere.

Sheila and Sandra remained behind to interact with the two women who will attend the Quadrennial Assembly while the others returned to the hotel for a few minutes of rest.  We met up again at the home of the Bissangas – the elders who served at church on Sunday. A special treat for some was the French Fries on the table.

After lunch, we returned to the hotel to shower and get ready for the evening flight.  The hotel offered to transport us to the airport in their shuttle bus, which was a generous offer and less stressful than having to take several taxis.

Members of the church joined us and stayed until we went in for the check in formalities.  We were pleased to have one of Rev. Kobele's cousins working at the airport to get us through the various check-in points.  Final goodbyes were made and the delegation went into the waiting room.

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2010

Yes, we are exhausted!  11 days of intense travel and overwhelming experiences.  Yet, we have experienced God's love in the people with whom we have shared life.  We have been in their care, sharing mutually.   We are grateful for this experience and this opportunity to learn a little more about God's wondrous love through the eyes of the people of Congo.

All photos associated with the journal were taken by Rev. Nicholas Hood. 

 

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