Sunday, April 1, 2012

Except Ye Become as a Little Child

 On the way to Kimbanseke, George wanted a picture his favorite innovative vehicles......   
Have you ever see a retro-fitted motorcycle & trailer combo?

Just an example of the "open door" policy of the majority of taxis.   If a door is not off completely, it is held together by dubious methods. Most of the time, someone is standing outside of vehicle's open door or even standing on the bumper and hanging on at the back.  It's not unusual to have a door or other piece of a vehicle fall off, see someone jump out, pick it up and off they go again.
A old beat up taxi with seats taken out and board benches placed inside can  hold up to 24 people.  The concrete you see is what is left of a 50 yr old Belgian-made median and "sort of" marks the middle of the road.

Can you imagine how heavy the load on this "pus-pus" is?  Also, in the picture... used furniture or similar things are often displayed for sale outside.  I'm not sure what they do when it rains.
It seems as if every other store in the Congo is a "Pharmicie".  I guess the owner of the "pus-pus" stopped for something.  This picture also shows a common sight,  a vehicle whose wheel is off.

Whatever it takes.  Congolese will buy old European vehicles and use them until  you think they can't  run anymore.

The Liberté Marché stretches out for blocks & blocks.  An outdoor Walmart that sells everything.
On the left is a display of costume jewelry.  On the right, cassava... the leafy plant that is the staple food of Africa, packed into and on the loaded van.
George captured the attention of this young girl who got a big kick out of him and "posed".
This little sweetheart  was the first to greet me at the orphanage.  She is one of  four children who will be adopted by Americans this month.
On the left, sewing machines to teach women some marketable skills.  In the middle, a young woman who has been at the orphanage with her younger brother since she was a little girl.  She has stayed on as an adult to help Philomene take care of the children.  She and the other woman are using cassava to make "foo-foo", the favorite food of the Congo.
On the right is her brother, "Arnold", who touched my heart immediately.
Some of the children holding up a few of the food items we brought.  Curious neighbors and passers-by pause to watch.
Papaya anyone?
Here is where it starts to get hard.  THIS is their school room...ancient shelves, pitted and dirty concrete walls and a piece of corrugated  tin over a three-sided dank and dark room.
Yet, look at these precious, happy faces... 
Don't complain about our blackboards.  This is theirs... a concrete wall painted black.
This is Jonathan.  Fils, who came with us to act as translator, told us that Jonathan is 14 and the president of his Teacher's Quorum in Kimbanseke Ward which Fils also attends.
He and his older sister have been at the orphanage since he was a little baby.
He is already talking about the day he will serve a Church mission.
Our little cutie was the first to get in line for George to lift up high off a wall. 
Notice the curious young men who were walking by watching in the back.
I'm not sure who enjoyed this interaction more.. the kids or George!  
He is so incredibly sweet with little children (one of the reasons I love him).
The wall dividing the property from the neighbor on one side was formidable with broken glass bottles on top.  They have probably been there for decades & decades.
When I got close, it was if this guy knew I was there and he struck a pose.
I could hear him saying, "Wait a minute.. THIS is my better side!"
Here is the "bathroom" for all the children... It is nothing but a hole in the concrete and a door that won't even close.  We are working on a way to get a proper latrine built.
Papayas on the left and green bananas on the right.
This is "Arnold", who stole my heart.  When I first saw him, he was sitting next to this door, leaning against the side of the building with his hand up on the wall, as you can see in one of the first pictures.  I asked Fils to tell me about him.  He said that Arnold is 16 and a very good young man who attends the same Kimbanseke Ward as Fils every Sunday.  Arnold  is blind and  goes to a school miles away in Kinshasa by taking a series of buses every day.  I asked Fils to help me communicate with Arnold.  As soon as I walked over to him and introduced myself, he visibly perked up and then we had a sweet and insightful communication with  my halting French and Fils' help.  When I asked if he knew how to read in braille, his mother quickly brought out some papers and handed them to him.  He rapidly discarded some by "reading" the first word and, knowing what he was trying to find, finally settled on a "test" paper.  I asked him if he made good grades.  He does.  He is VERY smart and has so much to offer.  We are working in conjunction with others to help him have opportunities to progress and fulfill his potential.  
I feel a love for him that has surprised me in it's intensity and I cannot talk about him without crying.
Philomene called all the children to gather at their chairs and they quickly and obediently did so.  Wouldn't every teacher we know just love to have such a good group?
Then, she asked them to sing one of their favorite Primary songs, which they sang sweetly.  \
When they were deciding which song to sing, I said, playfully..."I guess they don't know, 'Once There Was a Snowman!" :P
Such beautiful children
Philomene is saying goodbye to Fils (who isn't praying.. he often puts his hands together when speaking)  & to Elder Stagg
As we left, we had to walk down the narrow, well-traveled, village path that also runs right through the grounds of the orphanage.  To the right is a ditch of filthy, debris-filled water.
When we were about to get into our vehicle, a little boy came running toward us down the lane with a stick and what looked like a bicycle tire rim.  If you look closely, you will see that he is not using this "toy" as an American would (by putting the stick inside the hoop) but pushes it along with the stick in the groove of the metal rim.  Nevertheless, it worked for him and his smile was as wide as the Congo River. 
 I watched him until he disappeared down the lane & thought, again about the ability of children to make the best of life, even in humble circumstances.


  1. I love the pictures of the kids. I'm glad that you were able to help them even though they weren't a church sponsored orphanage. It's humbling to see children happy about cans of food and to look at their "school" and chalk board is a little sad. It does make me happy to see a child using his imagination and playing happily with very little. Although most of my money is still going to fight for D'Avion I will send some money to help . Thanks for all you're doing there and sharing with us.

  2. You've got a good heart, Juli... thank you for your willingness to do something to help. A little, by our standards, goes a very long way here.