Sunday, June 10, 2012

Count Your Many Blessings

As George & I serve the Lord far away from home, here are examples of these and other blessings I count..

Janice Leigh Payne
Daughter, Janice, (Merritt Island, FL) made this picture of Chloe, then got Mitt Romney to sign it.
Chloe just turned five in May and got a surf board for her birthday.

Like a good Florida gal, she is already surfin' like a pro.
Daughter, Jeanette, (Ft. Pierce, FL) took Kaleb to the park for a picnic recently.
Kaleb has the sweetest spirit and takes such good care of his little sister, Alyssa.
He just turned eight last week and that means he is big boy now and old enough to be baptized.
Thierry, our Mission Office assistant, is a very busy man and has two phones.
If Thierry had three ears, he would probably have three phones.

The Masina Stake is blessed to have him as their brand-new Stake President.
(He is ALWAYS smiling and happy, but is laughing here because I was teasing him).

The Renlunds, of Bountiful, UT now live in Johannesburg, South Africa.
He is a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy with responsibility for S.E. Africa.
They are modeling the Congolese kaftan-type dress and shirt someone made for them.
We had a great evening with lots of laughs, sharing stories of our amazing African experiences.

These are the Eppels. She was born in Zimbabwe & he was born in South Africa, where they live.

He is the Church auditor for the S.E. Africa area & had us in stitches with his sense of humor.

They were just passing through this time, but I look forward to their return for an "official" visit.

(Of course, that's easy for ME to say... It's George that he would be auditing!)

Once we were inside the walls of this Chinese restaurant & vase shop, it was like a different world.
It's a bit of an optical illusion, but when I took a picture of this Chinese vase next to the restaurant,
it was so large that I thought it had to be part of the expensive pair we'd heard about.
I was wrong.  That was another, more expensive set, even larger than this.  
Who wouldn't want this?  I didn't check the price.  Of course, "if you have to ask..."

Here are the larger set of vases for the larger price... $4,500 PER.
As you can see, they're protected in a very minimal way. 

The vases were all shapes and sizes and many were unique and exquisitely beautiful.

The fine detail in the carving of this porcelain piece was stunning!

Our restaurant experience:
George ordered a "Shrimp & Cashew" meal for $25. 
There was just one small substitution... canned corn instead of cashews.
Did they think we wouldn't notice?
(Reminds me of my "Cordon Bleu" order at the Lebanese restaurant that came with... beef?)
We had a private room.. a good thing because the dining area was dominated by a large-screen TV playing high-energy Congolese programming at full volume.  We never saw an Asian person.
Here are the Billings (Construction Training), Elder Smith, The Staggs (Education), along with 

Sister Bingham & Elder Flappy Hands (Humanitarian).
How blessed we are to have such wonderful couples.. friends.. with whom we can serve.
Sometimes blessings come in "things prevented".  After opening the upper window blinds over my head in the Mission Office, we discovered four very deep & connecting cracks.
It probably happened from the March Brazzaville explosions, which broke windows all over Kinshasa.

We were thankful to find out that a Fire Station was nearby.

It shook our confidence to find out that... it burned down last year.
In the category of "Congolese can sleep ANYWHERE"... 
This dress shop clerk didn't even wake when we walked in.
At the end of the day, this boy had sold all but one section of his eggs.
I'm thankful that my livelihood does not depend on a perfect sense of balance.
I think these are minnows.. dried and in an open bin and visited frequently by numerous flies.
The bottom bin is full of bulbous-eyed caterpillars that spoiled my appetite at a dinner recently.
What's in the upper bin is still open for debate.  Any guesses?  

I'm just glad that I have other food options.
Thierry & George were going to go to the Ngaliema Clinic to pay for a young missionary's surgery.
I was invited to come.  We met with the affable surgeon & another Dr. in his office, old & dingy.
Pulling aside some wrinkled curtains to the left, I saw a rumpled examining table in a small room.
I know they are doing the best they can, but you would not want to have to go there.
The doctor accompanied us to the other building where we passed an ambulance 
donated to the clinic by the US.

The photo of Kabila was almost 3rd story high level in the large, high-ceiling reception area.  
You could hardly see it.  Coincidence? 

Thierry looks more like a doctor than the real one. Behind them is an African mosaic.
It was obvious that this doctor is a good man who is doing his best with very little.
When the bill had been paid, the doctor said, 
"We have the passion. The accountants have the money."
This semi-outdoor area is the surgical "waiting room".
This sprawling clinic was built by the Belge in 1929
and has been declining since they left in 1960. 

 Imagine how nice it must have been in it's day.
I didn't get a picture of the nurses in their 1920-ish whites & caps.
Vodacom is our big phone company.  In Kinshasa proper, even the poor all have cell phones. 
(But, since most don't have electricity in their homes, they charge them at vendor's stands).
This is called "Stadium of the Martyrs".  Political enemies were sent out to this area to be killed.
This was part of our adrenalin-filled drive to the Ngili-Ngili school for the handicapped.
It's impossible to portray in one photo the close proximity in which we have to drive here.
You have to know that we are on the Masina "bridge" (overpass), 

where about six lanes have "sort of" funneled into three.  
We're in the middle with other cars & trucks just as close on our left as this guy is on the right.
There is almost no margin for error on either side.
BEFORE:  the school had a literal "one holer" with a stench so bad I could hardly take the picture.
BEFORE:  students used a dank & dingy semi-private "bathing" area with a bucket of water.
This is where some rudimentary braces, etc are made (without adequate tools) at the school.
Eddy (Site Mgr), Felix (translator) & Elder B listen as someone teaches basic hygiene & nutrition.
On the painted blackboard behind them is where the English "teacher" 

(who barely knows English himself) had neatly written some interesting practice sentences.
One of the most touching moments was when Elder Bingham told the people (with translation)
that he couldn't know all that they have to go through, but he knew a part.  He then related that one of their children was born with a handicap that caused him to use crutches when he was very little.

 And now, as a grown man, he has to use a wheelchair.
Felix, reading one of the three certificates of appreciation from the Binghams to these three men.
Sister B, Felix, Elder B, Eddy (in back), John ( final contractor) & Percy (school founder).
Eddy & John both stepped up when the first contractor turned out to be less than honest.
I cried when Percy (who is handicapped himself) read HIS letter of appreciation

 to the Church and to the Binghams.
He had written it, with great effort, in his best English.  It was sweet & sincere & he was so proud.
The sewing teacher was given some material to help teach her students to make ties.
Afterward, she was told she could keep the rest of the material & she made this beautiful dress.

I received this picture after posting the picture and explanation below.
This is Sebastian on the first day the Binghams met him.  We are not sure why he was crippled,
but it is likely because of polio as a child.  He and a mentally-disabled younger boy were living
on the street when Percy took them in.  He wanted to learn how to sew and practiced on paper.
Eventually, he learned how to make men's shirts and now sells them to earn a living.

After the ceremony, we served soft drinks & homemade cookies made by the Couple Missionaries. 
Most of the people then left the main area to go look at the new facilities, 
but I wanted a picture of Sebastian, because his history touched me the most.
He had crippled feet & couldn't walk.  Both of his parents died and he was left to fend for himself.
When the Binghams first met him, he was using shoes on his hands to move around on the ground.
One day Sister Bingham said to him,
"If I had the challenges that you have had, I'm not sure I could be happy.  But you are happy."
He smiled and answered, "Yes, I am happy.  This is just the way my life is and I am happy."
Now, he has a wheelchair & the world has opened up for him in ways he would not have known.
Besides just building the latrine and shower, they also had to overcome the challenges of getting water.  The nearest city water was quite far & pipes had to be laid a long way.  
No small feat, and quite expensive, but it was done. 
Bars to hold on to and a lowered urinal make it easier for the handicapped to use.
There is also a faucet outside to wash hands.
The hygiene teacher demonstrated that there is a lid on the toilet and that they are to LIFT that lid.
She also explained that they were to SIT & not try to straddle the seat as they might assume.
The man at the doorway, walks in that position.  He was so excited to go look at the new stalls.
Maybe he'll be able to get one of the wheelchairs in the new shipment the Binghams are expecting.
No big fancy plaque.  The words  & acronym at the top simply say,
"Don De L'EJCSDJ" (Gift of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints)
None of these people are members of the Church, but they are brothers & sisters none the less.
Another day ends in the DR Congo Kinshasa Mission.
We are so thankful to our Heavenly Father, Who has trusted us to come and be part of His work.


  1. Amazing, sad, beautiful, scarey and funny all at the same time. Amazing blessings like my sisters and their children. Amazing people that are there to do such hard work for others. Sad for the less fortunant and the deplorable conditions in which they live and happy that all of you are there to make their world better. Sad to see the condition of the fire dept. and Dr.'s and hospitals. I was just talking to Art's parents about what kind of health care you would get if needed. Beautiful places in the middle of such poverty. I love the blue, green and purple vase near the porcelain. Those are my favorite colors. I'm also sure that they thought the new bathrooms were beautiful to them. Scarey is riding on a rickety bridge so close to others (I like that I can see you in the rear view mirror) Scarey are those minnows and catipillars and whatever the other slimy creatures they had on the sticks. Funny is the lady asleep as people enter her store and the boy with all the eggs balanced on his head. So many emotions. I'm just grateful I was born in the USA!

  2. Thanks for the Birthday love for Chloe! I have that picture hanging up in her room and I live it! I'll love it even more in November! I can't believe how beautiful a toilet could look in a cement room!