When You Know Where To Look

They say an elephant never forgets. Not being an elephant, I forget things all the time. I would blame my age or my health but I have always been forgetful AND unorganized - a deadly combination. My poor husband has not gone a day without hearing "where's my?" or "have you seen?" since he married me. 

My mom used to encourage me to be more organized and to put things away before I moved on to the next distraction. She would tell me: "It's easy to find when you know where to look." If I put things in sensible places, it would be easy to find them when I needed them. 

This past week has been a stellar memory week total memory fail. I spent at least an hour looking for this so I could work on some quilt block ideas for the Mitendi Center. Just about the time I told myself that if the girls at the center can cut fabric without a rotary cutter then I jolly well can too, I finally found them.
I also spent an hour (or two) looking for the receipts from last month's water and electric bills. Now utility receipts are one thing I never lose because it is a humongo hassle here if for some random reason the utility company decides to claim you never pay your bills and threatens to cut you off and you can't produce your receipts. But I couldn't find them anywhere. Later as I was going through a shelf I saw a folder I didn't remember the purpose of and opened it to find our utility receipts. Then I remembered selecting that folder specifically for keeping the receipts in so that they would be easy to find if I ever needed them. Aaagh! 

My family and close friends, if you are reading this, I know you are shaking your heads at me but are not at all surprised. 

Not being able to find things isn't always my fault. We went downtown on Saturday to shop for a phone for my birthday. At the first store we tried, an employee told us that the phone I wanted but wasn't willing to pay their price for could be purchased at a significant savings if we bought it at a different store. He even called ahead to make sure the phone was in stock and to guarantee the price. Then he told us where to go. 

We thought we understood his directions but we ended up in a part of the city where there were lots of police (not a good thing in Congo) and after going down several ONE WAY streets the wrong way (in our defense, they were not labeled) and having no success finding the store, we decided to just head home. As we turned a corner to get back out on the main road, lo and behold, there was our store! It's easy to find when you know where to look, which we didn't.

After we got home I wanted to finish what I had begun with my sewing, so once I concluded my search for the iron, I managed to do these. Both are a type of crazy quilt square. I am not sure yet how I will use them.

I am so glad I DO know where to look when I need peace, direction, comfort, strength, or forgiveness. I don't have to search frantically for Jesus because He is always with me and He never loses his own. I just have to call out his name. 

Team Spicy

Photo credit: Debbie Martinez, joyinthecongo.blogspot.com
The last day of Family Conference is always the most emotional for me. By that point, I am tired, which always makes me emotional anyway, but there are other factors. Knowing the conference is nearly over and friends whom I see once a year or less are about to return home. After days of worshiping together and asking God to have his way in our hearts, in our team, and in Congo, we are all more united, more focused, and more cohesive - and it is challenging sometimes to figure out how to let the conference end but still hold on to that. The fun and fellowship are ending and we are all going back to life-as-normal-as-it-gets-here. Unity, staying focused on what we should, and loving so well that others can tell we belong to Jesus just by observing us can over time come under pressure from fatigue, stress, and circumstances. It is a constant battle, so pray for all of us that we remember the lessons we learned about finding joy when we go through the "furnace", the trials of life.

Our last day included more worship, study, and prayer. We also had some time for communication as an organization, sharing information and ideas and making sure we are all on the same page not just as ambassadors for Christ but also as representatives of MAF. 

We also had an impromptu softball rematch. MAF won. 

Our evening began with devotions and then ended with a "variety show." If variety is the spice of life, our West DRC team is really spicy! We are such a melange of talents, interests, and passions that it will be very interesting to see how God puts that all together for his work here. Next year, the dynamics will be different. Some of us will have followed different paths and will be deeply missed. But God gave us the gift of our time together in Kinshasa, learning, letting go, loving, and laughing with each other. A little joy in the furnace. 

A Day at the Farm - the SNAKE Farm

Friday, after our worship time, we went to a "snake park." Kinshasa is home to the only center where venom is collected from snakes native to Congo for the purpose of making anti-venom. 

Our guide showed us the venomous snakes first, proudly proclaiming that in his fifteen years working with the snakes he has only been bitten seven times. Sounds like a fun job. 

Five of his seven bites came from this little guy. 

This is as close as I ever wish to be to a cobra. 

These snakes were beautiful but deadly. They make an ominous warning noise when they want to be left alone.

Next, we saw the non-venomous snakes. Those of us who were willing were allowed to handle these snakes. Our guide had a little fun with that, walking about in search of victims volunteers. 

One of the first things Brad (our conference speaker) said to us is that rejection does not equal failure. Sometimes it seems like MAF and other mission groups have been here for a long time and done all God has asked of us to the best of our ability but we've seen little fruit. But Christ said that when we are rejected we should remember that the world rejected Him first. Brad also pointed out that it is an honor just to be able to serve and represent the One who has saved us, regardless of the outcome this side of heaven. Important truths to remember.

We had a softball game between the Lubumbashi team and the Kinshasa team. 

Everyone was invited to play and we had lots of men, some children, and one girl - me. Everyone had a good time, and while there was NO rejection on our ball field, team Kinshasa did feel the sting of defeat. 

We ended our day with dinner out for the adults and a pizza/movie night for the kids.

Feet in the Furnace

We are literally in the middle of our annual Family Conference, and last night the ladies on our team enjoyed fellowship, devotions, and a little pampering. 

Our theme this year is Joy In The Furnace. Debbie Martinez, one of our team speakers/teachers, has written a Bible Study with the same title. If her teachings this week are based on the book, I would highly recommend it. 

Without giving away the contents of Debbie's book, I can share that one of the things which really stood out to me yesterday is that God was making Himself famous through Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednigo and He is still making Himself famous through willing servants today. It occured to me that I have never seen this happen without someone "going through the furnace." God become famous when He does something that ONLY GOD CAN DO. No one earns fame by doing something ordinary  that anyone else can also do.

Am I willing to let God do something out of the ordinary in me and through me? Am I willing to jump into the furnace and trust Him with the results?

Another thing that has stood out to me is that this team of volunteers that we have, all six of them, came to serve us and minister to us, not to make a name for themselves. They answered God's call to come to a place that many would compare to a "furnace experience" and made sacrifices to do it and others made sacrifices to help them get here, and God orchestrated all of it in his great love for us. Amazing! 

Combining Cultures in the Kitchen

I see salted fish, (as in fish that has had a ton of salt rubbed into it and been dried for preservation) in the stores here all the time. It is sold in bags by the kilo. In a country where only a minority have refrigeration or freezers, dried fish keeps for months and by cooking it in stews, greens, and sauces, a little bit can be made to go a long way toward feeding a family. I have had it on occasion and liked it but avoided purchasing it because I didn't know how to prepare it. 

Last week I bit the bullet, or the fish, and bought some. Then I asked about a dozen friends how to cook it and got almost as many answers. All agreed on one thing: soak the fish, soak the fish, soak the fish. Then soak it some more. This is how you remove enough of the salt to make the fish edible. 

Out of the package, it looks like this.

It doesn't look like it came from a Gorton's box, that's for certain.

Not very appetizing if you have anything against skin, gills, fins, tails, bones, or...


Just to really get into the spirit of cooking with an African flair and dressing the part, I had to put on my zebra print apron. Sorry for the quality. I don't take a lot of selfies. Other folks are much more interesting. And yes, I meant to cut my head off.

I soaked the fish all day, changing the water a couple of times. 

Then I considered all my options and decided that the easiest choice would be to simply remove as many bones as possible, season it, and saute it, so that is what I did. It is common here to just cook it into your greens, but I knew if I did that I would be eating by myself.

We had b'teku teku, fried plantain, rice, and avocado to go with our fish. (My b'teku teku explanation and recipe are HERE.) Was it tasty? Yes, but it did not need salt.

Then on Saturday I made  good 'ole American cinnamon bread so we would have it for breakfast on Sunday. I am glad I did and that we had some left over because when we arrived home from church, our guard had a surprise for us: three of his kids were here for a visit! We gave them cinnamon bread and Fantas to go with the lunch Leopold had prepared for them and Daniel played soccer with the boys for a while.   

They were here because the youngest had been born just six weeks after we first arrived in Congo and had been named after David, so Leopold wanted them to meet each other. It is common here to name a baby after a life-changing person or event that happens near the same time as the birth, and getting a new job is a big deal in Congo. Both of our guards have sons named after David now.

Prayers Needed

*Our latest newsletter has just gone to press. If you'd like to read it online you can click HERE.


*My article for the MAF blog has been posted. You can find it by clicking HERE.

And now I want to talk about something that has become more urgent since both the newsletter and the blog article were written. You may recall my post a couple weeks ago about the Mitendi Center

The Mitendi Center and the Congolese Baptist Community that operates it have been under a land grab attack for some time. I mentioned before that the center is trying to build a wall around the property, which they legally own, because there are people sectioning off the property, selling it, and building houses on it. Here in Congo, possession is 9/10 of the law, in the sense that once building starts, it becomes much more difficult to defend your property in court. 

The center is in danger of literally losing it's property, one piece at a time, and even after courts and officials have been involved, no one is stopping it. No one is doing right. The workers in the photo above have been attacked while building the foundation for the center's wall, physically beaten and have had their tools destroyed and/or stolen. 

The ministry in Mitendi reaches young people for Christ and helps them build their lives on the solid foundation of Jesus, but people have intentionally broken the foundation that the workers had built for the wall at the center so that it is no longer structurally sound.

Many of the children and young women that benefit from this ministry are orphans. God expressly commands us not to mistreat orphans or widows (Ex 22:22). He warns us of the consequences of causing one of his little ones to stumble. 

Please pray earnestly for the center, the students, the workers and the teachers. Pray for Jill and for those who are representing the center and defending it. Pray for truth to prevail. And pray for those who have made themselves enemies of the children and women and are shaking their fists in the face of God. 

Stopping to Smell the Ginger

Hawaiian ginger growing in my yard

Some highlights and events I experienced since my last post:

My Hawaiian ginger bloomed in the yard. They smell amazing! I know my guards think I am crazy, for lots of reasons, one being that when the ginger blooms every couple of months, I go around the yard smelling all the blossoms and taking pictures like I've never seen it before. I pretty well cemented that notion when I picked some one day and told my guard to smell it. Ha, ha, ha, you should have seen his expression! But he did smell it, and he did admit it smelled nice. 

I went back to the Mitendi Center and the Bandal Center with Jill. This young lady is making a table cloth to fill a customer order - mine! I can't wait to get my new table cloth and contrasting napkins. 

I am praying and giving thought to how God might want to involve me with the centers and these young women.

David and I both had birthdays, so our family went out for dinner one evening. Our conversation over dinner turned to Daniel's schooling and Daniel told his dad we were studying the Great Migration. Being a humble home educator, I decided to show off Daniel's knowledge and asked him to tell his dad the difference between migration and immigration. He replied that migration is when you move some where and immigration is when you water your crops. I am a great teacher.  

David had to go to Europe for a week for training on one of our engines. While he was gone, I visited with some friends, though not as many as I had planned to. I also wrote a post for the MAF blog (coming soon), worked on our newsletter (also coming soon), and cleaned out my email boxes. In one box, I am ashamed to say, I had mail dating back to 2008. I didn't completely finish the job because I kept finding good stuff to read in there. Kind of like when you start cleaning a closet and you find old photos you forgot you had and you are compelled to stop everything and look through them. I am glad I did. I found letters from dear friends who have been praying for us since we first signed on with MAF, before we even knew where we were going to end up serving. They are still praying for us! It was very encouraging to come across that reminder and it meant so much to me that I had to write to them and tell them.

My friend Christine has a little apartment and invited Daniel and me to stay there and be part of their family while David was gone. It was nice to have air-conditioning almost the entire time and to get to spend some time with her. We had been missing each other since I don't have a car and no longer live close enough to walk to her house.

When I arrived home, we found this little guy (or gal?) hiding in our electric box.

Our electric box is not exactly the safest playground for a kitten, so we shooed him out and blocked the door to keep him out. I asked our guard where he came from since we have eight foot walls around our house. He said the mother cat carried five kittens over the wall, one at a time, so that they could all eat my cat's food, which was on the porch during my absence. She had taken four of them back and left this little one. She came back for him a few hours later. Glad I could help out that tired momma for a few days.

Finding Hope in Mitendi

Last week, Daniel and I spent a couple of days with Jill Lowery to learn more about her missionary role here in Kinshasa. I got to know Jill a little better, learn about the heart God has given her for Congo, AND - I got to see first-hand a ministry that is changing lives! God isn't just working in the bush where our MAF pilots fly every day. He is also at work right here in Kinshasa and the surrounding area.

As a missionary with the Congolese Baptist Community, Jill works with two centers. The first is called Mitendi Women's Center, or Marie Mattie Women's Center and is about a 45 minute drive from my home, in a neighborhood that is impoverished even by third world standards. Marie Mattie was the first Congolese woman to graduate from college here and had a vision for helping women. This center is a two-year residential program for girls at high risk of prostitution. In addition to the women's ministry, they also operate the Marie Mattie Complexe Scolaire, a school for kindergarten through sixth grade for at risk and vulnerable kids. These are kids who otherwise would not be able to attend school. If you want to know more about what the terms "at risk"  and "vulnerable" mean when applied to children and teens, there is an explanation HERE.

When we arrived, our first sight was all the little school kids standing under a shade tree. I got my camera out and immediately a few kids noticed and started "posing."

Then more kids noticed.

And MORE! This took less than ten seconds. They were all smiles and excitement...

...until the teacher blew his whistle. 

He led them in a couple of marching songs to help them get rid of their wiggles before they headed back into their classrooms. Wish you could have been there - they were SO CUTE!

We were allowed to visit the classrooms, and in each one the entire class stood and sang a welcome song for their visitors. This has happened to me in the orphanages and other schools I have visited. It is very much a part of the culture here and even some adult groups have sung welcome songs for me.

In the Women's Center, many of the young ladies have not had much opportunity for education, so they are taught literacy, basic education, and French. They also learn skills which they can use to support themselves such as crochet, knitting, sewing, and restaurant work. It is a two-year, residential program. They also study the Bible and of course the primary goal is for these girls to come to know Christ and learn to trust in Him.

The day we visited, Mama Jackie was teaching sewing class.

The girls learn with hand-cranked sewing machines...

...and hand-drawn lessons, without patterns. 
The way our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did it.

Currently, funds are being raised and efforts are being made to build a protective wall around the center property to stop attempts to steal and sell off the land, to keep animals out of the vegetable gardens, and to increase the safety and security of the girls who live there. 

This gentleman had the task of getting water for mixing cement - a time consuming task when you have to draw the water by hand from a cistern with a homemade bucket and funnel.

The next day we visited the second center, Marie Mattie Maison de Couture. This center is an extension of the first one, sort of an internship program so that when the ladies graduate from the two-year program, they have a chance to refine their skills and earn money while doing it. On the days that Mama Jackie is not at the Women's Center, she is at the Maison de Couture. The "house of sewing" is in the city and has better power and electric sewing machines. Some are hand-crank machines that have been transformed into electric machines!
The ladies sew school uniforms, clothing, surgical drapes and bed coverings for hospitals, baby layettes, and more.

One of Jill's tasks is to inspect each completed item, since the girls are still in the learning process. Each intern then has to correct her mistakes before an item can be sold. This teaches them to take responsibility for and pride in their work and to understand the importance of doing one's best. It also reinforces the core verse for the center: Colossians 3:23-24, which says “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” 
Jill and Mama Jackie are always on the lookout for new things for the interns to make and sell, increasing their skills and their potential to earn a decent living for themselves. Here they are inspecting a quilted zipper pouch that I had with me so they could see how it was made. 

I am sure I left out something, or several somethings, about this vital ministry, so I have included links below to the Lowerys' web site and to a site with information about the center. I asked Jill if there are any specific ways to pray for the ministry and this is what she shared with me.

First: Pray that the girls will persevere and complete the program. They face many obstacles.                                                     Second: The greatest stress right now is getting the wall built and bringing an end to the problem with the man who is trying to sell off the land that belongs to the center. Pray that God gives favor over corrupt officials.                                                         Third: Pray for Mama Jackie for continued health. She has given her life for the ministry and without her, there would be no center.

Useful links:

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