Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hi from the lovely A/C of Ouesso's cyber cafe :o)

So, Mom, what have you seen in Ouesso that you never have before?

--A dead monkey in a wheelbarrow going to market
--The Sangha River
--Women carrying cement blocks on their head (and one in their arms as well)
--African children playing a rhythmic game or pushing cars made out of sardine cans
--People younger than I am who look 30 years older

What have you eaten?

--Crocodile soup
--Wild boar
--Lots of fish

What have you heard?

--Singing and drumming at all hours (even the middle of the night)
--An amazing choir rehearsal; 20 voices that sound like 100!
--French and Lingala, with a little Swedish thrown in
--African Christian rap
--Millions of roosters crowing before dawn

It all combines for a wonderful and colorful experience in Congolese culture, with a daughter who has herself become Congolese :o)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thoughts from Mom [and Jessica]

Things are quiet across the river. To give you a perspective on the closeness, there is only the Congo River separating Kinshasa (capital city of Democratic Republic of Congo) and Brazzaville (capital city of Republic of Congo). [Closest two capital cities in the world!] It was a sad situation. Jessica kept saying, "Why do they want to destroy their own city?" A fire burned all day yesterday because apparently the oil reserves were bombed and flames could be seen shooting skyward from a vantage point near SIL [about 4 miles from the scene].

Yesterday I did get to go into the prison here with a CMA missionary, who also lives here on the SIL compound. Got to do a couple of songs....I do love these Congolese people. [Brave woman. At this prison you get locked in with the inmates, and the guards take no responsibility for you! But she said the women welcomed them with smiles and hugs. They also went into the men's area to support the guy who was preaching. I wasn't allowed to go to the prison because I'm "too young and pretty" :o) Ha!]

Tonight Jessica and I are going to the French Cultural Center for a concert. A girl from Jessica's church is in it. Tomorrow night there's another concert in which many of Jessica's musician friends will be performing. So you see, life is not really too bad here, although we got caught in a huge windstorm while we were out today and came home with sand in our teeth & eyes (and everywhere else). But we did buy some wonderful material and took it to Jessica's tailor--who lives in a neighborhood that makes Ciudad Sandino (where Wilber lives) look like Nob Hill. She will construct an outfit that will make me look African! All right!!!! [For those who don't know, Wilber is my mom's "son" from Nicaragua. As for the outfit making her look African...we'll see :o) ]

Thank you, thank you, for your prayers. It was a scary couple of days, but it was good for this mom to see how Jessica's director stayed on top of the situation and kept a cool, but alert, head. ["Scary situation"? Yeah, Mom wasn't scared one bit. I was the nervous one!]

On Monday we will fly to Ouesso, where Jessica has heard that the homes of many were damaged or destroyed yesterday by a storm that came through. So please be in prayer for that trip. We will be returning on Friday to Brazzaville.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The sounds of Congo

My mom got in last night! Woohoo! We've had a full day. Took her to the market to get food this morning. We even rode the bus (I won't tell you about my mom falling into the lap of the guy behind her while both of us are lauging hysterically). One of my colleagues said "Way to jump in the deep end!"

One thing you notice about Congo is the sounds. We've been listening to chirping birds, a squealing monkey, dogs barking, salesmen hawking their wares...and gun fire/grenades. Like I said, we've had a full day. Welcome to Congo, Mom!

Things have suddenly taken a turn for the worse across the river in Kinshasa. We're staying up town and inside for the moment! Yeah, it's been a great first day for my mom :o)

Don't freak out, I'm sure we're safe here, but pray for the fighting to cease for the poor Kinshasans sake.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bekwel Song Fellowship Testimonies

Hello friends! Most of my readers are also on my mailing list and in my recent newsletter I promised to report on my blog more of the results of the work I did in Ouesso. So here's me keeping my promise...

In follow up to the recent publication of portions of Luke in the Bekwel language, I facilitated a group of Bekwel people in a "song fellowship." Basically we did a Bible study and they wrote songs based on the passages. They did most of the composing on their own at home and then together as a group we'd look at the songs and make changes and additions. It was pretty much awesome.

I expected the result of this work to be obvious: a cassette with the texts and songs recorded for people to listen to. But there were a lot of good things that happened that I didn't necessarily forsee.

Excerpt from my newsletter (for those of you who don't get it): Before, many considered the booklet to be too difficult to read. The alphabet needed to write Bekwel is different than French and not many have had the opportunity to attend a Bekwel literacy class. Some of the participants had purchased booklets when they first came out, but they never learned to read them. But during our work together they easily picked it up! I was astonished because I wasn’t there to teach literacy, but just the fact of reading them aloud together and talking about the passages and having the motivation to understand them and repeating them several times led them to read with facility!

One important pastor who came to some of the sessions used to say that the alphabet was too hard to read and the translation was full of errors and from the wrong dialect. But whenever he heard someone read the texts outloud he was the first to say "But it's so clear! It's good!" By hearing it in his mother tongue, he even noticed things that he hadn't before (and this is a man of God who really studies and knows the Word!) For instance, it was the first time he really understood the concept of a "stable" in the story of Jesus' birth.

The participants and I marvelled at the fact that the group was composed of people of different churches who normally don't work together, yet they just came together like they'd known each other forever. There was unity, peace, and joy throughout the process.

Before we started the project they were begging me for more time. It didn't seem possible to record after just 3 weeks of song writing. But the songs came quickly and steadily and it was no problem to get 8 songs ready for the studio! They praised God for giving them strength and wisdom to accomplish what they thought was impossible.

One young man who did much of the composing said "I used to think that this language project was just an old people's thing. But now I see it's important for me to be involved too. Our language is for all of us." He has now been recruited to be a part of the language project team!

That same young man shared that he now reads the Bible passages out loud at home. He gathers the children around like it's story time. They listen attentively and ask questions. People at home have started calling him "The Pastor" :o)

Another young man whose mom is involved in Bekwel literacy said that it seemed so difficult to read before, even with his mom's help. But he found that the method of studying the passages together really helped him. He was excited about and dedicated to learning to read his language well. He practiced at home and his mom would call out to him from the other room if he made a mistake. He ended up being one of the best readers for the recording! He too has been asked to continue to participate on the language project team.

All of these positive results before the cassettes have even been produced! I'm excited that I get to go do this project with another group in April. This time it will be in the South in a town called Nkayi and with a language called Beembe. Pray I will find the same kind of quality participants!

Monday, March 19, 2007


Here's some interesting stuff about Congo from the BBC

Photo journal about music in the DRC, but I think it's about the same as this Congo

Photo journal by my friend John James, a BBC correspondent here, about a carpentry co-operative creating training and jobs for deaf people

Some pretty funny reflections about a former correspondent's experiences with the Congolese president

Another story by my friend about saving Congo's endangered turtles

Which European City do I belong in? Great!

You Belong in Paris

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.
You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.
Your Birth Month is December

You love life and exude an outgoing, cheerful vibe.
Blessed with a great sense of humor, you can laugh at adversity.

Your soul reflects: Celebration, success, and wealth

Your gemstone: Blue Topaz

Your flower: Narcissus

Your colors: Indigo, green, and blue-green

It's funny how these things turn out. The colors are definitely right on and my name actually means "wealthy" so I guess that's pretty right on too. Plus I'm all about learning from adversity, though I don't know if I actually "laugh" at it. OK, there's probably way more meaningful things I should be posting right now. But these little quizzes are fun.

Myers Briggs Personality Type: ENTJ

Your Personality is Very Rare (ENTJ)
Your personality type is energetic, romantic, optimistic, and brave.
Only about 4% of all people have your personality, including 3% of all women and 5% of all menYou are Extroverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging.
How Rare Is Your Personality?
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Sunday, March 11, 2007

A little more patience

Hi everybody! I'm off today to a retreat center just outside of Brazza for a weeklong seminar. It's called "Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills" and is offered by the CMA missionaries here. I'm excited because the group is a mix of Congolese and white people, so should be some interesting dynamics, although I don't feel recovered from my village stint, like I'm still walking around in a fog, so we'll see how it goes. Anyway, the point is I won't have Internet again until Friday.

Here are a few photos to sate your curiosity about my trip until I can post more next weekend. BTW, MY MOM IS COMING TO CONGO!!! She gets here the 21st, and I'm sure we'll have lots of interesting things to post during her 3 week stay.

This is at the house where I stayed. This is Ella making "cakes." She's forming dough balls which will then be fried. It was interesting learning about all the little home industries, ways of making money, which all seemed to be way more work than was worth it for whatever measly profit they took home. But the cake was pretty good. Ella is my age, 25, but she has 4 kids ages 6 months to 8 years. Here are some of the kids that lived in the house with me. The 3 girls Nypsia, Gipsy, and baby Bertille are Ella's and the little boy, Ariel, is their cousin. Three married couples live in the house: Pastor Bom and his wife and two of their children, Ella and Alban, with their spouses and their children. It was about 10 people total, although at one point some other semi-distantly related children were also living in the house and Ella's husband was never actually there because he works in a different town.

Friday, March 09, 2007


I have made it back alive. I feel like I should be wearing a shirt that says "I survived Ouesso" on it. I have a whole journal of fieldnotes, bursting with interesting stories to share, but for now, I'll just say: I was there, it was hard, it was good, now I'm back.

Re-entry is interesting. You know there's something a little odd when Brazzaville feels like the lap of luxery. My apartment seems like a palace! Here are some contrasts between Ouesso and Brazza
Cement floors/Tile floors
Perspiring 24/7/Sitting under a fan
Waiting for someone to make me fish and manioc over a coal fire/Making myself a grilled cheese sandwich at the gas stove
Bathing in a cement closet with a bucket of cold water/Taking a hot shower
Squatting over a hole/Sitting on the toilet
Africans all around/Often with missionaries
Walking/Buses and taxis

OK, I'm starting to fall asleep. It will be incredible to sleep in my own bed. My housemate is awesome and I came home to a clean room--fresh sheets, no dust, she even did my laundry and folded my underwear! Yay Sabine! It's good to be home. Oh, and I had Christmas in March. The first of my packages arrived, from my mom and sister. So what if they were supposed to get here in December, it was perfect timing :o)