Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Trip to Nkayi

I’m back from 2 weeks in Nkayi. It was a fun time ‘cause I got to stay with my friend Elizabeth in her beautiful house. She’s probably the person I have the most in common with here…she’s just a few years older, she’s American, she too decided to work in Bible translation when she was only a teenager, she likes to sing, she studied French in Neuch√Ętel, we took the survey class together in Dallas, etc. She enjoys that I snort when she makes me laugh :o) We ate a lot of good meals with her Chinese-American housemate Chialin and her super great house helper Mama Brigit. Here I am making some delicious pesto by pounding it Congolese style.

Nkayi is quite a bit different from Ouesso, so it was interesting to add to my Congolese experience. Nkayi has a population of about 70,000, 4th largest in the country, while Ouesso has maybe 30,000. The electricity is the best in the country—power cuts occur only occasionally and last maybe 1 minute! In Brazza we have cuts nearly daily for hours at a time and in Ouesso most of the power is by generator only. Nkayi is known for its orange dirt—dusty in the dry season and muddy when it rains. The streets are so bumpy it’s hard to walk anywhere and they’re practically impassable if it rains. The main commerce of the town is the sugar refinery and vast sugar cane fields. The cane cutting jobs are highly coveted, though they pay but a scandalous pittance in our minds, and the whole show is still operated by the French.

One highlight of the trip was helping Elizabeth teach an English class which she holds on Saturdays. I’d like to start such a class here in Brazza ‘cause my friends are always saying how they need to learn English and it would be a real service to the people here. Not that there aren’t already opportunities for them to learn it, but it’s something I would really enjoy doing.

The purpose was to help with Scripture based song writing with the Beembe, like I did with the Bekwel. The circumstances were nearly 100% different, however, and we didn’t reach the objectives of the project in time to get a recording done before Elizabeth goes home on furlough. We did enjoy our time with the people, though, and they were thrilled with the one song they were able to write together. (song writers shown in picture above)

Elizabeth’s best friend in Nkayi had a baby while I was there. By the time Elizabeth got the news, the woman was already at home sweeping the house! Of course, the baby was only 7 months and like 4 lbs, so maybe the labor wasn’t all that hard, but still! No rest for the weary. The cool part was that the baby got named after Elizabeth and her housemate Chialin. They call her Chializ! (pronounced “jaw-leez”) So cute!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

And I'm off again!

Hey, just a little note to say I'm headed to a village in the south called Nkayi to work with my colleague Elizabeth on a Scripture based song writing project like I did with the Bekwel. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to help us and the participants because our time is short. Nkayi doesn't have Internet so I'll be out of touch the next couple weeks. But they've got great electricity down there so I'm hoping to write a lot of emails since I'm about 3 months behind! Later!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


BTW, I just bought tickets home! Thought I was never gonna be able to get out of this country! It's much easier buying tickets from home to come here than vice versa. But for a pretty penny I managed to do it. Coming home mid-June to early October. Yippee!

Mom's last day in Congo

Well, I saw mommy to the airport last night. I’m assuming she’s well on her way home. It was nice to part knowing that it would only be 2 months before I see her at home again. It’s been strange being alone now though. I was used to having her with me almost 24/7 for 3 weeks! But I am already enjoying some solitary time to pray…I miss Jesus when I’m with other people too much!

Mom’s last day turned out great. In the morning we got her bags all checked in with Air France. It was seriously the most efficient thing I’ve ever seen happen at Maya Maya Airport! We came back and I stressed over finishing my taxes (anyone else think the American gov’t is crazy for expecting its citizens to accomplish such a feat?!!). Then we had a great lunch with my colleagues, the Winters family.

Afterwards I got a call from my friend Byas saying his wife had a baby girl and we could come see them at the hospital! We went, taking along a typical gift of bottles of filtered water, and marveled at the simplicity, cramped conditions, and lack of sanitation at the hospital (actually, I didn’t think it was too bad, but I haven’t seen an American hospital for a couple of years). Byas’ wife was looking good but we found out she’d had the baby just that morning! They don’t waste any time getting visitors over there! The baby was precious and sleeping and looking healthy. Praise the Lord!

We came home and my friend William showed up with his cousin who is visiting from Nkayi (where I happen to be flying to tomorrow). We had a good visit and it was nice ‘cause my mom had thought she wouldn’t get to see my friends again. My Cameroonian friend Marcelle who is a missionary with Intervarsity came over too and brought a very generous gift for my mom! It was a dress and a set of jewelry. So precious. This girl has very little money. People here are just so generous and non-materialistic. I hope they are rubbing off on me!

In the evening Louz came just in time to join us for dinner. He brought my mom an outfit made at the tailor! It’s made from a pagne material that has lamps on it and says “Christ is light” in Lingala. Just before we finished dinner and needed to head to the airport, another visitor came! His name is Dupaul and we’d met him on the street a few days ago. He had started explaining a mural to us in English and then mentioned that he has made a Christian CD. It was awesome because just a few hours earlier my mom literally said “I wish I could buy a Christian CD from here.” So he remembered and managed to come by the house with his CD just in time for my mom to take it back with her. Very cool.

So my mom’s trip ended very well and I think she is going home with warm memories of Congo (no pun intended) :o) Sorry no photos to show yet—my camera’s busted and my mom’s isn’t digital. She’ll send me a CD in a few weeks though.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Long post about some really cool stuff like Congolese music and the Bible

Last night we went to Mom’s 3rd concert since being here. Yeah, I go to a concert like every week. It’s pretty much awesome. Last night’s was a choir called Karisma Gospel. It used to be directed by Byas, the lead singer of the group I was in, but now it’s directed by my good friend Louz. I’ve been invited to join a number of times but after seeing them perform last night I’m a little intimidated by all the beautiful women with great dance moves :o)

Last night at the concert was one of those times when I feel like my life is just one huge divine appointment. God is just so sovereign. I read in Jeremiah 23 the other day: “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” It reminded me that God is not only close to me in a personal way, He’s also out there able to coordinate the circumstances of the entire universe. Last night was a case in point…

So last Sunday my mom and I went to a huge meeting of 8000 people at the Evangelical Church. They have great choirs and we were seated right next to them. In the front row of a choir facing us was a really cute girl who appeared to be about my age. She sang with much enthusiasm and seemed full of joy. She was just one of those people you’re attracted to. I thought I’d like to meet her. (It’s been my wish for the last few weeks to make more girl friends. I love my guy friends, but I figure it would be better if I hung out with other women more.) Well, last night at the concert she was there! I was like “Hey Mom, it’s that cute girl!” I doubted I would get an opportunity to talk to her, but at the end of the concert when everyone started dancing, as they always do, I ended up dancing with her! She started talking to my mom and me in English with an endearing Congolese accent. She was quite jubilant about meeting two Americans and I was no less excited to meet her! We exchanged phone numbers and when we got home I received this message: “Jessica and Dev, Geritte wishes you good night and hopes to see you as soon as possible bye, big kiss! Geritte” Thanks, God!

Also after the concert, an adorable young man from the choir approached me and said he had something to ask. I must have met him before, but I don’t really remember him. He said “I work at an orphanage and in the program of activities I’d like to do an hour of Bible teaching for the kids. When I was thinking about who could come do this from time to time, I thought of you. And here you are tonight!” I’m totally stoked about opportunities to do more direct ministry here (vs. just working in the office), and I was touched that he would have thought of me. Mom was excited too because now we’ll have the opportunity to visit an orphanage while she’s here.

After the concert I felt really energized and full of ideas. Here in our office we’re talking more and more about orality vs. written literature. There’s this idea that not only do people have a language of the heart, but they also have a “heart media”!! This means that here in Africa where there is not a tradition of reading, transmitting God’s Word thru Bible reading alone may not be very effective. That’s just not how they communicate. This is an oral culture here in Congo and they are very musically inclined. It’s awesome. Why toil away trying to get them to read the Bible and beating them over the head with literacy classes, when instead they can interact with the Word in a powerful way via music and incorporate the Scriptures into their lives in a natural and culturally appropriate way that spotlights their strengths?!! I saw firsthand with the Bekwel music project how effective it was!!! (see March 21st post below)

[note: I am not against literacy and I totally respect those that have given their lives to teaching it here in Africa. I just think it shouldn’t be our primary focus because it’s not going to be the primary fruit bearer. As Westerners we highly value reading and our literary tradition. Africans value music and their oral tradition. I think we will see a great surge of effectiveness if we start going with the grain instead of against it.]

At the concert, not only did I witness another amazing musical presentation, but there was also a compelling performance by a theatre troupe. I was totally stoked to realize that all they were doing during the entire 15 minute drama was quoting Scriptures! They went from Genesis to Revelation basically laying out God’s plan for the world from beginning to end. It was done in an artistic and illustrative way and the crowd was totally into it. Wow!!

When I first started getting into music here I thought it was just something fun to do and a good way to make some friends. I had a tiny inkling that God was in it, but I think I’m on the brink of actually discovering how incredibly amazing and advantageous it is to have a whole passel of exceptionally talented musician friends. I don’t know what God is going to do with it yet, but I think it’s going to be big. Our relationship is mutually beneficial. For me, it helps me understand this culture better and is a great way to make friends and continually meet new people. Concerning my vision and work, it gives me a platform for influencing people to get the Scriptures into their lives. I need this musical experience to be more effective as I work with minority languages to write Scripture-based songs, as I did with the Bekwel. For them, I think just by being an outsider who enjoys who God has made them to be and who appreciates their music, I am ministering to them. I can affirm their gifts and perhaps connect them with resources. Plus it’s just stinkin’ cool to have the white girl around :o) I’m seriously a groupie now and a Congolese music junkie. Totally addicted and they love it!

I think Mom’s gonna come home with a drum and exchange her Spanish music for some Congolese “kilombo” :o) She’s lovin’ it too!