I am totting up how much cash we will have to carry on our trip to Congo next month. It’s a lot since credit cards aren’t of much use there. Only four out of 24 days of our stay will be credit card–friendly. We even have to take cash for our internal flights.
Everything we plan to buy, pay, or donate requires crisp, new US$. Tattered bills will not be accepted in Congo–although local francs can be passed around till they disintegrate.
We don’t intend to buy much. We know about how much we will have to pay for food, lodging, and travel. It’s the “donate” part that tends to get very elastic when you are there. On my first trip last year I ran out of cash because I had underestimated my own generosity.
I’ve tried to think ahead about some donations we will want to make. One thing on my list was a computer for Charlie, the young journalist who will work with me while I am there and afterward. I mentioned that in a conversation at a recent family gathering and, lo and behold, I was offered not one computer but two, nearly new. I will take them both; the second will surely find a home as well. Thank you, brothers! Mennonite World Conference is contributing to Charlie’s travel expenses. I’d like to pay for her time, too.
Vic and I are making a mythic side trip down a river on a rubber boat to hear a choir. We will want to make a donation to the choir. How much is appropriate to offer 50 gifted singers who live in the middle of nowhere and have nothing? Plus our hosts in that remote place.
We are attending two group ordinations, which include not only three women (the impetus for our trip) but also twelve men. Cash gifts are always appropriate and easy to carry.
Every church service we attend will have offering times. The appropriate response to any music is to dance forward and drop money in a basket for the musicians.
Thanks to the Congo Cloth Connection fundraising I am carrying scholarship money for four women studying theology. Other scholarship money, for 26 high school and university students who attend a Kinshasa church partnering with our home church, is already on its way via wire transfer. Thank goodness we don’t have to carry that.
Any money we give will be small drops in a great bucket of need. That’s what you see when you are there. But the thing I’ve valued is developing relationships and keeping the money and donations in the context of these relationships. I don’t go as a rich American scattering cash but as a friend, a member of an extended global church family, responding in specific ways to specific needs of people I know. I choose to work with certain people who share my vision of creating relationships across culture, language, and economic barriers. I choose to keep as much of the money donations as possible in the context of a church rather than individual requests.
Deciding all this, planning in advance, will make it a bit easier for me to say no to the multitude of requests that people will present us when we are there. But that is always hard. I plan to carry about $4000 for planned and unplanned donations
If you would like to contribute to the practical mystic’s Congo projects, here’s a donate button. You can tell me in a comment, via Facebook, or email how you think it should be used. I’ll report afterward.