A Kinshasa pastor’s busy day

In the middle of the week I asked my dear friend Pastor François Tshidimu to do me a favor. Could he buy my ticket to fly to Mbuji-Mayi on Monday? Buying a ticket involves trekking to an office somewhere in this unwieldy city and my schedule was filling up. Yes, of course. He could do this Friday morning while I attended the closing ceremonies for the literacy classes. But he needed my passport.

I had no qualms about giving François my passport and enough money to more than cover the cost of the ticket. Continue reading

Notes from a long journey

O’Hare, 3 hours

The security line is long and slow. I have plenty of time. A baby on her mother’s shoulder smiles randomly at people. I catch her eye and smile. She smiles back.

After going through security I hold my passport and boarding pass in my hand while I put my jacket back on. As I am walking to my gate I feel something scratchy in my sleeve. It is the boarding pass. Continue reading

Training literacy teachers in DR Congo

I feel like I’ve been on vacation for the past week–a spa experience complete with steambaths and plenty of rest. My bum knee is recovering from the strains of the past weeks, moving house and traveling long distances. I have few responsibilities except doling out money as needed. There is plenty of time for hanging out with friends new and old.

I’m doing all this ease-taking in one of the roughest cities in the world, Kinshasa, DR Congo. Continue reading

Tour director

People ask, Are you getting ready for your trip? My next trip to Congo is less than a month away and yes, there is some kind of prep nearly every day. Today it is getting the overdue haircut I’ve delayed so that it will last until I get back and stopping at the health food store to stock up on probiotics to ward off digestive problems.

Emails, too. I receive confirmation that St. Anne’s in Kinshasa has my revised reservation for 4 rooms. (See this blog for a picture.) Nothing yet from Jeffrey Travels (except that they received my message and would get back to me the next day, which was yesterday) or Bougain Villa in Lubumbashi, where I asked yesterday for reservations. They responded promptly to my request for information, which is one reason I decided to go with them but now I’m wondering. So much depends on promptness and accuracy of communication. Successful communication in a place like Congo always seems miraculous.

Hoping to stay here in Lubumbashi

Hoping to stay here in Lubumbashi

This is not prejudice but reality. The St. Anne guesthouse manager assures us they have consistent Wi-Fi because they have a generator. That’s what it takes even in the capital city, where electricity and water are intermittent, postal service iffy. Cell phones are lifelines but I’ve discovered that my hearing and French are not up to understanding everything through crackly international cell connections.

My mind is in Congo much of the time. I am thinking everything out, imagining every event and excursion and night of rest because someone has to on a trip like this. That responsibility has fallen to me though nobody asked me to do it. Taking charge of this trip, this pilgrimage, and my fellow pilgrims, is more like an ethical response.

Of the 5 Americans who are going to Congo to attend the same two events — ordination of the first women in the Congo Mennonite Church in two cities — I am the only one who has been to the country recently and who is fluent in French. Except for my husband, whose French is rusty and whose Congo experience dates to the 1970s, my fellow travelers have never been to Africa and speak little to no French. So what was I to do? I couldn’t exactly let them fend for themselves, could I?

I suppose I could have, but that would practically guarantee some really bad experiences. Not that I can prevent all bad things from happening, but I want people to experience as much of the good as possible. I have been intrigued, enlightened, charmed, and forever changed by my two recent trips to this amazing country. So I have decided to embrace the role of tour director and see what I can learn from it, see whether I can help others find themselves, love, Jesus, friends, and more good things in Congo, as I have done. So here goes.

There’s always something. Two days ago it was a rumor that plane connections to and from Tshikapa were only Wednesday and Friday. There goes the Monday flight that was supposed to bring my fellow travelers back to the capital for their Tuesday flight home. But it turns out that the report was incomplete. The domestic airline had actually added flights. You can now get to this diamond-mining town in the middle of nowhere, which is home base for the Congo Mennonite Church, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday instead of just on Monday. Phew.

But wait. Wasn’t I going on this trip to write? I’ll try to wedge that in somewhere.

tshikapa walk

Fellow travelers walking in downtown Tshikapa last July