The "Village People"

Trip Start Dec 18, 2010
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Trip End Dec 01, 2011


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Where I stayed
House of Jim and Nancy Smith in the Bandundu Provence

Flag of Congo - The Dem. Repub.  ,
Monday, July 4, 2011

 Friday, July 1, we headed off to the interior of the Congo.  We left our house at 6 AM and picked up our friends, the Writebols, on our way to the airport.  Luke flew us in the MAF Cessna 207, that contained 7 seats and EXACTLY 160 pounds of cargo weight.  We took our food for the four days we were to be gone, so we had to take the bare minimum of luggage with us.  
We flew 1 hour and 45 minutes and landed on a little grass strip in the village of Vanga.  Goats were running across the grass landing strip and men were out there trying to chase them off as we were getting ready to land.  When the village heard the plane, children and adults alike came running from their huts to wave and shout at us as we got out of the airplane.  While the plane was taking on more fuel, we were given a tour of the village.   It was just like I've seen on movies and in National Geographic photographs.  The huts were made of mud and sticks with thatched roofs.  People were cooking over open fires just outside their doors.  Children were running a playing everywhere and we had a crowd of them following us as we walked through the village.
  Vanga boasts a mission hospital that people come to from villages all over to receive treatment.  People even leave Kinshasa to seek medical help in Vanga.   As we approached the hospital, x-rays were hanging outside on the clothes line to dry.  A hospital worker was washing the surgical gloves in a bucket and was laying them out on the ground to dry.   Just through the open window a surgery was taking place and could be viewed by all.  There were people everywhere!  The families of the sick were sitting all around on the ground.  They were cooking outside and doing their laundry.  The families provide food for their loved one in the hospital.  Here in the Congo, if you are in the hospital or in jail, your family or friends must bring you all of your meals and do all of your laundry.  If they don't, you won't eat.  Maimed and injured people were laying around in the grass and dirt.  All looked at us as we passed by.   A couple of the missionary wives here actually had their babies in that hospital in Vanga.  I cannot even imagine that!
We walked through the market place and made a loop around the village before winding our way back to the grass runway where our plane was ready and waiting.  We flew another 15 minutes and landed on a mission station in the bush named Nkara.  As we landed we saw that there was a crowd of people that had come from the village out to the landing strip to meet us.  We got out and the 8 of us formed a receiving line.  We were introduced to a village chief, the head of the police, and many other "dignitaries" who wanted to shake our hands and greet us.  The village pastor then led everyone in prayer.  There were so many children that came to see us but the adults in the tribe kept shooing them away and made them stand far back from us and leave us alone.  This made me sad so I walked up to where the children were and greeted them and held out my hands to them.  They laughed and giggled and many reached out to touch me and gather around me.  There were some who were very frightened of the Mundeli (what they call white people).  I later learned that sometimes the people are threatened by other villagers that if they weren't good or didn't do what was expected of them that the "evil Mundeli" would come and "get" them.  No wonder some are frightened of white people!
We loaded into two trucks and headed down the sandy dirt path to the house of the missionaries, the Smiths.  Jim and Nancy Smith are sincerely my heroes.  Jim's father started the mission station there in the bush and Jim was raised there.   The Smith's raised their children there.  Now they dream of being able to bring their 13 grandchildren to see the work there in Nkara.
The property that was given to Jim's father in the early 1900's is a breathtaking plot of about 800 acres surrounding a picturesque lake.  The houses that his father built were built of steel and cement and were made to last the tests of time.  The house they live in overlooks the lake with beautiful hills in the distance.  The beauty is breathtaking!  Of course there is no electricity but a well has been dug and they have a pump so that the house has some running water.  Sometimes.  :)  The house is large with 4 bedrooms upstairs.  Nancy has done an incredible job making the cement structure into a home that is cozy and inviting.
Shortly after arriving at the house, lunch was served to us at a giant round table that would seat 12 people easily.  We had so much fun at mealtimes around that table!  The kids found a couple of swings in a giant tree by the lake and were off to swing.  The men found an "Arctic Cat" four wheeler and started that up before long.  I found my book and a seat by the window overlooking the lake and hills and settled down to read for awhile.  One of the first things that hit us was just how QUIET and peaceful Nkara was.  There were no crowds of people or traffic, and no loud generators to fill the air with noise.  Because the house is primarily cement, it stays almost a constant 78 degrees downstairs.  It was lovely and truly a retreat for us.  I didn't realize how much life here in the dirty, crowded, crime filled city of Kinshasa wears on me until I got outside of it and felt peace and quiet.
We spent the rest of the day visiting, taking a dip in the lake, playing, reading, napping, and enjoying each other in general.  At the end of the day I climbed into the tub looking forward to getting the dirt that was caked on my feet washed off and getting clean feeling again.  The water lasted for about 3 minutes before it ran out on me.  So, at least my feet were clean even if my hair wasn't.  :)
Saturday morning after breakfast, we got dressed and headed up to the Bible School in the village.  This is one of the primary works of the Smith's.  They train indigenous people to know and teach the Bible so that they can take it back to their village and start churches there.  Also, they have a literacy school for women where women walk from all over to learn how to read.  We were going to attend the graduation service for 5 people from the Bible college and 1 woman from the literacy school.  Some family members of the graduates WALKED 200 miles through the jungle and bush to be there for the graduation.  There was a very pregnant lady that walked for 4 days to be there and one mother of a graduate that came 4 days journey by boat and on foot carrying a live chicken to give to the Smith's for teaching their son the Bible.  It was amazing to see all of the people that gathered for the celebration.  The people of the village waited for us to arrive before starting the ceremony.  They carried in chairs for us and sat them in the front of the room facing the room.  Those were the seats of honor that they insisted we sit in.  So there sat Luke and I and our teenage children, Caleb and EmilyFaith, Esther and Brian Writebol along with their daughters Anna, 4, and Elise, 1, and Jim and Nancy Smith facing the audience and the graduates.  Once we were settled, the graduated began to dance in.  The procession of getting them down the aisle took well over 20 minutes.  The procession was led by a group of dancing young girls who inched forward in their choreographed dance steps about a centimeter at a time.  One girl carried flower petals and threw them in celebration.  The graduates followed the girls down the aisle and took their places so the ceremony could begin.
During the ceremony, many choirs sang and the audience sang.  There were many, many long prayers said and several people spoke.  The ceremony lasted about 5 hours.  Because we had two young children with us, we actually left the ceremony after a couple of hours.  The people were very understanding.  The Smiths, of course, stayed through the entire service.  Back at the house, we could still hear the singing from the school (2 miles away) long into the night.
On Sunday morning we got to go to church in a village that was a ways from Nkara.  Luke and Brian spoke a little bit via a translator.  Once the service finished, we had the privilege of seeing the Women's Literacy Center in action.  That was a life changing experience for me.  What an amazing work that is.  Women walk from all over to come to learn how to read.  They use the Bible and Bible stories to teach the women reading, comprehension, and writing.  They also teach the women to sew and some make jewelry.  This is changing the families, thus changing the villages when the mother learns how to read and learns the Bible.  Once they learn to read fairly well, they may bring a sack of manioc (vegetable) and receive a Bible of their very own.  What a BIG DEAL that is!!!  Those women were so excited to be there and to be studying.  O, how much I take for granted in my own life!
While we were visiting the Women's Literacy classes, there were teams of students from the Bible college that were speaking to people of the village outside.  They were telling them of God and how He loves them.  In the last two weeks, about 200 people have come to know God as a result of the Smith's ministry there.  That is amazing!  I believe a village chief and some of the elders that day also came to know God.
Later that evening Luke and Brian went and gave their testimonies on the radio station that Jim and Nancy have on the mission station.  It broadcasts to about 8 million people!  Jim went into a village and showed the movie Facing the Giants in French.  Over 1,000 people came to watch the movie on a sheet or side of the building outside.  The ladies were invited to one of the village women's "house."  This was such an honor.  The lady was embarrassed for us to see it but she was so gracious to let us go inside the mud hut and look around.  That was a great experience.

Monday morning came and it was time for us to say goodbye and head back to Kinshasa.  I have really struggled with this blog post because there is no way that words can express and adequately convey what I saw and experienced there.  The experience was unbelievably amazing.  In the last few weeks they have had over 200 converts!!! I look at the Smith's and think "what an amazing way to spend your life!"  They have given their whole lives to make the lives of others better.  They share their Faith with such Grace and Dignity and Love.   I am honored to know them and to have had the privilege of seeing some of their works in the Bandundu Provence of the Congo.  I encourage you to visit www.labanministries.org and read about the Smith's ministry.
So, again I apologize for my rambling and ineffective way of describing what we experienced.  My heart and mind are just so full and I am still processing everything.  I wish I could show you more of our 1500 photos we took but it has taken me over a week to download the ones included here.  The internet is awfully slow.  :)
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Comments

Cindy Erickson on

Jennifer, Thank you so much for sharing with all of us. You truly have a way of writing that makes it feel like I am there with you. It is an honor to pray for you and support you with my thoughts and prayers. May God fill you with His mind and His Spirit today as you process all you are seeing and experiencing.
Hugs!

Doris Krebs on

Jennifer, thank you for sharing this post! I know it's all hard to process, but I predict you will have many more moments of awe and gratitude. Just curious -- do the Smiths use Literacy Evangelism International for the literacy program, or have they developed their own reading/writing curriculum? I continue to pray for you, your family, and your ministry.

Susan Farrow on

Oh Jennifer, what a life changing time you have shared with the Smith's. A whole new world isn't it?
You did a wonderful job of painting a very real picture for us that love your blog.
I have been worried because we haven't heard from you since you returned from the interior. Staci assured me that you were back and safe, so our minds were set at ease in that regard.
We love you all soooooo much and are so very proud of the things you are allowed to experience there. God is so good to have blessed your family with this experience. Remember, we are praying for you every day and we are so thankful for your informative blogs.
Our Love and Prayers,
Dad and Mom Farrow

Dianne Davis on

Thank you for sharing in such detail. God is moving in mighty ways in that little corner of the world. What a blessing to be a part of it. I love reading about your life there. Please remember to also pray for the mission field of Broken Arrow and Tulsa, OK. There are so many here who need to know Jesus.

Love you!

Phyllis on

Jennifer, Thank you for your vivid discription of what you are experiencing in the Congo..........I am so amazed at God and His plans and purposes for our lives and how He made a way for you and your family to go and reach out to these beautiful and special people. Praying for you and Luke and the kids that God's protection will surround you and that He will be exalted as you light up that world. Praying too that He will continue to grow you and take you to a new level of service for and with Him. "As the mountains surround Jerusalem may the LORD surround you, his servants, both now and forevermore."

Belinda on

Amazing post Jennifer. Thank you for sharing all of the pictures, the video of the choir singing and your descriptions of everything you see.

Thinking of you daily!

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