Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Moving Between Congos

Moving and packing up all your earthly belongings can be quite the process. These plates we received at our wedding, that I love, but are too heavy…sell. The books we use for teaching or preaching…pack. This baby toy bought for Connor before he was born; but that he’s too old to play with anymore…try to sell what I think it’s worth in sentimental value, sold for pennies to a new kid. Clothes that are too warm for the tropical climate we’re moving to…give away. It is humbling and freeing and nerve-wracking, all at the same time. It’s a reminder that material things are just that…things.

            Tomorrow begins our process of moving from Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo to Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. Like many things in DR Congo, it’s going to be a bit more difficult. Last week, we started our move by putting 700lbs of our belongings on a cargo plane that went to the capitol city of Kinshasa in DR Congo. Tomorrow, our family flies with the rest of our things (260lbs) in suitcases to Kinshasa, where we will stay for 3 days applying for and obtaining visas to gain entry into the Republic of Congo. Our first set of belongings will meet us at the guesthouse where we are staying. Once we are granted visas to the Republic of Congo, we’ll collect all our tubs and suitcases and cross the Congo River (which resides between the two capitol cities of the Congo’s) by speedboat.   

            Please pray for us as we have a week of moving ahead. Pray for safe travels. Pray for our visas from the Republic of Congo to be granted and returned in good time. Finally, pray for our border crossing across the Congo River by boat, with all of our earthly belongings.

            Let the adventure of moving in Central Africa begin…

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Farming for the Win!

Shortly after moving to a home from apartment-living, I discovered that I had a knack for keeping plants alive and keeping my grass green (even in the desert).  I never thought of myself as a farmer, but when we moved to the DRC over five years ago, we were struck by several disturbing factors.

  1. Many people lack access to food.
  2. Many people are unemployed.
  3. Most food is imported.
  4. The Church lacked a means for supporting itself.
At this point, we looked around and noticed lots of open space combined with great weather and made the decision to do something about it.  We were met with lots of resistance about starting something with agriculture.  After all, in a dominantly mining area, agriculture seemed an awful lot like "small potatoes."  We settled on buying one banana plant and prepared a place for it in our yard.  The dogs quickly destroyed it and we ended up replacing the plant a few days later; which they also happily destroyed.  The plants were resilient and kept sprouting amidst the constant attacks, so I finally thought to put protective fences around them and they evolved well.  Eighteen months later, the banana plants had given fruit and 36 additional banana plants had sprouted in our yard.  This lot of bananas became our factory of sorts, and we have transplanted their offshoots dozens of times.  Today, we no longer live at that home, but we have shared and replanted hundreds of plants from these first two.  

The small success with banana production in various locations encouraged us to keep going.  Today we have goats, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and talapia that we are raising.  We also have planted pineapples; passion fruit vines; sugar cane and orange, guava, avocado, mango, soursop, and pomegranate trees.  We've even expanded to include several other varieties of bananas including red, 3-inch and 20-inch bananas.  In several locations we have grown everything from corn and sweet potatoes to strawberries and raspberries (smuggled into the country in my suitcase of course).

It hasn't all been easy and we have been met with a fair number of challenges.  God has also provided partners from home and abroad to help these projects succeed.  We are learning what works and what doesn't while we are also discovering that communities are transformed by farming projects in their area.  Churches are being planted and meager support given to the church through these efforts.  Please continue to pray for the DRC and for the agricultural projects going on there; that the Lord would give an abundant harvest and transform lives through divine grace.

Check out these photos of what we've been up to over the last year of serious farming initiatives.

Small Vegetables Beside Fish Ponds

Cross-bred Local and Imported Chickens

Rabbits, Not Just For Cuddling

Harvesting the Fish Ponds

First Crop of Pineapples

Transporting Banana Plants

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Different Kind of Year

This has been a different year for our family. Unfortunately, this has resulted in less writing for the blog. From homeschooling Connor and switching our kids to English education from French education to Gavin’s travel schedule to our ministry responsibilities, we’ve found ourselves in a different place. Here’s a bit of what’s been going on.

All the books Connor (and I) have read this year
After doing a lot of research online and talking with friends who homeschool their children, we landed on a curriculum called Sonlight to homeschool Connor in 3rd grade. It worked great because everything was outlined for me, the teacher, and all the school subjects and materials are provided (including Science projects). Really, it was the best deal for my need for organization and first time homeschooling. Connor has excelled and we are thankful we made the right decision. We’ve taken a journey through early American History, learned about the ways of life for Native Americans and the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their migration through the “New World”. We’ve gotten a small glimpse into astronomy and how early sailors navigated the seas to import and export goods (and how they steered clear of French and British ships they came across at different times due to rivalries and disputes of the time). We’ve been taken back in time to see how early settlers lived, ate, made livings and traveled. Connor and I have really enjoyed our time together. What started out as a bit of a rough start (realizing Connor is an auditory learner instead of a visual learner like me), ended in a successful 3rd grade year! We have three weeks left and couldn’t be more excited. 

Central Africa Literature/Translation Team
As Gavin’s responsibilities as Field Strategy Coordinator grew, so did his need to travel and visit our leaders and be a part of important trainings and meetings. He has been part of an ordination service, where 21 ministers across our Field were ordained. He’s taken part in meetings concerning missionaries, a theological conference and training for leaders across the field learning the best ways to translate materials for our people and work towards being better disciples. The main languages of translation focus for this year will be Swahili/Congo and Lingala. We are excited for the materials that will come for people to read in their heart language. We’re also excited to see what comes of the discipleship training other leaders went through to take back and share with their districts. Our Field is growing and people are coming to know the Lord, but we want to be intentional about discipleship and coming alongside believers, teaching them and training them to go out and be disciples, also.

Leaders taking a Discipleship Training Course
Our ministry responsibilities have always been spread across our whole Field. Communication with District Superintendents and Field leaders has been vital and proven to be more of what we aim to accomplish. Gavin oversees the work of the Church across 4 countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon, but most of our churches lie within the Democratic Republic of Congo. As we look to the future and making Christ-like disciples in the nations, we see the need to move to a capital city more centrally located between these four countries. So, in June our family will move to Brazzaville, Republic of Congo before heading back for Home Assignment. We’ll make a quick settlement and return in August after Home Assignment in the US.

The Lord has been, is and will continue to be with us. We’ve seen His hand move and look forward to all that lies ahead for His Kingdom to advance in Central Africa!