I forgot to mention that the last email about obtaining the video permit was written by Josh Cox, our highly esteemed rookie. He lost his rookie status after the first day! This email is from our other video expert and a three time veteran, Mike.
Greetings to everyone from the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Christ servant, Mike Scheffelin.
All is well with me. We made it to the Congo with no problems. (What a difference from last year!) It was about 17 hours of flying and 3 hours of layovers to get from Austin to Kigali, Rwanda. We spent the night at Kigali and left the next afternoon to head to the border of Rwanda and Congo where we were met by our friend Richard who drove us into the city of Bukavu. We are staying at the same hotel that we were at the last couple of times. It is a nice hotel by Congo standards.
Since then we have been busy. Each day has a little faster pace with more people to talk to. The business seminar started Saturday with Young Life volunteer leaders. It went very well. I brought a lot of videos from YouTube and TED seminars on creative Africans to help inspire them. They saw one Saturday of a young 15 year old African from Malawi who built a windmill to power electricity for his home and later another one to irrigate his village fields. It showed what people can do with the resources at hand to make things. He was able to make money with his first windmill to charge the villagers’ cell phones and use the money to build a second windmill to do the irrigation. The students here said it changed their view of what is possible. On Tuesday, myself and Josh Cox went to the church school I visited two years ago. We shot video of the students in class and playing. We will create a short video on what the status of education is with hopes of inspiring people from the US to help in whatever way they can. Education here is highly prized but it is very difficult and is not free. Most schools are provided by churches. The supplies are minimal to nonexistent. There is no electricity in the classrooms, one chalkboard, dirt floors, no chairs or tables; only tree branches cut into strips nailed to poles in the floor to sit on. All learning is done through verbal repetition. There are several colleges here; most are run by the Catholic church. However, there are no jobs for educated people except maybe to work for an NGO (non governmental organization), of which there are about 500 here in Bukavu. Unfortunately there seems to be very little long term impact on improving life in the Congo through the programs of the NGOs. Africans have learned to get money from them without producing any sustainable, long term results in helping their community, only themselves.
One of the reasons I come to the Congo is to be part of what God is doing in the lives of Christians here and be a part of showing them that God loves them not only in their future with Him, but in the here and now, to give them hope that their lives can be better now in the spiritual realm and in their physical circumstances. So my prayers have been that God show us the surprises he has prepared in people’s lives and prayers here. It did not take long for God to answer my prayer. To some of you, I had mentioned that my dream is to start a video production school here in the Congo and that God was bringing events and people in my path where this might be possible. The first night we were here, a young man came to the hotel who is in a church that is led by one of our business seminar partners. He also sometimes works with a Congolese man who is producing a documentary in the Congo that I have been corresponding with over the last 6 months. Guess what his prayer and vision is? He and the other man, Papy, want to start a video and journalism school here in Bukavu. They had no idea that was my vision also. My heart was overwhelmed with joy that God has brought us together – the first surprise. Josh Cox and I have invited him to tag along with us and we are using the opportunity to train him. Also, he has blessed us in our need to get good photos of life here in Bukavu. Most people here do not want their picture taken by outsiders. They will hide their face, run away or say no to any picture taking. What a great resource God supplied – the second surprise. What an awesome God we serve.
As usual, God is bringing many people to discuss opportunities to partner with them or learn from them how to better help support them in their needs. Later this week Josh and I are going to a small town near Bukavu called Katana. It has an orphanage that is helped by an American woman. She needs help in getting sponsors for these children; many of whom are orphans of the ongoing wars here. We will gather information about each child for her website and create a video to show what their life is like. I pray that Godwill bless your life through serving others as He has blessed me.