Where to begin?
First, let me thank you for your prayers. Nothing will happen here without much prayer. There is evil beyond belief.
The environment is impossible to describe in words. Overwhelming. Evil. Hopeless. Those words are a start at summarizing the situation. But then the details overwhelm you even more. You can start with the rough roads. After all, that is how you first experience the country when you arrive. Then, you encounter corruption when you enter the immigration station and find out that the visas that you obtained from the DR Congo embassy will not satisfy the border official. What do you do? Pay or pray. We prayed. Beginning at the border, you are overwhelmed by the streams of people walking along the road and the cars weaving all over the road to avoid pot holes. There are people everywhere. Those things turn out to be the easy things.
Then, you begin to understand corruption – but you have to redefine your conception of the term. This corruption manifests itself far beyond our understanding of paying bribes to government officials. It means paying your electric bill and then paying the workers not to cut power from your line. In fact, in Bukavu, it is common to see a home’s electric lines threaded through tin cans. The reason: if someone tries to steal the wire, there will be a great noise alerting the home owner. But corruption in DR Congo is even more personal than that. It means paying your professors to grade your exams in medical school – not to give you a passing grade when you fail, but to give you the passing grade that you earned. My new friend, Raphael, had to repeat an entire year because he didn’t pay off the professors. It doesn’t stop there. In primary and secondary school, it means cleaning your teachers’ houses. When you are a girl, it means sleeping with your teachers to “earn” your grades. It’s easy to get mad at the teachers, but the solution is more complicated – turns out many of the teachers haven’t been paid in years. Know that all of this occurs in one of the richest countries in the world, in terms of natural resources. Where does one even begin?
But the corruption runs deeper. It is a worldview that says blessing is temporary; therefore, I better get all the blessing I can get today before it is gone. In this way, blessing generally means a position of power whether it be a government official, an electric utility worker, or a teacher.
Because of corruption, everything in Bukavu is broken. The roads are broken. The electricity runs for half the day or less. The water rarely flows. Prior to Thursday, water flowed at our guest house for a mere 20 minutes a night, starting about 4 am. After five days with no shower, I decided to pray. (What took me so long?) This morning, I woke up at 4am and the water was on and it stayed on through my shower and much of the day. The issue is not the absence of my shower. These realities reflect nothing but corruption, and dramatically increase the cost of doing business. Most businesses need to have some secondary source of water and electricity driving up the costs for consumers.
On Thursday, we went to the Panzi hospital. I saw this hospital last year as well. This year, the visit was once again a highlight. It showed the best and worst of mankind. We met Dr. Mukwege who out of virtually nothing created a hospital to treat and repair the injuries suffered by women who have been brutally raped often by multiple men. In Dr. Mukwege, I saw the power of leadership. He stands tall in a sea of corruption! Now for the worst. We saw a little girl, maybe 3-4 years old. She attached herself to our group – literally, holding our hand as we walked around the facility. Her mother was raped by soldiers. She was a product of rape. And now she is HIV positive. What do I do?
On a positive note, we have had some good meetings with people. These meetings were clearly an answer to prayer. We found some people who are seeking to walk in obedience with Jesus Christ. We praise God for these meeting and are seeking Him as to future steps.
The Bibles and MP3 players have been a huge hit. My favorite thing to do is to discover people that God has clearly put in our path and ask him if he has a Bible. Typically, they say, “No.” It is great fun to see their reaction. One guy hugged the Bible and said “Thank you” over and over again. We gave several MP3 players to missionaries to try out with some of the people with whom they work. They were very excited to see them. One of our best meetings was with a local business person who came to know Christ by watching Jesus transform his mother. His mother can no longer see to read. He was ecstatic about giving her an MP3 player. (By the way, he wanted to pay for it, but we told him it was a gift.)
We have more meetings Saturday and Monday. Please pray for God’s direction. Also, pray that we would be sensitive to the people that God puts in our path. We leave Tuesday morning.
Mike and I appreciate your partnership.