It’s the end of Tuesday. Each day has been very full we work from 8:00 and usually are up till 11:00. Two big areas of blessings are the native Congolese we get to meet and work with and the long time missionaries that have been here for the last 35 years. They tell great stories of the generation before them that they knew very well.
I liken a Congo to a Gordian Knot; the challenges are are very complex. They have foreign security forces that keep peace in the city. The United Nations budget for this is about $1.8 billion including funding for many NGOs. They want nice places to live. So this has driven up the housing prices in the area considerably. This inflation makes it very hard for locals to live in nice places. There is no incentive to finish the job of restoring peace so no major efforts to secure the jungle areas are done.
Because the Jungle is unsafe, many people have moved from the jungle to the city which causes even more housing problems.
Violence is “down” a bit there are only about 4500 rapes per year that are treated at the local hospitals. Rape is a major form of intimidation in the rural areas. I may visit one of those hospitals.
Government is very much driven by direct money payments and provides limited infrastructure support. As an example, there is no postal system in this city of 500,000. There is a post office building but it has not been used for a few years. Only a few parts of the city have water plumbed to a house and it is very low pressure. The house wee stay in has its own tanks that slowly fill. When we use water we turn on a pump that gives us reasonable pressure. Most residents get water by sending their kids to get water in 20 liter jugs that were formerly vegetable oil containers. The kids go to water pipe that exist in different parts of the city. As we are now in the dry season those will slow over the next few months. Some times the bigger kids will pick on the little ones and keep them from the pipe. Reminds me a bit of Jacobs well. If it gets bad the kids will start getting water from the lake. That is when cholera starts.
Now on to Electricity. Electricity is on perhaps 50% of the time, maybe even less because some of the time we use a generator as well. It is generally between 220 and 300 volts so there power filters everywhere. This is really bad for business. One of the Church members has a good tailor business set up but when there is no power most of the machines don’t work. He has several Singer treadle machines that can still be used. My understanding is that power generation is not a problem, however the power is sold to the highest bidder, and that includes nearby countries. Congolese don’t have so much money, so they get less.
Roads: There are about dozen paved roads (with many pot holes 4 feet big at times), the rest are dirt. If helps to have four wheel vehicles for side roads. We went out in the county one day for a very nice trip. The highway of sorts was quite nice, though it was built by the Chinese. There are a growing number of Chinese project in Africa. My understanding is that they are done in exchange for mineral rights. That makes sense for mining as they will need good roads for that as well.
The people we work with are great and have a very strong heart for doing what they can and trusting in God. This includes many Congolese that have lived abroad and live here on their own choice.
On the side of small business we are definitely seeing good progress. I have good reason to be hopeful because I believe the ones that are successful will become a good example to others. Some of the business plans are overly ambitious. This seems in part a side effect of the many NGOs (think charitable organizations funded by foreign governments). For the the NGOs, the goals is “projects” with budgets that get approved with a lump of money. The goal is then to pretty much spend it all according to the budget and then start a new project. On the other hand, business goals as Greg puts it is to spend as little money as possible while the business is in the start up phase, and focus on making money instead. For a local Congolese there is some unlearning to do.
Pray that those we coach will take the feedback to heart. Pray that we give good feedback. Pray that they will be creative at looking for businesses that can start small.
I feel we have gotten to meet many Saints on this trip who walk closely with God day by day, and know Him in ways few of us will this side of eternity.