The many preparations and travels to two different project sites in the bush in Congo kept me so busy last month that I only found time to write after I arrived in Europe.
My eldest daughter, Angela, arrived in early February in Kinshasa to help me in our work for a month. She was with me 15 years ago in Conakry, Guinea, and now wants to help us in our work in Congo, for which I am very grateful as we need young people to carry on with our work in the future.
In order for her to get to know our work better, she came to see firsthand what we do. Besides meeting old and new friends in Kinshasa we travelled together to Mushapo and made another trip to scout out a possible next project in Nioki, in the Mai-Ndombe Province, about 500 km North-East of Kinshasa.
Jean, our manager, is still in Kinshasa for his diabetes treatment and couldn’t come with us, but is doing better and is planning to go back to Mushapo as soon as he is healthy enough.
Angela and I flew to Tshikapa and met Jeanpy who travelled from Mushapo to organize motorbikes for our trip through the bush. Jean’s wife Elysee who normally lives in Tshikapa came with baby Lenka to Mushapo on another bike with food and drinking water to cook for us.
In todays “Vitamins for the Heart” I explain a little about the challenges we faced on the trip. When Angela saw the many obstacles we face in Congo, she asked me why I do this work. I explained to her how I feel for these precious children and young people and want to help them do something more with their lives. She agreed with me that the children show great potential and should be given the best chances in their lives.
We had a wonderful time in Mushapo especially with the children. During recess at school Angela and the children had so much fun with each other, I hope we can share some of this joy in our next video.
One of our sponsors in Germany sent us a lot of jerseys, footballs and pumps, so we could give our school a set for two teams and some more for the schools in the neighboring villages. It is difficult to explain the many steps it took to get these materials all the way to Mushapo, but it was also a special wish of the neighboring schools which will create more joy and unity between all of the schools.
Lenka and Anissa in Prague had a special visitor who stayed with them last month, one of our longtime friends and former team members in Congo, Madlen, who works since four years fulltime in the biggest orphanage in Kinshasa. She needed a major operation which a Belgian doctor friend of hers whom she knows from Kinshasa was able to perform in Prague. Since the operation was successful and she is recovering quickly she is planning to return to Kinshasa soon.
Heroes in the Bush
By W. Schmidt
If we want to travel to Mushapo from Kinshasa, we have to first fly to Tshikapa and then go by road about 60 km through the bush to our school. The road is getting worse all the time and especially in the rain it was too bad to travel by car. We had to hire motorbikes to go there and these bike riders are real heroes in my eyes.
On the way they had to argue with different officials on a road barrier who asked for vehicle papers, road taxes etc. but mainly wanted some bribes. They gave them some money, but it was not enough. It went back and forth for about an hour and we lost precious time. Dark rain clouds were coming up and we were only at the beginning of our trip. The situation looked bleak and our white skin doesn’t help in a situation like that.
Finally I remembered a story from the Old Testament when the people of Israel were outnumbered by their enemies (2.Chronicles 20:17-24). They started to praise God who helped them get the victory. So I started to praise God and called out loud “Hallelujah! Praise God for difficulties and the victory which will come out of this…” in front of all the people at the barrier, the officials on either side, the passersby etc. Suddenly the glum faces of the officials started to relax and finally even laugh. They thought, it was funny what I did and it didn’t take long until they let us go in a good mood. On our way back, the same officials greeted me with a loud “Hallelujah” and we had a good time together.
After we had crossed a river, it started to rain. Instead of waiting for the rain to stop, the bike riders asked us to get back up and move on as they knew the night was fast approaching and the rain wouldn’t stop. We ended up at our camp in the dark, drenched from the rain and our shoes soaked with water from the last river we passed through. We were cold and hungry and so thankful for a warm meal before dropping off to bed.
But these bike riders turned right around and went back all the way to their homes in Tshikapa, going another three hours in the dark through the bush. Two days later they were coming back to pick us up. Again they arrived in the night and after they had a meal, they slept in their clothes on the floor of our dining room and got up early the next morning as we had to leave at 5:30 am in the dark to make it on time to our plane.
This time we took off our shoes before crossing the river and only got wet on our arms and legs driving along the bushes as it had rained the day before. At least it didn’t rain on our way this time. At times we got hit by overhanging branches although we ducked our heads the best we could. Nobody wears helmets out there, so the toughened up drivers in front of us got the worst of it.
They are real artists the way they maneuver their bikes up and down through muddy or sandy paths. Sometimes we had to get off the bike as it was too steep and dangerous a climb.
On our way we passed other heroes, women washing clothes and their children in little streams and small rivers. Other women carry heavy loads on their heads, sometimes with a baby on their back, for many kilometers and hours to the market. I admire these people. They work hard just to get enough to eat one meal a day. Next day again, going to their fields, getting some cassava leaves and marching for hours to sell them.
The men who push heavy loads on bicycles from one town to the next are another set of heroes. They push for many hours heavy loads and when the road goes up or down some slopes, in the rain or the heat of the sun, they give it their all and as we were told sometimes even pass out from dehydration.
Our school director Pierre in Mushapo asked us to come and pray for his daughter who had a huge red spot on her neck, about 10 cm in diameter, which looked like some kind of blood infection. He told us that many children suffer from this same problem there. The poor girl was in horrible pain and had missed school already for a week. Since our medical center is not in operation yet, there is no doctor or Health Center nearby, unless you walk 35 km through the bush to the next bigger town.
After praying for this sick girl we went to bed and moved by it all I couldn’t go to sleep and started to cry. Pierre has nine more mostly little children in his care. Three of them are his own, the others are from relatives who can’t take care of them, something you find often in Congo. Anybody who takes such children in his home and cares for them is a hero in my eyes. We just heard that his sick child is doing well again.
One of our teachers, Odette, was teaching with her baby on her back. The baby was sick, but Odette kept going nonetheless without complaint. To our dismay we heard a few days ago that her baby died in the meantime. It can happen so fast out there! All the more reason why we want to help these people as much as we can!
And what about those school children? They are happy and content even if they have no electricity, proper food, medical care or any of what we take for granted in many parts of the world – more little heroes in the making!
Upon crossing a slightly bigger river we met another hero, strong as a bear. He carries people across on his back. To carry the motorbikes across the river, sometimes with a heavy suitcase strapped on it, he lifts up the back part of the bike and carefully balances it on the front wheel which stays on the river bed.
When we arrived at the airport we were happy that we made it safely and on time to the airplane. There we faced other obstacles with airport officials but nothing compared to the difficult lives of these people in the bush. We are thankful that we can bring some relief to them and always hope that more people will join us to give them a better future.