Today broke just as every other day has for us here in
Mbandaka; music playing and babies crying at 5:45 AM. But, something was different this
morning. There was a feeling of
anticipation in the air. Not just for
us, but for the drill team as well.
Our now quite experienced team of drillers was at the well
site early this morning to continue cleaning the well. By 11:00 AM the well water being removed by
the bailing tool was clear. The chatter picked
up and a spring appeared to be in everyone’s step when the D4W team and Carmen
returned to the well site after a planning meeting with Rev. Bonanga and his
PVC had been cut and laid out for the water line from the
pump up to the surface handle. The inner
casing that holds the pump in place was in line on the grass, and the team was
eager to weld the joints up and get this show on the road.
After one more lesson from Jacques, the welds were made and
the pump lowered into the bore hole.
Rev. Bonanga was invited to test the pump to ensure everything was
working properly before cement work began.
After two short strokes a small stream of pure clear water splashed out
of the pump nozzle and onto the ground to a very loud cheer from the D4W team,
the drill team and the community members who just happened to be there at that
We have water!!!!!! A
formal dedication will be held tomorrow (Friday) and there is still a bit of
work to complete. Our drill team wasted
no time in attacking the remaining tasks.
The outline of the apron was drawn on the ground and shovels quickly
turned small amounts of dirt to create the pattern for bricks and mortar.
Our mason on the drill team began barking orders and several
other team members moved into position bringing small rock and sand to mix with
the cement. Here is the sight which is
quite different than the way we mix concrete in the U.S.: Cement mix is poured out in a pile on the
hard pack earth that has been swept free of most of the loose dirt. Then sand is added on top. One person gently
mixes these together and spreads them out in a circle about four feet
across. A wheelbarrow then appears and
dumps small brownish-red rocks (as opposed to gravel) on the pile. This is all mixed together and then water is
poured on top. More mixing and then you
have exactly what you expect to see… good quality concrete.
The team worked well into a rainstorm with four of the guys
holding a tarp over the concrete work as our mason finished his job. It is truly a thing of beauty. This is what we have wanted to see since we
arrived in Africa. Tomorrow we will
dedicate this well and celebrate with the local community as they have a source
of clean clear water at their church/school.
Oh, I almost forgot to say that the cistern is full at the
annex so Steve and I got to take real showers today!!!
(Janet, Gwen, Lisa) This journey started for me a year and a half ago when my
heart broke for those around the world that did not have access to clean
water. One of the first things the guys
at Water4 said to me when I met them was “so God has broken your heart too”. This has been a theme from the beginning,
even a bible study that I did during this time.
I never expected my heart to break any more. I was wrong!
Tuesday we visited a Nutrition Center in Mbandaka, a place for
malnourished children and their families to get support. Yes, we have seen the
pictures of little children with extended stomachs.I can share with you that this is NOTHING
compared to seeing these children in person.I was overcome with heartache for these helpless babies.The first thing that grabbed my attention was
a little girl with the sweetest face.She cocked her head to the side as she looked at me.When I smiled at her she timidly smiled
back.Those cute chubby cheeks – you
don’t realize they are a sign of malnutrition. She looked like she was 2 years
old.She was 5.Her brother was at the table next to
her.He had the body of a little old
man, extended stomach, thin arms and legs.He was not much taller than his sister, looked about 4 years old.He was 8. I didn’t think my heart could take it.But I sat and prayed over this place, gave it
to God and asked his blessing for these delicate children and that He take this
pain in my heart and turn it into something more.
As we walked into the first room Lisa was surprised to see
that there was a fire going on the dirt floor with a pot of porridge cooking
over the open flame. Yes, the room has
open air windows but there was still quite a bit of smoke. The fire was constructed with long pieces of
wood arranged so that the ends were burning.
The pot of porridge sat on top of two rocks, where in between the ends
of the burning wood were flaming. The
porridge consisted of soy bean flour, milk, sugar, and caterpillars. The caterpillars provide good nutrients for
the children. They are ground down and
added to the porridge. The children are
also given any medicine they need. It
was sitting on the table next to the porridge as it was being served.
Twenty five children with their mothers or family come to
this center every 3 months.Some of them
come from villages far, far away.They
come each day to get food, medicine, and education.The mothers/grandmothers/family members get
instruction on how to properly feed their children at home.As in most places instructions are not in
writing due to illiteracy.In this
center there are large murals on the walls depicted fruits, vegetables, and
fish.Rosette, the head of the center,
explained that a lot of mothers feed their children protein thinking that is
what is best but they need to learn to provide a well rounded diet including
fruit and vegetables for their families.
One grandmother was with her grandchild.This baby was 4 years old but was the size of
an 8 month old.When it came time to eat
the porridge he didn’t want to eat it.Listless and expressionless is a good description of these children.Good news is that if they come consistently
each day improvement is seen in 2 weeks.These children can be saved. These families can be helped. But patience
is needed.It takes time to encourage
the mothers and fathers to allow their children to attend the center.As you can imagine, it is difficult to admit
you can’t feed your children.The
parents need jobs to support their families. This is just another way clean water can
help.Mothers can get jobs, children can
attend school because they aren’t sick.As mothers see their children become healthy they realize that clean
water DOES make a difference and that proper nutrition IS important.
Often while here, we compare what we see to what we know at
home.Yes, there are children in
Oklahoma City that need our help.There
are families that need jobs and support just like these families do.The
difference is that there is no government safety net here.Here you are on your own and children die.
The nutrition center that we visited is another ministry of
the CDCC – Community of Disciples of Christ of the Congo.The young lady that runs the center, Rosette,
left her young family behind and went to the Philippines for 3 months of
training so she could open and operate the center.She is a local church minister’s wife and
hers is a volunteer position. The other two ladies who work there are also
volunteers.Rosette saw a need and was
called to minister to these families and children.
Next door to the nutrition center is a medical clinic, also
run by the CDCC.Even though the doctor
there is trained in treating eye diseases and performs cataract surgeries, he
also treats other patients.The clinic
has two rooms – one that is the waiting room, as well as has four beds for
patients and the other room is the operating room as well as the clinic’s
office. He uses instruments that are a couple of decades old.There were two ladies waiting to see the
doctor the morning we were there.
At home we take so many services and conveniences for
granted.We realize that here, if it
weren’t for the CDCC and individuals such as Rosette, there would be nowhere
for these families to turn for help. Even more children would die of
malnutrition and the people in the community with desperate needs would go
(Frank Gresh) You have probably read in several of our posts
we talk about canoes. We throw the term around a lot, but as you read this in
the US, you probably have no context for what it is we’re talking about.
So, canoe can mean many things here in the Congo. I have
seen canoes as short as five or six feet, and some as long 40 or 50 feet. Some
are sleek and ride close to the water line and move along close to the shore
pretty quickly. The larger ones are probably big enough for an Atlantic
crossing, well not really, but the can carry lots of people and stuff wherever
it needs to go along the river.
Now, the really neat thing we have seen is when one canoe is
good, more is better. As we mentioned elsewhere we took a trip on the hospital
boat; which is a thing of beauty! They took three long canoes (40 footers),
bound them together, and built a small two room building on top of that
The canoe supermarkets are pretty cool too. We noticed our
first one a week ago. These are floating barges built from canoes of all sizes.
The canoes are strapped together and thatched tent-like structures built on top
of a platform. They sail these down the river to a canoe marketplace.
It can take up to six months for the largest canoes to be
built; smaller ones take less time. They are all built way up river, where the
forest is lush with trees that are best suited for canoe construction. How do
they build them you ask? They are each built from one log of a tree, dug out to
meet the needs. As you look at our pictures, pay special attention to the
canoes in the picture, they really are a very essential element to the life of
the Congolese along the river.
(Mark Nash) While Carmen Jacques and the drill team spent
the day developing the well, our team took a side trip down the Congo
River. We loaded up this morning and
headed out on the river ambulance for a small village called Mpombo located on
an island about two hours down river. The
trip down was very pleasant and uneventful on the ambulance which is a small
building approximately ten feet wide by 20 feet long that sits on a platform
attached to the top of three 40 foot long wooden canoes. Each canoe is hand carved out of a single
tree. None of us have ever seen anything
quite like it.
We arrived to a hero’s welcome complete with song and dance,
as almost the entire village of 200+ people was waiting on the shore and we
pulled up. I’ve said this a lot on this
trip, but there really aren’t words to describe the scene.
After a welcome speech by the Regional Pastor and
introductions made by Rev. Bonanga, we toured the village school. Each of the three low roofed buildings is
made of sticks, bamboo and mud, with the same thatched palm frond roofs we have
seen elsewhere. The gaps in the walls
and the open door allow for very nice air circulation through each classroom.
We stopped in each of the six classes (grades) and Rev.
Bonanga gave speech to each class encouraging them to stay in school. Then we headed back to the church to wait for
lunch. But, before we could settle into
our chairs, we were asked to step outside and proceed to the surgical tent
where a surgery was underway. Each of us
was invited in to watch, and everyone got to see a hernia operation in
progress. Amazing that in an open-fly
tent in the middle of the rain forest surgeons can still do their work.
We had lunch which had been prepared by the women of the
village and then while we were waiting on one of the doctors that would return
with us it began to rain. Well, we are
in the rain forest aren’t we!?! After a
delay of an hour or so, the rain let up and off we went.
Just to give you a real feel for how the day ended, we came
to shore about 30 minutes after dark with no lights on the boat. One of the two deck hands stood in the bow
and blinked a flashlight looking for a return signal. When he found it, we headed that way.
As if by magic as we got closer two men on the shore turned
on LED lamps marking the outside of the space where we were to beach the boat
on the shore. After a few shouts and
adjustments we were in. I’ve got friends
at home that can’t park their much smaller boats that good in broad daylight.
I am positive that other members of our team will blog about
this day as well.
And, not to forget the drill team, they are close to having
the well clean. Only two more days on
site. Let’s get this show finished!
(Mark Nash) We only
have four more days to work on wells, and this morning it began to look like
the environment would win. The well site
at Bokolimba has not produced any soil other than clay since the three or four
meters. It is beginning to look like
there is a clay formation in excess of thirty meters (98 feet) thick that runs
throughout the entire western side of the country.
Our team has made exceptional progress in spite of the tough
working conditions digging clay out of our tools every time we bring up the
augers. And their knowledge and ability
continues to increase at a very fast pace.
We have been able to train on all the drilling tools, so we are not
getting too discouraged at this point in time.
After the team was up and running this morning, Carmen,
Jacques, Steve and I, along with Papa Lofasi from Rev. Bonanga’s staff went to
seek out other drilling teams in town.
There was a UNICEF crew over by Nuvelle City drilling a well using a
rotary jet and we hoped they could tell us about something about soil
conditions that we didn’t already know. We got there are found a contract engineer from Kinshasa who
knew that they were at 30 meters, the bottom 28 was all clay, and that was
it. They were stopping and casing the
well at 30 meters. Not a lot of help
there. But, it was interesting though to
see that this well site was on the grounds of a Disciples of Christ church and
Next up, we went searching for the Oxfam (another NGO) water
engineer. Oxfam doesn’t drill wells, but
they do rehabilitate them. Before we got
to Oxfam we made a short side trip and picked up four of the cutest little kids
in their school uniforms. Then we
proceeded on our mission with four kids under the age of six on our laps.
When we arrived at the Oxfam headquarters (which had moved
since the last time our driver had been there resulting in an additional ten
minutes on the road) each of us had to sign in at the guard shack at the
gate. Then we sat in a covered patio
area for some thirty minutes waiting to speak to the engineer. The four kids stayed in truck and every few
minutes Papa Lofasi would quietly whistle at them to behave.
Finally we were told that the engineer was at lunch, so we
loaded back up and headed off. He wasn’t
at the restaurant where we were told he would be, so we headed for Papa
Lofasi’s house and dropped off the kids, met his mother and then headed back to
the well site. Steve and I are still
trying to figure out if those were Papa Lofasi’s kids or grandkids.
The day did end on a high note. Reaching 12 meters and calling Matt back at Water 4 in Oklahoma City, we were told that with the top layers that we
found and the depth of the water table that we could complete the well at this
depth. Not ideal, but it will work. So we ended the day installing the casing and
filter screen along with most of the filter pack. Tomorrow we start developing (cleaning) the
We’ve been here long enough now that things are seeming more
normal to us.Nothing unusual about a
canoe full of goats going by in the morning. No big deal to sit in a church service with
over 900 people for 4 hours.Crocodile
for dinner?No problem. A long “shower”
is five cups of water instead of two.Generator’s on....plug your phones in!Generators off….get out your flashlights.Welcome gift of sugar cane and “stunned”
chicken…we accept.Ants in the bed…just
roll over and get them out in the morning.Long skirts and pants in equator heat…the norm (no shorts and tank tops
here).Air conditioning?....what is air
conditioning?It’s the breeze from the
river that we periodically get.Bats
in your room…just call Papa Jean and he’ll get it with a sugar cane stalk.Quiet nights of sleep…never!There are hundreds of people chanting and
singing all night long.
While touring the Bolenge hospital today we could look out
the open air windows and see men clearing the juggle with
machetes….normal.A woman walking down a
dirt road with loads of anything balanced on her head with a baby strapped to
Normal is children coming up to us calling “Mondele” (pronounced mon deli).Their word for white skinned.Most of them enjoy their picture being taken
but some are scared of us.Today I had a
moment when I was talking with teenage girls while we were goofing off posing for
the camera.I would make a girly pose
and they would copy.The younger
children all around us burst out laughing.This was at the drill site in a rural area and they were gathered around
to watch the drilling. This is all normal.
But as we become accustomed to these unusual sights and
sounds the people here are becoming ever more dear to us.We continue to see their situation as not
hopeless but difficult.As we adjust, we see that they are not unhappy but indeed joyful, we don’t feel sorry for them
but our desire to help them have a better life is increased.
And they can help us….help us become even more faithful to
God in all circumstances.Teach us to be
joyful and loving no matter what our living conditions.(Oh dear, the dishwasher broke, the air conditioning is
out,the car needs to go to the shop….we
have no idea how good we have it!)Could
you praise God for 4 hours every Sunday?Can you give your last $5 dollars to the church? (translate…your last
paycheck that is needed to pay bills.)Do you have this much faith in God?We have much to learn to be….normal.
(Mark Nash) So the team less Mark, Carmen and Jacques headed
off to Bolenge this morning to tour the hospital and make a few
presentations. The tour included walking
the halls of the old hospital and then the new buildings. The team made two
presentations at the hospital. David
Owen presented a plaque to be hung in the new hospital in memory the son of a
husband/wife team of Disciples missionaries, who died as a child in the DRC.
His brother, now a medical doctor in the United States, donated the money for
one of the new buildings. Additionally,
David presented a small plaque to be affixed to the new digital X-ray machine
when it arrives for the family of the donor.
Our team then presented a plaque to be hung in the hospital
recognizing Don and Barbara Angle from Central Christian Church in Enid.The Angles were missionaries in the DRC from
1958 until 1974. Their Sunday School Class donated enough money to
Disciples4Water for several wells.The
class, without Don and Barbara’s knowledge asked us to bring this plaque and
have it hung in the hospital at Bolenge.Several years ago, after the old hospital burned, this same class
donated $25,000 to assist in the rebuilding effort.
As we walked through the walls, we could all see miraculous
things the medical team here in Bolenge has done with the resources they have
to work with. We really take for granted what we have in the US from a
healthcare perspective, but what the Congolese have done here make this
hospital state of the art, and a model for other rural hospitals around the
One of the most memorable moments was when the team got to
see a couple of newborn babies and their proud mothers. We met Stefan who was
less then a week old and another baby girl that was only three days old. Such
While one group was visiting the hospital the drill team
moved the rest of our equipment over from Mbandaka Three to the new drill site
(Bokelimba), which is northeast of town in a small village of refugees, who
moved in to the area after the last war looking for work.The guys were hard at it already when Carmen,
Jacques and I arrived at 7:15.
After breaking through the last of the latterite layer we
found yesterday, we were drilling in clay mixed with rock and a bit of
sand.Not the same type of hard
compressed clay we had at Mbandaka Three, so the going is much easier.
I took a few minutes off and went across the road to video
the soil conditions in the well (dirty water) there.I then was able to get a driver to take me up
the road about a mile to a well we saw a week ago.This well, dug by hand, was 12 to 15 feet
deep and made for a great video of the layers of soil in the area.
Before I left this well site, I was introduced to the family
that lives here and showed them the video I had taken inside their well. Just
as I was getting ready to leave, one little bitty girl about 15 months old came
tottering through the crowd.She walked
straight up to me and placed her head on my chest, looked up and smiled.It was definitely a Kodak moment.
Back at the well site, our team called it a day at ten
meters (33 feet).Great progress on the
official Day One at well site two.
Sorry, due to some connection issues, this is being posted several days late. From Janet:
Good Morning from the Congo!
Written by Janet Helms
Today is Tuesday, October 7th. It is 6:30 am and
I am sitting on the porch overlooking the Congo river.Words cannot describe its beauty.It isn’t that it is the most scenic place but
it is the feeling and the life of it that makes it special.From here I can hear voices all around, the
sound of children laughing and singing waft up to greet me as I have my morning
quiet time.Canoes travel by up and down
the river full of men, women, families…all on their way somewhere to make
today’s living.Many wave when they see
me up the hill and call out in Lingala, all with bright smiles on their
Besides being overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, as
Mark so eloquently shared with you, the
emotions that we have experienced are also overwhelming.As we first rode through Mbandaka from the
airport, down the bumpy, dusty road, tears streamed down my face as I stared
out the side window.It was beyond
anything that I had imaginedI am
certain that all of us were moved by the first sights of this place that has
been in our dreams for over a year.There was silence in the car as we tried to take it all in.
Mark is doing such a great job of detailing our journey I
thought I would just fill in with some moments.One such moment was with Mark himself.When we first arrived at the guest house and were getting settled I took
a walk down towards the river.The guest
house sits up on a hill and though fenced and unable to get directly to the
river without going through a gate, you can walk part way down the hill and get
closer to the boats and water.Mark caught
up with me underneath one of the big beautiful trees.He bump his shoulder next time mine and said
“we’re here”.I told him “I think I’m
going to lose it”, and he responded with “and you should”.So, though I didn’t sit down and cry
underneath that tree overlooking the Congo river I did allow the tears to
stream down my face and take in the emotions that surrounding me.This is where God has lead us!
The two church services that we have attended so far have
been very emotional.The Sunday service
was one of the most spectacular events of my life .Again, tears streamed down my face for the
first hour of the service but it was with a constant smile on my face.Mark has described the beautiful events of
the worship with the music being a focal point.Interestingly we didn’t need to know the language to be able to
worship.We were one with God and it
showed in the faces of the six of us.Through tears and smiles we danced and sang with the Congolese.I wasn’t ready to leave 4 hours later.How could we stop this joyous celebration of
God’s love?What I am learning is these
people don’t stop celebrating when they leave church.This joy goes with them and they share it
freely.We have a thing or two to learn
from them.Let’s never leave our church
building on Second Street in Edmond, Oklahoma without taking the joy with us
and sharing it freely!
I was honored to be able to speak at this Sunday service and
the smaller Monday service.I attempted
to share that I felt that God had lead us to this place.And we were honored to be their guests.Humbled and in awe I stood before them
feeling inadequate.I have so much to
learn from them!This Monday’s sermon
was tied specifically to our water project.As the sermon was being translated to us Frank turns to me with tears in
his eyes and takes my hand.Here we sit
in a chapel in Mbandaka Congo being honored by the beautiful people knowing
that this is all God’s plan!
We have been doing our daily devotional each night.The group gets together and we take turns
reading the scripture and the study.Without fail every single one has been appropriate for us.The strength and encouragement we receive
from these are a direct result of the love that our congregation has extended
to us.We also open up the discussion
for any thoughts and concerns that we have that day.So far there have been no major issues.I personally am having a difficult time not communicating
with my family but I am trying to embrace being here and not being distracted
by home.I pray that God is taking care
of everyone and that my heart will be soothed.
One final note for today….this group is nuts!We are treating each other like one big
family which includes much teasing and joking.There have been a lot of laughs.God
knew what he was doing when he put us together.I’ve been sworn to secrecy so I can’t share specifics but once I’m out
of the line of fire I might be able to tell on my friends! But keep that between you and I so no one
puts a bat in my room tonight.