Our final stop on our Sunday afternoon scouting tour was at a well and spring in Bolenge. A special place for many of our donors and team members. For those unaware of this significance, I hope I can convey the power of this place.
Bolenge is one of the areas our team was told about by Don and Barbara Angle who are members of Central Christian Church in Enid, OK. Don and Barbara served as missionaries in this area from 1958 to 1974. Janet Helms, Steve Hanson and I met them at a Global Ministries luncheon First Christian Edmond hosted back in the Spring. They were both very moved by our mission and donated generously to the cause.
But we got more than financial support from the Angles. Both had stories to tell and fond memories of Bolenge and the DRC. We heard of long, and I mean really long, bicycle rides they took on rutted dirt trails and roads. They told us of the warmth and love of the Congolese people. And they told us about Edna Poole (more on Edna shortly).
We heard of the Bolenge Hospital and how it had burned down after the Angles returned to the States. Then we found out that the Angles’ Sunday School Class raised over $25,000 to help rebuild the hospital. And then the D4W team was blessed with more financial support from this same Sunday School Class. They asked that we bring a plaque and hang it in the hospital in the Angles’ honor. We will do that later in our trip.
And then there is Edna Poole. A Disciples of Christ missionary and a member of our church in Edmond and the first female elder in our church, she spent years in the Congo opening schools, spreading the Word and doing what she could for the Congolese people. She wrote a book of her time as a missionary that several of our team members have read. And we have a picture she painted from the banks of the Congo River hanging in our church back home.
Emotions were high as we rounded the bend and passed the hospital in the faint light as the sun set to the west. Driving a few hundred yards more we turned off onto little more than a trail through tall grass and stopped on a rise overlooking a cutout in the landscape.
Walking down the slope we found ourselves at a spring that produces clear good water. The spring has been capped to keep the water source from becoming contaminated, even though the pool of water it flows into is obviously bad as we see two people in the dim light with yellow jerry cans filling them up to take home.
As we are walking back up the slope the vision we have had for many months is in front of us. A young girl, maybe ten or eleven, is carrying a 5 gallon jerry can full of water on her head. She is headed home alone with tomorrow’s water in the dark.
We climb back in our vehicles and drive back over to the hospital. The hospital is comprised of four or five buildings set just off the road. One small two-story building is obviously much older than the rest, and we are told it dates back to the 1930s. A faint reminder of the past prior to the fire that destroyed the hospital. The remaining buildings are white.
In the twilight’s growing darkness a strange sight is before us. The hospital is dark. Off to the south by one of the buildings is a small group of people sitting around a fire talking. And then we see it; hundreds of fireflies twinkling just at the top of the grass all around us. The sight is truly amazing. It is as if the souls of those before us have come to welcome us to this place.
Finally, we inspect the well; the real reason we came today. It is clean water. And, it does appear as though it might be retrofitted with a solar pump or electric pump (connected to the new generator that is supposed to be coming) so that water can actually be pumped into the hospital.
Think about that my friends…. Here is a hospital that currently has no electric power and no running water. Do you now know why we are here?