Remembering the Congo
I can still hear the rooster. It’s 5:30 in the morning and I just spent the night fighting mosquitoes. After four nights of this, I know the bug spray is not working. The mosquitoes are a part of this journey. They, like myself, have a mission to complete. It’s Sunday morning. The second day of July and I’m in central Africa. The Congo.The crowing of the rooster at 5:30am and the pitch-black darkness reminded me of my southern roots and the summer I spent with my grandparents in Tuskegee, Alabama. I didn’t need to think, I knew it was time to get up and pray.
The road to Africa was not easy. It started six months ago when I called my doctor to set up my annual appointment for a check up. I knew in my spirit, I needed to talk to her about any shots I would need to travel to central Africa. In January 2000, I started the six-month process. The ticket in my hand said I would be flying out from Atlanta, Georgia on June 27, 2000, arrive in Brussels, Belgium on June 28 and fly out the same night on a 747 jet to central Africa; arriving in the capital city of Kinshasa at 7:30am.
I, along with the missionary team from the United States was escorted through the beautiful city formerly called Zaire to what would be my home for the next sixteen days. With all the flying across the Atlantic Ocean, I did not sleep. So by the time we reached the Spanish villa that would be my home, I was tired. I went to sleep in my twin bed located in the northeast section of the house. At 5:30am, Saturday morning, I heard the rooster crow. My ring watch said it was 10 pm in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was warm in the Congo, not hot like I expected. The majority of the people spoke French. Breakfast was being served in a few minutes so I had to pray, get washed up and ready to meet people very quickly.
The First Week
The first week in the Congo, I worshiped with more than 3,000 people, ate in the best homes and lost ten pounds because the food has no preservatives, no additives, and no fat. I saw traditional African dancers and heard traditional African singing from the people. I visited villages and fancy homes. The people speak French as their official language, but more often then naught, you will find them speaking three other languages as well: Swahilli, Tshiluba, Kikongo and Lingala. They didn't understand why I only spoke one language. They have traveled as much as 30 miles on foot to see and talk to the missionaries from America. Within the week, my hair is changed to look like theirs and I receive a new set of clothes. The second week, I learn to speak a little French and a little of their native languages; enough to say good morning, good night and thank you.
Our scenery was that of multi-colored lizards and wrought-iron gates like the kind you see in the French Quarters in New Orleans. The most beautiful fabric designs worn on the slimmest, most beautiful bodies of my sisters were breathtaking. The open market that sold fresh fish, fresh tomatoes, and fresh red potato was awesome. You could buy fresh fish, fresh yam pound for fufu, fresh palm oil for the body or for the food, cassava leaves, roasted peanuts, and fresh bread everyday. And Fanta, Oh my God! Fanta – red, orange and pineapple. You won't find much ice there though. They drink almost everything at room temperature. The tea in Kinshasa is the best I've ever tasted; I stopped drinking coffee. Then you had the unique art pieces that are made only in Africa. The small hand-made cars, airplanes and bicycles made from the raw metals were stunning. The woodcarvings of the ancestors, even the beautifully designed tableware for keeping fufu hot was unique. But that's just the beginning. And that's only in the Congo.
The real highlight of going to Africa was the work of the Lord. I am yet grateful to God for this life-changing experience. It was our goal to “spread the gospel” everywhere we went and God made a way for us to do just that. I found life in Africa and its true meaning. The love I felt there is still with me today. On Saturday, July 15, I know we will leave Kinshasa but at 5:30am I will hear the rooster crow and know it’s time to get up to pray.
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