The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of disorganizing, packing, cleaning, driving, flying, paperwork, unpacking, organizing, hiring, building, and more. Our move to the village of Nyankunde on the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo began with graduating from French language school in Albertville, France.
Mathew Lind (MAF manager for Kinshasa, DRC) and Ryan Potter (Samaritan’s Purse medical missionary) and myself proudly display our diplomas on graduation day in Albertville, France
This was followed by a week of vacation in Switzerland at a five hundred year old mansion owned by a christian brotherhood who are friends with some of our coworkers near Kinshasa, DRC. The mansion is located near Interlacken and sits on the shores of a beautiful clear lake surrounded by sharp Alps. It was truly a great time to unwind, relax, say goodbye to some of our close friends, and prepare for the next big and final step in moving to Congo.
The 500 year old chateau we spent a week at in Switzerland.
We went on a hike in the Swiss Alps with the Linds and Potters. We took two cable cars just to get to the bottom of the hike as the mountains start as sheer rock cliffs.
Following our week in Switzerland, we drove back for one quick day of repacking and cleaning in Albertville before heading off the next morning to the Lyon, France airport to board our first flight toward Africa. This is where we encountered a little bit of stress and some amusement. I had rented a medium size car for the trip and what I got was the second-to-smallest Fiat available. So in great African style I tied half our bags on the roof (despite there being no roof rack) and proudly drove our fourteen bags, pack and play, and car seat to the airport while the French starred out their windows with strange looks on their faces.
Upon reaching the airport we had to untie the baggage, fill the car with gas, return the rental car, find the right terminal, check our bags, and get through security. It turns out that what Turkish airlines says on their website means nothing at the gate. Not to badmouth an airline (as they have wonderful food) we were told we were not allowed a personal item, not allowed a baby seat, not allowed a pack and play, and that the caryon we had for Daniel was not allowed either despite him having an adult ticket. All of these things were clearly laid out online as being allowed as I had done hours of research before hand and called the airline. So all this to say that we were hassled for about an hour and had to pay about 700 dollars in excess baggage fees.
After that came security where Daniel (the baby) was wanded and patted down to make sure he wasn’t going to do something terrible……whaaaaat! All this to say that our time at the Lyon airport was less than pleasurable and did not start the trip off great as we boarded the plane last and just in time to leave after having arrived two hours early at the airport.
Finally we were on the plane and enjoyed a pretty event-less flight to Istanbul, Turkey where we lugged all our stuff off with the baby for our two hour layover before our connecting flight to Uganda. We did manage to get Daniel a nap in a makeshift pile of luggage on the floor as the airline had taken our pack-and-play away and checked it.
Daniel taking a nap under a make shift tent of luggage in the Istanbul, Turkey airport
We then boarded our eight hour flight to Uganda. I had a large leap of joy in my heart as I saw on the TV screen that our plane had just crossed into Africa and was flying over Egypt. I have been trying to get back to Africa since my family left over fifteen years ago. Many hours later we had a quick stop in Kigali, Rwanda before touching down in Entebbe, Uganda.
Thanks to the many prayers we actually found every single piece of our luggage including the baby seat and pack-and-play within minutes at baggage claim. Even the guitar made it this time! A few fingerprints and three hundred dollars later we had visas in hand for Uganda and walked out the door to find the MAF taxi driver waiting. He was super nice and drove us just over an hour to get to the guest house where we would stay for two days before flying to our home in Nyankunde.
The MAF guest house in Kampala where we stayed for two days before heading over to Congo.
So all told, we arrived at the guest house and went to bed around 5:00am. Four hours later we were up to go shopping in Kampala with our fellow EDRC teammates (Mike and Sharol Shutts) who live there to do maintenance on the planes. The Shutts took us around for two days so we could buy a bed, dishes, and a few other staples that we didn’t pack in our shipment. We then had a quick lunch with the Chief Pilot, Lary Strietzel, who was going on furlough at the same time back to the USA. It was good to meet him and he told us about a car that we might want to buy off a fellow missionary who is leaving for Mongolia.
Watching the Shutts drive us around in Kampala was fun as the traffic was pretty crazy, there didn’t seem to be any rules, and you drive on the left side of the road.
It was a whirlwind thing but with Lary’s advice and a quick look at the vehicle we decided to buy it. Here we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who donated to our vehicle fund over a year ago so that we could buy a good enough vehicle here in Congo. The car is a 1994 Toyota Landcruiser Prado. (4×4, 4cyl turbo diesel, locking differentials, oversized tires, roof rack, and bumpers for those of you who are technically minded and like cars). Sometime in the next couple months I will need to fly to Uganda and do the two-three day drive with the car back to Nyankunde (only an hour and a half in the plane!).
We bought this 1994 Toyota Landcruiser Prado 4×4 off of a departing missionary. Thank you to everyone who donated to make this possible. It is a great car.
Finally it was Friday the 17th the long awaited day to fly to Nyankunde. The Shutts picked us up with all of our bags and newly acquired house items and we drove to the Kajjansi airport where the MAF International Uganda program has their base. It was a pretty impresive setup with a nice new hangar and a new office building going up which will be shared with Engineering Ministries International.
The EDRC Nyankunde base does its heavy maintenance in this hangar shared with MAF International.
We waited at the hangar for the Joey Martin (one of the other pilots based in Nyankunde) to arrive with the new Caravan which would take us to our new home.
Waiting at the MAF Int. hangar in Uganda for the Caravan to arrive that would take us to Congo.
After the plane arrived we watched as Joey and the national workers figured out the puzzle of putting all the bags in the plane with the mattress and everything else while still leaving space for the passengers he would be picking up. It was a small glimpse into what my job will look like in the near future.
Loading up the Caravan to fly to Entebbe and then Congo
Daniel waited in the shade of the tail of the Caravan playing with the grass
Once everything was packed up we hopped in and flew back to Entebbe where we had landed with Turkish Airlines a couple days prior. There we had to do a quick circle through immigration to stamp our passports and properly exit the country. Arriving back at the plane we met up with our friends from language school in France, the LaRochelle’s, who were also flying the same day to Nyankunde. The LaRochelle’s are missionary docors with Samaritan’s Purse who work at the local hospital a few minutes walk up the hill form the airstrip in Nyankunde.
Finally we all boarded the plane and took off for Congo! It was a fun flight getting to see the winding roads beneath and how the plane really saves days of travel. Like I said earlier, the flight took 1.5 hours which saved over two days of driving time.
A short time later we arrived in Bunia, DRC which is the “port of entry”. We then had to get out and go through immigration and customs again which was an adventure. I had a great time talking to one of the local customs guys in French and trying to familiarize myself a little bit with what will be my first stop every morning when I start flying. We were not allowed to take pictures at the Bunia airport….sorry.
After an hour or so of filling out forms, unloading some luggage for customs inspection, paying some “fees” we had not heard about, and reloading the plane, we all took off again for the short seven minute flight to the small village of Nyankunde where our home awaited. Nyankunde is nestled at the bottom of a hill that you can immediately see upon taking off from Bunia. It was a really fun blessing to see our new home first from the air.
On approach to our new home in Nyankunde. The long green thing in the middle of the picture is the runway. The base is on the left end.
The MAF Nyankunde base from above
Upon landing, we taxied up to the hangar where we were greeted by our teammates both western and national singing a Swahili song and holding a “welcome” sign. We got out, shook a lot of hands, had some hugs, accepted a lot of flowers, and enjoyed a wonderful warm welcome party. Following this, we walked the loooooong ten seconds over to our new house which is situated right beside the hangar and airstrip. Not a bad commute to work!
Walking over to the house for the first time
Our house when we first arrived before the fence went up
We then enjoyed walking around the absolutely beautiful house. Mahogany is the cheapest and most readily available hardwood here so pretty much everything in the house is made from it. I know, it is a hardship =). The team here really did an amazing job rebuilding the house after it was practically demolished in the wars. The house has three bedrooms, an office, two bathrooms, a living room/dining room, a kitchen, and a big pantry. Ashley is very excited to fill the pantry full of canning jars.
The kitchen made with mahogany cabinets as it is the cheapest and most readily available hardwood
Ashley is excited about her big pantry
A couple days after we arrived we asked about a fence for the yard and the next morning the national workforce started putting up a great bamboo fence. We are excited to have the fence so we can get going with chickens, a dog, and a garden.
The bamboo backyard fence going up quick
This is how you haul 107 full length pieces of bamboo
Upon arrival we also heard that the guy who had done a beautiful job in planting flowers, trees, and taking care of yard work at the house before our arrival was interested in working for us. His name is Bahati and he is the nephew of a lady who works for another family here at the base. Bahati is a new christian and is excited to tell people about being “fishers of men”. He is trustworthy and full of smiles so we are excited to employ him. Employing someone is culturally expected here of “muzungu’s” (white people in Swahili) and Bahati will be a great help with keeping the yard in check and doing things like hanging up laundry to dry and dishes that most of us are used to doing using machines in the USA. Also we get to work closely with a local guy and have someone readily available to ask questions to about how to do things in this new home. Bahati does not speak much french at all like many people here in the village which makes it hard to communicate sometimes. On the other hand he will be a great help in learning Swahili both for me and Ashley. The dominant language in the surrounding villages is definitely Swahili although most middle aged men seem to speak an “ok” level of French too. The women usually do not speak much French from what we have experienced so far.
Again thanks to so many of your prayers and the hard work of the MAF shipping department in Nampa, Idaho, our household shipment arrived in Nyankunde only three days after we did. Everything was in tact except for one action packer’s handles, two canning jars, and the food processor handle. Very good overall =)
We spent about a week unpacking the shipment and I had a lot of fun watching Ashley open the surprise kitchen box that I had packed a year and a half ago. The big surprise was a new huge pressure canner that she had really wanted when we were packing the shipment. I told her it was too expensive and then secretively bought it for her later. I had a hard time keeping a secret all the way through language school especially when she bought two parts for the old canner that I had taken out and left in the USA!!
This is the view from our front porch every morning
Throughout our first few weeks here we have an orientation schedule and meet with the other two families here at the moment to talk about different subjects like finances, sanitation with water and food, using the HF radio for communication between houses, shopping locally in the markets, employing house helpers, dealing with malaria, and much more.
Ashley and I have both gone to the weekly market now which is each Saturday and alternates between being in Nyankunde and the neighboring town. Last Saturday I bought meat for the first time at the market which was fun and a true return to my roots as a missionary kid in Burkina Faso further north and west in Africa. To get pork and beef you go up to the butcher’s stall in the market and point to which part of the hanging quartered animal you would like to have. He then whacks it off the carcass using a machete (large long knife used for anything from gardening or cutting down trees to cooking) and gives it to you in a tied off plastic shopping bag. Then when I got home I spent an hour cutting the meat off the bones, trimming the tendons and fascia out, and putting the meat into ziplocks for the freezer. With the pork we ran it through our meat grinder attachment for the kitchenaid mixer we brought and made it into three different kinds of imitation Jimmy Dean sausage using recipes off the internet. My biscuits and gravy on Sunday morning were a long journey from the hanging pig in the market. All in the fun though =)
We went to church the first Sunday at the local small Swahili speaking church. It was great and the music was beautiful although we didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on =)
Well, before this post gets too long I will stop here and leave something for a couple weeks from now. Thank you so much to each of you who have stood with us in prayer and support through the last nine years of training starting back in 2006 at Moody Aviation in Spokane, Washington. It is only by God’s grace and your support that we have made it here to Nyankunde, DRC. May God bless you and excite you now for what He is going to do through us and through the continued work of MAF in eastern Congo.