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Category Archives: 12 Days of Christmas in Congo

Congo Christmas – …Think On These Things

IMG_0428There are sights in the poverty-stricken areas I’ve visited in several countries that are impossible to forget–they scar the memory. Going to a place like east Congo where so many differences are a product of war, greed, and atrocities, it would be easy to focus on things like trash strewn areas, hovels, children playing in a ditch. As the leader of a nonprofit shooting photos and video, how easy it would be to highlight needs and ply your heart-strings with sad melodies.

However, I set out on my trip with one Bible verse on my mind’s virtual billboard; it played across the ticker-tape of my vision level with my forehead as if I wore gamer glasses with this function.

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 (NASB)

That God is alive and doing eternal work at the mission is more true than the trash on the street, that our staff pours in time and energy without regard for salary is honorable, that to see needs and meet them in whatever way we can is right, that the children’s delight in your small attentions–the smile or goofy dance–is pure, that the whole journey during the rainy season became a movement from one blossom to the next was lovely, that careful hands prepared meal after meal of African fare we’d never tasted was of good repute, that there was excellence and efforts worthy of praise at every turn, that my LORD says “think on these things” was the foundation of my travel journal and visual documentation.

IMG_0464Another translation says to “dwell on these things,” let your thoughts live, find their home, rest your being on the true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent things, on whatever is worthy or praise. I pray this for you today. Let us help one another see these things even in the valley of the shadow of death.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. (Psalm 145:3) I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies.(Psalm 18:3) For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods.(Psalm 96:4) Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. (Isaiah 40:28) For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

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Kristin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

 

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Congo Christmas – Gone Bananas

IMG_0672The vendor comes down the gravel church drive to our education center. The attractive display of bananas perched on her head must weigh 30 lbs if not 40. She is just outside the window where Bintu, Vivian and Rachel make their selections while I try to get a post to my blog up during very limited internet time.
Later the bananas are offered to me. They are strange little yellow stubs, no longer than my ring finger–perhaps 2.5 inches. Oh the taste! Like I’ve never had a banana before. There is the traditional flavor yet sweeter. What really sets them apart is the sharp tang, like the best key lime pie.
They are dangerous for someone who worked through lunch. Five are gone before I consider the consequences of too much fruit. I’m told they tried to grow them elsewhere and they aren’t the same. Even here in east Congo they no longer as common as they once were.

The are called “bitika kamera,” and they are the best bananas in the world I am sure. You should visit the Congo just to taste them.

 

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Congo Christmas – Dengue Diet

Beignet handmade for the children's party by Widows Catering behind our education center.

Beignet handmade for the children’s party by Widows Catering behind our education center.

There was concern among my family members about what could go wrong on my Congo Christmas trip: ebola, terrorists/rebels, malaria, war, etc. I was more concerned over what I would pack since I have put on weight. My husband helpfully suggested this gain would not be a concern for long.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “You’ll catch Dengue fever, lose thirty pounds in a week and fit in all your old clothes.”

Dengue fever, a tropical virus whose symptoms include fever, headache, muscle & joint pain (flu anybody?), is, like malaria, another mosquito borne pathogen. In a small percentage of cases Dengue can become hemorrhagic (ebola?) and thus more deadly. Dengue is a cousin of West Nile and yellow fever. With ebola symptoms such as fever, headache, muscle pain & nausea, and malaria symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea, folks who get sick in the Congo really have to be checked out by a doctor.

My trip turned out completely disease free and even better (link to future post), so I took several photos to show my husband that I choose a different course.

No Dengue Diet for me, darling. Nope, I spent twelve days on the Beignet Diet.

Yum!

What are the widows making?

What are the widows making?

 Hand dropped beignets...

Hand dropped beignets…

…by the hundreds!

…by the hundreds!

 

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Kristin King is an author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa, a small educational mission in east Congo. Recently returned from spending Christmas in the Congo, she is currently blogging about the experience.

 

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Congo Christmas – Oscar Bid for Movie Virunga

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 7.07.40 AMDriving through Rwanda to east Congo I could not get over the amount of cultivation. Miles of terraced mountains divided for maize, banana trees, cassava, beans, tea bushes (for which Rwanda is well-known) etc.–the whole countryside felt more like Tuscany than Africa to me. The only natural landscape was in the national park, and I wondered if there were gorillas in those mountains. (Spotted a monkey–video coming soon).

In the airport on the way home I read in the newspaper that movie set in the Congo has been short listed (top 15) for an Oscar bid in documentaries. To me this is good news, a film that will raise awareness about the war still effecting all the inhabitants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I pray this documentary takes the Oscar. The movie is called Virunga, after the name of the Virunga National Park–where the last mountain gorillas in the world live with park rangers trying to protect them from development and rebel groups who terrorize man and beast. Below is a synopsis from the movie’s website. View the trailer, learn about the gorilla rehab man, and see more here.

VIRUNGA IS THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF A GROUP OF BRAVE PEOPLE RISKING THEIR LIVES TO BUILD A BETTER FUTURE IN A PART OF AFRICA THE WORLD’S FORGOTTEN AND A GRIPPING EXPOSE OF THE REALITIES OF LIFE IN THE CONGO.

In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth and home to the planet’s last remaining mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a dedicated conservationist who’s a member of the Belgian royal family – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect, with the filmmakers and the film’s participants caught in the crossfire.

A powerful combination of investigative journalism and nature documentary, VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of courageous people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten, and a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Congo.

From director Orlando von Einsiedel and executive producer Leonardo DiCaprio.

<iframe src=”http://virungamovie.com/player/&#8221; frameborder=”0″ width=”640″ height=”470″>

NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX

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Kristin King is an author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa, a small educational mission in east Congo. Recently returned from spending Christmas in the Congo, she is currently blogging about the experience.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

 

 

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Congo Christmas – The Best Souvenir Shop?

Street shot of the shop

Street shot of the shop

My niece’s stay is shorter than mine and she is the first to ask about where we can get souvenirs. Our mission is not near a hotel, and there doesn’t seem to be a touristy part of town. When you travel far, you do want gifts to take home for family and closest friends, for whoever is watching your house or the pets, etc. Papa A and Bintu take us closer into town to a terrific little shop called Likembe Shop.

You might wonder how I knew we were closer to downtown? That’s easy. The shop was beyond where the pavement begins.

Is this shop the best? What would make me say so?

What stood out at first was the posted price list. From Crete to Tunisia, Ethiopia to Kinshasa, I’ve learned that there are tourist prices and the locals’ prices. Although all are negotiable, pale faces and those with foreign accents will pay more. This practice is normal and expected on both sides. Personally I think of it as a visitor tax, simply another expense of travel.

Not at Likembe. Items are marked with a letter and number code (e.g. A 3) and prices are posted on several *signs around the store. (*well-worn A4 paper in plastic sleeves) The shop keeper shows me how to find the code and reference the list which she gives me to carry around.

Oh how refreshing to shop on a budget, find prices marked, and choose among options without concern for being too heavily taxed. 🙂

And the options! They have most everything: wood carvings, woven baskets, leather works, banana leaf figures and art, painted notecards, tribal masks, animal print wooden bowls, jade jewelry, and what might be ivory (illegal to import to US). Lovely reasonable, and profuse.

That’s not the BEST part.

After a small discount haggle on the total and giving our Congo francs to 4 elderly folks with their hands out near the door, Bintu tells us that the Likembe Shop runs the storefront next door which is not a business. Once a week they open that front and run a sort of food bank. A portion of their sales are used to purchase small bags of rice, cassava flour, and other foodstuffs which they distribute to those in need.

Kinshasa, the capital of the country, had nothing to compare. Taken together these aspects (i.e. posted prices, options, and food bank) make the Likembe Artisan Shop the best souvenir store in the Congo.

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Kristin King is a Christian author and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She recently returned from  visiting FHA’s education mission in eastern Congo and is blogging from her travel journal about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Visit Future Hope Africa

Visit Future Hope Africa

 

 

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FHA Mama Is Me – Congo Christmas

IMG_0512

Mama FHA (right) with Mama F at Lake Kivu not far from our education center.

First there were a few who said, “How can we help?” We sent Bintu home to Congo, a mission became Education ASBL.

The needs were great and the project’s impact growing. A grant was awarded. Then the few said, we can be more. We can take the whole under our wings as a mother chicken does the chicks.

Future Hope Africa became Mama to Education ASBL. “Papa” and “Mama” are titles to show respect in the Congo. “Jambo, Papa,” I say to the elder at church.

And I? I am Mama FHA. The organization is not mine, though, and not Bintu’s. This is the path God calls us to, the “goodworks He prepared before hand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Future Hope Africa/Education ASBL is His, for His glory.

His standard, His banner over us that is Love. Our Great Papa (Abba, Father).

 
 

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What Have I Gotten Myself Into? Congo Christmas

IMG_0666Movie night. Nuit du Film. What does it sound like to you? A relaxing evening off work?

When one of the Princesses suggests soiree du film, Bintu is reluctant.
“Why not,” I say. “That sounds great.” Our first opportunity to use the projector Jaime brought from the U.S. Girl time for this mother of 4 boys. A light, fun night off for fellowship and entertainment.
The plan is made. The Princesses invited.

Hours before the event I discover not only will I do a devotional–(No, I say. Yes, Bintu says.)–but a nuit du film is the ENTIRE night even though we chose only one dvd. We will be locked-up in our mission’s education center with one toilet, desks, chairs, and whatever blankets and pillows we carry in. Someone will be asleep on my pillow before I look for it.
Sometime during the 3rd movie, most of us begin to dose off. Bintu has everything turned off including the generator upon which our electricity relies. The young women sing a praise song, then we fall asleep to Bintu’s prayer and blessing. I lay my head on the U-travel pillow to try to sleep.
My hips, elbows, and shoulders do not like the concrete. I dose, I wake, turn over, dose–use, my iPad as a flashlight to navigate the blanket mounds blocking the path to the toilet. Back in my spot at the edge of the woven mat, I consider just playing games on my tablet till dawn. Consider and reject. At this point I know exactly what I’ve gotten myself into.

The next morning Rachel asks me in French, “Did you sleep well?”
Laughter bursts from my dry throat. I slap at her arm–that’s the best joke I’ve heard in the New Year.

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Kristin King is an author, publisher and president of the non-profit Future Hope Africa. She is currently visiting the mission in eastern Congo and blogging about the visit.

 
 

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