Archive for ‘Journal’

March 30, 2019

Challenges and Joys This New Year

It is hard to believe that it is already mid March. Life has started to take on a familiar rhythm which I am grateful for. In January we moved to a new apartment in the neighbourhood of Kiwaatule in Kampala and it has become home and is serving us well. Othy and I are both working from home. I am working part-time remotely for the same architecture firm I worked for in Toronto along with some of my own projects. Othy has been developing an application that he has long been wanting to push forward. So although we are very tight financially and living month by month, we are thankful that we always seem to have enough and that this is the ideal time for Othy to pursue this work. We are still experiencing the odd feeling of being displaced but are finding that God has us in this place for a reason.

We are still closely following news from Congo. The elections were very controversial. The month of December gave hope to many Congolese as the presidential candidates ran their campaigns. The opposition leader Martin Fayulu had considerable popularity across the country and particularly in the East while Joseph Kabila’s choice for successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadari  was clearly unpopular. But then one week before the elections were meant to take place on December 24th, there was a fire in one of the warehouses in Kinshasa where voting machines were said to be kept. There were many questions and little evidence surrounding the event, but the government used it as a reason to postpone the elections by one week. Then a few days later the government announced that elections would be postponed in the regions experiencing Ebola and insecurity which included Beni, Butembo, and a territory in the west called Yumbi. The result would be over a million votes that would not be included. It was very suspicious that the postponement in those regions happened after the election postponement. It shocked me how the democratic process was blatantly removed from these elections, but somehow kept the international community satisfied enough not to interfere. It seemed like a very strategic move for Kabila.

News from BBC about postponement of elections

December 30th was election day. There were some reports of violence and tampering, but overall the day went fairly smoothly considering the challenges. Although they were inherently told that they could not participate in their rights as citizens of their country, the people of Beni decided to host their own paper-ballot elections to show that there was no reason to postpone in their region. This made me very proud! To prevent the spread of ebola they set up handwash stations and took voters temperatures. I think that the process of making a vote, whether or not it would be heard or counted, gave people a feeling of closure.  People were still hopeful that Fayulu could still manage a victory. The announcement of the election results was supposed to be on January 5th but got pushed back to January 10th which was another suspicious postponement.

It came as a shock when opponent leader Felix Tshisekedi was proclaimed the winner. Most thought that Martin Fayulu would be the clear winner. Fayulu claimed that the elections had been rigged and that he believed that Tshisekedi had made a secret power-sharing deal with Kabila. The Catholic Church had sent 40,000 witnesses to polling stations across the country and said that their data did not align but showed another candidate as the clear winner (not specifying who). Fayulu appealed to the supreme court against the result asking for a manual recount, but the court decided to uphold the results despite the controversy. The Financial Times obtained a percentage of leaked data and ascertained that Fayulu was the clear winner. Most people in the east believe Fayulu was the real winner of the elections and do not recognize Tshisekedi as president. They think that when Kabila realized that his successor was unpopular, he decided to find a plan B to retain power. I don’t think Tshisekedi will ever be able to visit the cities of Beni or Butembo without mass riots breaking out unless he makes some significant moves to improve security in that region.

News from AP News about mock vote in Beni

News from The Guardian about the delay in the announcement of election results

News from CNN about surprise win of opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi

Financial Times article

There was another shock this month when Kabila’s party won 2/3rds of the seats in the senate, meaning that Tshisekedi will be unable to act independently and that Kabila will still retain a large amount of power within the government. Several candidates reportedly withdrew from the running because of demands for large bribes. This entire election hints of corruption and sets a bad precedent for how presidents in Africa have succeeded to fake the democratic process. The Congolese and international community wanted Kabila out, but he is still there, a puppeteer manipulating government from behind the scenes. Sadly I wonder if much progress is going to be made in the next five years. I try to remember that with God anything is possible. He has the power to change hearts.

News from Africa News about Senate Elections

Few! Enough about politics! Onto another difficult topic… Ebola! The fight to contain Ebola in eastern Congo continues since the epidemic was first announced last August. The epicenter has now shifted from Beni to Butembo and numbers are still increasing by a small amount every day. The virus was almost contained in Beni and no new cases were reported for 21 days, but numbers have increased in Butembo. There has been significant community resistance to containment efforts because of a mistrust of health officials. Some people who have contracted the virus and start showing symptoms are not bringing themselves in for testing and treatment. Oftentimes cases are being discovered after a death in the community and when many people have already been in contact with that person while they were contagious. I try to remind myself how much progress has been made and how much worse things would be if not for the ongoing response efforts. There are many stories of hope in the midst of the many challenges. More effort needs to be made in how health workers engage with communities so that trust can be established.

News from Reuters about involvement of Ebola survivors in patient care

The New Humanitarian: Story from a doctor on the ground about establishing trust

News from MPR News about infection control in health clinics

Despite all of these heavy thoughts hanging over our heads as we follow the news of what is affecting our communities in Beni and Butembo, life goes on and we find joy in the day to day. I thank God daily for Othy and for our second temporary home. I am thankful for time with friends and for everyone who has set foot in our home. A month or so ago our good friend Élisée was baptised and we took time to celebrate this new direction for his life. We hosted an alumni of UCBC who is starting to help Othy with his development work. We hosted another alumni who was in Kampala to take the TOEFL exam. Three men from Egypt and Saudi Arabia moved into the apartment next door and we quickly became friends. They were very hospitable and hosted us for dinner and introduced us to Arabian coffee and “carcade” which is hybiscus tea. We enjoyed learning about their cultures and now have places to visit if we ever travel to those countries. We have been going to a new church in the area called Mavuno. This past month we heard a good and challenging sermon series on prayer. It challenged me not to give up praying for the insecurity and the ebola even when I feel discouraged. God listens to us and answers prayer, but we need to trust His timing and purposes that are different than our own.

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth”. – Job 19:25

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Like Christ reunion!

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Élisée’s baptism

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Our neighbours Atallah and Ayman

February 23, 2019

Goma Wedding

This has been a season of weddings. On the last weekend in January Othy and I took a long drive to Goma to go to Serge and Hortense’s wedding. It felt extra special because I have a relationship with both of them. Hortense is Othy’s sister and Serge was one of the key researchers that I trained when I collaborated with UCBC for my masters thesis in 2014.

Othy and I arrived in Goma at around noon on Friday. As soon as we crossed the border we were welcomed by police who pulled us over and wanted to take us to their office for not having the right insurance documents. What I don’t understand is how we could have had Congolese insurance when just arriving in Congo and not currently living in Congo! It is also silly that Ugandan insurance doesn’t cover travel to adjacent countries. We didn’t want to go to the office because we knew it would probably mean more trouble and more delays. While we were sitting there waiting, several friends who know us passed by, recognized us, and stopped to greet us and ask what was going on. One of them ended up helping us by paying the police off. Not a great habit to encourage but I’m glad we avoided trouble!

We stayed the first two nights at Bungwe guesthouse where we stayed on our previous visit. We visited the family in the evening who were all congregated at Obady and Marie’s house. It was fun to take part in the anticipation and see the ladies with curlers in their hair and their nails done. I held baby Johan again who has already grown so much! Othy’s sister Guylaine had thoughtfully prepared a Congolese dress for me out of fabric to match all of the other women in the family. It didn’t fit on the first try but they brought it to the tailor the following morning to get it adjusted.

The next morning Maurice came and picked us up so that the family could use the car. It was a beautiful day and Serge and Hortense looked radiant. After the religious ceremony we somehow ended up leading the parade of cars to go to Maji Matulivu for photographs, the same place that I stayed the first time I passed through Goma. There were a lot of family members who approached me to take photographs because many of them were unable to come to Othy and my wedding and they were excited to finally meet me. The extended family is so large and there are many people I still don’t know. A fair number of family and friends did not come from Butembo because it is a long, insecure journey and because a similar celebration was held for the civil ceremony in Butembo two weeks earlier. At the reception we sat with the family near the front and Serge and Hortense honored us with a gift of a cooked chicken and cake. Near the end of the celebration a group of the women went up to dance and I eventually went up and joined them. The women were pleasantly surprised that I could carry the rhythm, even if I was a bit stiff!

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The following morning we went to the english service at the same CBCA church and then went for coffee with Baraka, Shannon, and Jon who was in Goma on business and had also attended the wedding. It was wonderful to finally meet Shannon and to catch up with Jon who I last saw when I was in Nairobi back in May! We wanted to stay in Goma a few more days to reconnect with friends and family, but didn’t have the money for more nights at a hotel. Baraka and Shannon generously offered to host us for two nights at their home. I spent most of the day Monday catching up on work, and then in the evening we went on a bit of a tour to visit several sites with potential architectural work. Goma is in the middle of a construction boom and land prices have risen. It looks like there will be plenty of work for me in Congo when we finally settle there as we hope.

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We began our return journey at about noon on Tuesday. In the morning we visited with Serge and Hortense who had hoped we could wait a few more days and travel with them, but we were out of funds and decided we had to get going. While waiting for Othy to come back from a meeting, Serge and I got talking about his experience back in 2002 when Nyiragongo erupted. It was interesting to hear his first-hand experience and it reminded me of how tenuous life is in Goma in the shadow of that volcano. Othy returned and we headed on our way. Our friend Fiston (he visited us in Kampala a month or so ago) came through the border with us to show us his home which is on the Rwanda side. He took us to a place to buy some of Rwanda’s famous smoked sausages and to a cafe near his home to try some delicious whole milk. Finally by mid-afternoon we began our journey back to Kampala. We didn’t arrive until almost 4 in the morning! Despite our adventure upon first arriving, it felt nice to be back in Congo again. It was good to hear and try to converse Swahili again, visit with family, and experience Congolese friendship and hospitality.

 

February 13, 2019

Lake Bunyonyi

On the last weekend in January Othy and I took a road trip to Goma for a wedding. Since it is a 13 hour drive but takes longer because of crossing two borders, we decided to make two days of it if we could find affordable accommodations. We decided that Kabale would be the best place to stay as it is near the Uganda – Rwanda border, and is high in a mountainous natural area. We left at 5am on Thursday morning and the drive was a smooth one. The evening before I prepared three mix-CDs to play during the drive that we enjoyed! It took about 8 hours to get to Kabale. I didn’t have any time to do any research in advance, and so once in Kabale we stopped in town and I started looking online to see what kind of accommodations I could find, preferably somewhere we could get a taste of the nature in the area. I discovered that there were several lodges on Lake Bunyonyi which is not far from Kabale. The first affordable place I found called Josh Backpackers was too inconvenient because it would take an hour by boat to get there. The next place I found is called Paradise Eco-Hub. It is also on an island, but we learned there is a way to get there by car and park on a nearby peninsula. This was the best option for us because we needed to leave very early the next morning to continue our journey. The drive was 17km and took 50 minutes. The dirt road got narrower as we went and much of it followed the side of the lake where we took in some beautiful views. Closer to the end of our drive we could see Paradise Eco-Hub from a distance. We parked, gave them a call, and they came with their boat to bring us over to the island.

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The facilities are nice and they offer different types of rooms depending on price range. We took the cheapest (15 USD) which is a small room with a separate shared bathroom block, but they also gave us a tour of their nicer options which include cottages and “nests” built from reeds overlooking the lake. There are also steps that go down to a dock and swimming area, and an open-air, two-level restaurant. The construction is rough but still well done and clear that it is done locally without the use of large power tools. Othy napped while I worked a little bit. I couldn’t work long because their current solar system only supports the charging of phones. It didn’t bother me because I appreciated the silence after several months in bustling Kampala. I enjoyed taking photos of the surroundings and watching the many birds that were around. At 6pm I woke Othy up and we had dinner while watching the sun set. Right before the sun was ready to dip down past the horizon we walked down to the dock. This was the last thing we’d see since we would be leaving at 4:30 the following morning to get a good start on our journey to Goma. There was only about 5 hours left of driving but the borders take time, especially when bringing a car through. I’m glad that we stopped in Kabale and found this little treasure!

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January 20, 2019

Recipe List for Uganda

I enjoy cooking and in Toronto I had a list of favourite online recipes that I would often revisit. Unfortunately most of them don’t work for Uganda because I can’t find certain ingredients. I enjoy getting fresh produce at the market and so try to get inspired by the foods that I can find. So now I am developing a repertoire of new recipes that work well in Uganda. Here are some recipes that I have tried so far that have worked well and I may revisit (they don’t make this list unless I have made them more than twice). I will probably be adding to this list as I continue to find more that I like.

 

Carb dishes:

Patacones Con Hogao (Columbian-style Fried Plantains with Tomato-onion Sauce) by seriouseats.com (This recipe gave me a new appreciation for plantains!)

The BEST mashed potatoes by spendwithpennies.com

Loaded mashed potato cakes by spendwithpennies.com

 

Vegetable dishes:

Ginger Broccoli by geniuskitchen.com

Green Beans & Carrots W Tomato, Garlic & Ginger by justapinch.com

Swiss Chard with Garbanzo Beans and Fresh Tomatos by allrecipes.com

 

Meat dishes:

Chicken in Peanut-Tomato Sauce by congocookbook.com

Garlic herb butter roast chicken by cafedelites.com

A Great Pork Chop Marinade by recipetineats.com

Ultimate Garlic Pork Loin Roast by dinnerthendessert.com

Crispy Breaded Tilapia by finecooking.com

 

All in one:

Cauliflower, Potato, and Pea Curry by foodandwine.com (I can find cilantro on the occasions when I get to the main downtown market)

One dish chicken bake recipe by diethood.com

Chicken Pad Thai by dinnerthendessert.com (I replace rice vinegar with apple cider vinegar and can’t find bean sprouts, but the dish still tastes great)

Sweet Potato and Peanut Stew by freshoffthegrid.com (This recipe calls for chicken stock that I have been occasionally making from scratch following a recipe from simplyrecipes.com)

 

Dessert:

Chocolate banana avocado pudding or ice-cream by kitchennostalgia.com

Orange banana avocado smoothie by texanerin.com 

 

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January 12, 2019

A Temporary Home

Since the first week of November Othy and I have been living in the home of friends of ours in Lubowa, south of Kampala. It has been good for us to have a bit of stability and a place where we don’t have to pay rent for a short time. It is also a well furnished place which has allowed us to be comfortable and able to host now and again. So although these walls are not ours, they have seen various people who are slowly becoming more apart of our lives. It is exciting to be starting to grow some friendships here in Uganda! Here are some photos from some of our gatherings! It’s a good thing that Othy likes to take photos or we wouldn’t have any!

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Jerry, Safi, and their daughter

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Noé, Bethany, and their kids

For the first few weeks that we stayed at this apartment, our friends Noé and Bethany and their kids were staying in the same complex in the apartment of another EMI couple. It was fun having them as neighbours. Their girls would sometimes be outside and see us from our back door and wave and yell hello. Other times we would see them on our way to going for a walk or bump into them at the store. The girls have so much energy and excitement that they treat you like you are the best person in the world. On American Thanksgiving, the day before they moved out of the apartment and left for Kenya, we shared a nice meal together. We were sad to see them leave!

Othy imported two cars to sell in Congo and one for us to use in Kampala. It greatly simplified getting around and my weak back was also thankful for it. It is a blue Mazda Verisa. To celebrate our one month being married and having a car we went out to see a movie in theatres. The cinema has particular meaning for us because we went to see the Hobbit in 3D while getting to know each other back in 2014. This time we went to see Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. The following week we went to the theatres again, this time to treat Salama and Wivine since Wivine would soon be returning to Congo. The traffic was so bad that we couldn’t pick them up and instead told them to get a boda and meet us at the mall. We missed the 7:45 show but decided to go to the 10pm show instead! So although we were out past midnight, it was much nicer to drive home on empty roads!

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Rodrigue, Guylaine and family

Othy’s mother was in town for a few weeks to receive diagnosis and treatment for back pain. It was good timing that Othy and I were here and that Othy could drive her to and from appointments and run errands in town. I joined them on some of the outings. It was nice to spend more time with her and I also practiced more Swahili than I had in a long time. We brought Othy’s mom and Salama to the bus station when it was time for them to head back. Two weeks later we did the same for Obady who was travelling home to Goma for Christmas and New Years.

Christmas was the quietest I have ever experienced. The only decoration that I did was to buy white string lights and wrap them around a coffee table made of tree branches. Othy and I spent Christmas eve on our own, but Christmas day we were invited by Maggie to join a group for lunch. In the afternoon we decided to take advantage of the pool that is on our compound and go swimming for the first time! So although it was quiet, this Christmas will be memorable in it’s own way because it will probably only get busier and louder from here! On Christmas day Othy and I had a nice call with my family while they were gathered eating breakfast. We even took a family photo with those near and far!

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The fam!

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Fiston

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Olivia

The person who visited us the most is our friend Elysée who is from our Like Christ group in Beni and has come to Kampala for post-secondary studies. During our time in Lubowa we often attended Kampala International Church (KIC) Lubowa where he also attends and is on the worship team. He would come home with us after church on several Sundays. Our last Sunday spent together with Elysee was on December 30th which was also election day. When Othy picked up the car he also brought his guitar which meant that we could enjoy playing and singing some songs together. On this particular day Othy and Elysée taught me a song called “Fanda Nayo”, or “Reign Forever” in Lingala. I realized that I had heard the song before at the UCBC graduation. We wanted to give God praise on election day because we know that no matter what happens, he is the ultimate ruler and holds us in his hands. 

To bring on the new year we decided to have one last time hosting people in our temporary home. We invited several of Othy’s friends from his time at Ugandan Christian University (UCU) and Elysée came again. They are such a great group of people and I look forward to spending more time with them. As we waited for the new year we shared about the challenges faced this past year but also how God was working through them and how he has blessed us. For me 2018 was a year full of both. At midnight we counted down and shared a toast and were surprised to find that we could see some fireworks that were being set off in Kajjansi. We kept talking past midnight and so by the time we dropped everyone off at their homes and then came back it was almost 4am!

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What a year it has been indeed! Like the year before it has been another season of waiting. I was in a long-distance relationship with Othy and waiting to be reunited. I was working in architecture waiting to have enough hours to obtain licensure. I thought that once Othy and I were married the waiting would finally be over, but it looks like God has put us into another season of waiting, now as a couple. We are waiting for ebola to be contained, for stability to return to Beni region, and for elections to take place in Congo. But just like my time of waiting in Toronto, this time of waiting is not wasted. We are growing as a couple, finding ways to grow spiritually, and meeting incredible people along the way whose lives we have the opportunity to impact. The Christmas season reminded me that the Israelites were also in a time of waiting for the promised Messiah to come to redeem the world, and that now we are all waiting for Christ’s return.

The first week of January Othy and I spent time searching for an apartment. On January 6th we moved into a new place that we will have for at least three months. We are moving to a completely different neighbourhood that is on the opposite side of town than Lubowa. I will miss the calmness of the area and am sad that we are leaving a place when I felt like we were just beginning to grow some friendships there. I will miss the walks Othy and I would often go on exploring the area but hopefully we will continue the tradition in this new place. The new apartment is a good fit for us and hopefully we will find some community here too. Already after only two months we are ending a season and starting another.

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Creative Christmas decor

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Exploring the neighbourhoods around Lubowa

Fanda Nayo (Sung in Lingala)

Kiti ya bokonzi na yo Yesu ee éléki makasi
(The throne of your Glory so Jesus, is Powerful,)
Nani ako longolayo, po tovota yo té
(None can dethrone You, because we did not vote you)
Ba mpaka mikolo, ba mama, bilenge, decidé
(Wise men, children, mothers, young people all decided)
Ya ko tombola kiti oyo ya bokonzi, ya yaya Yesué
(To raise Jesus’ throne) (Repeat)

Refrain:
Yaya fanda nayo (Father Reign Forever)
Fanda nayo (Reign Forever)
Wumela seko na seko (May Your kingdom live forever)  (Repeat)

To vota kutu té (No one voted for You)
To pona kutu té (No one chose You)
Wumela séko na séko (May Your Kingdom live forever) (Repeat)

Ba polos kutu té (You did not need to give out Polos (bribes) )
Ba chapeaux kutu té (No need for hats (politician bribes))
Wumela séko na séko (May Your Kingdom last forever) (Repeat)

(Refrain)

 

December 15, 2018

E4C Research Fellowship 2018

From May until September while I was in Beni serving with IRI, I also had a part-time job working as an Expert Fellow with E4C. I oversaw the work of three fellows from Guatemala, Kenya, and India. One of my fellows was working within the habitat sector and the other two within agriculture. One of the ongoing tasks of the fellowship is to research products to be included in E4C’s growing Solutions Library, a database of technologies that are intended to be accessible to low-income populations around the world. My role as a research fellow was to assign my fellows their tasks, keep them on track in completing them, and finally review and edit the finalized reports. I also had the privilege of helping push three larger research reports, two in agriculture in partnership with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), and another in habitat with Good Earth Global. I particularly enjoyed the report about earthquake testing trends as I did not have experience in this area. Here are links to the final reports:

Working remotely has its rewards and challenges. It was quite an interesting challenge getting on calls with everyone from around the world. For me in Beni the calls happened in a window between 4pm and 10pm. I was thankful for the extra financial support, another opportunity to learn about products and services being implemented around the world in the habitat sector, and the opportunity to take leadership and grow my network.

December 8, 2018

Holding onto Hope

Dear friends;

What a crazy few months it has been! It is hard to believe that I have been away from Beni since August (now away longer than I was there). Although nothing has gone to plan, we are trusting that God has us in His hands and that He wants to use us where we are. We have so much to be thankful for. God provided affordable places for me to stay prior to the wedding, a wonderful and affordable Airbnb for me and my family in the week before the wedding, and now a place for Othy and I to live until mid-January. We are overwhelmed by people’s generosity, particularly many of the staff of EMI.

It has been a period of such highs and lows. The high points have been the celebration of our marriage, time with family and time experiencing God’s beautiful creation, a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon to begin married life together, and the celebration of the marriage of our dear friends Matt and Jess. But in all of these activities, there is a grey cloud that has been looming over us. Every day we hear news of new ebola cases that are growing in number around Beni. The cases are not being reported soon enough because initial symptoms look similar to other tropical diseases like Malaria and Typhoid. There is also distrust of the health authorities which is causing communities to be uncooperative by not reporting cases, or not following the prescribed burial practices which can feel very cold and distant.

The distrust is warranted because insecurity is at an all time high in Beni with rebel attacks happening every week, often within the city itself and with little to no protection being offered by the Congolese army or the UN. It seems as though the rebels see an opportunity to create more chaos to make the fight to contain ebola more difficult. Whole neighbourhoods have been emptied out because of fear of attack which only gives more space for rebels to come closer and be undetected. Events have only increased the number of internally displaced people which makes tracking contacts of ebola cases more difficult. Vox recently published an article that outlines many of the challenges in containing the virus. Community groups are demanding that the international community help them to end the insecurity as well as the Ebola. They don’t want to survive ebola only to be attacked while they sleep in their homes. It doesn’t make sense to meet one need and not the other.

Another layer to this situation is that elections are scheduled to happen on December 23rd. So far plans are moving forward for elections to take place, but the Congolese population is on edge because the government has decided to use machines to vote making everyone nervous about the possibility of cheating. There are also three major candidates running instead of two, making the possibility for vote rigging easier. Originally the opposition were planning to come together behind one contender, but last minute one of them changed their minds, which makes people wonder what the real motivation was. Kabila is not running again because he is constitutionally barred from doing so, but has selected what many people are referring to as his pawn, a person who they think he will be able to manipulate to continue pursuing his own interests. So in January much could be the same or could be very different. We pray that God will direct these elections and help establish a leader who knows Him and will pull this country out of the deep sludge of corruption and exploitation by political elites.

God at Work

At times it becomes difficult to continue praying for Beni. God’s word tells us that our prayers have authority, and yet it is difficult to pray when the situations remains unchanged or even worsens. One thing we have to remember is that God still hears our prayers and uses us in these times for his purposes. Othy and I were reminded in talking with the rector of UCBC, that Congo Initiative and the university were started in a time of war. The seed was planted in a time of lamentation when enough was enough. And now the university has had its ten year anniversary and has impacted countless lives. And so we must keep working even through dark times, even though we cry out asking why this is happening again. God did not wait until a time of peace to send his son Jesus into the world. Christ came into a very messy situation to seek out the sick and the lost.

Despite the difficulties, UCBC has started classes and has taken measures to give staff and students a safe working and learning environment. They recently obtained a property in town, City Campus, where they have decided to run classes because the main campus is in an area on the outskirts of town that has experienced insecurity. For Giving Tuesday, CI raised a few thousand dollars to purchase tents to set up at the new campus to be able to accommodate more classes. They also had a special service day where staff and students gathered together to clean up the property. Another part of CI that is very active at this time is the Bethesda Counselling Center who are providing support services for grief and trauma resulting from the ebola and insecurity. Although international staff are currently away from Beni, they are still working from afar on their regular tasks, and also pursuing new partnerships and initiatives. One such initiative is being headed up by our friend Ben Lawson to raise money for lab equipment to support the transition of the faculty to active-learning classrooms. For Christmas this year, please consider contributing to one of the items on the Wish List of UCBC Applied Sciences that will help equip future Congolese leaders!

Prayer requests

Praises:

  • Othy and I are married and family and friends were able to travel safely and celebrate with us
  • We had a relaxing and enjoyable honeymoon and have enjoyed our first month of life together
  • We have a temporary place to call home in Uganda
  • UCBC found a property in the city to use for classes and the ebola and insecurity has not directly affected anyone in the community

Petitions:

  • Pray for peace and healing to come to Beni
  • Pray for ongoing protection of CI-UCBC community as they continue their work and service in the community
  • Pray for smooth and fair elections to happen on December 23rd
  • Pray for discernment for Othy and I as we decide how we can best continue serving CI from a distance and resolve our finances
  • Pray that we continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of God as a couple and discover how to use our gifts and serve together in this new season of life
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December 5, 2018

Kigali

Our final stop on our journey was Kigali where we decided to stay for two nights as we traveled back to Kampala from Bukavu. Because I had such a negative experience on the night bus on the way to Goma, we decided to take day buses and take the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Early on Monday morning we left Bukavu by moto, crossed the border, and then took another moto to the bus station in Rwanda. We took a smaller bus called Omega Express. There are two possible routes to get to Kigali: one that goes through the Nyungwe Forest, a mountainous rainforest, or along Lake Kivu. Our bus went through the forest and the views were stunning. There was one moment I found stunning where we were passing tea plantations but approaching the forest. Another moment we were on a road that was high up on the mountain and there was a view down into the rainforest below that looked so incredibly deep.

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We spent two nights in Kagali: one at Yambi Guesthouse and another at Auberge Beausejour that was recommended by Mark and Karen. On our free day we had plans to meet up with Othy’s old school friend. On our way to meeting her we walked to the Convention Centre which was a building I wanted to check out. Again I was caught off guard by the cleanliness and orderly construction of roads, sidewalks and retaining walls. The convention centre’s dome could be seen from a distance. The landscaping around the building was nicely done. There is also a hotel beside it that has a playful facade that reminded me of basket weaving. A covered walkway offers relief from the sun and rain for people walking from the parking lot. This building is definitely not very approachable on foot from the street as we had to walk all the way around to the back to enter. We went inside the lobby areas but couldn’t find anyone to ask to show us the main auditorium. Overall it is a nicely designed building.

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Next we took motos and went to a restaurant called the Rotisserie where we were meeting up with the friend. We waited for half an hour and she did not arrive. Unfortunately we did not have data and the restaurant did not have wifi to communicate with her. We decided to walk to a cafe called Shokola that shares a building with the Kigali Public Library. It is also a nicely done building. The levels of the library are situated around a generous atrium. It looks like the roof used to be glass but then they boarded it up with wood because of the heat. The cafe is on the third floor and accessed by an exterior stair (I think it could have been nicer for it to have a closer physical or visual connection to the library). To our dismay the cafe did not have working wifi either and so we were unable to meet Othy’s friend. We stayed a while there and then decided to go back to the hotel. On our way back we stopped at an art gallery called Inema Arts Center. We saw some beautiful pieces by local artists, some that I have included below. We spent a lazy evening at the hotel watching a movie! The following morning we woke up early to catch a 6am bus to Kampala. It was so early the hotel couldn’t have breakfast for us and so they gave us some fruit, bread and eggs the night before. The driver we arranged for to take us to the station was late and so we took motos instead. It was a fun ride because the roads are so smooth and it was still dark. This marked the end of our honeymoon and it was time to try and get settled back into something of a routine in Kampala.

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December 4, 2018

Around Bukavu

While most of our friends left Bukavu the day after the wedding, Othy and I decided to take one more day to explore the city since neither of us had been there before. Mark and Karen surprised us with a delicious Sunday morning pancake breakfast, complete with locally grown strawberries and close to real tasting maple syrup that they make with maple extract (this is a Canadian saying this). While we enjoyed breakfast they gave us some tips on places to visit. Othy asked me what I wanted to visit first, and I chose ITFM (Institut Technique Fundi Maendeleo) because we weren’t sure what the weather was going to be like and the school offers one of the best views of Bukavu. We hired motos and began the winding journey up the hill. At a certain point the paved road ended and the dirt road was extremely muddy. My driver in particular was having trouble getting through it (Othy told me later it was because he was short) and I wondered if we would fall. Thankfully we did not, though the drivers wanted to charge us more because of it! The motos in Bukavu actually put tarps on the back of their bikes to prevent mud from flinging up and hitting their passengers. We walked through the ITFM campus and were shown around by the guy we met at the gate. Then we exited by the gate that faced the edge of the hill, and found the view that we had heard about. It was beautiful! Bukavu has such a unique landscape with the changes in elevation, the lake with islands in the distance, and several peninsulas, one of them taking the iconic shape of a boot. But with the change in elevation and rains are dangers of erosion and mudslides. Just across the road from the campus, the earth was a large eroded area that in only a few more years might actually reach the edge of the campus and the buildings there! Kids were playing there and standing on the edge of it and even climbing up it!

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The same moto drivers waited for us and we asked them to take us to the boot that I described above. On the way down the hill we passed houses that were built rather precariously on the hillside. We passed by the main roundabout Place de l’Independence. We also passed another roundabout with one of the traffic lights invented by Congolese female engineer Thérèse Izay and manufactured by Women’s Technology, although this one is not in the shape of a humanoid like the one I saw in Kinshasa and Goma. Once at the boot the drivers stopped at a parcel with a large tent. We asked the person at the gate if we could see the place, and upon entering we discovered it was an event space. They were in the middle of preparing for an event, and Othy ran into an old acquaintance! The tent faces the water and offers a beautiful view back to the city.

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Our third destination of the morning was to visit a hotel called Orchids that is supposed to be another beautiful spot in Bukavu. We first went to the restaurant and took tea, and then went for a walk to explore the gardens. It was an absolutely stunning combination of gardens, architecture, and another amazing view of the lake and Bukavu. The path meandered its way down to the water and there was something beautiful to see around every corner. The gardens were well landscaped and included many different species of orchid. I loved the simplicity of the clean white-walled buildings with rich wood windows and doors. There were a few larger buildings and then some smaller private cottages. Finally we reached the water where there was a swimming area and sitting area. I noticed that this was the place that Jess and Matt had gone to take their wedding photos because of one photo that they had posted standing on a pier by the lake.

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This time we decided to walk back to the apartment since it was only a few kilometers away. We rested for a short time and then went out again, this time to visit another school called ISP Bukavu (Institut Supérieur Pédagogique). The university has been around for a long time and is where some of the leadership at UCBC attended. Upon approaching the gate we discovered that we couldn’t go and see the campus for the sole reason that I was wearing pants! From the gate we could get a glimpse of the building blocks which have an interesting form. We walked for a bit from there, thinking that we might find a place to get some lunch, when Blaise called and we arranged to meet him at a restaurant called Le Gourmet. He didn’t make it in the end, but a friend of Othy’s called Beni joined us and we had a nice time hanging out. It was coming towards late afternoon and we had talked about the idea of going to Mark and Karen’s church called Le Phare (the Lighthouse) that starts at 4:30. Surprisingly Beni also attends this church and offered to take us there since it was only a short walk away. At this point it was only raining lightly and so we went for it. The service was on the top floor of a newly constructed building and so had a very raw atmosphere. I felt refreshed and challenged by the worship and the message.

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After the service I had made arrangements for us to visit Dachiku, a friend from UCBC and sister to another friend Butoto (we had seen him last in Kinshasa and now he is in Europe). Beni offered to come with us since it was dark and the road to Dachiku’s place is very muddy. Dachiku came and met us at the Eglise Ararati and from there walked to her house. We had to use the flashlights on our phones because the power was off across the city. What a strange feeling to be in such a big city and yet so dark. We went down some narrow steps that opened to what in the the daytime would be a view over the city. Their house was built into the side of the hill. It was so good to see Dachiku again as I was just getting to know her better during my time in Beni before the Ebola outbreak began. I think their family was also happy to meet members from the UCBC community where two of their siblings/children had gone to study. Dachiku and her siblings offered us some whole milk and bread (the milk was like yogurt). As we chatted, more of their family arrived until her parents and all of her siblings were there to greet us (they have a big family)! Othy sent Bututo a picture on Whatsapp and he was so pleasantly surprised! It was getting later and so we soon had to go. The family generously arranged for a driver to take us back since transit at night in Bukavu is difficult. What a full and interesting day it had been!

December 3, 2018

Bukavu Wedding

Our friend Blaise who came to pick us up at the harbour brought us to the place we would be staying during our time Bukavu. We were being generously hosted by Mark and Karen who are friends of Matt’s family. It was nice not to have to spend money on accommodations for this part of our trip! We dropped off our things and then took a short walk to a nearby guesthouse where several other friends of ours were staying. We saw Adelphine, Lauren, Mary, and Noe, Bethany and the kids. Othy went to get a haircut with Blaise and Regis and then later in the evening we had dinner with Mark and Karen and got to know them better.

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We took the following morning slow because the wedding was not until the afternoon. We then walked back to the guesthouse where we came upon Matt, Benjamin and Regis, members of Like Christ reunited! We worshiped together for a bit and then Regis and Matt started getting ready. Othy and I went back to our place to get ready and then went to the church which was only a short distance away. We met Noe and Bethany and took Lydia to look after her during the service since they were Jess and Matt’s “Perrain” (mentors) and were therefore part of the ceremony. The service was beautiful! Jessica and Matt both looked radiant. Reverend Dr. Kasali gave a thoughtful meditation on marriage that looked at the example of Mary and Joseph and how God called them, and calls us, out of our respective places and cultures, and at times brings a two people together to serve in ministry together. I also enjoyed hearing Matt and Jess’s vows that they had both prepared in English and Swahili. After the service we joined a procession of vehicles around the block and then went home to rest a bit before the reception.

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The reception was in a large hall that was nicely decorated with white, green, and gold, and had tables surrounding a large square open area in front of the stage where the couple and perrain sat. There were strings of white lights over the open space as well. It was a cool way to set up the space since everyone could see the couple well and the MC called in the bridal party in one by one and they had space to walk around and take time to face and greet each side of the room. Matt and Jess then surprised us all with a dance to the song “A Thousand Years” for which it was obvious they had done some practicing! It was so fun to watch them! The next thing on the program was the gift ceremony. Matt and Jess, the perrain, and the parents lined up, and groups and individuals took turns bringing up their gifts and greeting the couple. Othy and I joined the Congo Initiative group that went up together. Gifts took quite a long time because there were so many different groups who wanted to appreciate the couple and the mother of the groom! Unfortunately Mary wasn’t feeling well and so I took Lydia again for a time until the ceremonial part of things was complete. Finally the tables started going up to the buffet line to get dinner. Near the end of the evening the MC called up married couples to dance in a circle. At first I didn’t want to because I was feeling tired, but Othy convinced me and I’m glad he did because it turned out to be fun! Eventually the bride and groom came into the middle of the circle and the rest of the bridal party and as people started filtering out it was a chance to greet Matt and Jess and her family. It was a memorable day!

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The Texans Lawson and Dawson!