Thursday, October 22, 2009

Back Home but the Journey is Just Beginning

It's been a pretty exciting couple of weeks for Kip and I and here we are back in Round Rock, safe and sound thanks to the prayers of all our friends and the hospitality of Paul and Marty Law. They are incredible people. Have I said that lately? And let's not forget David and LaVeta Law and Dean Jordan who took good care of us while we were in or in transit around Kinshasa. These folks, and Pastor Leon, and Pastor Kitambala, Shaku, Mama Umba, and many others extended a very warm and gracious welcome and took very good care of a couple of wide eyed Texans in a foreign land.

It's all still processing and will be for a while. Who knows, maybe by November 20 we will be able to eloquently express the experience we have had. In the meantime, here is the mile high view:

Kinshasa..... stay tuned, I'm still working on that.

The airports at Kinshasa, Lodja, and Chumbe.... Oh my goodness.

The Diengenga Mission Station at Lodja. I have high hopes.

The work on the dam and hydram system is well on it's way. People are working and by this time next year, provided we raise the remaining funds to complete the project, women and children will no longer have to carry water up a very steep hill on trecherous paths and almost a mile to the village.

This project is providing employment for many of the men in the village. Here are few along with their families that are benefiting from the generous gifts so far. They got all dressed up to get their pictures taken.

On Monday we took a road trip to Katako Kombe. A short 6 1/2 hour drive of 160 kilometers. There is a dam there, built by David Law many years ago. It stands strong but the unrest and other political problems prohibited the completion of the project of installation of the pipe and pumps. Here is a picture of the pond that was created by the dam. The Lodja project will have similarly constructed dam and pond when completed.

After Katako Kombe, we were off on another short 7 hour drive of about 170 kilometers to Wembo Nyama. Wembo Nyama is a special place. This is where missionaries set down in 1914 and established the beginning of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of the Congo. This is a very large mission station and village that, in spite of a well intentioned attempt many years ago, has never had substantial water. To the South, a very wide valley and the convergence of the river, to the West a a branch of the river, and to the East, a spring that trickles from the mountain, enough to build ponds to capture a few small fish but nowhere near what will be required to produce enough water to sustain the village.
It is a very complicated problem for the mission station that has no electricity or running water but has a hospital, schools, and trying to build a university.

But life goes on, as difficult as it is
Kip and I received a very warm welcome everywhere we went. The hopes of these people to deliver water to the village is clearly beyond the resources they have. We met with village and church leaders and spent time with the Bishop. It is clear that they are willing to participate in the solution.

In our meeting with the District Superintendent, he cited an Otetela proverb that said,

"a man will never starve where there is running water"

True that.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in Kinshasa and on the way home

It has been quite a journey and we are on the home stretch.

We have experienced the DRC. Been there, done that, I want to come back.

We arrived back in Kinshasa after another adventure in air travel here in the Congo. After hops from Lodja to Chumbe to Kindu, we landed in Kinshasa about 5:15. The problem was that the plane the luggage was on, did not show up until about 7:30. No worries, we spent some quality time hanging out in baggage claim with about 100 new friends until the bags arrived. They did and all is well.

We are back at MPH today and spent the afternoon with David Law. They are drilling a well at the school and we watched that a while. Looked much like what we did in Honduras but on a larger scale. Ate supper (meatloaf and mashed potatoes, yum) with David and Laveta, met some more new friends and now back at MPH for the last night.

Tomorrow morning we expect to see Bishop Yemba early, then off to check luggage, then church, then lunch with the Laws and Dean Jordan, back here for a little while and hopefully a shower, then off to the airport for the flight out of Kinshasa at about 9:00. Back in Austin Monday evening and home.

It's been an awesome experience. It was not an easy trip but certainly one we needed and wanted to make. The needs here are many and resources are scarce. It will take time and money, and people committed to improving the conditions and the lives of the people here. It is happening now but there is a long way to go. The work being done in Diengenge(Lodja) , and Dengeli (Kataka Kombe), and Wembo Nyama will have a ripple effect in the region. This I know is true.

An update with pictures and stories will be posted when we return next week.

May god bless the people of the Congo and,

Zombi anyu chokoli
(God Bless you all)

Phil and Kip

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No man; No beast; No mosquito will stop us!! - Mosquito???

The weather in Lodja, well actually the entire Congo, is very HOT and humid.  Today the high is 91 degrees but it feels like 96 degrees with 46% humidity and rain is forecasted for the rest of the week.  October is rainy season in the Congo and with that comes a ton of mud and stickiness.

The guys were mapping out the dam site and so they had to make the trek to the water.  Well if you've been keeping up with this blog you know that the walk is rather interesting.  It is a steep, rugged walk down through the jungle.  If you've done any hiking at all you know that going DOWN is not nearly as hard as going UP for most of us.  So the guys were going to do the mapping today and that meant a couple trips DOWN and then back UP the "hill."

Just a side as to their dress code: Being the ever cautious one, Kip brought with him all long sleeved shirts - he 'read' on the internet that it was recommended that you wear long sleeves to prevent mosquito bites and so being ever mindful of this Kip brought ALL long sleeves with him - Anyone who knows Dendy already knows that Dendy did not read the information on the net and so he probably packed a pair of jeans but he is most likely sporting a tshirt, a hat, shorts, and sandles - and that is how they roll....

Well after the first trek to the water and back the boys were a little winded; they drank some cold water; discussed the project; and back down they went.  On their way back up the hill our boys were feeling the elements - not to mention starting to grumble about the fact that their personal trainers were going to hear a thing or two from them about their training regiment - Anyway, back UP they were going when they came across a 9 month along pregnant lady with a 5 gallon water jug on her head going UP the hill to her home...  little disconcerting for our guys as she was not nearly as winded as they were.  She smiled and on she went to get back home to complete her chores, maybe give birth, and then do her laundry by hand.

This time UP they felt it for sure... they were just plum tuckered out.  They drank gaterade to replenish their electrolytes and rested.  Kip decided it was too blasted HOT for long sleeves and disregarding everything he read he decided to live the reality - he took scissors to his sleeves and now Kip is sporting short sleeves and not worrying about the mosquitos in the Congo.

The guys were successful in mapping the dam site and have left for Katako Kombe where there is a successful hydroram pump to check it out and then off to Wembo were they are assessing another site that is in desperate need to get water.  Please keep them in your prayers that they may continue to have the eyes to see and the wisdom to discern what God would reveal for drops and the people in the Congo.

God Bless,
Diane (on behalf of Kip and Phil)

Monday, October 12, 2009

We've arrived and have been blessed with 4 chickens...

October 9 at 6:00am we were picked up by Dean Jordan and his son Ben to head to the airport for the flight to Lodja.  We were anxious to get there.  Marty (Paul's wife - Appointment Congo) describes this process like experience Bedlam...however, Bedlam defintely underestimated this experience.  Fortunately, Pastor Leon had taken our luggage the day before  and we did not have to mess with anything other than a back pack.  The 'staging' for the airlines was in town and packed with people inside and out.  We we made it through the room was the size of a two car garage and boy did it feel smaller.  It was hot and dark and chaotic and we were so thankful for Pastor Leon and Dean with us.

Finally getting on the plane we flew to Lodja without any further issues.  All our luggage had made the trip successfully and was piled and waiting for us on the tarmac.  The porters hoisted those 70lb. packs loaded with tools, saws, paint, and various other supplies on their heads!  Unbelieveable!

We found Paul outside, loaded up and ready to rock and roll.  The trip to the mission station was only 7 kilometers.  And so here is where we sigh - phew... from Austin to Kinsasha and finally in Lodja - we have arrived!

Marty and Paul are incredibly loving and committed people.  The people of the Congo are truly blessed to have them.  The Laws have a nice home.  After visiting for a little it was time to open the packages.  We popped open the trunks filled with the saw, the transit, the paint, the chocolate chips, and of course the pecans - after all there is more to life than tools, I think - all made the trip safely thank you God. 

After a short visit we settled in the guest house.  The house is at the end of the station and looks out over the center of the compound.  Palm frawns waved in the breeze as if they were welcoming us into their home.  There is no electricity, but there are concrete floors one dichotomy of situations that was becoming the norm and yet felt surreal.  It was nice.

That afternoon we finally made our first trip to the "dam" site.  At the top of the hill was ran into a group of children carrying water up the hill and a few small children on their way down.  The hill is much more than I expected.

It is long; it is steep; and the path is not easy to navigate.  But when we got down there and saw the site, it all made sense.  The stream carries more water than it appears in pictures.  The construction of the dam, overflow, ram system, makes total sense when put in context.  Workers had been there earlier and fresh diggin was evident by the mud and silty water.

The hike back up the hill was not easy without water on our heads.  =)  Seriously, I can't even imagine - well I guess I can with the hauling of oranges on my back in Honduras, but we were winded, Kip more than me because he is so much older.

Saturday morning after breakfast we loaded the saw and headed to the shop.  Worker's were unloading the freshly cut lumber.  We had our first real conversations with the men of the community.  Shaku, Jamba, Michelle, Victor, Daniel, and many others.  The kids were everywhere all the time.

Around 3:00 that afternoon we were told that Elders were coming to see us.  They sang Blessed Be the Tie That Binds in Otetella.  The words were foreign but the melody was clear.  They said they had been hearing about us and that we wanted to help with the dam and water system.  It was an honor to meet them all.

That evening was the adventure for the day. It was in a word - incredible.  Paul invited us to travelto the village of Shilo (Shelow) where he would peach and show the "Jesus" film.  The road there was the adventure.  Shaku came with us and had to do a little 'road work' in one spot to make the road passable.  That same spot on the road back (after the rain) turned out to be a problem.  We left about 5:00pm and it was 20 kilometers whick took about an hour to make the trip.  This was quite the production with a generator, small lights, a microphone and projector showing the film on a large screen that would show the film on both sides.  Villagers began to gather and by the time Paul started his sermon there were approximately 100 women and children and men all around.  The movie began.

About halfway throughthe movie, Paul, Kip, Shaku, and I, the Pastor and a few others were all invited into a hut for dinner.  It was a mud hut with a small room in the front where we ate at a table.  We dined on djese, rice,chicken, and water we brought from the mission station.  Our ambiance was one small palm oil candle.  We were given a gift of 1 chicken and 3 eggs. We felt so blessed to have been given this honor when it was our priviledge to be their guests. 

It had rained so the roads were now slick and it was a bumpy ride but we were making progress.  Remember that bad spot I mentioned earlier, well suffice it to say we slipped and slided right at that spot and got stuck.  Because we were among good company we were successful in getting 'un-stuck' and off we went heading for home safe and sound. The chicken survived the trip as well.  I don't believe he survived the night. 

So we have had quite the adventure so far.  It is Sunday evening.  It was another great day but you will just have to wait to read those stories.  But here is the hook - we now have 4 chickens!!

Tomorrow we will be mapping the dam site and doing other 'dam' stuff  =} Then we are off to Katambe to look at a completed dam and spend the night there.  Tuesday we will finish there and head to Wembo Nyama and spend two nights there. And back to Lodja on Thursday and off to Kinsasha on Friday.
We will be in the Congo - communication is limited at best.  We will be in touch when we can.

Much Love.
God Bless,
Phil and Kip
(via Diane)

Reflections of our arrival and first look into the sights and sounds of the Congo

It is a beautiful Sunday morning here at the Diengenga mission station.  It's 6:30am here and we are looking forward to another incredible day.

Believe it or not access to the internet is limited when you are in the Congo.  Who would have figured that? But, here we are.  I am sitting on the porch of the guest house listening to the roosters and other birds, seeing activity beginning to come about, including three women that just disappeared around a house with their buckets.  They are on their way to fetch their daily water.

Reflecting to the first day:

The entire trip went well.  Our worries about packing, oversize/overweight baggage were just that - worries.  We used every available ounce of space and weight and all the bags arrived safely, all the way to Lodja.  We went around the world to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, through Chicago, Brussels, and Douala and through it all the only delay we had was in getting out of Austin, Texas.

Our stay in Kinsasha was brief but impacting.  Kinsasha is a huge fast paced city of about 3 million people.  The conditions for the masses are extremely tough.  Very little infrastructure and rampant chaos.  We stayed at the Methodist Protestant Hostel (MPH).  We met several people from Austin believe it or not, including those that are dedicating their lives to the Congolese people.

We spent the day with David Law, Paul's older brother (Appointment Congo).  We began at the foundry where David was looking into to see if the old rams (pump for the project) could be repaired.   Unfortunately, the picture did not tell the story as the foundry needs the actual product to determine if they can repair them.  David will need to arrange shipment of the parts for analysis.  We traveled the city, moving in and out with eyes wide open.  We ate at ECC, where we dined on rice and beans and chicken.  This was our first meal outside of what I consider a controlled environment.  It tasted good and the best news is it went down and never came back up.  It is all good.

We then headed to the flour mill.  The process to buy a 50lb. bag of flour was not as simple as you may think.  We went to the Central Police Station.  Not something that most sensible people would think to do but there we were nonetheless.  David needed to get paperwork done so there we were.  After that we visited our first grocery store to puchase some water.  The cost of the water was about as much as it is in the States.  What we spent on 3 bottles of water probably was more then the checkout girl made in a day.  Then off to the ship yard where David is supervising the building of a couple of boats.

Seeing David's gas gauge on empty was a little disconcerting.  When I asked David how we are doing on gas he said, "we're low." Seeing as we were traversing this huge chaotic city and going into areas that most tourists do not find themselves in we were a tad nervous.  Thankfully funny man David was just messing with me as the truth is that the gauge was broken and he had just filled up the day before.  Breathing easier once again, we continued on our errands.

The sights and sounds of Kinsasha... I am still processing all that we saw and did.  We continue to trust that God is in control and He will continue to reveal Himself to us as we move around this amazing place in His world.

Tomorrow we are off to Lodja.  Can't wait.
God Bless,
Phil and Kip
(transcribed by Diane)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kinshasa Today Lodja Tomorrow

Spent the day with David Law all around Kinshasa at the foundry, the Protestant Church of the Congo (ECC), flour mill, grocery store, boat yard, and other places many don't see.

The need is great in this country. It will take a while for it to sink in so we can adequately express it.

At the Methodist/Presbyterian Hostel (treating us very well by the way) we met some folks from Austin doing a documentary on the Lueba(sp) rebuilding a church and using (not the right term, or maybe it is) Don Bobb, another Austinite that was here and knew Burleigh Law and knows the Law family well. God has a way of making connections. Who knows what this one will lead to.

Kip is trying to teach me French. He speaks pretty much - none, and I speak zippo so between us we can say "we don't speak French" with a Texas Accent.

Tomorrow we meet a new friend, Dean Jordan who will accompany us to the airport and to Lodja where we will meet with Paul and Marty Law and continue the journey between Appointment Congo and drops of grace.

Thanks for the prayers and support.

We will post again when we get a chance.

Kip and Phil

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Phil and Kip's Excellent Adventure

All the bags are packed. We're ready to go.

We leave at 12:30, then Chicago, Brussels and Kinshasa.

Follow us on Facebook. Just click on the link on ths page. That will be quick and dirty updates. Check here for the good stuff.

God Bless and thanks for all the support.

Phil and Kip

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Three days until the Congo

Just a few short days until Kip and I jump on the plane for the short trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We leave Tuesday about noon and a short 25 hours later we will be in Kinshasa.

Before I forget, let me express my sincere appreciation to everyone that has been giving their prayers and financial support to drops of grace. Because of that support so far, we sent the money to kick start the Lodja Water Project. Additional gifts just received are allowing us to send additional funding to Appointment Congo next week. It is so cool that Kip and I will deliver the message in person to Paul, Marty, and the people in the mission station that they have the prayers and financial support from the people in the United States.

We still have a long way to go but thanks so much for all the support so far.

Here I am blogging, watching (really just listening to) ESPN Game Day, when I should be getting my stuff ready. It's a packing party at the Dendy's today.

Kip and I will be squeezing two weeks of clothes and personal effects into our carry-on luggage. Every ounce of our checked luggage will be used to pack needed supplies for Paul and Marty, the mission station, and the project. Again, thanks to Dan and Gregg, Diane, Cheryl, and Carl for filling the "grocery/laundry/supply/wish" list.

Gotta get busy,

God is Great!

See ya,


Saturday, September 26, 2009

T- 10 days to the DRC

It's only 10 days until Kip and I begin the first drops of grace trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This comes on the heels of the very productive trip that Diane and Cheryl took to Malawi. This is certainly an exciting time in the early life of drops of grace.

We are very excited about our mission and look forward to telling the stories at the drops of grace banquet on November 20. Details will be posted very soon. This will truly be our coming out party and will demonstrate the how, with the love and support from our friends, family, and partners, and the tools and gifts with which we have been blessed, a few drops can create a ripple effect that will positively impact those who are less fortunate.

Now a quick update about Lodja. We have been visiting either via email or Skype on a regular basis with Paul Law. The story of the Law family is in and of itself incredible. From a missionary assignment in the 1950's for his father Burleigh and mother Virgina, to the tragic loss of his father in 1964, the Law family persevered, returned to the Congo and have been spreading God's love and working for the Congelese people for many years. I can't wait to meet these remarkable people in person.

It's still not entirely clear how drops of grace has come to be a partner with Appointment Congo. What I do know is that obstacles kept being thrown in the way when we were looking in other directions. But every time this relationship was on the table, the signs were there to follow. God has a plan and we finally paid attention.

This great project will rebuild a dam and hydram water system that washed out in the 1970's. Women and children spend hours hauling water up the hill and for about a kilometer twice every day. Not only will this project bring water to the Lodja mission station, it will employ over 30 people for about a year and be an economic benefit to this region.

As soon as Paul received the initial funding, work began clearing the land and dredging the stream bed. The pictures in this blog were taken since the work began the first week of September.

Kip and I will visit the Lodja water site and have the opportunity to assess the project so far, meet and visit with the people in the community, and while there, will be visiting a couple of other sites and assessing the possibility of similar projects along with other possibilities that follow our mission of community development with water, health and hygiene, and education.

We will communicate through this blog and any other way we can while there.

We will keep you posted, No pun intended.

God Bless


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We are helping to put people to work in the DRC!

Water is a necessity for life and the challenge of providing themselves with water is one that the Congolese face everyday. Tradition and experience have shown the Atetela people of Central Congo that healthy living requires them to build their villages on the plateau well above the valleys where the abundant streams flow with life giving water. This means that their water sources are far away from where they live and that the water they use must be carried up steep hills from the valleys below.

Do you know that women and childen spend approximately 4 hours a day hauling water for their daily use - EVERYDAY! They walk about a mile down to the valley fill their 5 gallon containers, which averages 40lbs each, and walk 1 mile back UP the hill to bring the water to their homes.  Can you fathom that? Can you imagine what your day would be like when at any given time during every day you are bringing much needed water to your home?  Think about how many times a day you turn on your faucet in your home, your sprinklers, your washing machine.  And then imagine having to get the water every time to do these every day tasks.  Astounding isn't it?
We found a solution but we need your help.  The Lodja Water Mission project at the Lodja mission of Diengenga will be a restoration of a technology that has been around for generations.  The original hydram water system has been salvaged and with a minimum of parts can be put back into use.  The dam will be built mostly by hand and will require a team of men to work for many months. The salaries of these men will be the primary expense in addition to some parts for the ram and repairs to the distribution system on the station. Just by employing the local people to build the dam we stimulate the whole regions economy. This project alone will be the biggest employer in the area.
It is exciting for the people of Lodja and they are so full of hope and joy for the possibilities that this water project will bring to them and their community for many years to come.
We invite you to follow along as we rebuild this exceptional technology.  We will introduce you to the men who are working to rebuild their community.  You will meet childen and women and read about their lives as this transformation to their community unfolds.  
Please visit often feel free to comment.  We look forward to your partnership on this journey.  
God Bless, 
The drops of grace team
Update on the water project in Lodja……
Dear all,
Just a short update on the progress of the water project in Lodja Africa. We have raised a little money for the down payment for the project and have sent it off. We have received word that Paul Law has received the money and the project is underway!!!!! The timing was perfect; Paul was going to lay some workers off from other projects the same week the money arrived so they can now keep there jobs, God is GOOD!!! Paul tells us that the dam site is cleared and that they are starting the dredging of the stream bed. They need to clear the site and dig out the stream bed to see how much of the original installation can be redeemed. The word is spreading that they may have water again and there is excitement in the air. Many are asking what they can do to help, even the Pastors school students will be working on the project a day or two each week. This is truly going to be a community project. Paul tells us that he met several women on the hill carrying water back up and they spoke with much emotion about the hope that they have that there will once again be water in the village after so many years.
We are in full gear trying to raise all the funds for this project; we can not let the hope of these people fade. We will be having a fundraiser dinner on Nov. 20th so stay tuned for more details on that later.
As the project gets up to speed we are sending our own Phil Dendy and Kip Reuter to the Lodja station on Oct. 6th. They will be going to get a first hand look at the project and report back to us on the 19th. While they are there they will be looking into another project in Wembo Nyama. That is all I have for now, God Bless and thank you all for your support.

Surrendering to “His” call
Dan Rybaski