We left Lubumbashi early on Friday morning. The airport was … not as chaotic as usual. Mbjui-Mayi (I say the name without the “b” and people understand me) is 1000 kilometers north, 1 hour and 20 minutes. Our driver, Cote de Foi, rescued us after buying a case of water we stopped … to show our passports on leaving the city and drove south to Mweni-Ditu (the “w” I also leave out).
Notice the savanna type countryside. No jungle here. I met a Zimbabwean farmer who was now farming successfully near Lubumbashi. He said that the soil in the Congo was fertile. What potential this country has.
At Mweni-Ditu the paved ended and we drove much more slowly toward the fabled Laputa.
We paused (for 3 hours at a major river crossing: a truck had blown a tire in the middle of the damaged bridge) and were hounded by this group of very inquisitive children. Sister Ann taught them the "Bunny Hop" and one verse of "A Soulin" from Peter, Paul and Mary. They cleverly picked up the tune and words and two days later when we recrossed going north one still had the tune. The third young man from the right was a good actor.
President Packer showed his sense of humor entertaining the rapt children with his drinking routine (attempting to drink from a bottle through his nose, eyes, ears, etc.; and then he bartered with the bridge guard for his AK47.
This little girl, hardly more than a baby herself, had charge of her little sister (brother).
In Laputa we snapped this picture of 12 of the 20 future missionaries. President Packer had expected 3 or 4 missionary interviews. Most of these young Saints (men average age of about 24) (and one couple not pictured) will probably serve in the Kinshasa mission in the north end of the Congo.
Voila, the reason Laputa is fabled: the water project. Every 500 meters or so, there are water spigots like this one bringing clean water to the people. Before they had to carry dirty water 3-4 kilometers, of course on their heads. The Church provided funds and direction to plans made by another, providing water for the 150,000 people in Laputa as well as villages along the 17 mile pipe line. I believe the local people dug the ditches. The water is on for a few hours each day at the different water stations.
President Packer interviewing one of the perspective missionaries under the shade of a tree behind the Laputa District offices. We stayed in the small hotel run by the Church. When the new stake center is built in the next few years, these buildings might become a store for members to work in. Can you imagine a stake being created in this isolated, very rural city on a rutted dirt road in the middle of the Congo? There is no electricity here. A train sporadically passes through and big trucks loaded with merchandise topped by humanity chug through, north and south. President Packer inadvertently left his cell phone on the dresser when he changed from suit to short-sleeves. A young man brought it to him two days later by riding one of the big trucks ($20 American each way).
I woke up Saturday morning to this beetle on its back (the dying cockroach from Army Basic Training). This young member posed with it, explaining that they were eaten. This is the wildest animal I've seen in Africa so far expect for a couple of ferocious lizards stalking flies.
Just before District Conference began. Inside to the right the room was filled and overflowed out under this canvas (notice the two television sets up front just like back home: there was a generator humming in the back corner of the property.) Behind these plastic seats were another bank of seats filled (at the first of the meeting) with children. I talked to one sister who had walked two days (70 kilometers) to come to conference. These are true Saints.
During the conference, President Packer spoke of his native Brigham City, population 12,000, with a temple. Why not Laputa when its 4000 members increases to 24,000 members. Pourquoi pas?
Here is the house President Packer leased for us in Mbjui-Mayi. Nice. The owner of the house arrived shortly in a black Hummer. He invests in diamonds which are mined in this region.
Sunday at noon we headed back north. This man with bicycle was struggling with a load of dried fish.
Along the road we saw these typical dwellings under a vast blue sky dotted with clouds. Just before coming to Laputa it had rained for 4 days. Now the roads were dry.
This young fisherman waved hello to us as we crossed the bridge. Typical of the friendliness of the Congolese people. Congo has a great potential because of its people.
Our adventure continues.
We are doing well, well beyond our comfort zone, but we see the Lord's hand daily. The struggle with the Internet doesn't allow us to tell you all.