2011 October 18
A Three Part Story
Part 1: 6 Congos, Which One?
Part 2: In Congo 4
Part 3: Getting Back Home
Part 1: 6 Congos, Which One?
"Can you please build a church for the members in Congo? It's a village not too far from here, about 20 kilometers," asked the local church elder. We were in Kelo, Chad, at the time, and had just finished building a One-day-Church for the members there. The members in Kelo were very happy and excited and were now asking if we could build another church for the members in Congo. We had heard about this need before and how the church members there needed a building and how they had already prepared the land and gotten sand and gravel ready for us.
My husband and I, Matthew, Dani, and Franco were happy about the request and very willing to build another church. Right away we began making plans to go to the village of Congo the next week. My husband started making arrangements for all the equipment to be transported to Congo. Since we don't have our own truck we have to arrange for locals to transport the things by cart. While inconvenient at times, this option is far cheaper than owning and operation our own truck. With a prayer we sent things and hoped that nothing would get stolen or damaged.
The day came quickly that we were to leave and the 5 of us started off Tuesday morning for Congo by motorcycle. The One-Day Church supplies had been arranged to arrive the day before so it would be ready for us to use right away when we got there. Franco, Jonathan and I, and all our personal belongings for the 3-day trip were on one motorcycle. Matthew, Dani, and a hired klando man were on the other motorcycle with their supplies. We were quite loaded.
As we began our trip we had no idea of what really lay before us. "There is no reason to worry; after all, Franco knows the way," so we thought. After a while we turned off the main road onto a more direct, but smaller road. Not long later we had to get off our motorcycles and start walking because there was too much water in the road for the motos to drive with us on them. We walked for a while in the sometimes cool and sometimes hot water and then got back on the motos. Everything was so beautifully green around us because of all the water.
After some time we arrived at a village. The klando man and Franco begin asking, "Where is Congo?" Jonathan said to me, "I thought Franco knew the way." So I guess none of us knew exactly where we were going. The people of the village pointed us down another trail and so we continued. The problem was that the roads/trails here split into all different directions so we were soon asking some more people where to go.
At another village along our journey we asked, "Where is Congo?" They answered, "Which one? There is more then one Congo." "What!" we thought, "we didn't know there was more then one Congo and the people in Kelo didn't tell us." Since we didn't know which Congo we were supposed to go to we just kept going toward "Congo" not knowing if it what the right one!
Arriving at another village after walking through more water we started asking again which way to go. A lady there just looked at us like, "What are you talking about?" Maybe she didn't understand our question. Then an old man appeared. He said, "I am the chief of Congo and I haven't even heard of any church or church members. Maybe they are just fooling you." Surprised, we started asking more questions. "There are several Congos," pointing toward another village he said, "I think you should go to that one."
Getting tired and pressing forward, we continued. By now it seemed we were stopping and asking just about everyone we could about which Congo needed a church. "Have you seen a cart caring lots of supplies on this road yesterday?." "Do you know of any Congo where there are church members?" We asked lots of questions. Then, one man said he knew just what we were talking about! Pointing toward the village we were headed toward he said, "Just over there, that's the right Congo and they have land there for you to build the church on."
Happily we continued, this time with more water in the road than before. We got off the motorcycles and walked most of the rest of the way to the village. I was actually enjoying myself a lot. This was a great adventure and I like water, not that I would ask for water to be in the road but if it is there then we might as well enjoy the journey anyways. As we walked we were surrounded with beautiful lush green rice fields. The water rushed around our legs.
The land sloped upward as we entered the long sought for Congo. Driving up to a big mango tree we stopped, tired and hungry, and got off our motorcycles. The people greeted us and showed us the land for the church. "We were really here," we thought. My husband asked one of the locals who was sitting close by on a bench, "Which Congo is this?" They answered, "Congo 4." "How many Congos are there?" was the next question. "There are 6 Congos" answered the men. "Wow, there sure are a lot of Congos," I thought. It took us about 3 hours to travel 20 miles but it was worth it because the people here needed a church to worship God in.
Part 2: In Congo 4
"Where are the rest of the One-Day Church supplies?" my husband asked in French. (He speaks a lot of French now.) "They are still coming on a cart. There is so much water in the road it still hasn't arrived yet," they said. It was getting to be mid afternoon and it was very important that we put the foundation in that day; otherwise, we would be delayed a whole day. The cement footings needed to be put in that day so they could harden overnight and be ready for us to use the next morning. What could we do? We decided to just do what we could with what we had and started marking out the foundation and digging the holes. My husband and I were praying that the materials would come. With relief, not long later, we saw a cart pulled by a two bulls with church material on it!
When my husband looked at the materials more closely he said to me, "This is not all the material, I'm concerned that some of it has gone missing" (meaning stolen). Upon further questioning Jonathan found out that the bulls couldn't carry everything on one load so they would go again that night and get the next load. They reassured us that the rest of the materials would come that night so we could put up the church the next morning. 10 out of the 16 foundation stakes were in the first load. The rest were coming. There was no other choice but to put in the 10 and wait for the rest to put in first thing in the morning. It was okay though, because the rest could harden in the morning while we started putting up the church on the stakes from the day before. By the time that was done the rest would be hard enough to use.
We hadn't had much to eat all day since breakfast at 5am. Hungry and tired, but happy, we finished for the night around 6pm and waited to see what would happen next. "Should we just start putting up our tents right here close to the church? Or are they going to have a hut for us to stay in?" we wondered. We didn't want to be rude and put up our tents if they were planning on giving us a place to stay.
After a little while the people told us to come into the village. They spread a big mat out for us to sit and rest on. My husband and I and the others of our group just sat there wondering what was going to happen. Some time went by with not much happening. The moon was out. On every side of us, around the mat, sat curious locals staring at us. There were children and adults alike. Jonathan and I were so tired that after a while we just decided to lay down right there on the mat. An old man sat close beside the mat with a little boy close beside him. He started telling Franco about the history of that village and Franco translated it into French for us.
"My father hated Christians," he said. "If a Christian ever came into this village he would command that the Christian be tortured, cut, and put to work as a slave." The old man got up from where he was sitting and went into his hut and came to us with a picture. He said, "This is a picture of my father." His father looked very stern and unhappy. Going back to his chair he continued, "My father was a big man (meaning important person/leader) and tortured and cut all Christians from this village all the way to Bere" (the village where we live). The story about his father went on and on and I couldn't understand most of it but I got bits and pieces here and there. Jonathan understood more and translated a little here and there for me. Being interested in the story Jonathan asked, "How did things change here and the people begin to like Christians?" "The people just started to become attracted to the Word," the old man answered. We had learned earlier that this old man was a Christian and the chief of Congo 4. I was especially thankful now that he was a Christian after hearing that his own father tortured Christians. My heart felt a little fearful inside, "I sure hope this place is truly friendly to Christians now. I hope that we are safe here." Then I thought about God's protection, "I know that God can keep us safe. We are here doing work for Him." "How did you become a Christian?" Jonathan asked the chief. "I just started being attracted to the Word" he replied.
That night Jonathan and I crawled into our mosquito tent close beside a little hut that they had given all 5 of us to sleep in. It was so small and we preferred to sleep outside in the cooler air. Franco told us as we all were preparing for bed and making sleeping arrangements, "I'm too scared to sleep outside, I'm sleeping in here." I was a little scared too after hearing the scary story about this village that we hardly knew anything about but yet were staying in. My husband told Franco, "Well, if we have any trouble we will just make lots of noise so you guys will hear us out here."
During the night it rained very lightly off and on. Our tent doesn't have a rain fly so the rain just came in on us. At 4am it began to rain hard enough that we started to get uncomfortably wet so we quickly got up and packed ourselves in the little hut. There was just enough room for us to lay down along one wall in front of the door. It rained on and on.
After a long time of sleeping off and on I looked at my watch, "Oh my, it is already 8am," I thought, "I had better take this opportunity to have some devotions since we can't work on the church right now." Jonathan and I enjoyed reading a little but soon everyone was awake. As we all waited for the rain to stop Franco (he is a native to Bere) asked Jonathan some questions. "Jonathan, some people say that I am not a pure Christian because I don't come from several generations of Christians. My father wasn't Christian and his father wasn't Christian. I don't like it when they say that. If it is true that I'm not a pure Christian, then I don't want to be a Christian!" We were surprised that people had been saying these terrible things to Franco. "What they say is not true!" I thought. Jonathan replied, "The several generation Christians are actually often worse off then new Christians because they often think they have it all together already. They think, 'Since my father was a Christian and my grandfather was a Christian, I must be a good man.' This is dangerous thinking because we all need God's help equally. Just because their father was a Christian doesn't mean that they are a good Christian." My husband encouraged Franco in this way.
We were all hungry so I decided to share our "bush bars" with everyone. I had made them for this trip in case there wasn't much food to eat. It wasn't a lot but the 5 of us enjoyed at least having something.
Around 10am Jonathan looked out the door again. "Well," he said, "the rain is letting up a little, I think we should just start working otherwise we won't get much done today." Matthew headed out to see if the second load of supplies had arrived the night before. He was already back by the time we were ready and leaving the hut, "Yes it came," he said. A feeling of relief went through us because we couldn't continue with construction without it.
As we were carrying steel to the church site I noticed that some little girls were eager to help too. They picked the long pieces of tin up and carried them with pride as they walked. One especially little girl was trying to pick up a very long and heavy piece. I was worried she might cut herself and so I gave her a smaller piece that better fit her size.
The work went well and fast even though we got such a late start. At 12:00 noon we were surprised and happy to be called away to have a meal prepared by a caring local. With our stomachs full we started work again. I noticed that the old chief that told us the story of his father the night before was close by. He sat, for most of the day, on a log not far from the church eagerly watching the church go up. Lots of locals eagerly helped us also and by the end of the day most of the church was already up. Praise God! What was left we would finish in the morning.
That night Jonathan and I decided to put up our tent in the hut right away. It started to rain an hour later. Just after crawling into the tent some women came hurrying to the door in the rain, "Good evening, we have brought you some food!" they said. We actually couldn't understand what exactly they were saying because they spoke in their local language. "Merci, merci," (Thank you, thank you) we said. Gratefully, we got up and began to eat. While we ate, some more women came hurrying to the door, "Good evening, we have brought you some food!" they said. "Wow, what a lot of food, that is so nice of them," I thought.
In the middle of the night I awoke to a man's voice calling through the rain, "I need of you!" Sitting up quickly in bed I saw a figure of a man in the doorway. Turning around I felt for my flashlight and found it. My husband was already sitting up next to me trying to figure out what the man needed. "What is wrong?" he asked, "Is someone sick?" "Yes," the man replied. "The lady that cooked for you last night is sick." "What kind of sickness does she have?" Jonathan asked. "We think malaria," the man answered. After a few more questions and answers the man, without notice, just ran away. "Is he crazy? I wonder why he just ran away like that?" I said out loud to my husband. "If someone is really sick it seems like he would stay and show us where she is and what is wrong. What if someone is sick though and needs us? I think we should go and at least see if there is something we can do." My husband thought we should go too, so we walked with Franco out into the rain. Which way to go? We didn't know. Shining our flashlights around we hoped someone would notice us. After a short while someone did and called out, "Over here!"
As we walked into the hut, the heat hit us as we saw lots of people crowded around a lady laying in the middle of the hut. She looked very sick and was crying out. Immediately, I knelt down and started to try to find a pulse. Strangely, I couldn't feel one. She was moving around so that didn't help and she was making so much noise. Before being successful, a man that was holding one of her arms down said to me, "Get up or she might bight you!" I got up and then noticed that she was being held down by about 5 guys! She starting thrashing around more and crying even louder. Over and over she said the same set of words and then she would try to escape from the men. It was clear that she was out of her mind. My husband began asking questions, "What kind of sickness do you think she has?" "Malaria." they reply, "We gave her 5 quinine 1 hour ago." "5 quinine! that's a lot," I thought, "way more then she should have taken. Maybe that is why she is thrashing around like this. She is most likely poisoned." Jonathan explained to the people there that 2 quinine is what is normally given at a time and that 5 was a lot. What should we do? There was no good medical facilities close by and it would be impossible to transport her in this condition. We couldn't even give her charcoal to drink (this absorbs the poison) because she might inhale it. The only thing we could think to do was the most important thing to do. Bowing our heads my husband prayed aloud in English as everyone listened quietly, "Dear God, we don't know what we can do to help this lady but we know that you can heal her. Please help this lady get better. In Your name, Amen." Then Franco prayed another prayer in the local language so everyone could understand.
I said to my husband on the way home, "Maybe she is demon possessed, who knows." The people had told us that the sick lady had acted this same way two times before in the past. We both thought it could be demon possession, but we also thought it very well could be malaria or something else. As we got into bed I kept trying to think of something more we could do for her. "I'm a nurse, I should know of something to do," I thought. I still have so much to learn. Everything is so different here in Africa from what I learned back home.
In the morning Matthew announced to us that he had been throwing up for hours. "I think it was the bird I ate last night," he said to Franco. Franco replied, "No, it wasn't the bird, I like bird! I ate the bird last night too and I'm not sick." Jonathan and I hadn't eaten any bird (we are vegetarian) and Dani had only tasted a little. Matthew had eaten a lot of bird. I told Franco this but he continued to laugh saying, "No, it wasn't the bird, I like bird!" A little later, feeling a bit sorry for Matthew he said, "Matthew, I'm sorry you are sick."
That morning with God's blessing we finished putting up the Church. What a joy it was to see the locals stand in front of the sign for a picture. They looked so happy, especially the old man, the chief. He gave us a long speech telling us how much he appreciated us coming and building a church for them. He said, "Before, when people saw us gather together and worship God they would think, 'Who are they? I don't see any church. They must be just a little group of their own.' They wouldn't respect us as a church." He continued joyfully, "Now people will see us in this church and see the church sign and know that we really are a church."
After we were packed up and preparing to leave the village, I noticed the old man sitting under the church all by himself. He was weaving a mat out of grass there in the shade. When I looked at him he smiled. "What a wonderful sight." I thought, "He looks so happy and must be so excited about the new church that he decided to sit under the church while he wove."
Part 3: Getting Back Home
Getting back home actually proved to be a lot more challenging then finding Congo 4. As we left we were well aware that we were headed into a water land of the rice fields. It had rained a lot since we had arrived on Tuesday. Now it was Thursday and there was no way getting around it as the village of Congo is like an island in the wettest part of the year. Every road around the village sloped down into very watery roads for several kilometers.
Before we left the locals cut an inner tube and put it on the exhaust pipe at the back of the motorcycle. This tube then looped up and was attached up high on the bike. They told us that this prevents water from getting into the exhaust pipe. "How neat!" we thought.
Off we went but it wasn't long until we saw water ahead, and lots of water! Getting off the two motorcycles, Jonathan and I, Matthew and Dani begin walking while Franco and the other motorcycle driver tried to drive through the water. They were brave and had hopes to get through but soon both motorcycles died and wouldn't start again. Then they too, had to walk pushing the bikes through the knee deep or deeper water.
It was so hot and the water looked so attractive to me (I like water!). In a deeper section I gave my backpack to my sweet and unselfish husband and jumped in and begin to swim down the "trail"! That was so much fun and refreshing. Matthew decided to swim too. Why not? I could hardly help it.
Jonathan and I started to wonder if we would even get home that day. "Would we have to go back?" we wondered. "I think we will just travel as far as we can today even if we don't get all the way home," Jonathan told me.
Getting to a little village where there was higher land Franco and Jonathan and some others picked the front of the motorcycle way up so the water would hopefully drain out of the pipe. Franco and the other motorcycle driver tried and tried to get the motorcycles to work again but couldn't. At one point while they were trying to get the motos going I stopped and pumped some water out of the road through our water filter for us to drink. It was hot water but we were so dehydrated we didn't care. (Don't worry our water filter filters out everything!)
On and on we walked through water carrying our heavy backpacks. Sometimes the water was only ankle deep but other times it was above our knees. My husband and I started to lag behind while everyone else went before us. After a long time I asked my husband, "How are you doing, are you feeling okay? You are so quiet?" He replied, "I'm so tired, I'm just not feeling well. I shouldn't be this tired from just walking through water. I think I probably have malaria." "I'm so sorry Jonathan, you have been extra tired for several days. When we get back we'll have to make sure we get you tested." I replied.
Ahead we saw the land slope upwards and lots of trees. "Good" we thought. I had actually really enjoyed the walk but I was getting tired and my husband wasn't feeling good.
After walking about 5 kilometers we reached a big village and caught up with the rest of our group. In this village there was mechanics who fixed our motorcycles. Also, the road from here on they told us was not so bad.
Happy to be back on motorcycles we left that village. It was true the road, for the most part, was a lot better from then on, although we still had to walk a few times. One time they even picked up the motorcycle and carried it over the really deep water.
About 5 hours from the time we left Congo 4 we arrived home! What a blessing, praise the Lord. Later Jonathan's malaria's test was positive. He started medication right away, didn't get very sick, and got better soon.
We find great satisfaction each time we leave behind a new One-day Church building. Not only does the structure give a boost of courage to the local church here, it helps the village people realize the greater extent of our church. They are not an isolated group but part of a world wide body.
Even though we enjoy putting up these churches so much and would like to do more of it, it is not possible for us to do this all the time. There is a lot of other important work that we are involved in also. Missionary life here is often a lot less exciting in the day to day routine as compared to the great adventure described above. In the times of less exciting work I have to remember that I am still working for the Lord, whether I am cleaning the house, cooking, or putting up churches. Please pray that God will give us courage, wisdom, and strength for each day.
In His Service,
Melody and Jonathan Dietrich
P.S. For those of you who haven't heard of One-Day Churches let me tell you what they are. These simple, robust, and quickly erectable structures are manufactured in Minnesota and shipped all around the world. If one doesn't use cement for the foundations, the structure can be erected including roof sheeting in one day. It is up to the locals to put up the walls under the structure.
Note: If you would like to see some pictures of our Chad project you can view some on Melody's facebook. Her facebook name is: Melody Dietrich.