It's time for Africa!
I've made multiple trips to Africa in the last few years, most recently spending 5 months in Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Tanzania.
Stay tuned for more of Africa in this multiple-part blog series. I'm excited to share!
Into the North, Democratic Republic of Congo
Somewhere remote, Northern DRC - In May 2017 I had the privilege of volunteering with various humanitarian projects across Africa for several months. I was amazed to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for two months, a country ravaged by war, disease and poverty yet a country still so very dear to my heart.
I found myself even more amazed by an invitation to travel into the remote and inaccessible northern DRC, a rare and truly special opportunity. (Travel within the vast DRC is restricted and only granted with special documentation and permission by the government of the DRC.)
As we flew over dense jungle and massive meandering rivers, we approached a small runway and the sprawling "city" of Gemena...comprised most entirely of red-mud huts and dirt roads spread out between many miles of lush green vegetation. I had no idea what awaited.
We exited the plane and were blasted by heavy humidity, and immediately surrounded by very strong and intimidating Congolese men who insisted we give them our passports. I couldn't help but notice the multiple armed men stationed at different points of the tiny airport. I followed the lead of the seasoned aid and mission workers around me and relinquished my passport. I soon discovered that these men were part of a local mission organization, not to be feared, but rather, heroes to be thanked. I later learned stories of their personal spiritual transformation and sacrifice for their families and community, and quickly realized they were actually there to protect us.
These fearsome but kind men surrounded us and escorted us to the two vehicles waiting outside the airport. Besides military and militia vehicles, the occasional transport truck and a few dirt bikes, these two Land Cruisers were the only other vehicles in the region. We crowded inside and they drove us down the dusty road.
When we tumbled out, we discovered a massive line of hundreds of Congolese, many children in school uniforms and people dressed in choir robes. Beside the honored escort in the Land Cruisers, a massive "Thank you and Welcome" banner greeted us as we started the long walk down the line of people. As is customary in the Congo, we shook every hand as the most melodious and joyful songs of these spirited Congolese choir members surrounded us.
The most heavenly welcome celebration ensued for the next few hours. Amongst our visiting group were the directors of a child sponsorship program making a tremendous impact by providing health care and access to education in this extremely remote and impoverished region. The excitement of these Congolese as they expressed their deepest gratitude provided a stunning contrast of life and hope in the midst of the horrendous injustices they encounter everyday in the Congo.
The mud hut in the image above is just one of the countless homes that millions of Congolese live in throughout the DRC. Outside of Kinshasa (the capital city) and a few other large cities, much of the DRC remains primitive and untouched by the "outside world" of technology and globalization.
The Congolese live off the land, subsistence living in which everything has a purpose and everything is a resource...
And with that I must leave you...to be continued in this ongoing series "It's time for Africa!"
The freshest brew
(Left) A woman grinds coffee beans by hand after roasting them on an open fire to prepare the freshest brew of coffee ever. As a former barista and unashamed coffee connoisseur, let's just say, I was elated!
(Below) Happy kids saying hi!