Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 30 - 31, 2016 - P day and Bongonga Ward

January 30, 2016 - Spent the entire P day in the office working. 
Finished Order Manual with numbers and French Names.

Went to the Food Court at the Hyper Psaro for a Pizza.

Elder Peterson's Contribution:

We have been provided a pickup to use for mission errands and personal use.  It’s a 2015 Toyota Hi Lux, it only has 350 kilometers on it.  Hopefully, we have more time next week to get out and venture around town.  We have a GPS on our telephones that works really well.  It doesn’t give you a route to follow but shows you where you are and the destination point on a map with all the roads.  You have to figure out which roads to take while you’re following the dot that indicates the current location.  We’ll get Mom behind the wheel too.

In September, just before we arrived, the President was out jogging and came across a gentleman from South Africa.  Turns out this guy, his name is Graham, is the general contractor for a huge project that a South African company is investing in here in Lubumbashi.  The project has just begun and Graham was telling President Thomas how difficult it was to do business in the RDC and that he was having a terrible time finding enough skilled workers for the project.  They struck up a close relationship over a short period of time.  The Church has a well-developed Self Reliance Program for members, particularly returned missionaries.  The program has been able to teach and certify workers as masons, plumbers, carpenters, painters, tile setters, and others.  The problem has been that as soon as the members completed the certification program they would go back to doing what they did before, which was usually nothing, because there were no jobs.  Well, you can probably tell where I’m going.  It’s because of this trusting relationship that Graham and the President developed, that made all this happen.  Very few people actually have jobs here, maybe less than 10%.  The big concern of the Church was the returned missionaries going back to nothing and wallowing around in generational poverty.  There is little hope for them which stymies the progress of the Church.  As you would know the progress of the Church will be in these returning missionaries learning a skill, being able to support a family and contribute as a leader.  

Anyway, without getting into very much detail, an arrangement was worked out where, to begin with, we would provide masons and mason helpers for the project.  Graham would access the percentage completion of each project twice per month and pay a third party company (in this case, a company owned by a stake presidency member) for the work completed.  We then distribute the money after taxes, a percentage to the stake presidency member, and up-front money providing shoes, hard hat, and uniform and based on hours worked and work classification.  The success and amount of pay hinges on everyone pulling their weight and contributing to the completion of projects.  Laggards slow the progress of projects and diminishes the pay of everyone.  In October, they started with 10 masons and 20 mason helpers.  All returned missionaries hand-picked by the President and Bishop Mbidi, the Self Reliance Administrator.  Long story short we are now up to the 30 masons, 15 carpenters, and just this week added 15 plumbers.  Graham has already asked for more carpenters and plumbers, and wants us to supply painters and tile setters in the next week or two.

You can only imagine the excitement this has created among missionaries.  Unfortunately, there are many more missionaries needing jobs than what we could ever think to provide.  But it’s hope and a future for a few.  We’re really banking on this working out but in the DRC everything is tenuous and things can fall apart very fast here when someone gets greedy.  Congolese do not trust each other which is the result of their culture and if someone feels slighted or wants to exert pressure on fellow clansman or tribesman to perform a certain way problems begin and can mushroom quickly.  That’s where us white guys come in.  They trust us where they don’t trust each other, and those that value their jobs there are hopeful that we can keep the peace and prevent mettling by others.  President Thomas is turning this project over to me.  I’ll be doing my first distribution on Tuesday the 2nd to masons, carpenter, and plumbers.  This is truly a God-send to these people.  The chance meeting of Graham and the President was simply an intervention on the part of Heavenly Father to give hope for the future to many who saw no hope.

January 31, 2016 - Attended the Bongonga Ward. Two brothers were leaving on a mission and gave their farewell talks today.

Sister Vance and Sister Peterson with Relief Society sisters

Sister Cook and Sister Peterson with Relief Society sisters

Elder Patient Mutonyi and Sister Peterson

Missionary brothers with their mother

Young girls carrying siblings on their back

Brothers leaving at the same time for missions

Our grass is planted

January 25-29, 2016 - Driver's License

January 26, 2016

Elder Peterson's blog contribution:

The French is coming.  I thought a couple weeks ago that I wasn’t making much progress. Then this Sunday we attended the Katuba Second Ward.  This ward is in a more affluent area of Lubumbashi and so the French was purer than other places we had been or even the way the missionaries speak it.  It was sure encouraging.  But then it has only been seven weeks here.  Generally Church meetings are conducted in French and interspersed with Swahili.  The poorer the area the more Swahili is spoken and almost exclusively.

It’s hard to belief the poverty here.  With all the abundant natural resources here that are being extracted you would think that just a small percentage of the profits could make a big difference in the quality of life.  There are absolutely no signs of improving any infrastructure or constructing buildings except for what I will talk about in a while.  But people are happy, dress well, and are friendly. Corruption is part of the culture and is accepted and expected.  It’s how they have lived for generations.  That fact hampers and frustrates the progress of the Church. Another frustrating element of the society is the influence of tribes and clans on an individual.  They have huge amounts of influence and demand loyalty among their groups.  President Thomas is constantly dealing with issues among missionaries over competing tribes and honesty.

President Thomas is absolutely an incredible man.  I mean it in every sense of the word.  He has a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering.  He has been all over the world teaching oil extraction methods and I don’t know what else.  Without saying it, I’m sure he left behind monetary wealth to serve this mission and you hear no qualms or complaints from him.  He studies the gospel two hours every day without fail and has done so for years.  He can speak to every page in the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, P of GP, and New Testament.  He will make a point and rattle off verbatim five scriptures or more to support it.  We have been to several zone and district conferences and he has never repeated himself on a topic.  He will get very animated at times, especially if it is something that he has just discovered.  His depth of understanding is astounding.  He is also very humble and compassionate, especially to wayward missionaries that need to be redirected.

As Mission President, he presides over 170 missionaries organized into eight zones and four member districts with seven to eight branches in each.  When considering the number of missionary zone conferences and interviews done each year and the number of member district conferences and training sessions done each year along with the administrative duties of running a mission you begin to understand why this is considered a hardship mission.

Some good news is that all four districts will be made stakes in the next two months.  Since districts fall under the leadership of the Mission President, we are assisting the President in putting all the details together to make this happen.  Two of the new stakes will be up north in the Kasai area where we went with the President in December.  In the Kasai area there will be three stakes, one in Mbuji Mayi, one in Mweme Ditu, and the one that was already created in Luputa.  We visited all those locations in December.  That will be the location of the new Mission, the Mbuji Mayi Mission.  Then two more stakes will be created in our area, one in Kolwezi and one in Likasi.  After the division of the mission our new Mission location will have a total of five stakes.

We finally got our drivers licenses today.  I made my maiden voyage out into that cruel world of Congolese drivers.  It went flawless.  I’m afraid of what kind of driver I may become after two years of this aggressiveness.  

Food wise, we eat a lot of bananas, tomatoes, pineapples, apples, butternut squash, chicken, rice, potatoes.  We eat other things as well but those are abundant and good.  Mom has made three apple pies that were scrumptious.  She has the makings of making bread but only attempted it once.  The others here bake bread on a regular basis and have come up with some good recipes.

We’re making progress toward taking over all the operations of the Mission Office.  Like I said the Draper’s and the Mikesell’s will be leaving in the next month.  The buck stops then.  The swan song will be over.  But we are up to it.  It’s amazing the sheer number of things that need to be addressed and completed to run a mission.  Mom has already found lots of processes that can be automated and improved to make the operation smother and more efficient.  I have some ideas too.  We have to be careful now not to overstep our bounds and offend people.  But we are encouraged that in fact we will be able to operate the mission on our own.  The challenge will be to implement the changes in a short period of time, help with creating the new stakes, ordering and supplying the new Mission Office in Mbuji Mayi, training the new missionary couple there, and still keeping our office work current.  Sounds real exciting to me.

Elder Mikesell has been the Mission doctor.  Usually a missionary Doctor will be assigned to cover the medical needs of five or six missions.  Because of the number of malaria and typhoid cases as well as the general poor health of our missionaries, we keep a doctor literally running every day.  They are being replaced by another couple, yup, the Peterson’s from Flagstaff, Arizona.  These poor missionaries will be so confused.  Uh, maybe us too.

We have attended a different ward each Sunday we have been here.  There are a total of 30 wards in the Lubumbashi area so it will be a while before we have gotten to each one.  At each location I have taken pictures of the ward building, some of the members, and the neighborhood.  I hope you get a chance to see these pictures.  We’ve visited an orphanage that the humanitarian couple, the Davis’ from Brigham City, supported that is operated by the Catholic Church.  It’s remarkable what the Catholic Church does in places like this.  We (Mom and I) hope to begin participating and supporting the Catholic’s in what they call Operation Smile which provides assistance to children with cleft palates.

I’m rambling, I know.  I also operate the generators here.  The power goes out eight to ten times a day which means one of the generators needs to be started with each outage.  Lately, the power has been off for hours at a time.  We have two guards on duty all the time so we have them start and stop the generators as needed.  But with two diesel generators, we need to manage the use of each generator based on the level of diesel we have in the tanks, plus we want to alternate their usage.  A month ago the generators were running constantly because there was never all three phases from the power company supplying electricity.  So we had installed a mechanism that allows us to operate everything with only one phase of electricity being supplied.  It somehow takes one phase of electricity and directs that one phase to every power panel in the compound.  Anyway, we have devised a scheme of nine options and how to operate this panel with each option to make it all happen.  

Love these roses

Mission Leader Conference

Sister Mikesell, Sister Draper, Sister Peterson serving dinner

Monday, January 25, 2016

January 23-24, 2016 - P Day and Katuba 2 Ward

January 23 - Worked in Office all day

January 24 - Katuba 2nd Ward and Shutterfly Books