As with all our lives, the events of the day ahead are unknown to us, but thankfully they are known to our Heavenly Father, so we can confidently face the day, putting it into trustworthy hands.
In Bunkeya, our rising and morning chores are routine as they are for most of us. A typical day begins with lighting the mbabula (a small charcoal burning fire box) to boil water for a cuppa and for washing up. Porridge cooks on our two-burner gas stove. We share brekky at our little kitchen bench facing a wall plastered with Gary Larsen comics which help us view the lighter side of life. This bench doubles as a study spot because of its proximity to the solar charged battery and inverter. Before our people arrive for work, we share a devotional study and have time of prayer — prayer for Bunkeya, prayer for home, and thanksgiving, often with tears, for the partnership in mission.
At 7.00 am, workers arrive to discuss the day’s schedule. Today the plan was to travel in the Land Cruiser to a maize growing area 25 km away. There we intended to collect some of the maize, which we store as a food supply. Maize, along with beans, oil, salt, soap, matches and a small amount of money, are distributed to the church poor, blind and disadvantaged. These are people whose family is unable to support them. A church member has spent about a week rounding up, measuring and purchasing maize on behalf of the church and the mission. We then go in the vehicle, re-measure into our bags, sew them up, then transport them home. However, a message has arrived that the maize is not yet ready, so we scratch our heads for plan B for the day.
Work is progressing on repairs to the church-run clinic and maternity building, and more gravel is needed for cementing drains to accommodate water run-off. Plenty of sand is available in the village, but gravel is found in dry creek beds further out — so the Cruiser gets a run after all. Mumba drives, Kimwanga and Kabuya load in with shovels, chip hoes and empty bags, to head out 15 kms to a good creek. Smoko, consisting of a small packet of biscuits each and plenty of water, gives them the boost they need half-way through the morning. Bags are filled in the creek bed then dragged up the bank to be delivered home by that ever-reliable work horse.
Having been dropped off at the Clinic, Byron works with Karamba putting up a ceiling in a ward. Of course nothing is square, so each section must be measured and cut individually. If Gillian is on site, she becomes the gopher, walking up to the mission for forgotten bits and pieces. In Mumba’s words, “Mama Gillian is transport.” Always the mazungu (white person) attracts an audience, especially of children. Lots of fun and exchange go on, with the kids picking up English words. It’s a good time to teach simple songs in English. Trixie, Mumba’s dog, enjoys lying on the cool cement floor out of the sun and appreciates a biscuit morsel at smoko. While in the area, Gillian visits some of the older ladies who can’t get along to church because of failing health. Sometimes she encourages them; often they encourage her.
Later in the morning, the guys arrive and unload the gravel to replenish the pile near the clinic. As their working day finishes at midday, it’s too late to return for another load, so they move on to tying on the bamboo supports for the roof of the payotte. This round, open-to-the-breeze building has been planned and built by them as a waiting room for patients at the clinic. With cement walls, half-height bricked walls and brick seats inside the walls, it will also serve as a kitchen where relatives of admitted patients cook food for them. We pray this will be the site for the morning gospel presentation to outpatients. Pray for Kimwanga as he takes on this role. He will fit it like a glove!
By midday we are looking for lunch, our main meal of the day. Hopefully Gillian is home in time to prepare the meal — rice, pasta or sweet potato, with a stew of tinned meat , onions and tomatoes, and some form of greens like cabbage, beans or leaves. We follow with a rest in the heat of the day. 3.00 pm means it’s time to start the 40-year-old Lister-driven generator to cut up timber with a small power saw, which Byron has set up on a bench. We are sure his dad would be honoured to see his 20-year-old retirement gift working for the Lord in DR Congo. If not cutting cover strips or boards, the welder will go into action repairing bed frames or making doors and windows. Almost invariably, the noise of the motor attracts people with a broken bike, charcoal-burning iron or mbabula for repair. These odd jobs often require quite a bit of improvisation and ingenuity.
It will be during the afternoon or evening that Malemba shares with us. He and Cele, his wife, live in the other half of our house. He translates all Byron’s messages and has come to know us very well. To our existing knowledge, he adds issues that we would otherwise not have realized or understood. It is good to share in prayer. Today news has come from 50 km north of a Mai Mai attack, yet again on the village of Kalera where we have a Brethren church. These attacks always result in people fleeing to nearby fields and bush, houses being burnt and property stolen. The people will again be in need and they especially value hymn books and Bibles. We decide to send a gift of these to the church when it is safe, and we bow together in prayer.
By this time of day, our two dogs are telling us in no uncertain terms that it’s time for a walk. So Matilda and Boss go on leads and we have some down time. It’s a good chance to get away from everyone, to catch up on our day and ‘vent’ if necessary. People keep a wary distance when the dogs are with us.
After tea, the evening is passed in Bible study and message preparation because Thursday afternoon teaching comes quickly, with the Sunday message hard on its heels. Of course, the message must touch the speaker as well as the hearers, so there is much prayer and study. Thursday afternoon is an encouraging time, with an average of 40 people attending and asking for printed notes, to which they can add as they listen to the studies in Galatians. Sunday studies have been a challenging look at the book of Titus.
We thank God for the many strong Christians in the church and, in the same breath, pray for God-directed leadership by the elders. Please continue in prayer for these leaders, that they be men of integrity who are grounded in the Word of God and stand fast against temptation.
A dear fellow missionary based to the west of us habitually uses the term DV in conversation when referring to future plans. We each one can plan our day and our future, but it is comforting to be able to add ‘God willing’ because God’s will is perfect and right — whether we like it or not at times.