There are two airstrips in Wamba, but in 2007 neither had been maintained. I had to meet with church leaders to get their input. That meant traveling the 66 miles by road, well, sort-of road. The forest and its rains had taken advantage of years of civil war and resultant neglect to almost reclaimed the space once occupied by the road. What had once been a pretty good improved dirt road was now a rutted, rocky, muddy and lumpy track.

One of the best parts of the road

One of the best parts of the road

We did not have a vehicle. A local development agency would rent us a solid Land Rover with driver. Scarcity had driven up fuel prices. So it was going to cost me over $500 to rent the vehicle for two days and 132 miles. It would have been cheaper and faster to fly.

As soon as we hit the outskirts of Isiro we ran into eroded slopes and muddy holes. We crawled along. Three hours into the trip we had not yet covered 20 miles.

Repairing vehicle on the road 02Fortunately the road got better and soon we were zipping along at 20 even 25 miles an hour, slowing for holes, ruts and large pools of water hiding under huge bamboo stands hanging over the road. I put a lot of physical and mental energy into steadying myself against the unpredictable movements of the vehicle. A noise from the engine brought us to a halt.

This is where the Congolese practice of hiring a mechanic as a driver proves its wisdom. He was able to get us going but there was still a noise. He would make full repairs in Wamba.

Church by road 01We stopped to visit a little church in a small hamlet. Probably a missionary had never preached here. Certainly one had never lived here. Like most churches in Africa, it had been started by African believers. It was a reminder that African believers have taken their faith to the most remote places where they worship the Highest One in very humble surroundings.

We spent six hours in roll, pitch and weave before we reached Wamba.

The plan was to meet with the church leaders for 4-5 hours the next morning then drive back to Isiro in the afternoon. But after the morning meeting, we found that our faithful driver-mechanic had the noise-producing parts of the motor taken apart. Better to wait and get it fixed. The driver got the vehicle back together at about 6 PM and after an hour of testing declared it repaired. I had to catch a MAF [] flight out Isiro at noon the next day, so we set off to make the journey at night.

Road at night 11The bad news? It is impossible to sleep in a vehicle that is being tossed and rolled in unpredictable ways. The good news? The road was so bad that we could go just as fast (meaning slow) at night as during the day.

Whenever I got in a small airplane with a missionary pilot in Congo, I remembered that road trip to Wamba and I thought about the days I would be spending, the back I would be wearing out, and the extra money I would be spending if this plane and pilot were not provided. In fact, translating the Bible would cost more and go slower without those planes. Thank you to all those who support the MAF, JAARS and other pilots and mechanics and those who give toward the purchase of the airplanes. I love the impact you have including the fact that I suffer a lot less impacts.

Isiro and Bunia

Ed is in Congo from February 2-10, from 2-5 in Bunia, from 6-9 in Isiro, and then the night of the 9th in Entebbe, returning to Nairobi on the morning of the 11th.

The trip started at 4 AM on Monday morning to catch a ride to the airport at 5 AM and a 7 AM flight.  It is the start of the rainy season in Congo, so everything is wonderfully green.  The rain did delay Ed’s arrival by small aircraft in Bunia (above), but only by a couple hours.

The main purpose of the trip to Bunia is to evaluate the translation degree program at the Shalom University of Bunia.  The program just started.  It is being lead by Kabucungu Hand-jinga (above).  We were involved with his training in Nairobi a few years back.  Ed found that even though the program had a few hiccups, it is going extremely well for being brand new.

Ed met with the 12 students in the program (above).  One died suddenly of meningitis in December or there would be 13.  They are all excited about the program.  They are learning things about their languages they never knew before even though they have spoken them all their lives.  It was contagious to hear their enthusiasm for giving their peoples God’s Word.

I took time out to visit a little center where teams of translators from three different languages are working, some of whom we helped train.  Seeing this group doing a last pass over the whole Bible in their language was very a lot of fun.  They were really jazzed.

The first day here I tripped going up these stairs and banged my right knee pretty good.  Within a couple hours it was getting very sore and stiff.  I could hardly go up and down stairs.  I was concerned that I would wake up in the morning with it all stiff and swollen.  I went to a Bible study and a missionary doctor there gave me some Ibuprofen and they prayed for me.  The next day — No problem!  The Lord is good.

With the green and the hills, this is a beautiful place.  It could also be very prosperous, but it has been wracked by conflict, mostly driving by those wishing to seize its incredible mineral wealth.  The Frangipani blossoms (above) outside my door remind me that God makes everything beautiful in his time.

After Bunia, I went to Isiro where I spend four days going around with this wonderful man, Pastor Atulu, dealing with many issues, including starting work in six more languages in this area.  At one point we ran out of gas a ways out of town.  Atulu tipped the motorbike on its left side which enabled us to go another half mile.  Then he bought 1/2 liter (1/7th of a gallon) of gas from a roadside vendor for 1,000 Congolese francs,  or $1.49.

The forest in Upper and Lower Uele Districts has these wonderful patterns.  Flying over them is an experience in the wonder of how great is the God of creation.

This is the little room, on one end of Atulu’s house, where I stayed while I was in Isiro.  I had a mosquito net so I was not bothered at night.  The family has an outside toilet and shower.  They heated me water over a wood cook fire every evening for my shower.

(This was originally posted on another blog. It was moved here in March 2012)