Misc. Observations on the Congo

Washing of Feet

There is a parable the Savior spoke of concerning the washing of feet. It reminded me of something I learned on my first mission as a youth, and what I have seen here in the Congo.

In John 13:4-10 Jesus instituted the ordinance of washing of feet. When he came to Peter, Peter at first refused, and then asked the Savior to wash his hands and head, not just his feet. Then the Savior said an interesting thing: “He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but he is clean every whit.”

Jesus washing feet 01

Hmmm, always wondered about that saying. On my mission, while talking to a Baptist minister, he gave a brilliant explanation of the meaning of this saying:

In Christ’s time when one was invited to a wedding feast, you would wash, put on clean garments, etc., and then walk to the feast location. The problem was that no matter how clean you were, or how finely dressed you were, by the time you arrived at the wedding feast your feet would be dirty from walking on the dirt roads. So…when you arrived at the feast, the ONLY thing that would be needed for you to be presented clean and whole to the Master of the house would be to clean your feet (hence all the parables and stories of people washing the feet of those who arrive at their homes).

The same is true in our lives: no matter how much we repent, no matter how righteous a life we may attempt to live, just living in this telestial world—just walking this dirt road—will make us unclean. But if we have been washed and clothed in wedding garments in preparation for the Feast, all we will need to complete our preparations for the Kingdom will be the ordinance of washing of feet.

This principle came to mind as I watched members of the Church arrive at their local ward: after walking to church down the dusty roads of the Congo, they would stop and clean their feet before entering the Chapel.

I am “Mutoka”

While traveling to Luputa, all the children we passed along the road would get excited, point, and shout at us “mutoka!” We have been told that this means ‘white man’ in Chiluba. In Mexico we are called ‘gringos’ and on Tinian among the Chamoro people we were called ‘Howlies’. What other names we have been called on our travels? Not sure…

Luputa children (60)

Welcome to Mwene Ditu!

While driving into the center of Mwene Ditu we had a very strange greeting! A woman naked from the waist up was standing in the street shouting ‘bon jour’ to us as we drove to the Chapel for Zone Conference.

Old style elevators and rest rooms

Here in the Congo people look for work anywhere and everywhere. In the local Jambo market they have elevator men (like in the old movies). In each of three elevators they have a man who sits on a small stool and pushes the buttons for you to reach each floor. And speaking of floors, the First Floor here is actually the 2nd floor… They have the ground floor, and then start the numbers after that!

In the Airport and other places they have restroom workers. They keep the restrooms clean, and when the water is not working, they keep the buckets used to flush the toilets full of water. In Mexico, and in Asia, we have seen restroom workers also—often you have a choice: you can use the more ‘public’ restroom for free, or pay a small fee to the worker and use a ‘clean’ restroom.

Funny Congo Eye Exams

One of the things we are doing for every missionary here is a health exam—to create a baseline health profile of each missionary. Then if something happens, or if they get sick, we have a basis to compare. My job when we do these exams is to do the eye exam, their weight and height. Funny thing about eye exams… Since most have never had an eye exam before, I have to try to explain to them what to do: “Please stand against the wall, and I will stay here, and we are going to test your eyesight.” Hmmm, often they stand FACING the wall, until I tell them to turn around and look at me. “Hold one hand over one eye, then with the other eye, read this chart. Now the same with the other eye. Now with both eyes…” To my surprise, quite a few Elder then cover BOTH eyes with their hands to read the chart! When I have them step on the scale to weigh them, they are shocked! Some get really nervous…until I assure them that the scale I am using is NOT metric, but a U.S. scale!

I am Papa

When walking down the street we often say ‘bon jour’ to people along the way. The usual response is to call me “Papa”—a term of respect and endearment to older people. I guess that means I am officially old?

Laputa Stake Conf (1)

The Head is the Thing

Most pictures show women carrying things on their heads—mostly large containers of water or wood or almost anything they have to carry from one place to another. Sometimes it is rather humorous! We have seen them carry very tiny jars of jam or mayonnaise, or other small things on their heads. No pockets I guess…

Luputa children (101)

The Keystone Cops, or Clowns in a clown-car, or College students in a phone booth?

Terri counted 22 people in a small Toyota van/taxi. Sometimes there is no way to count the people, they are so packed inside you cannot tell one person from the other!

Taxi (3)



When we left Utah there was a heated debate going on in the newspapers over the propriety of breastfeeding in public, especially in Church. Some thought there was nothing wrong with it, others felt the women should ‘hide’ from people who might see their breasts…

The women in the Congo would laugh themselves silly over this debate. Breastfeeding here is normal, natural, and EVERYWHERE! Whether in Church, on the street, in a waiting room, or even walking down the road—when it’s time to feed the children, they get fed…

Luputa children (92)

Wearing rags

You will note that almost all children in the Congo are clothed…although some simply wear what we could consider rags. Sometimes I find it amazing the clothes don’t just fall off of them!

New Western Homes Await!

While traveling to Luputa we pass what looks like a new subdivision of western-style homes just outside one of the small villages. Some good-hearted European spent thousands of dollars to give the gift of new homes to some Congolese. At some point the money ran out and the homes were not quite finished. They were well built, with good metal roofs. To our surprise, they remain abandoned. The local villagers would rather live in their mud huts than move into the western homes. Culture is tough to overcome! No matter how much we care, or attempt to help others, sometimes they just don’t want to change! They like living the way they have lived for thousands of years. Who are we to say otherwise?

The Cops are out in force

Lately there has been a real push here to catch drivers who have not paid their car tax (or to just get some money). The newest trend is to use steel bars with spikes to stop traffic. Two or three police will be standing next to the road, with this steel bar in their hands. At various times, and for various reasons, they will suddenly drop the steel bar in front of a car (one has to be on their toes!). Then they proceed to check out your vehicle, and exact as much money as they can get from you. One day we were stopped for some time as a taxi refused to pay the fees. After a long time, passengers in other taxis began to get upset for the delay, got out of the taxis, and began to harass the police! Eventually the people won the discussion, the police picked up the steel bar with spikes, and the people raced back to their taxis as the traffic jump-started before the police changed their mind. We got past them in this group. Police here are very odd—they have no guns, and as far as I can tell, no real authority to stop people or fine them (although I here of people getting tickets, and even getting brought to jail). I have seen more times than I can count, Police stepping out into the road to stop a car…only to have the car drive around them and keep going! Nothing seems to happen, as the police have no cars, so no way to chase them down! As for us, we have an easy way out: we simply speak English to them until they get tired of trying to get us to understand (or pay them), and they let us go.

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