One day in the life of Sister Clawson
For those of you who wonder what kind of experiences one can expect from a mission and the type of growth an individual receives…let me give you a day in the life of Sister Clawson.
1. Terri is the Medical Advisor to the Lubumbashi, DR Congo Mission. It is her responsibility to take care of all the medical issues that come up in the mission: with all the missionaries, senior missionaries, and often even the members and non-members of the Church in the area.
2. The last two weeks have been especially busy, as Terri was taking care of a member who was in town to go to a local hospital for tests; and a non-member who had been hit by a car a missionary was driving and so had been flown to Lubumbashi for tests to make sure everything was OK (the Church is very responsible in making sure that any problems caused by our missionaries are taken care of, and fortunately in this case there were no lasting problems—the woman went home healthy and happy with her treatment). Of course all of this extra work falls on Terri at the same time as a major transfer is also going on!
3. Terri has also been assigned to plan, organize, and manage the transfer of missionaries. This is a massive responsibility! The last transfer entailed over 100 missionaries moving around the mission (and each missionary traveling may entail several legs—moto, bus, plane, etc.—to get to their designated area); and can last over a week.
This transfer was planned down to the last detail…and then went downhill from there! It wasn’t Terri’s planning, or execution, it was things out of her control: planes that broke down, or simply decided not to fly this week; luggage that was lost or left behind; missionaries getting sick or being stubborn or ‘forgetting’ time and place of travel, etc. And with each incident (especially the delay or cancelation of planes), there is a domino effect with other plans down the line. If a missionary is supposed to meet his companion in Lubumbashi, but gets stuck in Mbuji Mayi, and they are both supposed to get on a plane to Kananga the next day…what does one do?
In addition 18 new missionaries coming from the Ghana MTC were delayed a day getting here. Another domino falls…plans are moved, dinners and busses and accommodations are jockeyed around.
Even the little things seem to have gone south. I ordered 150 croissants for the missionary dinner at a local bakery—and they ‘forgot’ to make them! After weeks of relative calm the police have been stopping and harassing us with a vengeance! Terri got stopped and finally had to pay them money to be released, the President got stopped twice, and I have just missed being stopped several times (I drive a lot so run into the police a lot, but was trained well by Emanuel how to avoid them—in this instance I just ‘hugged’ the car in front of me, preventing the police from stepping in front of the car, and was able to drive past them; it also helped that we had a green light so that we did not have to stop!).
4. Terri and I are also designated drivers. With the exit of two missionary couples, Terri and I are the only ones left to use as chauffeurs to take missionaries to and from the airport, or bus station, and just back and forth from apartment to mission home. When you have 20-50 elders and sisters dropped into Lubumbashi during transfers, there is a lot of moving around!
Which brings me to two interesting incidents where Terri really shined:
The first was the night she earned her Transport driver badge (I had received mine a few months ago when I was driving the van with Elder Cook of the Area Presidency in the car, and decided to follow a transport driver up the wrong way on a backed-up street…). We were taking some missionaries to their apartments after a meeting in the mission home. Since I had been driving all day, Terri took the wheel. It was very dark (although not very late at night), and we ran right into a major traffic jam. You have never been in a traffic jam until you have driven in the Congo!
Standard procedure with a transport when cars are stopped is to simply make a new lane and keep driving. Often there are two lanes of traffic coming at you on a two-lane road! But most of the time they will at least allow a portion of the road for those traveling the opposite direction… However, if things get real bad, they refuse to be patient and will try to create a third and fourth lane going their direction! Of course, at some point you would think they would simply run out of room and/or road! But you would be mistaken! There is always the dirt berm on either side of the paved road, and people’s yards, etc. If they can find a way to drive around a problem, even if it means going off the road, onto someone’s property, or grass, or running over bushes, etc., they will do it! And that is what they did, and were doing as Terri headed into the melee…
An hour later Terri had proven her metal: she had jostled and careened and used every transport trick in the playbook to get us into, around, and through this huge traffic jam. During one section of road she was driving all the way on the left side of the road (as though she were in England…) with those coming towards us on our right, into the dirt and around a truck and back into traffic, crossing back over into the correct lane, and cars, transports, semi-trucks, and motos where driving to and fro, back and forth, on our right and on our left… And, to get the picture correct in your heads, you have to add in HUNDREDS of people walking along the road, crossing the road back and forth at will (all the passengers in the transports and taxis were fed up with the wait so got out and started walking). Also keep in mind it is night, pitch black, and though we are in traffic, many vehicles have no lights! And yet through all of this, Terri kept her calm, was patient, saw her openings and took them, and came out of it without a scratch, or dent, no people were injured, and even a few of the transports drivers gave her a ‘thumbs up” for her moves!
The second incident came the next day when we went to pick-up missionaries at the bus stop. I was driving so stayed in the car when the bus arrived from Likasi (a school bus no less…), while Terri got out to get the missionaries and bring them to the truck. Most of the missionaries were sisters, but one elder had traveled with them as part of this big transfer. When the Elder got out of the bus and retrieved his bags, two young men began to harass him. Since it was in Swahili Terri could not understand what they were saying, but assumed they were trying to get him to pay them money for something. He was refusing, and was holding tight to his bags. The tension escalated as the two men continued to harass and yell at our missionary and attempt to get his bag from him. At this point Terri came up behind the Elder and was shouting ‘hey!’ at the two men, trying to get their attention and to imply that they needed to back-down. As the situation escalated again, one of the men pushed the Elder. It was at this point that Terri actually came around and put herself between the missionary and the two men causing problems. She made it clear she was not putting up with this! The two men stopped—not sure if it was out of respect or just shock at seeing a small white woman get in their face—and Terri took the Elder and escorted him back to the truck with the other sisters. Wow!
In both situations Terri didn’t hesitate, get nervous, or even blink—she just did what had to be done and carried it off with seeming ease. Who says there are no pioneers living today? Terri is proof that the pioneer spirit lives on and can be seen every day with those senior couples serving missions and aiding the younger elders and sisters to fulfill their callings.
Two more just for fun:
This is what happens in the Congo when you don’t pay your advertising fees…
Never get tired of seeing how hard they work here–using whatever they have to get their work done! This was UPHILL by the way…