This week we traveled with the Thomas’ to Likasi and Kolwezi. It was a great trip, with a few hiccups due to the aggressive police and numerous road-blocks that have been set-up to catch people who have not paid the tax on their vehicles.
We started out on Tuesday by leaving about 8 am for Likasi. We drove without incident, making it through a couple of road-blocks (we always have our taxes paid and the right stickers on the car), and arrived at the Likasi District Center about 10 am. President Thomas started interviewing missionaries while Terri did her medical thing with them (answering questions, giving out meds, etc.). Sister Thomas sat inside and talked with some of the missionaries (she practiced her French and they practiced their English!).
Likasi Stake Center
New water tower that is being prepared (every church in the Congo needs one of these!
We attempted to go see the local hospital and confirm that they accepted the new Aetna insurance, but were stopped at yet another road-block. This time they would not let us pass, attempting to get us to pay them money. Finally I saw the opportunity and simply backed up, turned around, and went the other way.
Picture of the Likasi choir that was on their board.
We also saw a new potential missionary apartment, and inspected the security at one of the local sister apartments (they had some things stolen from the yard and wanted to be sure they were secure). They were very secure, with bars on all the doors and windows. But to make sure we changed all the padlocks for new ones.
After the President was done with his interviews we went to the local ‘Relax’ hotel to eat and sleep. We had a great dinner, and had even ordered dessert: crepes Suzette (it was on the menu!). After dinner they brought out the dessert we had anxiously waited for. Well, you can tell by the picture what Congo ‘crepes Suzette’ looks like!
The next day we ate breakfast and headed to Kolwezi. Again having to go through several police stops. One I simply took a side road around the road-block, and two others were not manned at the time we passed. But as we neared Kolwezi they had another one that was manned by lots of police, and they were determined to get money out of us one way or another. They kept pointing at a 2013 Lubumbashi parking sticker, saying it was out of date and they wanted $105 to let us pass. Of course, they were just trying to find any excuse to get money out of us. The sticker was not out of date (it is good for a year and was not due to be renewed for two months) and was only good/used in Lubumbashi, NOT Kolwezi! But that was neither here nor there, they wanted their money! We offered them about $10 in Congolese francs, but that was not enough. I then wrapped the wad of francs with a $20 and told the President to try that (he was the one talking to them). They finally accepted that and let us go through.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and then went to the District Center so that President Thomas could begin interviewing elders. While he was doing that, we went to buy some fruit and water for the elders, and also helped truck bidons of water from the church to their apartment (they had been out of water at the apartment for some time and had been carting bidons to the church to fill them with water, then carting them back).
That night we had another great meal at the hotel and went to bed. The next day we traveled all the way from Kolwezi to Lubumbashi (about 4 hours). We got through the first road-block ok (where we had to pay the money the day before), but the next one I had to do some fancy driving! I saw the police ahead of me so I pulled off to the side of the road and waited for another car to get in front of me. As we both neared the stop, with three police blocking the road, we both began pulling over to the side of the road, and as we did the police began to move off the road also…my chance to gun the car, swerve to the other side, and drive around them! A little later the car that had acted as a ‘blocker’ for me passed us, and as they did the passenger gave us the thumbs-up sign…
We got back to Lubumbashi without further incident, passing other road-blocks, and one large serious accident. We were happy to be back…and while we were gone they had fixed the water pump for the mission home: water pressure and hot water! Woo hoo!