As usual, anything that can happen will happen, during transfer week.
This week we have been without power and water for most of the time (fortunately we have a generator for use at the Mission Home), but we have had to buy water twice this week to fill the tanks—which gives us water, but often no water pressure. It is a constant battle!
The airlines have been a madhouse: the Lubumbashi airport being closed 3-4 days a week; canceled flights, smaller planes, changed schedules, etc. (remembering that since there are NO decent roads in the Congo, the only way you can get from one place to another is to fly…); leaves us always having to scramble to readjust our schedules.
Today the couples have interviews with Elder Ellis before he leaves tomorrow; the Drapers finally arrive (they missed their plane so had to stay overnight, take another odd flight through Kenya, to get here today); and we have a couples dinner tonight at the Mission Home.
Sunday we spend at the airport: missionaries flying out to Mbuji Mayi; missionaries coming in from Mbuji Mayi; and the Ellis’ leaving for Kinshasa (assuming the airlines don’t change flights again!).
Monday transfers continue with Emanuel and I doing truck circles all day (pick up missionaries here, drop them there, etc.); while others come and go on buses, or travel by transport, etc. This will continue all week, as transfers don’t end for at least a week (it takes that much time for some to travel all the way to their new sectors.
This transfer includes moving the sister missionaries out into the field: some traveling to Mwene Ditu, while others travel to Bujumbura, while others are being moved from their current areas and apartments to switch with Elders areas and apartments. It will be interesting to see how well the missionaries adjust to all the changes!
We are in the process of trying to upgrade missionary apartments, especially those outside of main cities where they have no power or water. It is a continuation of the work we have already been doing. For example, most apartments north of Lubumbashi (Mbuji Mayi, Mwene Ditu, Luputa, etc.), have solar panels for lights and power. We will be installing an additional solar panel and batteries to try to give them a longer time with power (we hope to give them 4-5 hours of light each night). This still won’t let them use fans, irons, stoves, etc., as they just draw too much power; but they can have lights on and charge their phones, emergency lamps, DVD players, etc.
We are also continuing to install water tanks at apartments that have some water, to give them storage ability for when the water isn’t there. We are also trying to install wells where we can, or find ways to tap into other water sources. When we do this we instruct the missionaries to share their water with their neighbors, since everyone in the area has the same problems.
Typical well and tank set-up
The wells are all hand-dug, yet most look like they were done by machine!
Elder Atkinson has begun a new project that is really wonderful. We have all noticed that most villages have deep wells with hand-pumps to get water. However, over time, the pumps have broken. Since Elder Atkinson has some expertise in this area we have persuaded him to start a long-term project to fix all of these broken well pumps, giving all of these small villages water again. The first one he fixed, there were people standing in line waiting to use the pump to get water! There are perhaps hundreds of these broken wells around the country (almost all of them look very similar and take similar parts).
So this is how we think/hope it will work:
- Elder Atkinson begins fixing a few of the pumps, keeping track of the parts, cost, time it takes to repair, etc.
- He is taking with him local men that are being trained how to fix these pumps.
- After he has fixed 10-15 pumps, we will put together some statistics showing what is breaking/needs fixed, how much it costs, how much time it takes per pump, etc.
- Finally, we can produce a budget for fixing say, 100 pumps, and submit the budget to and NGO to obtain some long-term financing.
Once the Atkinsons leave, and if the financing is in place, the men Elder Atkinson has trained can continue the work of fixing all of these broken pumps/wells.
So far the cost to fix a well is about $500 to $700 each for parts, and you can do about one a day (they do 3-4 at a time, but it takes about 3 days: they take them apart to find out what is wrong, the next day they go find and buy parts, and the 3rd day they return to fix the pumps). So we would need to add the cost of labor, and some travel…so perhaps $1,000 a pump total cost with everything included.
Considering it costs $25,000 to drill a new well, this is pretty cheap! And it is an easy, and dramatic, way to immediately change the lives of people in those communities. In one day you can give them water back!
This is the typical hand-pump you see all over the Congo, and the ones Elder Atkinson is fixing.
Anyway, lots of stuff going on, and as the saying goes in every mission:
Jusque la fin!