As transfer week continues, the struggles to do the simplest things continue also. For much of the week we have had no internet, or very poor internet (which really makes the work of the President difficult, as most of the paperwork he has to do—receiving, reading, and responding to emails, etc.—almost impossible). Of course, much of what we do in the office comes to a halt also, as most of the info we have to input for the Church goes into a main server somewhere, via the internet!
Also, many of the mission phones are down, due to our friendly Votocom phone company! Last year we had attempted to sign up for a joint/company plan where all the phones in the mission would be run through one account, paid automatically via electronic pay, etc. After signing up, getting phones, documenting all the phone numbers, etc., Votocom totally botched the whole program due to their inability to keep track of payments or phone numbers, etc. Every month phones would be shut off, even though the account was paid, or the wrong phone numbers would get minutes, etc. After a couple of months we simply gave up, cancelled the group account, and had the missionaries pay for their own phones and minutes.
This has worked well, until recently. Suddenly about 1/3 of the phones have been shut down by Votocom for lack of payment (wait for it…) on the group account we closed a year ago! They refuse to turn the phones back on, yet cannot produce an invoice that proves we own them any money (because, of course, there is no bill due to the fact that the account is closed!). However, that doesn’t seem to make a difference. We have been trying to work with them to open the phones back up (because all of our missionaries get their monthly allowance through their phones—if the phones don’t work, they don’t get money…), but, their incompetence continues unabated.
The only reason we stay with Votocom is due to M-Pesa—the ability to send missionaries money through their phones. This is a real asset here as no one has bank accounts—it is a cash society. Without the ability to send money over the phone accounts, we would have to physically carry thousands of dollars in cash around the mission to each missionary. Oy Vey?
We went to the airport this morning, and, as usual, they have changed the process of who and how one gets through the airport. Now they want everyone to have a passport. Before, they could carry a simple identity card or a copy of their passport (if they were Congolese). But that has changed, again. Not sure what to do from here on out, but it makes it difficult to prepare missionaries to travel when the requirements change every time they leave!
The Ellis’ left this morning also, and we have 13 missionaries coming in from Mbuji Mayi this afternoon.
Last night we had a couple’s dinner with the Ellis’ (after Elder Ellis interviewed all the couples). One of the things we did was tell how each couple met, and the first thing they purchased as a couple. There were a couple of interesting stories that came out:
1. President Thomas saw Sister Thomas’ picture on the bulletin board at church and decided to write to her (she was on a mission, so they had her picture and address on the board). After writing her during her mission they dated and married.
2. Emanuel had his older brother find him a wife! He had a ‘plan’ to find a potential wife before his mission so that he could get married after his mission. He was not having any luck finding a girl that would go along with his plan, so he talked to his older brother, who found a girl willing to commit to marrying Emanuel after just meeting him! They wrote to each other during his mission, and when he returned they married.
3. Justin had to pay $50 to get his bride (called the Dote here, like a dowry).
4. Sister Atkinson was homecoming queen at Weber State and kept turning Brother Atkinson down for a date—not because she didn’t want to go out with him, but because her schedule was booked!
It was a fun evening, with a pot-luck dinner of Mexican food (well, sort of Congo/Mexican food). During dinner, as usual, the power went out and we had to finish in the dark (we have a generator but it seems to be broken…). But we do have water back, for the moment…
We are trying to get a little rest before our next trip to the airport this evening to pick up the next group of missionaries. Then tomorrow we start moving missionaries in-town, which will take all day.
Terri saying goodbye to missionaries at the airport
Just another fun picture of a truck coming into Lubumbashi. Notice the goats on top!
We found this baby bird outside our door
A short time later…
This is the reason you cannot stop moving while on your mission!
Jusque la fin!