Saturday, June 3, 2017

Our Orphanage Was Flooded Again – And once again, we were needed!

On our 2nd mission, we were very involved with the Kaka Orphanage here in Kinshasa.  Due to severe flooding, when it rained hard, Ed dedicated the last 2 months of his mission to rebuilding the orphanage.  He built a wonderful wall to block the flooding in the future, and it has held beautifully. 
(These are photos of the wall he built in 2014.)

However, while we were in the United States last month, a few weeks ago the creek, next to the orphanage, was so full that it ripped down a section of the old wall, that wasn’t even along the creek bed.  At 2:00 in the morning, while it was pitch dark, the wall broke and the water came rushing and swirling into the orphanage yard, and then into the children’s rooms, which are 2’ below the rest of the yard.  The water was so forceful that they couldn’t open the door to get out of the bedroom.  19 children and 1 adult were trapped.  The children were kneeling on their bunks, trying to keep their heads above the water, screaming and crying for help. The one adult was moving from one bed to another, to help the children, as the water was up to her neck.   A neighbor (a good Christian man) heard them and got through the water in the yard, with something heavy enough that he could smash a hole high up in the exterior wall.  The 1 adult handed the children out to him, one at a time, as they were rescued at the last minute.  (The rescue hole is the one up high, to the left of the word "Centre".)
When we returned from the United States, we were told about the disaster by Elder and Sister Romney, the other missionary couple who live in our apartment building. (They had emailed us about it, but had sent it to our temple job email, which we didn’t have access to while we were gone.)   When the flood happened, Philomene called the number that she usually calls to get ahold of me.  Our interpreter answered, and he understood the gravity of the situation.  He told the Romneys what had happened.  They immediately got men from our jobsite, and drove out to the orphanage to help pump out the water and start cleaning up the mess.  The children were moved to the school rooms to sleep for the following couple of weeks.  (This is 15 year old Dorothea.  We have loved her for 4 years.  She was the 2nd oldest in the bedrooms when this flood happened.  You can see where the waterline was, above her eye level.)

When the director of the orphanage was telling me of the terror, I cried and cried and cried… as she cried with me… and we held each other tightly.  We both realized how fatal the flood could have been.  We know that they were greatly blessed that night. 

The Romneys were fantastic!  They said they were glad that we weren’t there, so they could have the blessing of helping and coordinating this project.  They are the Public Affairs missionary couple, and rarely leave their desks.  By the time we returned to Kinshasa, they had spoken with our humanitarian missionary couple, and found a contractor to start building the wall that had collapsed.  The urgency was to get it built before another rain storm.  They were all relieved when Ed showed up, as he could monitor the work and make sure that it tied in with the existing wall, and would be built strong enough to withhold future floods. 
The new wall is completed.  Things are getting back to normal.  The Romneys arranged for new mattresses and sheets for all the beds.  The children were so thrilled with the sheets that they took them off the beds at night, and folded them up for under their heads.  They said they didn’t want the sheets to get dirty. 

I am continually amazed at life in the Congo.   We are grateful for the good neighbor that saved the children’s lives.   We are thankful for the Romneys and the others who helped Philomene and the orphanage.  We are thankful we returned when we did so that Ed could help get the wall built better and stronger.  The list of things we are thankful for is endless.  We are thankful we are where we need to be, at this season of our lives.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

It’s Good To Know You Are Needed!

Look how fun... We are really building a temple!  This is a photo taken from the neighbor's deck, so  we are allowed to post it.  It shows how much of the steel roof is erected.  (It also shows our apartment house at the far, far left.)
Ed is the inspector for the temple job.  When we were told not to come back to the Congo for a few weeks, due to potential political violence, everyone assumed all was going well at the job site.  The first morning back on the job Ed immediately realized there were problems with the way that the roof structure was being erected.  The connecting plates were made out of a steel that was only about half the thickness that was specified on the plans.  Corrections are being designed... and then we will move forward again. 
The good news that came out of it was that we were reminded that we are needed here in Kinshasa!😊😌

What more can I say?

Words can't describe how I feel about this picture, so I decided I needed to blog it.  This is AJ, our grandson who survived brain cancer and surgery two and a half years ago.   (After 6 weeks of daily proton therapy, following the surgery, we were warned to expect side effects.  So far, we don't see any and he has had clean scans!  He is such a sweetheart.) This is his new sister, Mayley. 

Our Quick Trip Home - March 23-May 14

As service missionaries, we are able to return to the United States to visit our children.  It has worked out to be about 3 times a year... spring, summer and Christmas.  For our spring visit, we were scheduled to be gone for 19 days and to return on May 11th. To make a long story short, due to potential political violence, we received word that we should not try to come home for another week.  (It was reported that 14 people were killed in Kinshasa on the 10th, near the road from the airport.)  On Easter Sunday, the 16th) we flew to Chicago and checked our bags in to go to Paris, our next stop on the way to the Congo.  We rented a car and went to a Sacrament Meeting.  When I checked my messages after the meeting, there was a message from Alan Rudolph (our director in Special Projects, for the church) saying that he agreed with Stan (the owner of the construction company who is building the temple) and we should not return to the Congo for a "few" weeks.  Wow!  We got our bags back from the Paris flight and switched to return to Raleigh-Durham and make new plans. 

We had a marvelous time playing with our kids and grandchildren for the time we were home.  We were able to visit all 6 families, in 5 different states.  (Char & Lani in North Carolina, Chuck in Virginia, Mitzi in Utah, Tiffany in California and Amy in Alaska.)  Highlights included:

Attending general conference with two of our granddaughters, Zetta & Tara. (Mitzi's girls)

Brooklyn's Baptism... (We have missed attending 2 others this year, so we appreciated being able to be at this special occasion.)

A golfing trip to Saint George with Ed's brothers, Ernie & Ken... and their wives.  We are very blessed to have these 2 couples as our dear friends!

Our first trip to Costa Rica...  seeing the gorgeous country, golfing 72 holes in 2 days, and some great relaxation.


A last minute Eastern Caribbean Cruise with 2 of our daughters and their husbands, and Ed's brother Ernie and his wife, Linda.

But the highlight of the trip was being able to help Lani and her family during the birth of her 5th child...  What a blessing to be "Grammy and Papa" and to be able to be there!

We finally were cleared to come "home" to Kinshasa, the day after Lani returned home from the hospital.  It was great to spend time with our kids... but it was also great to get back to build the temple!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

School Donations - The High Schools

At the high school level we were able to go into 14 classrooms and introduce ourselves.  It was a wonderful opportunity to spread good will about the church.  We told them that the temple is across from ShopRite (the main store in the area) and that they could watch the temple go up.  Then in a year we would send an invitation to them to attend our open house.  Almost all the classes got a notebook and a pencil... most got pencil sharpeners and erasers... and the scientific classes got rulers.  Again, lots of happy kids! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How does one put into words sacred happenings?

March 11, 2917

How does one put into words sacred happenings?  I wrote a blog entry, in October, and asked “Is It A Coincidence?”  Literally during the minutes that we poured the concrete floor slab in Celestial Room, we witnessed a beautiful natural phenomenon for about 15 minutes.  It is referred to as a “Halo”.  As we all looked up at the sky, we saw a beautiful rainbow around the startling bright sun.  I immediately said… “It’s Dad… and he’s letting us know that he is with us and cheering us on.”  I pointed it out to the workers who were busy pouring and finishing the slab.  And then I said… “It’s the Seraphins! (French for angels.)  They are celebrating that we are building a temple in this part of the world!”  We were all thrilled, and very humbled, to have witnessed such a sight.

Yesterday, March 10, we poured the columns and beams in the Celestial Room.  I was deep in work in the office.  I felt a distinct impression that I needed to go outside and watch the men and see if I felt Dad’s presence, or at least to feel the spirit of the temple.  (He loved the excitement of a concrete pour.)  I kept working, and a minute later the feeling came again.   At a cousin retreat in January, my sisters and nieces encouraged me to “Be Still” and taught me the importance of taking time to follow promptings.  I decided to walk away from my work at my desk, and go watch the men at work… and “Be Still” and enjoy the moment.

I opened the office door and walked outside.  The sun seemed brighter than usual.  I looked up and saw our 2nd Halo.  I quickly walked down to tell Ed and the workers to look up.  It was there again, as we were pouring the Celestial Room walls.  I walked over to the lunch area, picked up a plastic chair, and sat down at the front of the temple and watched.  For about 30 minutes, I just sat and watched the temple being built, under the Halo. 

I happened to have my little red Kids Are Music sound amplifier on the job, for the first time.  I have a wonderful digital album called “Happy Hymns” that I love.  Our interpreter volunteered to walk around the job with the speaker playing energetic songs such as “The World Has Need of Willing Men.”  The men sang as they worked for about 30 minutes.  They moved from the Celestial Room area to the front platform, which will hold the steeple for now, but is engineered to hold a “future statue”.  As they finished pumping the last of this area… the pour was finished, the pump hose was pulled up and moved to the side of the building.  We looked up in the sky and the Halo faded away. 

This time we know what it was that we saw.  It was a special Tender Mercy. It happened twice, months apart, as we were pouring the floor & walls of the Celestial Room.  What a blessing it is to work on building this temple with these marvelous men!  We will always humbly remember what we witnessed.

School Supply donations from the U.S.

Along with all the other items that arrived from the United States, there were several boxes of school supplies.  We sorted and took an inventory of what we had.  We identified a needy elementary school and two schools with approximately 7th-12th grades.  We were concerned that if we just dropped off the supplies, that they might not ever make it down the line to get to the individual students.  There is a big problem here of people taking bags and boxes of donations, and setting up a shop on the road.  Then they sell the items and pocket the proceeds.

We contacted the schools and made arrangements to go in and talk to the administrators.  We felt good about the elementary school.  The "principal" said that we could meet each of the 9 teachers and give them a bag with crayons, scissors, colored pencils, a pencil sharpener, a notebook and a single file folder.  The art supply bag, with the teacher's name on it, will be checked back into the office everyday.  They were thrilled with everything... even the filing folder!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Distribution of Donations from Utah Part 1

When the temple contractor, Westland Construction, shipped a large container to Kinshasa from Utah, he accepted donations from various sources.  Huge crates and boxes were shipped.  I was asked to coordinate finding worthy recipients and distributing them.  It ended up being an extremely rewarding experience for me.

I arranged for 4 boxes full of "like new" children's books to be donated to the English speaking school.  This school was not as needy as the other places we made donations... but the books were in English, instead of French... and the school was thrilled to receive all those wonderful books.
There were over 100 fabric bags, made by a group of young women.  18 were distributed to an orphanage.
The rest were donated to the Raped Victims Women's Center, which is in the Eastern part of the country, where a violent war is currently being fought.  Enemy  soldiers rape the Muslim women, who are then abandoned by their families, as the victims are considered "unclean."    Most of the baby clothes we received were also donated to this center. 

Clothing and beautiful soft fuzzy blankets were given to orphans and to some of the needy children in the church, whose Dad's work at the temple site. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Daily Prayer Meeting

Every morning we have a Prayer Meeting with a song and a hymn.  (Ed is on the far right.  They are in a circle... but this is how a panorama looks.)  On Mondays Ed or I give a devotional.  Ed goes around daily and greets each of them with a handshake.  These guys sound fabulous when they sing.  It is privilege to work with them!

Simbas Pants

I have had requests to please start blogging more about our mission.  Some may recognize some of the entries as similar to those posted on Instagram & Facebook.  However, there will be more details here and at the end of our mission I will be able to have all of my blog entries made into a book.

Simba, who is one of the guys on the job had pants that were ripped to the point that Ed was concerned that they might get caught on something and create a safety hazard, where Simba might get hurt.  Ed mentioned it to him, and Simba replied he didn't have another pair.  (Simba has many children and we are sure he uses his money for food, rent and schooling.)

Ed said, "Well I would give you a pair of my old ones that are too big for me, except they would be huge on you."  (Ed used to be a 34 waist, and now is smaller than a 32.)  Simba was thrilled and said "No, Elder Gates.  I will make them fit.  You will see!"  So Ed took the pants the next day, and Simba made them work.  He chopped off about a foot off the length and found a heavy string to make the 34 waist fit his 28" waist.... and he is thrilled!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Was it a coincidence?

Was it a coincidence?  Each of you who read this will have to decide for yourself.  But if there is even a 1% chance that it was something special and sacred, I want to write about it.  One of my assignments is to write the history book of the building of the temple.   This book will go into the cornerstone and into the archives of the church, as well as a few special offices of the church.  I would suppose if I was ever going to be in tune with the spirit, and in the right place (such as on a temple building site) to witness and recognize that it might be more than a coincidence, this would be my time.

After six months of underground construction and delays (due to weather and political protests and rioting) , we were finally ready to pour the main temple floor slabs.   I have twice felt that my Dad’s spirit might be close to me, on the temple job site.  Both times were big concrete pours. Today was one of them.  We saw something we have never seen before.  Most of the men working were our previous students and we were all proud of each other that we were able to complete the pour,  without having to bring in outside help.  Everyone was in a great mood, and the pour was going well.

We were almost finished and the men had just started to pour and finish the last area, for the day.   It was the Celestial room, which is considered the most special room in the temple.  As the men were working hard, and concrete was pouring out of the pump and the chute, one of the subcontractor’s pointed up and said… “Look!”   It was beautiful!   It was almost noon and the sun was straight up overhead.  Around the sun was a gorgeous rainbow circle. It is called a “Halo” and is a very rare natural optical phenomenon.   It was so bright that it was difficult to look at it for very long.   I turned to Ed and said … “It’s Dad sending us a message.  He is so proud of you!”   I had our workers pause and look at it and laughingly told them it was Seraphins (Angels) singing because we were pouring in the Celestial room.  We watched the “Halo” in the sky as they worked for about 15 minutes, and as they finished the Celestial Room, the Halo faded away. 

As I lie in my bed tonight, and think about it, I can’t help but wonder… “Was it a coincidence?”  But I like to think it was more than that, and that makes me happy (and humbled) to think that we were possibly blessed today to be part of a Heavenly Celebration that there is finally going to be a temple in Kinshasa for these wonderful people!


PS:  The colors of the ring didn’t come through in the photo, but we are excited we able to capture it at all!  The top is from my camera and the bottom is from Ed's camera.

PS.  From wikamedia:  Halo (from Greek ἅλως, halōs[1]) is the name for a family of optical phenomena produced by light interacting with ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere.