This is Dixie's pumpkin for this year.
Monday, October 31, 2011
Friday, October 28, 2011
Posted by Kriss Gates
I had a fun Congo birthday today. We cleaned up the last of the flood mess and then I took the afternoon off to work on blogs. Ed came home and drove me down to see how pretty the ocean looks in the middle of the day, when the sky is blue and the temperature is 95 degrees. (We usually see it at 6:30 in the morning).
Our evening highlight, after we called our mission president and got permission, was taking the elders out to a nice dinner at a restaurant on the beach. This is the first time we have been able to do this in 16 months. It's our favorite restaurant in town and the owners and waiters know us. They made it extra special for us.
I've been told that 5 of our 6 children are meeting together tonight with their spouses to have a special birthday party for me in North Carolina. We are supposed to call them at 1:00 in the morning to say HI to all of them. If I am too old to stay up that late, remember that we love all of you. Thanks for all of your support and prayers, that help us know that we are where we should be.
I want to end by saying how much I appreciate my parents and all they have done for us. Thanks for setting the example of being missionaries in Africa over 20 years ago.
Dad, Our phone isn't working tonight, so I won't be able to talk to you. Please give Mom an extra special hug, and a kiss, from me. Whisper in her ear tonight that I think she is wonderful! I love you both so much. I am so glad Heavenly Father sent me to your house to live, and I am grateful that "Families Are Forever." Love, Kriss
Posted by Kriss Gates
The rainy season has hit with a vengeance! We are amazed how quickly the season switches from the dry season. They don't have seasons like summer, spring, winter & fall. They wouldn't have any idea what those words mean (In French or English.) One or two days of heavy rain has a huge impact on life.
Many people keep working. It is just a way of life.
We have found out that when people's homes flood... Life goes on. We had some road improvement on the road in front of our home during the dry season. We wondered how it would affect the rain runoff. Basically it turned our yard and our home into a drainage bowl.
The storm started on Monday morning. Ed woke up early to go play basketball with the Elders. He jumped out of bed, into one and a half inches water!!! We couldn't believe it! The rain had stopped, but our entire home was flooded.
We called an apartment of 4 Elders, to cancel basketball... and they came right over to help. Ed and I worked for about 7 hours, and the Elders worked about 5 hours. We weren't sure exactly where it had come in from... just the doors, or all around the exterior walls. We tried pumping it and spraying it down the road.
Somewhere we lost control and these 4 characters and Ed decided to party with a water fight, which deserves a blog of it's own. What a day!
Tuesday the sun shined and dried up all the rain. We thought it was over for awhile. But Tuesday night, at about midnight it started again. Ed heard it and got out of bed. He walked around the house and picked everything up off the floor, including computer chords, boxes, files, and our precious cardboard boxes we use for end tables, etc. While I was sleeping, Ed watched the water level rise in the front yard, and then come up over the porch, and then start flowing in through our front, side & back doors. There was absolutely nothing more he could do to stop it. 2 hours later he quetly climbed back in bed next to my sleeping, unaware body... and then he Sneezed! I sat up and asked if he was ok. It was very dark. He said he was fine, but since I was awake he wanted to warn me about the water, if I got up for anything in the night. "Honey," he quietly said as he turned on his little flashlight, "It has started to rain again, and look...". As my sleepy mind woke up, I watched our plastic wastepaper basket and my good rubber flip flops float across the room in 2 inches of water. It was an unbelievable feeling. It was like being on a boat, in our own bedroom. It seemed to crest at that depth, which means the water in the road found another outlet at the 2" mark inside our home. There was nothing we could do but wait and see if the water was finished rising. We snuggled down in bed and giggled and laughed and said "Now this is creating a memory." And in the quiet of the night rain, we slipped back asleep.
When we woke up Wednesday morning, the rain had stopped. Much of the water had seeped into the tile (they don't seal their tile or grout) and left a film of reddish-brown dirt throughout the house. We got up and the two of us got things squeegied and dried out in with about two and a half hours hard work.
We showered and headed off to a district meeting, to drop off copies... and then try to find something we could use as sandbags. The elders wished us good luck, and as we pulled out of their drive, the heavens opened up and it started to pour again. We got home just in time to lift the sofas up on dishes
& put some pieces of foam rubber tubing under the doors... and packed towels in, before the water was over the porch steps.
For about 90 minutes we thought we were very clever. We used our dust pans to scoop up the water as it came in. Then, the rain got so high it was over the dikes we had built, and started to pour in the sides of the doors. We just stood up, and put our arms around each other, and laughed again. We gave up until the rain had stopped. Our other 4 elders showed up to help us and we all worked together for about nother 4 hours.
Ed went and found bags and drove with Elder Rakotosonto the beach to fill them with sand. Our innocent road to the beach was flooded and there was a 200 yard wide river flowing over the road.
He drove the 4 wheel truck through it, praying that he would make it across and back. He said it was very scarey!!! He returned with enough bags to block the front and back door.
Now, we are just waiting for another down-pour to test our new dikes. Bring it on! We hope we are ready!!!
Friday, October 21, 2011
Posted by Kriss Gates
We have a darling lady that is one of the Branch President's wives. Sister Deckous. She has been the primary president for many years, and was finally released last month when the branches split. She was at every activity and a real fireball. She was one of the great female leaders in the church in Africa. She and her husband are one of only five couples who have been to the temple, and very dedicated.
When Amy came with her girls, Sister Deckous insisted that she make new dresses for all 3 of them. She didn't realize they were here for such a short time, so she told them she would make them and send them home with us.
On Saturday, October 8, she had her husband tell us it was very, very important to go visit her that night. We went to her home and found her very ill and laying on the sofa, unable to lift up her head. She had her husband give us a package with 3 African dresses in it, which she had made for Amy, Darcy & Dixie. It was her last act of love. She died a few days later. Noone knew for sure what she died of, but they said it was something to do with her liver. Perhaps Cancer, perhaps AIDS from a dirty needle, perhaps Cholera or malaria, or any other of these awful diseases that take so many people needlessly.
We have had a special week with being involved in the funeral of this great woman. She is truly a pioneer of the church in the Congo.
The day she died, we went over to see President Deckous. The “awning” company was already putting up 2 big shade awnings for visitors to sit under during the week of mourning. We visited several times during the week. One day I cooked President Deckous American style chicken, at his request. The tradition is that people just come and go all day and sit. At night many women, her closest friends and family, sleep on mats in the living room. In counting the mats, it looked like about 15 women, each night slept there. They moved the sofas outside on the front deck. President Deckous was required to sit and sleep on one of the sofas all week. Traditions are that he would normally sit & sleep on the floor for the week. However, he is progressive enough that he said he was using the sofa.
Sister Deckous’s family are not members. They, along with much of Africa, have accused our church as being a church of sorcery. ( They say that because of the miracles and blessings that do occur in our lives.) They also see that President Deckous is a “rich” man and they realize this may be the last time to get money from him. They made ugly accusations, about her death, trying to get him to buy them off. Traditionally, her family had the right to make most of the funeral decisions. President Deckous wanted the service at the chapel. They denied that and had it at the Deckous home. He chose a cute smiling photo of her, and we had it blown up into a 12X16 to have out all week and at the funeral. They insisted on using a very dramatic serious photo instead. They wanted a traditional African week of mourning, ending with an African funeral.
One of the biggest disagreements was what she was going to be dressed in, for the burial. They wanted a bright party dress. However, when she realized she was dying, she told the president to make sure she was buried in her temple clothes. These members didn’t really know what that entailed. Sister Deckous died on Thursday, and on Friday we tried to find out if she had her own temple clothes. Three different people in authority assured us she did have them. Saturday we found out that, as we suspected, that no one has their own temple clothes in the entire area. We coordinated, with the Hatch’s from the mission office in Kinshasa, to get temple clothing flown to us in time for the funeral. They sent a beautiful dress, robes, veil, etc. I was supposed to go to the morgue to help dress her. However, Wednesday night we decided with the President that a White Missionary was probably not the best way to try to get this family to cooperate and let her be buried in her robes. In the church handbook, it says that if for any reason an endowed member couldn’t be buried in their temple clothes, the clothes could be folded next to them in the casket and be buried with them. We kept praying that at least this would be allowed.
Early on Thursday, two of her closest member friends, who had been endowed in the temple, went to the morgue. As they waited outside, the family said they wouldn’t let them in. We were told it was a “battle”. President Deckous (who had to stay sitting on his sofa) had sent his 1st counselor to the morgue. He reminded the family that these 2 women were her closest friends and should be allowed in. He gave the family some money to go buy some juice. We understand they left mad. While they were gone, the church members went in with one of the family members. When they got inside, the relative said she understood and would help them dress her in her temple clothes, which they did. We feel that this was a beautiful miracle and a very, very important step in setting precedence here in the Congo for the members.
We were involved for 8 hours. We spent hours sitting under the awnings grieving.
The ice cream man and the peanut salesman kept selling their products to the weary people at the funeral.
It was a beautiful and very special day. Her family got their way on almost everything. However, President was able to arrange for the members to have a service of our own, in the room around the casket. It was to be between the African chanting and dancing (shuffling around the casket for hours)… and before they took her to the cemetery.
We saw many tribal customs, and we saw the contrast as hundreds of good saints made the adjustment for a very reverent, special half hour service. Our hearts were bursting as we saw the church move forward because of these brave good saints. As we gathered as many people as possible in this room that was about 16’ square, the spirit glowed. There was an opening hymn, a prayer, and a special talk by the President’s first counselor. He gave both her history and a spiritual talk on Eternal Families and the Plan of Salvation. Remember, this was the first temple endowed member to pass away in this area.
Then we sang all the verses to about eight hymns. They started with some regular funeral songs like “Nearer my God to Thee” and then the songs built into stronger feelings of encouragement with “How Firm a Foundation.” They sang with conviction and a strong, comforting spirit of the Holy Ghost permeated the room.. Words can’t describe, how we felt, as all those good humble members stood around the casket and sang “Count Your Blessings” followed by the closing “God Be With You Till we meet Again.” As I stood by Ed at the head of the casket, as Ed was the representative of the mission president, and the church leader in the area, we held hands and wept. These sweet humble people have little in the way of worldly goods, yet they sang the words with fervor, thanking the Lord for all that they have been blessed with spiritually and in their daily lives. Ed and I realized that one of our greatest blessings has been the opportunity to serve here. Our hearts were bursting with love for these members!
After the closing prayer, the Relief Society presented a big wreath of plastic flowers, and then the African came out in many of these sisters. These sweet gentle women, who had grown in the gospel with Sister Deckous fervently cried, hugged the photo and the casket, and grieved over losing this great woman.
Many went to the cemetery in the 15 buses (vans), that had been reserved.
She was buried in the pretty area of the cemetery for "rich" people.
President Deckous had to stay home on the sofa. The dedication of the grave would happen after the crowd left, and when President was allowed to go back to see the grave.
As we left the cemetery that day, with the back of our pickup filled with our great 8 Elders, we knew we had just witnessed a special chapter in the history of the church in the Congo.
Sunday, October 9, 2011
Posted by Kriss Gates
There are no pictures of the temple design as of yet. Therefore, we shall post a photo of our joy at being missionaries, together, in the Congo.
We are getting a temple in Kinshasa! We are thrilled, humbled, excited and overwhelmed. Whoever would have guessed that in this remote place in the world, where the church is still in pioneer stages... we would get a temple! It will be in Kinshasa, where our mission home is.
PReviously, our members have had to fly to South Africa to go to be sealed in the temple. It costs over $2000 per person to get there. Almost everyone is subsidized 95% by wealthy donators. The members now have to pay for the passports ($90 per person) and then make a "sacrifice" of some amount of payment. They usually pay about $50.00 per person, or less. These amounts are huge for most of the people here, and they have to save and scrimp to save anything over the basics of staying alive. They only have the opportunity to attend a temple once in their lives, to get their own endowments and be sealed as man and wife, for time and all eternity.
When our temple is built in Kinshasa, it will be about a 7 hour bus ride from Pointe Noire. It used to be an impossibility to cross through the thick rain forest jungle mountains. However, the Chinese are almost finished with a wonderful new highway that will go from Pointe Noire (where we live) to the capital of The Republic of Congo, Brazzaville. Then the members will take a boat ride across the Congo river, which is very, very wide at this point... and they will be in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (DRC) Attending the temple annually or quarterly will be a possibility for them!
Last Saturday we returned home from being missionaries about 10:45. We were able to stream in the last 15 minutes of the audio of conference on KSL.com. It doesn't usually work, but on that day it did. After it was over, I dozed off to sleep. Ed started reading the highlights of conference on KSL.com. He read aloud, "President Monson announced 5 new temples are to be built." I perked up and listened to him read that one would be in Provo, one in France, one in Wyoming and 2 in Africa. We couldn't believe 2 in Africa! (Remember, Africa is HUGE!) Then I really woke up. "One will be in Durbin South Africa" and the other"... I sat up, as Ed read... "Oh, Kriss, It will be in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo." Thinking he was teasing me, I leaned over to read his computer screen. And there it was!!! "Kinshasa"!
We were so excited we just hugged each other and tearfully kept saying "I can't believe it!" We both jumped onto our emails and saw that most of our children had been writing or calling, ever since it was announced live in Salt Lake about 5 hours earlier. Words cannot express how special our prayers of Thanksgiving were that night!