Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Nostalgia and Perspective

Our little boy started toddling a while ago. I loved to just sit and watch as he circled the couch with his hand gently using the back for balance. When he came to the corner, he would take three steps to the storage box we use as a coffee table. He would circle the box carefully with his hand on top until he reached the corner. Then, he would take the three addition steps by himself to reach the other corner of the couch. He enjoyed circling the couch and would often do it many times while giggling or babbling.

When baby boy was taking these steps around the couch one day when I realized the passing of time. One night your baby goes to bed and wakes up a toddler. One night your toddler goes to bed and wakes up a child. Soon that child grows into a teenager who is then eager for college. And then you stop and wonder when did they grow up? I now have a a little girl who is no longer a toddler and I now have a toddler who is no longer an infant.

It was during this moment that I noticed Maman Cele (my worker) who had walked into the room. I turned to her and sighed audibly. I told her I was sad that our baby boy would no longer be a baby. Maman Cele gave me a confused look and said, “Don’t be sad.” I assumed she did not understand me. I explained I was sad that my baby is growing up. Again, Maman Cele gave me a confused look and said, “Don’t be sad, rejoice.” I must have given her a look that said I was still confused because she continued, “Be happy your baby is alive. Each day he grows, he is alive.”

It was at that moment that I was ashamed. I live in a country where the mortality rate is astronomical – 1 in 7 children die before reaching the age of 5, and WHO estimates put the rate as high as 28% . It should be noticed that an official census of the population has not been taken of the country in a long time, thus the mortality percentage estimates are based on the numbers reported which means the mortality rate could be higher or lower based on an unknown total population.

Here before me stood a woman who has lost a child and who loves my child(ren) as fiercely as she loves one of her own. She was not sad that our baby boy would no longer be a baby but she was rejoicing that he is alive each and every day. That was a tough lesson for (nostalgic) me but I was definitely thankful for the new perspective she gave me. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

St. Nicholas Day

Every evening over the past few weeks little girl has told me "Santa is coming." And every time it caught me off guard. You see, our family has not talked about Santa before and our kids have never received gifts from him. So each time little girl said he was coming, I played it off by talking about how yes he did come in her Peppa Pig book or yes we did see a statue of him in the grocery store. But I have never encouraged her imagination. So imagine my surprise when I was proven wrong!

On Friday (December 4th), it was my turn for carpool and I picked the kids up from school. When I got to sweet pea's classroom, she bounded out of the room and squealed that Santa came and brought her presents. I looked at the teacher for more information but she was busy speaking to another parent. So I gathered all the kids up, got them to the car, buckled them in, passed out snacks, and started plying the kids with questions.

Me: So, you saw Santa today
Girls: YES!
Me: What do they call him in French. Père Noël? (Father Christmas)
Elijah: No, St. Nicholas (Ni-cola...like Ricola the cough drops but with an n)
Girls: Oui! St. Nicholas donné-moi des bonbons (he gave me candies)
Elijah: St. Nicholas was big! I even measured him! He was so big!
Ruth: Il donné des bonbons à mes amis. (He gave candies to my friends)

*The kids proceeded to correct one another on their pronunciation on St. Nicolas (NEE-cola vs. NI-cola...I couldn't tell the difference but they could). This followed by the kids pulling out their bag filled with small taffies and a package of Speculoos cookies and caressing it with much relish.

After talking to some of the other moms, one was able to talk to a Belgian friend to get more information. December 6th is St. Nicholas Day, a day where the patron saint (Catholic) is celebrated. He comes to town mid-November and travels to churches, schools, and businesses delivering treats to all, usually special cinnamon biscuits (Speculoos). On December 5th, there is a feast in his honor at all households where he could show up as an honored guest if he wanted. That night, children place their shoes by the chimney or in the foyer by the door along with hay and carrots for his horse and beer or coffee for him. During the night, St. Nicholas will go door to door with his assistant Père Fouettard (Black Peter) who will place chocolate letter candies or small toys in the shoes for all good children. For the naughty children, they will wake up to see a birch branch stick for which their parents are to punish them or if they are especially naughty, Black Peter (either a black man or a man with soot covering his face, interpretations vary) will place the child in the sack and send him to Spain! Sometimes when St. Nicholas is in a hurry, he will leave a bag of gifts on the door step and will knock on the door as he is leaving.

St. Nicholas and Black Peter
What? You were expecting something a bit different, weren't you? 
He wears a Bishop's rope and red cape with a miter 
After learning more about the holiday and knowing that our girlie goes to a Belgium school, I now realize that she had been studying him over the past few weeks, even learning cute songs which I mistook for regular nursery rhymes (I had to look them up after paying attention to the lyrics). So, we decided to celebrate the holiday by making cookies and setting out our shoes for candies. Since girlie is only 3 and actually saw the character I felt kind of bad saying he wasn't real when in fact, he was very much real to her, I didn't mind playing along this year. Especially since it emphasizes that "Santa" has nothing to do with Christmas which is a celebration for Christ. So we can keep our Advent countdown traditions, birthday party, and Christian songs separate.

Cookies for the feast

Making cookies

Making cookies

St. Nicholas came!!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


As many of you know, my father died when I was only 4 years old. It was on this day, December 1st, 30 years ago (1985). While I do have a handful of memories of him, I do not have much more. I own 8 photographs of my father and me together. I have a few more of a combination of my mother and him, but not many. This is all I have and it is more than my younger brother. There is not a single photo of the two of them together.

When I found out that our baby was going to be a girl, I became obsessed with the idea of making certain that she had more than 8 photos of her with her father. It became a passion of mine, photograph after photograph after photograph. But one day I looked at all these photographs and realized something was missing - me. In my personal desire to give my daughter what I never had, I took away something from her, our photographs. I cannot go back into the past and add photos of us together but I can make new ones and plenty of memories to cherish forever.

(Source: Jocelyn Frey)

(Source: Jocelyn Frey)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Happy 1st Birthday

Last Wednesday (11-11) was our little boy's first birthday and I am a little late posting photos! As a family we decided to keep the day low key - just us and little man. We lavished him with attention and little snacks. Since he has been a late comer to food, we decided to forego the traditional cake and just stick to baby puffs that a friend brought back with them from the United States. Here are a few photos of his special day.

Showing off the amazing shirt Aunt B made

Enjoying his little car and book from the grandparents

Love those baby blues and strawberry blonde hair!

Sister "reading" to baby Brother

Our handsome little boy

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Med Evac Flights

Kevin talking to Rita Chapman about the situation
(Photo courtesy of Mark & Kelly Hewes, used with permission)
Last week, Kevin was able to do a Med Evac flight. It was for a 12-year-old girl (Masha) who had developed an infection on her left shin (tibia). Back in February, she noticed her leg had started to swell. Her family did what they could by treating her with indigenous medicine. Unfortunately, the medicines could not help the infection, which made it appear worse than before.  So her family took her to the local hospital in Kikongo. The hospital was now afraid to do anything because they feared the infection had spread into the bone. She was in a lot of pain and was no longer able to walk. The hospital in Kikongo was not able to do much for the young girl, so a local missionary family (the Chapmans) arranged for MAF to do a flight to bring the girl out.

Masha (in red) waiting to board the airplane
(Photo courtesy of Mark & Kelly Hewes, used with permission)
Kevin flew the young girl and her mother out to the missionary hospital in Vanga where they were able to take X-rays of her leg (x-rays in the bush of Africa, how cool is that!). The x-rays confirmed that the infection had indeed spread throughout the entire bone, which was now also broken in multiple places as a result of the weakness from the infection. She was now at a high risk for losing her leg. The local missionary, Dr. Tim Rice, said they would try to do surgery this week on her leg to see if it can be saved.

Dr. Rice praying with Masha
(Photo courtesy of Mark & Kelly Hewes, used with permission)
Then two days later, MAF received another call for a 15 year old boy named Plamedie with another open ulcer on his leg. He had been living with an open sore on his leg for 3 years, but had been reasonably well looked after and wasn’t as serious as the little girl. He still required medical attention, so Kevin flew him and his father out to Vanga as well. Dr. Rice informed Plamedie that his x-rays looked good and that he expected him to make a full recovery without surgery.

Plamedie looking at his x-rays
(Photo courtesy of Mark & Kelly Hewes, used with permission)
Please pray for these young children who risked losing their legs to infections that could have possibly been treated with over the counter products found in a local pharmacy, but are not available to those living in remote villages. I will post updates when we find out more information about Masha's situation and Plamedie's recovery. 

***Update 8 November 2015***
Plamedie is in his home village recovering quite well.
Masha's surgery went well but she is still at a risk of losing her leg. Prospects are looking better for her but she is not out of the woods yet. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Motherhood Moments #16

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
A morning filled with birthday party fun! I am grateful for the days of normalcy and I cherish the memories made with our friends here.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Gift of Bibles

One evening, I (Kevin) went to wait at the N’djili airport for someone coming into Kinshasa. During that time, he had an opportunity to tour the Air Traffic Control tower. He was able to see how the tower operated and was able to meet the people he spoke to when flying. The people were eager to answer questions and in turn were quite eager to ask all about MAF. They were quite pleased to learn that not only was I a follower of Christ, but so were all the other MAF staff. And they were thrilled to find out that was the purpose of MAF’s existence. One controller asked me if I happened to have a Bible handy, as he had never owned one. Then another asked… and another… and so on.

When the average worker makes about $5 daily, and the cost of living in Kinshasa is so high (an avocado is about $1), a $10 book is essentially unattainable. Upon hearing so many in need of Bibles, I asked how many worked in the control tower all together - 70 was the response. So after setting a goal of providing 70 Bibles for the control tower, I eagerly contacted the church in which I grew up, Highland View Church of Christ, who immediately pulled through with $1,200 just for this purpose! This is almost double the need, but in talking with the resident MAF IT guy here, we learned of some really cool Bible literature programs that can be put on SD cards. So we used the remainder to purchas 150 of those!

When my parents came to visit, they brought the funds with them. MAF then organized the purchase of the Bibles and then arranged for a trip to the airport for my dad and me. In each Bible, Mark added a stamp with the MAF logo and a sticker with John 3:16 explaining the Bibles were purchased with funds from Highland View Church.

My father and I were able to deliver 25 Bibles during the first trip (the tower has three teams of roughly 25 people each, so not all 70 are there at one time). The controllers were very excited and repeatedly thanked everyone involved in bringing the Bibles to them.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Motherhood Moments #15

Sometimes motherhood is yucky business and it comes in the form of this...
This my friends is a mango fly. It somehow managed to attach to our little girl's leg as an egg, hatch, and burrow down under her skin. (Feel free to research the process on your own since I am going to remain vague on details, leaving you to explore or not explore details yourself).
Luckily the internet is full of all things disgusting including videos and tutorials on proper removal to avoid infection. I quickly smothered it in jelly (Aquafor) for 30 minutes to let it die. Then I popped it right out with minimal complaints. I sprayed it with Bactine and used a decorative plaster to encourage sweet pea to not touch it. She was a good camper and it has healed all up with no lingering traces.
Now that this rite-of-passage is in my book, I wonder what will happen next in my adventures in motherhood?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Animals, Animals Everywhere…

*If you clicked on the link out of curiosity, I must provide a secondary warning of the graphic content. While there are no photos attached, I will be talking about a topic that could be uncomfortable to many regarding how animals fit into life here in Congo.

With dry season coming to a close, most animals will have foraged all the food that is available to them; and until the rains come again to bring new life to the plants, it is time to butcher the animals.

My first experience with how animals are regarded in this culture came when we moved here. We were taking care of some rabbits for our friends. Unbeknownst to us, the workers bred two of the rabbits. I awoke one morning to find a few small kits. I hit the internet to research how to take care of the babies, but I did not learn fast enough. Sure enough, the following morning, one had died. I told the worker on duty one had died, but the look on my face must have been one of sorrow or pity. He immediately explained to me that animals are food and that I should not cry if they die (I am paraphrasing since my French and his English were not good). He said my family will not go hungry because one had died, so I should not mourn the loss.

A short time later, another of our friend’s friendly cat went missing. When asked about the whereabouts, the answer was the same, they had seen it before. I did not put two and two together about the cat until I was driving to the grocery store and I saw an animal freshly killed that was hung up and was being butchered. It was a very large dog. It was then I realized that there are almost no stray animals here at all. You see goats tethered. You see ducks with cut wings so they stay close by. You see chickens with strings around their leg. You might see rabbits in a cage. Occasionally you will notice a dog, but the owner is usually selling its pups. And very rarely will you see a cat outside of an expat’s home.

You see, animals are costly to maintain, prohibitively expensive to the level we expect in the US, even if they are only to be eaten. Therefore, there must be a return on the investment. If you feed an animal, one expects to be able to breed it to sell its offspring or one expects to have meat for their family - so forming any emotional attachment would be pointless. It was very hard for me to accept this idea having not grown up on a farm. My grandfather was a hunter but I had little exposure to the meat.

Another tough lesson happened to Kevin, who did grow up on a farm and is not a stranger to hunting. Recently at the airport, he heard a commotion. He walked until he found a group of grown men in battle stances, each with large sticks circled up around a car. They were in hunting mode. Being curious, Kevin looked around the corner to try and see what worthy opponent deserved this level of intensity, but one which could also fit under the car. He imagined seeing something like a large snake, a large predatory lion, crocodile, or even a really short hippopotamus (hey, those things are actually quite dangerous). The men continued arguing over who had the largest family and who needed the meat the most.  The owner of the car arrived, and as he reversed away out of the parking spot, there was a mangy street cat. These men were fighting over an animal that was less than 3 pounds, hoping to feed their family a meal for the day. You would have thought the men had taken down an entire herd of antelope with the cheering that ensued after the deed was done.

On an overnight trip in the bush, Kevin was offered smoked meat from a boa constrictor and not long after, he was offered meat (the arm) from a monkey that he heard them killing. Kevin has also been given a gift of fresh goat meat and was given the honor of watching them slaughter the animal before him so that they may present him with the best cuts, and has eaten snails and other creepy crawlies that are highly valued for their protein content.

Meat is always an honor due to its high cost (both monetary and husbandry). You do not refuse such a gift. So as we continue to adapt our lives here to the culture around us, this is one area of life that needed re-thinking that surprised us. We have to keep reminding ourselves, it’s different, not wrong.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Motherhood Moments #14

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
This is the witching hour. That dreadful time in the afternoon around 3:00 when the kids are hot, tired, and cranky. It is too late in the afternoon for naps and I should be starting dinner. Instead, sister has TV time and I have brother on my back. The battery fan is on full blast as we try to stay cool waiting for the electricity to return or for daddy to walk in and be a distraction. We do what we can to keep up morale and sometimes it requires a TV and snuggles.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Motherhood Moments # 13

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
I think this photo needs no explanation other than to say those WERE clean clothes and they are now on a dirty floor.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Motherhood Moments #12

********************Warning: Yuckiness factor is high********************

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
Diaper duty. But not just any diaper duty. This is the "quarantined" pile from the past weekend. When you suspect your kid(s) may have developed worms/parasites, you must check. The easiest check is to take a sample and let it sit for 12+ hours. After that length of time, you must check your samples for any living parasites. If negative, you must wait a little longer, up to 24+ hours.

We were very lucky and had a negative test for the past 72 hours. So we are worm free (for now). Some other missionary families were not quite so lucky this round. They will de-worm their kids and check again to make sure everything has passed.

Isn't parenting fun? I told you this post was yucky!

Friday, September 4, 2015


Cauliflower does not grow well here. The climate is much too hot. Cauliflower is available for purchase, imported all the way from South Africa. Thus, the cost is astronomical! We are talking about $25 for a small head that requires a lot of preparation and not a lot of yield. Kevin recently traveled to Lubumbashi (southeastern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo) for work and was able to purchase a bunch of cauliflower for much cheaper than we could purchase it here. So I decided to show you what it requires to prepare "organic" cauliflower and why it is NOT worth $25 a head.

Here is our lovely cauliflower. This head it in great shape.
First, you cut it down into manageable pieces.
Then, you must shave off the damaged pieces that have mold.
Next, you must carefully spread apart the florets so that you can remove any cabbage worms.

Now you are ready to soak them in a vinegar bath for about 20 minutes to kill any lingering germs/amoebas.

You now have two options for consumption. You can eat them raw or if you have too many to eat, you can cook them to store in the freezer for later. We chose both options. We had a yummy salad for dinner and we steamed the rest for freezer storage.
After cooking, you strain and bag. Here is the final product ready to freeze for later.
In total, we had one grocery bag filled with 5 heads. It took roughly 2 hours of work.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Motherhood Moments #11

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
Today was the first day of school for our little girl. This year, she will be attending the International Belgium School. She is in the first level of "maternelle" which is equivalent to the "preschool" level in the U.S.
Sweet pea is no stranger when it comes school and when we walked into the room, she went right to her favorite toys...
After exploring the room, she then focused on the kids in her class. We were very lucky that one of her friends, Ruth, is in her class. We were a bit sad that her other friend Abby was in another class, but they were able to play together at recess so all was well in the world again.
Adah and Ruth playing with doll accessories
 After school, we all went out to ice cream together to celebrate our fun day!
Adah, Abby, Elijah, Ruth, and baby Joel
She had so much excitement at school, she came and crashed. Typical three-nager!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Mother Moments #10

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
I believe this moment needs no explanation. The "three-nager" years have been rough for this little boundary pusher. Some days it takes every bit of grace and prayer to make it to bedtime. Often times I just want to giggle when I catch the things I end up saying to her:
"Don't ride your brother! He's not a horse!;
If Solomon wanted you to lick his face, he'd tell you so!;
Sweetheart, mommy can't walk while you are hiding under her skirt.;
Stop growling at your friend - she is scared of dinosaurs!"
I must be doing something right if I have to laugh at the things that come out of my mouth!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Motherhood Moments #9

Sometimes motherhood looks like this...
an impromptu Sunday school class. The kids were getting restless at church and since it is "summer break," Sunday school classes have not started back up. So we let all the kids play together outside this particular morning. Having many children close together in age truly is a blessing.

Friday, August 14, 2015

You Don't See That Everyday...

Here in the Congo, there are many days where one is a witness to something that just makes you scratch your head and ask yourself, "Did I really just see that?" I have compiled a small collection of photographs for your viewing pleasure so that you may catch a glimpse of the "not so normal" which is actually normal for here.

Photo #1
You are witnessing 7 pieces of machinery attempting to asphalt less than 50 yards of road. Obviously only one piece of equipment is being used but there are many non-workers standing in the way who are telling the workers how to do their jobs. In fact, we were just amazed that they were repairing the road. (It took us nearly 2 hours to through the traffic jam caused by this).

Photo #2
You are viewing a guy on a motorcycle who is wearing a thick, down ski jacket. What is wrong with that? It is 80 degrees outside and we are traveling about 15 mph.

Photo #3
A really neat bumper sticker that says "I am Born to WIN." Pretty ironic for a wrecked vehicle. This was in the junk yard/side of the road/empty parking space beside a few restaurants.

Photo #4
There is a man (on the left with a brown shirt) jumping off the back of this vehicle which he was riding. There is a kid (in the middle with a black shirt) jumping on the vehicle for fun (barefooted). And there is a man with roller blades holding on. This is the first guy I have ever seen here with roller blades and he only rides down this strip of road. This was also the only time I saw him "hitch a ride." But he is wearing a helmet, so score 1 for the roller skater!

Photo #5
You are looking at a stack of ice blocks. The building on the right is a "quincaillerie" (hardware store) and the building on the left is a "sec et nettoyer" (dry & wash/dry-cleaners). I am not sure why there is a stack of ice blocks outside of those buildings especially sitting on top of plywood which is covering a drainage ditch.

We have learned to not ask why (we do find ourselves saying "whhhaaaaaaaaaaat???" quite frequently) and just sit back and muse over our surroundings.