Duct tape? Check. Drill bits? Check. Chocolate chips? Double check. The pile of things on my table is growing. I quickly realize that I’m going to have to take two suitcases–one for my stuff and one for all the “special deliveries” I’m making to the other MAF missionaries in east DRC. Two Swiss Alps 27″ suitcases, wait dutifully in the corner. We received the luggage as Christmas presents this year. They are nice bags; not too expensive, but they have some nice features like 360-degree casters and reinforced sides. I can’t wait to break them in on this trip. Noting that the color resembles Santa’s bag, I choose the red one for all the special delivery items. Heavier things like boxes of screws, nuts, and bolts go in first on the bottom, and lighter items like candy bars, bottles of Parmesan cheese, and toys for the MKs (missionary kids) get placed on top. Then I heave the suitcase over the baby gate and into the kitchen where the scale is waiting. The bag weighs in at 46 pounds–four pounds shy of my limit. I smile and can’t help but feel a little giddy knowing that these simple things I’m bringing will mean a lot to the families I’m about to see.
The fact that I’m even going on this trip at all is amazing. It is almost unheard of for MAF pre-field staff to visit their field of assignment until after language school. My travels will take me to DRC for a couple of weeks. It will be my first time visiting the country and the first time I meet any of the MAF EDRC team face-to-face. While I am there our team from MAF will be installing two new satellite Internet systems for Médecins Sans Frontières (French for Doctors Without Borders) at sites northwest of Bunia. MSF plays a crucial role in DRC providing medical assistance at hospitals and refugee camps and supplying first aid after attacks by militias like the LRA.
On New Years Day several women were raped in Fizi, a town about 400 miles south of Bunia. MSF quickly responded and brought aid to the victims. Sadly, rape is a common occurrence in DRC. In fact, an article by Change.org editor Michael Jones calls DR Congo the rape capital of the world. Countless women are left physically, emotionally, and spiritually damaged as a result of these terrible crimes. I’m glad organizations like MSF and MAF work together to help bring healing to these victims.
In addition to bringing some supplies for the other missionaries and installing the Internet systems for MSF, I’m hoping this trip will be a good chance to recon the mission field. The experience of seeing how the other families live, what’s available locally, and what the typical homes are like will go a long way when it comes time to pack our air freight shipment. Many missionaries I’ve spoken with tell me they took way too much stuff when they first went to the field. I’d like to avoid that mistake if possible.
The coming weeks are sure to be rewarding, tiring, eye-opening, and enlightening. Your prayers are greatly appreciated while I’m away. Pray for my safety and for opportunities to minister, and pray for Stephanie and the girls who will be back home in Iowa. Stay tuned; I look forward to sharing the experience with you!