International Ministries

Boat trip to Mbumba

May 30, 2013 Journal
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Dear Friends,

       I had a good weekend trip to Mbumba even though our time was cut short because of rain. We had planned to leave on Friday after classes. But when we gathered with the porters to take the gear down to the river, we decided to postpone our trip until morning. The weather looked pretty bad towards the North, in the direction we were headed. On Saturday morning, bright and early we loaded the little speed boat with the 25 hp outboard motor, the generator, speaker, cables, computer, projector, extra fuel, and our camping gear. It took us about an hour and a half speeding on average at 26 mph to get to the Kinkata port. We then had to hike another two hours to get to the village of Mbumba. People had waited at the port on Friday to carry our things, but since we had not shown up on Friday, they were waiting for confirmation of our arrival before heading to the river to gather up our things. When they saw us stumbling into the village, the children ran down to the river and brought up all the things on their heads.

           After our hike up to Mbumba, I fell asleep in my chair under the Nsafu tree. Later in the afternoon, we walked through the village meeting people who were getting back from their fields. On Saturday night, we projected the JESUS film in Kimbala. The crowd was very attentive, except for the drunk guys that had to comment about everything. That was sort of entertaining though too. Mbumba has the reputation for being the place where you go to get distilled alcohol. They have the fine art down to a science with bamboo poles, and 55 gallon drums for boiling the brew. People come from far and wide to seek out the quality that they produce there. The whole village smells of alcohol. I observed that there is malnutrition among the men who spend their time drinking the poison, while not consuming much of anything else. The children, however, seemed to be healthy and full of energy.

            The village of Mbumba does not have a pastor, but the church is led by a lay leader who is the local nurse. People were coming to his house all day long for various treatments. On Sunday, we wanted to begin the church service on time so that we could be released to get on our way. There is no moon these days, so traveling after dark on the river is dangerous. Each choir, however, had to sing several times, plus they all needed an “intro” where they sing and dance on their way up to the front. Then, after they are finished singing their numbers, they have to process back to their places. Everyone was having so much fun, that we let things go on and on. I preached on Luc 23:26, Simon of Cyrene , the African who followed Jesus. It was nice to preach to such an attentive congregation. After the service, we all had to shake hands as we exit the church. Then all those who had been baptized could go back into church for communion. The church only has communion when a pastor visits. The sorcerer had visited the village several months ago, but he never bothered our church. When the sorcerer was leaving the village, they had to take the road that goes by the church. He and his delegation had to run by the church, because they could “smell God’s Word,” and they didn’t want to have any part of it.

                Sunday, I was nervous about the time, because I knew we needed to move things along in order to make it back to Kikongo. The sky was not calm. We were looking at a two hour hike to the river, plus an hour and a half to two hour boat ride back to Kikongo. Without a moon, we needed to get to Kikongo before dark. There were not very good accommodations if we needed to spend the night somewhere between Mbumba and Kikongo. Sleeping along the river’s edge used to be fun, but as I get older, that loses its charm. One of the reasons I got a flying machine is that it is so difficult to get people to take the equipment back out of the village after the projecting. I was reminded again of that on this trip. I did not know how far Mbumba was from the river. All the porters who had so eagerly taken the things from the river to the village the day before had disappeared. We had to engage some young men with bicycles to transport the things. I usually insist that the fragile things should not ride on the back of bicycles, but the equipment was clearly not going to get moved another way. I carried the most fragile pieces of equipment myself. Picture this; the generator was on someone’s head who was sitting on the back of a bicycle. His friend was peddling the bicycle. These two guys went speeding past us without any brakes. My generator still works, so I guess they had no mishap along the way.

                   No sooner had we left the port of Kinkata when the sky became ominous. At one bend in the river, I thought we had skirted past the brunt of the storm, but then we rounded another bend, and the darkest clouds were right on top of us. A large drop fell on my arm, as the river ahead of us turned from smooth to choppy with the wind. Close lightning began to strike around us. It was past time to get off the river, but there was solid jungle on both sides. We remembered a small fisherman’s hut ahead of us where the grassland comes down to the river. Thankfully, we managed to make it to that place and got the equipment secured in an empty hut before the rain came down in force. Another guy was madly paddling his canoe and joined us in the hut as we waited out the rain. We were fast running out of daylight and the brunt of the storm seemed to have past. Pastor Masala asked “Does it matter if we get wet”? We had waterproof bags for the video equipment, so we packed everything up against the rain and set off in what was by then light rain. The wind had stopped, and the lightning was lighting up the sky behind us. Bakala Yai, my faithful navigator took ahold of the motor, and skillfully guided us around all the hidden sandbars, and other obstacles as we went from one side of the river to the other. I perched myself on the bow keeping watch for floating debris. The wind had knocked a lot of dry branches into the river. Speeding upriver, we were averaging around 20 MPH. That is faster than anything else on this river. We got to Kikongo at about 6:15 PM. Since we are so close to the equator, we only have about a 30 minute sunset difference between months. In the summer, it is dark around six PM, while in the winter months, it is dark around 6:30. We made it to the Kikongo port with just enough light to safely navigate. I had pre-arranged for some of our students to meet the boat to bring all the things back up the hill to the house. By the time we got home, the last rays of light had faded in the East, leaving bright stars. There was still lighting in the direction that we had come from. Thank you for your prayers for our trip and for your prayers for the life of the church at Mbumba.