It’s another beautiful day. I get up just before sunrise and go find some coffee. I practice my Swahili/Kiluba with the Scouts. I compliment one of the mamas helping to cook on her baby. I call it mtoto, but she corrects me: it’s bebe. Of course. Miming stairsteps in height, I run through the words bebe, mtoto, kijana: “baby, boy/child, youth/young man.”
The schedule changes all the time. I’m never quite sure where the meeting was where things were decided, but I take it in stride. Even the other Africans are caught flat-footed at times, though. When the latest day’s re-scheduling of Bible study and distribution of Bibles is announced, Nyembo looks at me. I shrug. “I’m just a passenger on this train, too,” I say. He nods and grins. Later on, I compliment Nikkie, Dave, and Mitch for their ability to deliver the program amid constant changes. We don’t command the tides, we just surf the waves. Nobody could do it better than our team. We really did bring our best, in so many ways.
Moonrise over our patrol site
We had a beautiful full moon for most of our stay in Tenke
Breakfast in camp
Bread or porridge, coffee or tea
Getting the official day started
Saluting the colors
Orthodox Church Campground
HQ on left, dormitory on right
Ready for business
Prestant Philip with home-made axe
Not making a mountain out of a molehill
Village children resting on a termite mound
In any case, whenever it happens, Bibles will be distributed today. We had thought to provide them in Kiluba, but the Congolese decided French would be more advantageous to the Church’s ministry hereabouts. They are precious, and I don’t just mean that they’re expensive. The Bibles given to these Scouts may in some villages – in some churches – be the only Bible to read from. This is another way in which our Scouting ministry dovetails with other important efforts to build up the Church. FPM already had some money laid by for Bibles, which got added to our budget. NAUMS, which has distributed backpacker-sized New Testaments at Philmont and other high adventure bases and Jamborees, contributed $200 to us for this purpose.
Morning prayer, Bible study, program all get cut short for a talk on the environment with Eddie, an employee with TFM. Douce tells us that we can bring our laundry to the parsonage tomorrow and it will be done for us (wow, that’s more than we were expecting, but it’s very welcome).
And then, someone comes to get me. We have a state visit by the Chief of the village, who wants a tour of our encampment. I’m glad I shaved this morning. The Chief joined Scouts in 1954. He is intrigued by our tents and wants to see how we Americans camp. I remark that if I’d known I was going to get a tent inspection today, I’d’ve made my bed. The Chief is very appreciative of everything we’re doing.
Meanwhile, back at the program areas, Mitch is working a fire drill, demonstrating fire by friction. Smoke! Phred says, “the boy looks like he knows what he’s doing.” Mitch flashes his Minisino belt buckle and replies, “I hope to say I know what I’m doing!” Over at first aid, Philip – who is also a medical student – is helping Nikki with a trickier question about CPR than she could put into translation.
Lunch is a happy time. Such amazing food. These fried potatoes are wonderful. And the spinach! Ah. Life is good.
People call me Baba Arthur (pronounced in French fashion as arteur, more or less). “Art” is a hard word to say and to hear. It begins with a glottal stop and ends with an unvoiced dental. When I found they couldn’t consistently catch it upon being introduced to them, I said it stood for Arthur. So, I’ve been Baba Arthur ever since. It feels good.
I suppose I could arrange this travelogue so as to make a more coherent narrative, but that would give you a false impression of the ever-shifting confusion (to Western minds) which is Africa. On all my high adventure trips, I take along a little notebook, in which I record things I want to remember, including passing impressions. Key words and phrases, cryptic notes are enough to use to reconstruct the events and put into my blog posts. If I didn’t do that, these posts would make even less sense. The days seem to move slowly, but they are simply packed.
Phred and I meet with the local clergy in the afternoon. I begin by thanking them for their service. We do so little of this in the Church. Scouts are better at it than church folk. Still, everybody needs to be appreciated. And since their part of The UMC is growing, and ours isn’t, the idea that we know all kinds of things they don’t is pretty ludicrous. I tell them they need to be sending us missionaries. I am serious. Still, Scouting ministry is something Phred and I know a lot about. We’ve been doing it and teaching it for years.
I share two things with the pastors. First, making disciples is what we do. If something doesn’t contribute to that goal, why do it? So, we do Scouting because it contributes to our goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Second, Scouting is the “front porch” of the church, a place where people begin to make relationships that may go much deeper. Scouting enables us to get to know, and invite, not just boys and girls in Scouting, but their siblings and parents, to follow Jesus. Phred then talks about how Scouting got him to do what the Church taught him he should be doing. Scouting provided the practical how to the Church’s instructions. We then spent the rest of our time talking about the pastors’ concerns. I ended with a challenge. Every pastor when he is ordained is asked this question: Will you instruct the children in every place? In 1994, when I became Conference Scouting Coordinator, I rededicated myself to saying Yes to that question. I invite them to reconsider what saying Yes to that question means in their ministries.
Back in camp, Mitch and Dave have built three fires under three tripods and are doing the whole Firecrafter shtick. It’s great. Then comes the actual distribution of Bibles. I say to Nikki, That is one of the greatest things you’ll ever see this side of the kingdom. She replies, I don’t know; I’ve seen a LOT of things on this trip that are among the greatest things this side of the kingdom. Amen.
Daniel Mumba, Superintendent of Tenke District, leads the distribution
As evening draws on, it’s time for the championship game in our little soccer tournament. The two teams in contention are called the Cobras and the Cascaderres, which means something like “Bad Boys” (literally, “troubled old boys”). I am amazed to see Mitch and Dave on the field. Not only that, but Mitch is playing in hiking boots. Egad. Nikki and I figure each team had to take one American, as a handicap. But they seem to be holding their own, nevertheless, even amidst a very high level of play.
Regulation ends in a tie, 1-1. Finally, the Cobras win in the third overtime shootout. Mitch made a goal in overtime, but Dave’s team wins. It’s as satisfying a result all around as one could ask for. I hand out medals to the winning team on the sidelines amid much jubilation.
A hard-fought game
The Cobras beat the Cascaderres in a triple shoot-out
The sun sets as we are leaving. It’s a long tramp back to town, and in pitch dark. Someone flags down some passing motorcyclists to take us home. Pole, pole they are warned (“slowly”), and off we go, whizzing down the deeply rutted roads. Once we get back to Baba DS’s house, Nikki says, “That is both one of the most exhilarating and most terrifying things I have ever done in my life.” True that.