Up bright and early again. Mitch and Dave also get up early. They talked with the Congolese Scout leadership, especially the youth, the night before, and they're wanting to get in on the bon service, the Good Turn scheduled for crack-of-dawn. They eat their breakfast and hustle down to the train station for what they say will be a 6-9 a.m. project.
They are back for flag raising. I had warned them that Africans don’t work to a schedule like we do. Ntambo had warned them, too. So, when nobody shows up at the agreed-upon time, they come back, puzzled. I tell them, “Africa wins again” – an expression from the Lonely Planet Guidebooks. Getting 145 people up and moving, fed and ready, is not done the same way we would do it back home, and our ability to modify African routines is minimal. On the other hand, in my experience as an American in leadership over yonder, every time one turns around, someone is asking one for something as if it’s got to happen right now. The inability to synchronize our time expectations means that we Americans often experience Africa as a “hurry up and wait” culture.
After flag raising, the Scouts do indeed go down to the train station and cut the grass and otherwise clean up the site. It looks very nice as we pass it later on.
Following the “good action,” Dave and Mitch do more Scoutcraft with Joseph translating. Nikki is done with First Aid, so she turns to teaching handicrafts. We have brought a bunch of plastic craftstrip to make bracelets and lanyards with. We don't announce a class, we just start making stuff. This attracts all sorts of people, and soon there are Scouts making these little crafts all over the camp.
Similarly, Phred and I go over to the far end of the parade field and get some spars and twine out and start lashing a cross. Scouts gather to watch. I lash a tripod, add a cross bar, then lash the cross and its extension to it. In a few minutes I have raised a free-standing cross several feet in the air. Then I turn to those standing around and give a challenge which I call, “Lift high the cross.” Using only eight spars of equal length, I have lashed a free-standing cross. Who can raise one higher? Well, they get right to work on that. African Scouts know their pioneering, and soon there are half a dozen competing crosses raised heaven-ward. Using one of the standard methods for measuring the height of objects that Scouts teach, I then measure the two tallest. There is only a few inches between them. The winning team has raised a cross approximately 4.5 meters high.
We think of African Scouting as if it were in poor shape. It is, materially. There aren’t enough uniforms and handbooks. Patches and rank advancement are hard to come by. The Scouts are hungry for any kind of recognition. Nobody’s got any money to do things with. But these are some of the best Scouts I’ve ever seen. They keep their Scouting traditions. They are excellent campers. They cooperate in great Scout spirit, without the grumbling and whining I’ve dealt with too much in American youth. They are all in great shape. They know their knots and lashing. They build and perform great campfires. Their leaders develop and recognize good character in each other. We don’t have to teach them how to do Scouting; we just need to help them identify how to overcome some obstacles and build some important relationships.
A Scout gets his hair cut in camp
Lift high the cross
The winning team
After lunch, I have a talk with DS Mumba over various items. Since this is a church event, we have made clear that Mumba occupies the place a Scout Executive does back home. This is his camp, and we all work for him. Which also means that all the program stuff we brought, and not just the leftover stuff, is his to distribute among the churches and Scouting programs as he sees fit. He and the Chief Scout I’m sure have also talked about this. We’re leaving a lot of expensive stuff which could be a bone of contention if we tried to decide where it went; leaving it up to the Congolese and backing their leadership structures is the only way to do this.
The afternoon program features an adult leaders roundtable and a youth leaders roundtable. Phred and I take the adults; Mitch, Dave, and Nikki take the youth leaders. Both have asked for our input on a question that many Congolese in both Church and Scouting are thinking about: Gender imbalance. Note that this is not a question we raised with them; this is what they are bringing up to us.
The place of women in Congolese society is changing, but it remains a pretty traditional society. Once women are married, they tend to drop out of many things, including Scouting, to tend to matters in the home. Most husbands don’t want their wives busy outside the home. This means, from the adults’ point of view, that they keep losing girls as they enter marriageable age; it also means they lose adult women as leaders. This hampers the movement. The youth leaders see this happening, too, and it bothers them. How do we keep girls and how do we recruit women leaders? How do we Americans do it? This is what they want to hear from us.
In the adult meeting, I mention some things about the changing nature of American society within my lifetime. We wrestle with single-parent (usually female-headed) households in a way that Congolese society does not; this skews our leadership profile significantly, as women who want their children to have Scouting experiences sign up for leadership because they don’t have husbands to do it for them. Also, we have the Venturing program, in which married couples often lead Scouting together. Once again, I sing my wife’s praises as a Venturing leader. This is a new idea for them, and they are thoughtful about the possibilities we raise.
In the youth meeting, Nikki simply is the answer to their questions. By her participation, she makes certain thoughts thinkable that those who have met her would struggle to articulate. Yes, it is possible to stay involved in Scouting as a girl/woman, even after you get married. This gives hope to the girls in the group. Among the older Scouts, many of whom are already married, it sparks a new idea: they say that they need to tell their wives they want them to join in the movement with them. I’m sure there will be many awkward and difficult attempts to change the culture of their movement, but it’s exciting to see them wrestle with it. We don’t need to prod them on it; they’ll figure it out, because they want to succeed in building a better and more inclusive Scouting movement and Church.
After the roundtables, we pack up our patrol site and with some Scouts’ help, schlep everything back to town. We are re-occupying the guest house, since the Jamboree will close tomorrow after worship. As we come to Mumba’s house for supper, we pass all the churches’ choirs rehearsing outdoors all over town. Everybody’s getting ready to meet the Lord in his house in the morning. It’s a beautiful time.
After dinner, we go back for the closing campfire, which begins with the youth singing a song summoning the adults. “Adults, adults,” it goes in some language I can't identify, “we are waiting for you.” The adults finally come out in a line, with joined hands (and we are put in that line). They circle the fire within the circle of the youth. The campfire leader then leads the youth in saluting all the adults’ totems.
Totemizing Scout leaders is more or less equivalent to getting one’s Vigil name, or becoming a Minisino, or being awarded the Silver Beaver. It’s a recognition of your total character as a Scout leader and a person. The adult who has proved himself is blessed by a chaplain and then taken off into the bush for a ceremony. He then has an animal totem that he identifies with, rather as Woodbadgers identify with their Woodbadge patrols.
As this phase of the campfire ends, and we are taking our seats, Nikki says, "I just saw a shooting star!" The night is full of magic. Lots of singing and dancing follow. We are asked for a song. Most of our ballads wouldn’t translate well to the African context, but we all agree that a call-and-response, rhythmic nonsense song like “Flea Fly Floh” might be well received. Mitch leads it. The Congolese love it so much, they asked us to lead it again. We are a hit. I tell Nhoris, “We hold our own.” (In the morning, Mitch gives them a copy of the words and teaches them another song. By the time we leave, I can hear the syllables softening and adapting to the African sense of euphony. I have visions of some anthropologist stumbling through the Congo bush in a few years, recording “Flea Fly Floh” as an authentic African chant. : ) )
We were going to stay to the end, but Joseph tells us Baba DS wants us back early. Joseph had been hassled by the police when he was returning late the night before, and Mumba wants us under wraps before people start to get suspicious about night wanderers.
After we get back to the guest house, I take a cold bucket bath. I have been asked to preach in the morning, and I want to be as clean as I can make myself. The bath water turns red-brown as it pours down the drain. There’s so much dust here, like walking through brick dust, almost. It hangs on the horizon like a haze. At night, you can’t see any stars on the horizon, even though there’s no artificial light. Everybody’s throats and sinuses are affected to some extent by the dust; my Hall’s Mentholyptus cough drops have been greatly appreciated by the team.
Weather-wise, it’s been very pleasant. It gets up to 80 or so (Fahrenheit) during the day, dropping down into the 50s at night. With the aridity of the dry season and the altitude of the Katanga Plateau, it’s sort of like Montana or Wyoming.
I’ve seen the southern cross every night, with Alpha and Beta Centauri next to it, very bright. Scorpius is high overhead near the full moon. In the mornings, Orion dominates the pre-dawn sky, with Sirius blazing away next to him. I’m slowly learning some of the southern constellations.
Sunday morning. Time to dress up for the Lord. Phred and I both brought our albs and stoles, so we can take our place in the chancel. I intend preaching from Ephesians 2:17-22 on Friendship: friendship with God, and friendship with each other.
Church is three and a half hours long. Nobody minds. If worship back home were this good, nobody there would mind, either. There are lots of choir performances. There are two praise bands with electric guitars and drums, with electric cords running to generators out of opposite windows. There’s the natural drum set made out of tree trunks in the middle of the nave. We pray a lot. We recite the Apostles’ Creed. We sing and dance. Yeah, me, too. Anything less like the artificiality of so-called “liturgical dance” back home could not be imagined. This just seems natural in the circumstances.
There are no less than three offerings. The first is a thank offering. The second is where tithers present their tithes. Phred and I are asked to pray personally for each of these individually. Then there’s an offering of just contributions.
I feel a little guilty. I ask, am I a glory hound? Who am I, to be so honored, to have such opportunities. I am unworthy. But then, I was unworthy when I was called to preach. I was unworthy to be offered salvation. It’s all a gift. The important thing is to offer yourself and not assume you deserve the acclaim that occasionally comes your way. Christ is all.
We present certificates to the leaders of the Jamboree. The bulk of the Scouts will receive theirs later at the closing ceremony in camp. I present the two signed soccer balls from Troop 119 to DS Mumba and Chief Scout Sampasa. The soccer trophy is presented; it will hang on the wall of the Bishop’s office. The Scouts present us with a miniature thatched shelter, all properly lashed, as a parting gift. Finally, we process out, and suddenly, everyone wants to shake hands, hug, get a photo with everybody else.
We gather for lunch in the parsonage. As people start helping themselves, I tell Mumba that he has a “Methodist cat” – she heard Nikki say grace and immediately came to the table. He laughs. It’s quite a spread for Sunday dinner. There’s okra, bukari, sauce, a salad of tomatoes, onions, cabbage, and mayo, fried potatoes, meatballs, goat, and chicken. During the service, I thanked Mama DS and the UMW for their delicious food, which we have attacked like a swarm of hungry locusts.
Drums, drums, drums
Amos plays for one of the praise bands in worship
Lifting weights is good exercise
Mitch by the tracks
Pumping water instead of pumping iron
Dave helps the girls with their daily chores
Closing ceremonies are conducted Sunday afternoon in camp under a blazing African sun. Certificates of completion are awarded, rather than patches. The Belgians started this practice in colonial days. I have signed 145-odd certificates so far.
Then the flags are lowered and folded. We gather in a circle, cross arms Scout-fashion, and a leader lines out the opening of a song. I recognize it. I think, No, really? And there we are, the Congolese singing in Swahili and me singing along in my guid Scots accent,
Should auld acquaintance be forgotAnd then we are dismissed. Except for photos and farewells that linger on into the afternoon.
And never bro't to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And days of auld lang syne?
Back at the guest house, we hold an impromptu team meeting. Gathering first impressions. The young adults are very positive about how it’s gone. Phred says the leaders at the adult (and especially the clergy) meetings have listened more to us than anybody has back home in twenty years of talking (amen). As regards our team, I think we’re all going to be a long time assimilating what we’ve experienced and growing from it.
3:45 p.m. We can rest till supper. We’ve earned it.
After supper, I think over why I did this. Well, first of all, I did it for Jesus. But I also did it for Phred; this was his dream, and I wanted to support him. And of course, I did it for the Scouts. And I did it for Ntambo.
The first-ever Scout Cup trophy
Now hanging in the Bishop’s office
Mumba's family fires up the ol’ generator after the power switches off so we can watch the World Cup final tonight. Power is only supplied for a couple of hours a day in the villages. After that, we stayed up talking will 1:00 a.m. in the guest house. The young folk have asked to be allowed to sleep in.
I have a talk with Mumba and Sampasa about further needs. Baba DS has 16 pastors he has to worry about. They have few resources. He’d like to get 3-4 motorcycles which his pastors could use to earn money providing taxi service in the villages. The cost of each motorcycle would be about $1200. Chef de Camp Sampasa mentions the need for potable water in the villages around Kamyana, his home. I mention the water well drilling rig that Baba Bob and DS Mulongo have operating in the east; maybe something can be worked out there.
Everybody we talk with wants us to come back for another Jamboree, which is probably not possible, at least anytime soon. Talk about next year in another part of the Conference goes on, too. Sampasa mentions the hope of sending a Scout or two to America to learn about our program. I’m thinking that something along the lines of the International Camp Staff program might be a possibility here, and I think I have the connections to work on that.
It’s been a tiring week. The camp and the church are a good seven-tenths of a mile apart, and we’ve covered that distance two or three times a day. It all adds up to about 23 miles’ hiking. Add that to my lifetime total and I’m up to 1,550 miles (2,480 kilometers).