As I write, masses of tiny frilly mango blossoms are covering every mango tree all over Kikongo. Such a profusion of blooms. It can only mean one thing; in a few months we are going to have one whopper of a mango season!
Dry season is upon us. Cool nights and early mornings that get down into the low 70’s(!), have our friends here scurrying to find heavy coats, ski caps and woolen scarves to ward off the “winter” cold. Babies have suddenly appeared in fur lined snow suits. And, little boys running down to the forest to do what little boys do, have their arms tightly wrapped around their bodies to preserve heat. Curiously, only people’s feet are exempt from the perceived cold temperatures, remaining as they do year around in sandals and flip-flops.
Dry season is also the traditional end to our academic year at UNIBAC. In fact, we are in our 2nd semester exam period as I write. Imagine studying for 14 exams presented over a 2 week period, and you get an idea of what our students are facing. Each morning, all students in good standing file into 4 classrooms – pens in hand for the privilege of stewing over challenging questions that will determine whether they pass or return for a final try in another 6 weeks. As a Christian university, UNIBAC is trying very hard to reverse culturally accepted and ingrained cheating and corruption habits that all of our students have seen practiced and have perhaps participated in throughout their earlier academic years. It takes grace, good will and firmness to principle to get through our critical exam periods. Bucking the system is never easy.
In church recently, Glen preached about “the Abundant Life,” sharing research that shows that certain cultural values and practices either lend themselves to a country’s development or send it heading down a slippery slope. People are still talking about the findings he presented. In a country where the prosperity gospel has become rampant, God’s blessings are said to fall on those who pray hard enough. Little is said about how the growth and practice of one’s Christian ethics relate to the growth of one’s work and community. Are we behaving in ways that build God’s kingdom and our lives? Sobering thoughts for any of us, anywhere.
On a different note, our academic year will end soon and most of our students will leave for “summer vacation.” Although Kikongo traditionally turns into a ghost town in August, this year UNIBAC probably will not. I am excited, because in a few weeks many of the remaining construction supplies for our beautiful new women’s dorm are supposed to come from Kinshasa: cement, paint, finished windows and doors, etc. We, all of us, can’t wait to see the final parts of that dorm go in (or on, as the case may be). I would like to have at least some hand in painting the rooms, praying as the layers of brightly colored paint go on for God’s blessings on the generations of young women that will live there. We are anticipating the dedication of that building in October when our students return for their new academic year. The young women who have been living in our less than ideal make shift dorm for the last few years have told me that they have already “chosen” their new rooms in the new dorm. What a happy day it will be when that dorm is dedicated and they get to move in.
If God lays it on your heart, and you have maintenance and construction skills that you would like to put to good use for his kingdom, it is not only in August/September of each year that we have need of extra help in preparing/repairing/doing maintenance on our UNIBAC campus. Most of our buildings were built in the early 1950’s. We are unable to keep up with the many needs ourselves and would love to hear from you if you love missions and feel you could help any time of the year – or even for an extended period of time. (Masonry, carpentry, plumbing, 12 volt electrical systems, computer and financial/bookkeeping assistance.)
God’s blessings on you. We are honored and thankful to count you as friends. Thank you for your prayers and the generous ways in which you share in God’s work here with us.
Love Rita and Glen