Monday, April 30, 2012

George Billings in the Democratic Republic of Congo

My sister Laraine is forwarding e-mail from her former boss George Billings, which I am posting here before my e-mail account bits the dust.  Tom's e-mail account just got hijacked.  It is now closed.  So I have posted some interesting accounts to my blog for safe keeping.  In Africa, nothing is certain. When things go badly people just shrug their shoulders and say, "This is Africa."  When I worked as an intern at KJazz the technicians would say "let it go!  s-it happens!"

George, your experience in the Congo parallel's our own here in South Africa with street vendors, overloaded taxis, people walking everywhere, even along major highways, and women carrying baskets on their head.  Villages in the Congo sound similar to our townships and shanties but are likely poorer.  One third of the people in S.A. are unemployed.  Half of the youth do not have jobs.  They are hungry, angry and prone to crime.  Here in S.A. one finds the very rich and the very poor.  Immigrants arrive daily from other African nations looking for a better life.  Afrikkaners complain that since the blacks took over immigration laws are not enforced.  Best wishes to your sister, my good friend Beth, and thanks for sharing your experiencs.

From: George Billings []
Sent: Thursday, April 05, 2012 02:27 PM

You probably are aware that my wife and I are serving a mission in the Congo.  We are doing great.  The Congo is the poorest country in the entire world.  We came to try to make a little bit of a difference.  It is almost overwhelming.  Things are so different here.  There are thousands of people on foot on the streets all day every day.  They are so destitute that they are simply looking for someone to take pitty and help them out a little bit.  Street vendors are trying to sell anything you can think of.  They walk out into the middle of busy streets and put their merchandise right up against your window begging you to buy something.  Drivers do not obey any traffic rules.  You have to bully your way across intersections simply by pulling in front of oncoming traffic.  They have hundreds of old beatup Volkswagen buses they use for taxies.  They pack about 30 people into their taxies and the guy that takes the fare rides on the back bumper or he is standing up and hanging out the side door.  Women carry large loads of merchandise on their heads.  They have tremendous balance and their postures are perfect.  We've been out to villages where white people are rare.  Children will point at us and make amusing comments to one another.  They are, however, friendly.  The Church members are just as poor as anyone else but they are humble.  Every day is a new adventure for us and we are loving it.  I'm teaching a group of ten Congolese men Construction skills so they can build their own Churches. 

I hope this e-mail finds you and your family well.  Please write back if you get a chance.

Elder Billings.

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