If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. The Lord spoke many lessons to my mom and I during our months in the Democratic Republic of Congo, helping out at Congo Frontline Missions (CFM). Here is one of the biggest lessons, pertinent no matter where you are in the world!
Lesson #3: Don’t complain!
Philippians 4:11 says,
“I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.”
Unfortunately for us, it’s so easy to complain–especially when you’ve left your cushy American life and hit the culture shock of living in the Democratic Republic of Congo and traveling through several other African counties.
Don’t complain about the weather!
This was a big one for my mom. Mom is a true Minnesota girl–she loves winter!!! (#shakesmyhead) Where we were located in the DRC was almost directly on the equator, so it was definitely jungle living, quite lush and green… but also hot!
For someone living in Minnesota and used to four seasons–6 months of winter, 2 months of mud, 2 months of mosquitos, and 2 months of beautiful fall leaves–going to Africa’s 2 seasons–rainy and dry–was quite a change.
Just about every day was in the 90’s (the hottest day waas 105 Fahrenheit) and even in the dry season it rained just about every day!
But it was the humidity that was the hardest!
But you know what? My mom decided before she even arrived in Africa that she was going to like hot weather! She even coined a phrase to help with the process, and when she stepped off the plane in Tanzania and was met with a blast off hot air, she sang out, “Praise the Lord it’s hot out!”
We may not be able to change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude.
Don’t complain about the roads!
The DRC doesn’t have the best roads. I don’t even have any pictures of the worst places, because we were too busy hanging on for dear life to take pictures. Here are some examples that I do have, though:
The road below is the road that we had to take to town. It’s only about 3 and half miles distance… but it often would take us 45 minutes in the Land Cruiser!!
Here’s another picture of the Land Cruiser after the dental crew came back. It’s supposed to be white…. There were times when they were up to their windows (when tipping) in mud.
It was tempting to complain. But we got a kick out of our host family’s way of looking at it: In America, people pay to go to amusement park and ride on roller coasters and other jarring rides… But here we get our thrills for free!”
Don’t complain about the food!
I will have to say, compared to the average Congolese, we ate very well while we were there. Most Congolese subsist on ugali, cassava, maybe some fruits and vegetables, and one meal a day–supper (if that).
Those who can afford it or grow their own eat a lot of beans and rice and vegetables.
However, while we were at the CFM mission compound in the DRC, we ate very liberally of rice and beans, but also spaghetti, greens, chapatis, bread, and other yummy foods such as you see below.
There were also lots of fruits and veggies including marikuja (passion fruit), avocado, mangos, pineapples, papayas, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and so on.
It was a bit of struggle to learn to cook on a charcoal burner, and without any recipes. But we became experts at making oatmeal and pancakes that way.
When we upgraded to a kerosene stove that someone loaned us, we felt that we were really living the high life! Now we could make popcorn and oatmeal and pancakes (and sometimes even hashbrowns) in style!
And then there was our personal favorite: Sombe! It’s a dish made from cassava leaves pounded into a pulp and cooked with palm oil, peanut butter, and salt. It is SOOOOO good!
So, the only time we really felt like complaining about the food was when we were traveling.
Here is one of the many restaurants we ate at while we were traveling. As you can see, they were cooking their food out in the open on charcoal burners on the ground. We even sat and watched the big crows come and steal some of the fish that had been left out to dry in the sun to the left of the picture. Again, it was tempting to complain, but at the same time, we learned that you can’t always judge a restaurant by its exterior. Below is a little ramshackle restaurant in a muddy little town in Kenya… but it had some of the yummiest food I’ve ever eat! The freshest, warmest chapatis, and really tasty rice, beans, and vegetables.
Don’t complain about the living conditions/toilets!
We are very blessed in America to have the toilets and showers that we have. Just think of our fancy wayside rests along the interstate! In Africa while we were traveling, our wayside rest was out behind the Baobab tree!
If you did encounter an American style toilet, like the one at the hospital in town, it usually hadn’t been cleaned… since it was installed?? On the mission compound, we had nice, clean American flush toilets where Mom and I stayed, but I did use the “squatty potty” style toilet for a couple weeks while I lived down in the mud huts, and whenever we visited churches or houses in town.
No matter where you live, there are always going to be opportunities to complain, whether it’s about the weather, the food, the commodities (or lack there of), the price of gas…. there’s always something, isn’t there? But please remember that, while you can’t always change your circumstances, you can change your attitude! Let’s learn, in whatever state we are, to be content.
Stay tuned for Part 3!