Homestead Happenings: August 2017

There have been so many changes and events happening in our small community of missionaries that I really haven’t shared anything about our homestead in quite a while. Sickness coupled with emotional turmoil of so many families leaving, all friends, didn’t leave much margin for blogging about our homestead. Though I did do a few write-ups on how empty this place feels now and how I’ve experienced some personal growth in my own life and ministry focus. So here is what we’ve been up to lately on the homestead front.

Our most recent and current project that we are working on is quail. I wont go into this too much as I’m doing a separate post including all the details but know we are adding them to our homestead very soon. Another week and we will know more but in good faith, construction on housing has already begun and will be finished this weekend to await their arrival.

The chickens are doing well despite some recent deaths, both adult and chick. Unfortunately we only have 1 Australorp chick left due to a freak accident (no I don’t want to talk about it as it upset me greatly) but we will try again in the future. For now we are going to bring in and hatch some kuroiler eggs to improve our lines and egg production. If you remember the last times we tried this we shipped in live chicks that already had disease that spread it to the rest of our flock and then the survivors were wiped out by driver ants or there were power troubles for hatching eggs. So we are bringing in eggs again that we will disinfect and hatch this time. Hopefully the results will be good this time around as the power issues on our base are under control for the moment.

The garden is doing well and I’m continually learning more and more new things about how different varieties work here and which ones don’t, new methods of growing different plants, etc. Always learning. With learning comes some failures – like my attempt to grow local pumpkin on our un-framed trellace; it became far too heavy and the trellace collapsed long before it even had fruit on it. I left it as is and it is bearing but it is far from the beautiful spot in the garden it once was. I’ll get it cleaned up after the pumpkins are finished and we will rebuilt the trellace with a frame.

Another lesson learned was the need to spray our purple cabbage more often. Part of this problem was due to all the sickness (including three bouts of malaria in 3.5 months, 1 normal and 2 serious) that didn’t allow for much gardening during those months so not enough spraying happened. Most have been eaten by caterpillars beyond human use but there are 3 that are maturing and we may get a taste before we rip them out. Another lesson from the garden was learning the best method to grow tomatoes with. Local Congolese people wedge a stick in the ground and tie their plant to it and up until now I have always used cages but no more; I am now a huge fan of the string method (what the nurseries use) and am going to work towards almost exclusively growing tomatoes this way.

The string method is where you suspend a string 9 feet up that you twirl your tomato plant around as it grows. It gives more support than a cage, your plants grow straight, wind doesn’t bother them and there is no flopping over or outgrowing the cage; even in rainy season here when you get a downpour that creates a soupy mess they wont fall over or break like what happens to a plant in a cage. It also allows more time for a longer harvest in our never ending summer so I get the most out of each plant that I can. I also started pruning my tomatoes this year and the results have been truly amazing with healthier plants (but don’t forget to disinfect between plants like I did) and bigger and better tomatoes. The two methods combined make for a very clean, healthy and productive tomato patch (as long as you don’t spread disease through your clippers). I’m never going back.

Our sweet corn attempt ended up in another bust despite resorting to hybrid treated seed. It actually ended up worse because we had small plants that tasseled early gave small ears and this time they weren’t even sweet; at least the heirloom varieties were still sweet along with those other problems and you could get a taste. I’ve given the rest of that variety of seed to our worker to see how it does in his garden and plan to plant some local field corn in my garden to test what may be going on and if its our soil for some reason – any ideas anyone?

Our nursery seedlings, the green peppers and eggplant, are all doing well and producing wonderful large vegetables. I think I’m going to make them a staple in the garden if I can. I still haven’t figured out how to get either to germinate myself yet (future attempts coming in the “fall”) but I’m not giving up yet. So much variety of food could be opened up to us with them (fresh salsa for example).

Some of the other experiments that I’ve been working on in the garden have been doing a technique called ‘vernalization’ where you trick plants into thinking that they have been through a winter by putting them in the fridge so they will grow or go to seed if they are a two season crop. I just completed this with some garlic that you can purchase local (imported from China) and they were planted in the garden and are growing. We will see if anything comes of them but I have also ordered an heirloom variety that will hopefully come over with my mom in October that we can grow. So far it is a success but we will see if the end results bear heads of cloves or not. Another vernalization project I was working on was carrots for seed. Everyone here has to buy carrot seed each time they plant because carrots require a winter to go to seed in the second year (overwintering). I put the selected carrots in a bag of rice (other online sources said wood chips but with our humidity I thought this might be better) for about two months but then a few days ago I noticed mold growth inside the bag. Most of the carrots had some mold growth on them unfortunately which I had read was the problem with trying to vernalize carrots. I decided to just go ahead and plant them instead of throwing them out and we will see what happens. It wasn’t as long as they should have gotten but perhaps I’ll try again and change out the rice part way through.

Another exciting addition to our garden is strawberries. I dug up some transplants from another missionary’s garden to start our own strawberry patch. They died back but are sprouting again. We also hope to add some blackberries and maybe one day raspberries (sourced from other missionaries in Uganda) to our place.

Right now it is the middle or later half of the rainy season despite it starting late and grain is cheaper right now than during other times of the year. So, trying to be financially minded, we are purchasing a year’s worth of grain (hopefully or at least very close to it) that will be stored in large barrels that will be used to mix our various feeds for our different animals. We are using grains and legumes that can be sourced local (corn, sorghum, millet, amaranth, beans, soy beans, peanuts and maybe sesame seeds) along with imported vitamin sources to cover what the feed can’t. Free ranging in the yard each day also helps with this and it helps keep any tick populations under control so win-win. The large sacks of grain and legumes get delivered on motorcycles right into our yard for 2,000 Congolese francs (1,500CF/$1 currently). We will receive another few sacks later this week and then roast the beans (you have to cook beans before use along with millet, amaranth and sorghum) and put into storage barrels to mix feed. Feed recipes are calculated using the nutritional values of each kind of grain and which bird at what stage you are mixing for – for example our quail will need 25-28% protein vs. the 16-18% that our adult chickens need.

So some of the other things that are being worked on on the side of daily life are seedlings (rather a constant thing), constantly hatching out chicks of one kind or another, Dave is obviously flying and more-so right now as the only caravan pilot for the moment, and I am working on a ladies’ retreat for all the expat ladies here in Nyankunde. Perhaps I will give more details on that later but I don’t want to spoil any surprises for the ladies. Busy busy busy. Speaking of that I’d better get back to it!

Advertisements

A change of Ministry

Reading back through my posts of late to see what I needed to update everyone on for a ‘Homestead Happenings’ post, I realized just how down and depressed my posts lately have been. They are a true reflection of the difficulty we have been facing here in the past few months and even for me, it wasnt easy to read and accept. There is always that temptation to put a smile on and cover up what is really going on but I refuse to do so. Things have been hard lately, harder than I even communicate online. Sometimes I dont want to write about all the bad, simply because it is so depressing to read or for the fear of being seen as a “downer” or very negative person who has to complain for attention, etc. More difficult things have happened lately but at last I feel a sense of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ so to speak.

Part of the reason that I feel a sense of relief is something that is actually hard to admit because some could view it as a failure or giving up. And I guess in a way it is both but it is what it is; a change of ministry. For the time being I have decided to take a step back from trying to start my animal micro-loan program and to only focus on running our home; so I guess it could be phrased as changing priorities but let me explain a little more. After two years of striving and pushing, I’ve come to a place of growth in my journey where I no longer want to strive to prove something; I simply want to be at rest as the woman God made me. I’m choosing to be Mary at rest at our Lord’s feet instead of Martha striving her hardest to win approval unsuccessfully. Later, if God makes it possible to start this ministry outside of me striving to get it done, then to Him be the glory; for now, I am going to rest at His feet and do the most important ministry He has already given me – our home and family. 

Running our home and taking care of Daniel is so much bigger than it sounds. Yes, I could do that anywhere but I’m not. Instead I’m living cross-culturally as an expat in a country torn apart by unrest and corruption and my prescence, doing the same things (if not in the same way) while speaking a different language, has a world-wide impact. Being here supports MAF world-wide. How? How does changing a poopy diaper or weeding the garden support MAF worldwide? The obvious answer is it allows my husband to live and serve in this country so he can fly and fix the airplanes that bring relief and point people to Jesus daily. Without my husband here at this base right now, things would crumble – pride? No. Reality. There are only three pilots assigned here right now. One is gone for a month, the other can only fly the 206 for the moment (safety check-out reasons so this is a good thing) and he will be leaving for maintenance on that aircraft for a while, leaving only Dave. Seeing all that Dave does for this base, it would have to shut down without him right now. He is essential, therefore I am essential

However, if you look a little deeper though you can see even more impact. My children (whenever we have more) are going to grow up being more culturally aware than I was; one day they will grow up to be the next generation taking on the fight. Having more Christians that are globally and culturally aware is a good thing for all of us. Being here provides jobs. What? Being here and living here provides jobs for local Congolese that literally make the difference between life and death here at times. We employ four people, one full time and three part time, and provide health care for them and their families. Many people die here because they wait until the last moment to get medical help simply because they cannot pay. Our employees and their familes no longer have to make that choice that could cost them their life. I also get to enrich other women’s lives, Congolese and expat, by being here. I strengthen the team by being a support and a friend. I support our team but I’ve also supported the local SP team the same way. I bring my personal Spiritual Gifts to the team as a member of the body of Christ and fill in the gaps that would otherwise be there.

Me teaching Emmanuel our kitchen help how to make ice cream for the first time. He not only has a wage and healthcare but he is being trained in cooking skills that can keep him employed for the rest of his life.


Can you imagine what would happen to MAF worldwide if all the wives decided that it didnt matter and that they were going home? Sad thing is – it is! There is a global problem of missionary spouses (mostly wives) feeling unimportant and unfullfilled, causing their family to leave the field. MAF is facing a serious problem with this right now. Between our culture and the false expectations put on Christian women these days, is it any surprise? “Oh, you’ll be flying and doing maintenance on airplanes and saving lives! That is so great! So . . .then, what will your wife be doing? Running the home and taking care of the kids, wow, that’s good. What else will she be doing?” Or “What will her ministry be?” after just explaining that it takes four hours to make a meal of hamburgers and tater tots. These questions along with today’s feminisim culture devalue what missionary wives across the world do to support The Great Commission. It is no longer “enough” to only be a mom who takes care of her home. I am using the word “only” instead of “just”  because the word “just” is the most common phrase used that tears the honored position down – just a mom and homemaker.” Have you ever said these words to a missionary wife? How do you think it impacted her? Even missionary to missionary this happens. Think about that for a moment. Is it really any surprise that missionary wives are finding it hard to achieve a sense of purpose and value with this being thrown at them? 

So battling all of these messages has been a loosing battle on my end, until just recently. One of those ways that I am supporting our team, being a friend, and bringing what only I can bring to this team, is through an upcoming ladies’ retreat. I am planning and putting on a retreat for all of the expat ladies here in Nyankunde (though one cancelled so now it’s just MAF ladies). It will be at the end of September and we will be studying the book ‘Captivatng’ by John and Stasi Eldredge. Studying this book and working through this material ahead of time, so I can lead the group study, has helped bring about this growth in my life (along with other events) – it has helped get me to the place of being Mary and not Martha, of resting in who God has already created me to be. One quote from the book that has deeply impacted me is “What if you have a genuine and captivating beauty that is marred only by your striving?” Captivating pg. 110. God made women to reflect His beauty and point people to Himself through being at rest in Him, not striving and pushing to be “enough.”

This change in ministry is a journey though, even a battle. Everyday I have to give myself permission to rest in Him, not try to prove myself or feel guilty about “just” being a homemaker and mom. I have to fight culture (American, Christain and even local Congolese) to not be devalued anymore. I have to combat the negative messages thrown at me, portrayed and created in my own mind that say what I do doesnt matter, that it’s “not enough” to “just” live here, that I have to have an “outside ministry” to be a worthy missionary worth supporting. Lies, all of them. An attack of the enemy to send missionary wives and their families off the field and stop God’s word from being spread. I’m done listening. I’m not going to leave the field. I’m going to rest at the feet of Jesus. I’m going to fight to feel fullfilled and valued in my God-given role. I’m changing my ministry.

My God-given ministry

Living in a Ghost Town

Have you ever visited a ghost town? The abandoned buildings and discarded pieces of a life in the past. The strange quiet in a place that used to be bustling and filled with life. There are moments nowadays where I feel like I’m living in a ghost town; except I’m not visiting an unknown place of fascination. I’m living in a place swarming with memories as I walk the empty halls of uninhabited houses, picking up the abandoned pieces of a life lived before. 

The laughter and love that used to fill these homes and ring down the hallways echo only in my mind now. The cobwebs that gather in the corners, the overgrown and unattended gardens, the curtains blowing in the windows that fool your mind that someone is still there. Even driving by the homes of those who will one day come back to live there pulls at your heart; some sooner rather than later but for now the houses sit as empty reminders.


A reminder of what was, what you had and what you lost when they left. The security, wisdom, guidance, love, examples, friendship, support, accountability, laughter, routine and family. I can no longer ask parenting advice from a calm and steady woman who I admired so much and looked up to like an older sister. I wont get to look out my window and just know its 5 o’clock because another family just walked by to go for their nightly walk or they are around for guideance. I can no longer enjoy the calming  and reassuring presence of another friend who is one of my heroes. I no longer get to daily discuss life with and listen to another amazing woman who refreshed my soul and honored me with transparency. I don’t get to just sit across from a couple who I trust with the life of my son and know that its going to be alright as they  examine him and share their struggles of life here with me. 

The life that was lost to those who left was not just lost to them, it was lost to those who remain as well. Those of us who remain dont have the joy of seeing family and friends, moving on to a new chapter in a life that is so different to temper the grief and the loss we feel. We are simply left over and over again as each family waves goodbye and looks ahead to their destination. There are tears all around, promises to write and even some promises to return but there is a significant difference between the pain of leaving and the pain of being left. I have experienced both and the goodbye while remaining hurts the most.


The goodbyes in a missionary’s life are different. Saying goodbye to your family and friends when you move a continent away while knowing you wont see them again for a couple of years, if ever again, is in a completely different realm than the “goodbye, I’ll see you tomorrow and call me if you need me to come over.” I can’t just get in my car or hop an hour flight over to see them again. If there is an emergency I wont be there to help and support. If a life event like a funeral or wedding is happening there’s a good chance I might not be able to make it. I don’t get to grieve and rejoice over these things like I would if I were there. It is a reality. Goodbyes are a huge part of a missionary’s life; and I would also say they are the hardest part.

Is this a pity party? No. It’s an insight into probably the hardest part of missions – a part that isn’t openly talked about enough. The part that changes you and makes you question each time “Are the sacrifices worth it? Did we make the right choice? How can God call me to this? How do I get through this again? What will life be like now?” Sometimes there are answers, sometimes there are not. It’s the part of this life that you either walk through and process while grieving or it’s the part that makes you shut off your emotions, close your heart to survive because you can’t deal with it anymore. It’s the part of missions that isn’t talked about with the recruits because they just might change their mind if they knew . . .

We have entered a new season in our lives here; a lonely and difficult one. A painful one. Every journey has its ups and downs and this is a season of “down.” Living in a ghost town will hopefully be a short season. New families will fill the empty houses and with them hopefully some new friendships will form. Our friends from before cannot be replaced and life will never be the same but we will find a new normal here now. Even if that new normal for the moment means living in a ghost town. An empty, too quiet ghost town.

Homestead Happenings: Reconstruction and Firsts

How do you put your world back in order after completely ripping it apart? What about your broken down emotional state where you cry at everything? Trying to get back into the swing of things life-wise is hard when you’re empty. Here, I’m having to look to the little things to fill me up.

In my last post I shared what we have been dealing with in our home the past few weeks (ticks) and about the struggles I faced during Dave’s absence. What I didn’t mention was that we are also in a season of change right now on our team and the extra emotional burden that creates. Our MAF team right now is in the middle of a transitional time with many families leaving, some returning, and some staying. Currently one family is already gone (reassignment), another family returned from furlough to take back over leadership, one family leaves tomorrow for a short furlough but will return, another family leaves in about two weeks (minimum two years with possible return), we will hear news on another family’s return, another family leaves in July (our dear friends and neighbors), the family on the short furlough returns and then another family leaves for a short furlough in August. The team is fluid right now; ever-changing and never able to settle and wont until the fall it seems. It’s a tough season.

With so much going on with our team right now home really needs to be sanctuary for us but at the moment it just isn’t. There is still powder everywhere to kill insects, minimal clothes in the closet, disorder, clutter in places, etc. Slowly I’m trying to ease back into daily life here and get back on track, hopefully in time to receive some very special visitors we have coming – Dave’s parents, Dan and Kathy, are coming for a two-week visit mid-June and we are so excited about it. This will be the first time we have had any visitors and family in our home here with us.

So while I try to get the inside of our house back in order and calm the chaos, I’m also continuing to work on all of the other projects and pieces of daily life. I’m looking after Daniel, teaching our kitchen help how to cook (in French), working in our garden, meal prep and cooking, looking after our animals, incubating eggs, animal ministry and more along with all the other smaller pieces of life here that add up. And the endless projects we have on our list, those never end – seriously.

IMG_4768Our garden is doing well and is starting to put out produce again at last. I’ve harvested salad, beets, summer squash, celery and even a couple tomatoes. Many things are still growing and haven’t begun producing yet and some things I have even yet to plant. Can you believe with such a huge garden I have run out of space? It’s true! There are so many things I want to plant but don’t have the room right now. Some of the new things that I have going are Napa cabbage, desi summer squash, local pumpkins, black-purple carrots, purple cabbage and plenty of eggplant and bell pepper seedlings I purchased from the nursery in Bunia. We are also waiting to plant some russet potato starts that Dave was able to bring back with him.

IMG_4771

One of our purple cabbages. I’m looking for a variety that does well here to hopefully pass on to the locals for improved nutrition.

IMG_4773

My favorite place in the garden at the moment.

IMG_4770

One half of the garden with a few beds awaiting corn and russet potato seedlings

IMG_4769

Eggplant starts

IMG_4765

A piece of the russet potato Dave brought back

IMG_4778

Lettuce leaf basil – basil as big as lettuce that’s great for salads, wrapping things and even pesto.

IMG_4793An exciting first for us is our long-awaited pineapple! We started planting pineapple tops right when we moved in almost two years ago and the very first one is finally growing a pineapple. It has been fun to watch the beautiful flowering part of the pineapple form and now turn into a fruit; it will be even more fun to eat the pineapple off of our own bush once it is ripe.

The chickens are doing well and we have lots of babies at the moment. One of our biggest challenges with chicks, now that we have a closed flock and don’t have to deal with other diseases, is Coccidiosis. It kills babies in pens quickly if not treated and we are still tweaking a schedule to prevent this from happening. I found two dead today, only three days from their next treatment, so the schedule needs to be moved up a week or so. I’m treating them now but it’s a shame to loose any since this batch is our first second-generation hatching and is intended for the animal micro-loan program’s first families. Hopefully within a month or so we will be ready to start the program at last with 5 chosen families.

IMG_4812

The first batch of second-generation chicks intended for the animal micro-loan program.

 

IMG_4808Another first that we have now is our first second-generation duckling from our khaki Campbells! We were waiting for our ducks to be of a good age to hatch their eggs and then dry season hit and we struggled for months and months to get good eggs. They were heat stressed and would lay eggs with no shells or weak paper-thin ones that were  impossible to hatch from. Then we magically got 4 with normal shells and two developed and one hatched.  They have been laying well this last week but suddenly stopped again; why is a mystery. Today I made up some more nests for a couple of broody hens to sit on some more of our ducks eggs so hopefully in a month’s time we will have some more ducklings to add to our collection!

IMG_4797

The few precious normal duck eggs collected over the last week that will be placed under some broody hens today.

 

IMG_4800 We also have our first australorp chicks to start improving our chicken lines with! The hatch numbers were disappointing to be sure because of problems with our power system; the power would go out for hours at a time during the night and morning and it caused many deaths in the egg unfortunately. I’m grateful to have any and right now we have 5. I’m praying we don’t loose any but here the odds are just not very great for all 5 of them to make it. I’ll do my very best to raise them special and get them to adulthood if I can. I’m praying for a rooster and a few hens and the odds are more in my favor, obviously, if they all make it.

IMG_4805

IMG_4787For the first time we now have two pigs at once. Our larger pig is the pig we bought earlier this year with the goal of raising it all of the way until this coming Christmas for ham and bacon. The second, smaller new pig was a gift from a Congolese friend. They have worked it out and are living peacefully together which is a relief.

IMG_4767One other new project that I’m excited about is my worm bin. I know, I know – I’m excited about worms. It’s truly the most efficient and rewarding way of composting, something we do a lot of here, and it will make the best fertilizer for our garden. We were able to get a small start of red wiggler worms back here along with the bin and have already got it started up and running. I’ll have a learning curve I know but once I get the basics down and our population goes up we will be cranking out amazing fertilizer every few months.

So that’s where we are at as we try to reconstruct our house from the inside chaos and infestation we dealt with and get back on track with normal life. We are eagerly awaiting our special guests as we deal with the difficult transitional times on our team. The precious precious family time together will be a much needed relief and break from the tough season we still find ourselves in. Until then I will continue to find peace and rest for my soul in my garden.

IMG_4777

My quiet retreat

Infested

IMG_4760Have you ever utterly wept over a small insect you held in your fingers? Have you ever stood over a huge pot of boiling water on an open fire that is filled with your unmentionables? Have you ever done laundry like a pioneer woman stirring, dipping and hanging items with a huge stick while your throat and sinuses ached from inhaling poison? I have. I have done all of these things and more until only the word ‘weary’ seems to describe my existance.

My husband, Dave, left for MAF’s Leadership Conference on Monday April 17th and was to be gone for exactly two weeks before arriving back here in Nyankunde. It always seems that when he leaves, regardless for the amount of time, that bad things happen; discouraging things happen. Usually it has involved our animals, specifically our chickens, and I now expect many deaths when he leaves. Usually for no specific reason; they go unexplained or are so random you can hardly fathom how it happened or why.

This time was no exception but there was more, our home was infested. I didnt know to what extent that first Monday but that first night I spent in my kitchen with the fly swatter (hardly used for flys here) and a can of bug spray attempting to erradicate an infestation of large cockroaches. They had invaded the non-food prepping side of my kitchen in all of the cupboards. They had gotten out of control as I dont open those cabinets in the evening hardly at all, which is their active time. I stopped counting at 50 medium to large cockroaches about the size of my thumb from knuckle down and just kept killing. The kitchen was washed and poison put down the next day after that night, and I figured things were under control.

For the rest of that week Daniel and I experienced Spiritual Warfare in an intense, very real way; first on our own for a few nights and then alongside other friends who came to stay with us because of what was going on. This too, is a pattern for when Dave leaves our home for periods of time. Now before you just write me off, know that I used to be one of those Christians that would shake my head at these types of things and Spiritual Warfare was just something that was “out there” and didnt affect daily life. I’ve experienced it more and in such a real way these past few weeks that it is no longer “not real” to me. It was real, it was physical and spiritual and it was heavy. It had me sleep-deprived and weary. Perhaps a different post on this later.

IMG_4746The following Monday Dave had been gone for exactly one week. That day I discovered we were infested with ticks in our home. I had placed a laundry basket full of cloth diapers in my son’s room that had been sitting in our room for almost a month, with the intention of putting them away at last. That basket, along with many others, had been sitting in our room for so long because of an almost month-long span of malaria we had dealt with just previous to this (yeah – it’s not been the best season in our time here so far). Dave and I got malaria on the same day the first week, then we had a week of staycation while recovering, then Dave had a relapse the next week and the week after that I had a terrible relapse with a dangerously high parasite count that required in-home nursing care and an IV. So yeah, I was behind on things. It had sat in his room a few days when I finally got to putting the diapers away and discovered a tick infestation all over them. Hundreds and hundreds crawling all over them, Adults and so many small baby ones.

By the time I had realized there was a problem I had put some diapers away with the clean ones infecting them all. The basket had sat in his room for days, allowing time for wanderers. It had come from our room. When checking our room I discovered thousands of ticks all over our bedroom. All over the floor, under the bed, in the laundry baskets, on the walls, on our bedspread, on the window seals and in the cracks of the woodwork. Are you itching yet? They were burrowed into the dog bed, squeezed in cracks in the cement or even just boldly crawling on the floor. The dog had brought them in and because of sickness and general life I had not been diligent in picking her clean every night like I used to. Topical treatments, like Frontline, dont work on the ticks here – they are different species and the formula is for North American ticks. They are also very small and the babies are almost impossible to see if you are not looking close with a flashlight; easy to miss and live everyday life without even seeing them.

IMG_4661I talked with a friend from here who has had to deal with this a few times and who has researched ticks here like a professor. I was going to have to boil everything fabric, wash the entire house with permethrin and bleach before spreading a toxic poison that had to sit a minimum of 3 days before being swept up and the house re-cleaned. We had to move out; our son could not touch or be around the powder and even us adults working with it should have worn a mask the whole time. Just breathing the poison when putting it down gave you a terrible sinus ache and sore throat. They were worn for the clean up.

IMG_4664IMG_4702IMG_4704

IMG_4689So we moved in with another MAF family here on the base. They would watch Daniel for me during the day so I could come back to our house and work. Clothes, diapers, linens, towels, sheets, rugs, curtains, shoes, pillows, couch cushions – everything cloth or mostly cloth had to be boiled to kill the ticks; just washing things wouldnt work because water doesnt kill them. Massive pot after pot of boiling water was made and things put in and boiled to kill anything on them. I would stir the pots with a huge stick and take the laundry out of the pots with the stick before it sat in baskets to then be washed, hung up to dry on our laundry line and others’ lines, folded and then stored in another empty MAF house. We also used the machine and line of this empty house to help speed things up.

IMG_4669IMG_4675IMG_4678IMG_4680IMG_4683IMG_4686IMG_4693IMG_4694IMG_4697

The animals had to all be either moved or put outside. We moved our two kitties with their litter box and food down to the empty house we were using for clean storage and laundry facilities. The parrot was moved outside and the dog was also moved outside permenately. She is now an outside dog and is not allowed back in. I feel bad but I cannot do this again, so outside she will remain. It was a hard adjustment for them all. It was also a very confusing and difficult time for our son. He loves our MAF friends that we stayed with and it is only becuase of this that he didnt completely fall apart but his behavior was much worse than normal, he was more sensitive, had trouble sleeping and after a couple days of me slipping away to work,would freak out if I stepped out of his sight. It was hard on us all.

I had help with all of this and would not have been able to get things even to where they are today if I had been working alone. The other family we stayed with watched Daniel, hosted us even to preparring all our meals, and even hung clean laundry on their line so it could dry. Other families offered meals.

I also had our house workers there to help. They worked tirelessly alongside me to strip the house, wash things, hang laundry, spread powder, move and wash furniture, and boil things. Their help was needed but unfortunately their help caused some damage too; some of our clothes were ruined after being boiled together. It was after that that I explained how you have to boil like colors with like colors and I supervised the boiling more closely. Most of my shoes were also ruined in the boiling process from coming unglued and the rubber melting, including a nice pair of expensive teva sandals we bought and a wonderful pair of nike tennis shoes that I had been gifted years ago by some friends. Flip flops only here folks. Dave’s shoes may also have shrunk too much for him to use, that remains to be seen fully.

IMG_4720Each night after our workers and I were done working and we needed to leave, we would have to take all of the clean or boiled items down to the other house in baskets. It couldnt sit in the infested house for fear of it getting compromised and reinfested but it also couldn’t sit out on the back porch in case the dog decided to curl up on it. Then the next morning we would have to bring it back up here to continue the process. You were never idle; always stirring, wrining, starting a load of laundry in the machine or filling the machine using a bucket, cleaning, spreading powder, running to the empty house to check on the laundry there, etc.

IMG_4709IMG_4710IMG_4715IMG_4717IMG_4703IMG_4733

Fast forward a week and we were finally “moved” back into the house for sleeping and living. By “moved-in” I mean there were sheets on the beds and the bedroom curtains were up – that was it. I hadnt cooked for a week and I barely had the privacy of curtains up in our living room but it was good to be back in our home. We had “moved” back in the night before we expected Dave back home. He was supposed to be back the next day, a Monday, but there was a delay with the airlines causing a missed flight and a 24 hour lay-over. He didnt get back to Nyankunde until Wednesday afternoon. He showed up to a weary and easily-irritable wife from my very very long two-week stretch without him while dealing with this. Poor man.

That same day, I discovered that our chicken house was infested with red mites and my poor chickens were covered with them. When it rains, it pours. Along with trying to put the house back together piece by piece, we now had another infestation to deal with. Take everything out, spray and wash it all with permethrin, dust with powders to kill, apply oil to all the wood to suffocate the bugs, treat the chickens, redo the dust bathing box to help them self-erradicate them and then do it again. This problem has only just begun and will take months of follow-up and continual preventative care.

IMG_4749Fast forward a few more days and it is now Saturday, today in fact. Today I woke up with the reassurance that the ticks were dead and our house was on it’s way to being put back together. I got up, put my contacts in and started to get dressed. I bent over to pick up some diaper liners that had fallen on the floor from a laundry basket of now fully clean clothes when I saw it. A tick, sitting on the diaper. I looked closer and it wasnt moving. Perhaps it was a dead one left over? I touched it. It moved. And then I melted down emotionally.

There I stood in our bedroom, somewhat dressed, holding a squirming tick between my fingers bawling like the broken woman I felt like. All my efforts had been for nothing, all that work had to be redone, and now where would we live? These thoughts began running through my head as the sobs escaped my mouth and the tears fell. I threw it in the toilet and began to look around our room. I found another, then a third and my sobbing turned to histerically weeping. I had failed. All of my work, the times holding it together and pushing through had gotten me no-where. We still have an infestation on our hands.

IMG_4723My husband was finally able to bring me around after a few inconsolable hours (yes, literally hours) that my efforts were not pointless and that these were probably just in our room and that we just need to keep at it. They were along the one wall under the window seal and seemed to be coming from there. We applied more bug spray and I sprayed the wall and all cracks with Diamataceous Earth, a natural bug killer. The poison didn’t erradicate them last time so now I’m turning to this. Using this takes about the same amount of time to kill them but we dont have to move out, worry about Daniel touching it and it works on all kinds of bugs. People use it in their homes to get rid of fleas, ticks, mites and even bed bugs. It works and it’s safe. I’ll be using it from now on as a preventative as well. It will even help with the cockroaches in the kitchen.

IMG_4740IMG_4739IMG_4738IMG_4731IMG_4728

So today was probably the lowest moment I have had since moving here to Congo. I have one other moment that comes to mind after I had had to wipe out all of my chickens after the third time of restarting because of disease that came close to this one. I had been so undone at that moment and it had been right in the middle of a time when Dave was away also. At least Dave was here for this moment and was able to be there with me and be my rock.

I can honestly say I’m almost too weary for reflection at this moment, lacking any revelations or amazing thoughts to end this post with. All I have are the bare-bone admissions of a worn down and weary woman. The confesions of the “other side of missions” from a broken missionary. The truth of how hard these past few weeks have been for me and how at so many different times I had the desire to ‘light a match and walk away from it all.’ How I feel trapped staying in this house right now; a place that is normally my sanctuary feels like an infested cage. How I’m behind on everything from the house, to the garden to the animals to cooking. How the chaos around me of my house in shambles and the disorganization adds to my stress every moment but I’m almost too tired to take care of fixing it. The truth that I’m not parenting well right now because of how empty I am; I have no patience to deal with even the little things. How I’m not being the best wife to my husband. How things have fallen apart or fallen to the side and on days it seems like my son and my animals are lucky to get fed. The truth that I’m deeply soul-weary at this moment and cry at everything, even a bug in my home or the thought of my husband going back to work.

This is that other side of missions, the ugly side that not everyone sees. It isnt all fun and games here. It doesnt all go great with happy smiling missionaries all the time. We can be broken, we can be weary. It doesnt mean we are leaving. It doesnt mean we are giving up or have somehow lost faith in God. It does mean that we are human. This is that other side that people dont see, that missionaries are afraid to lay bare for fear that supporters will fade away or some other reason.

IMG_4761We are still infested, on multiple fronts and are attempting to deal with it. The house is not back together and likely wont be for some time until we are sure all the ticks are gone. I have to try to purchase preventative measures like some special tick collars I just was told about that actually work here and more DE to spray all over our house. The attic is still infested with rats that keep us up at night but now we have traps to deal with them (Dave brought them back). Daniel is still having nightmares and waking from all the upset. I’m still weary.

 

 

 

Worshiping while watering

Today I watered my garden and felt guilty about it. Guilty for several reasons; water here is very precious right now and water here is work normally. It hasnt rained here in a very long time, probably close to two months. I mean really rained – the kind of rain that quenches the thirst of the deepest tree roots, heals the huge cracks in the ground and turns the world back to green. Everywhere you look you you see the evidence of this on-going dry season; the brown grass crunches under your feet as you walk and the produce that is still available to purchase gets smaller and smaller. But most of all you see it in the people, the Congolese, around you. The concern worn on faces, poorer produce to sell carried on womens’ heads, talk of entire fields being lost due to drought and cattle dying. Hunger.

When I felt guilty I wasnt watering my lawn. I wasnt watering flowers or decorative plants. I was watering my vegetable garden, our food, and I still felt guilty. It isnt a waste of water in my opinion; we need to eat but the guilt was there none-the-less. I have water enough to drink and bathe and to water my garden. If we run low in our cistern all we have to do is pay a small amount to use a large pump and pipe system to fill it back up again. Watering my garden was made even more easy by the recent installation of an underground irrigation system in our yard. I no longer have to hand-carry watering-can after watering-can from our water tower to the garden to give our plants and seeds a drink; I get to flip a switch in the pumphouse and use a hose. Using a hose while pumping water from our refillable cistern gave me feelings of guilt, privledge and then a sense of blessing. I honestly feel blessed by God to stand in my garden and use a hose to water. 


I guess I never realized what a blessing rain and water are until I moved to Congo. Here women and children have to walk, sometimes long distances, to a water source and then they have to carry the water back to their home to use. Water to cook, water to drink, water to wash their clothes, water to wash their dishes, water to bathe with. Everyday they carry the water they need to their home on their backs and their heads. Watering their fields here is out of the question; just carrying enough for their other parts of life is overwhelming. Rain here is God watering their gardens for them; blessing. Rain here refreshes the ground, revives the grass and refills the rivers; the cattle can live another day. So much of life here is tied up in the rain; it literally is life or death for some of the Congolese. You need rain to feed your family through crops and animals.

So in this time of drought, grey storm clouds carry with them prayers and hope. Hope that rainy season will be here soon. Prayers that God will water their fields. I am praying and hoping along with them but especially for them. I pray while I work in my garden; I’m praying for rain while praising God for having the amazing blessing of a watering system and cistern. I praise God for His blessing on us, through being able to water and grow things for my family, which leads me to a place of worship for His goodness and provision. Im worshipping while I water my garden.

Poultry Projects: improving a coop

Over Christmas break we had some time on our hands, in between doing other projects around the homestead, to get some improvements done on our chicken coop and run that have been waiting. I’ve been wanting a dust bathing box for our chickens for some time now and I just happened to see another project where some people created a “greens box” for their chickens to snack from. So here are the improvements we’ve been working on lately with more to come:

img_3718The dust bathing box was very simple to construct but after it was in place it had to be filled. I did this by mixing equal parts dirt, sand and wood ash. I do have a small amount of diatomaceous earth on hand here but with so much controversy as to whether it truly is good for your chickens or not I left it out of the mixture. I have seen them using it some but they still prefer to dust bathe in the spot under the water tower right now which is cooler and moist. I may need to move the location of the box for their preferences but we will see.

img_3716The “greens box” was also very simple to construct and will be a treasured addition to the run as soon as it is finished. Basically you build a box that you plant grass in (or in our case transplant) and then cover that grass with 1/2″ wire. This allows the chickens to eat the shoots of grass that poke up through the wire but protects the grass from being scratched apart and killed. A “living feeder” of sorts for our hens to enjoy greens from. I plan to supply our chickens and ducks with greens each day from our garden (or purchased) but this in-run supply of greens will ensure they get some every day. We only have the one in the chicken pen right now but I would like to put one in the duck pen if the one in the chicken pen takes off and works.

img_3721We have a rain water collection system on the coop which feeds the pipeline running through out the coop and runs on both sides. The pipeline is fitted with water nipples which the chickens peck at and get water from. This is more hygienic for them because it rids the problems with getting poop and other things in their water. It also simplifies things for me greatly because I’m not constantly having to check waterers, haul water to fill them and daily clean the waterers. This is our first dry season with the water tower so we will see how it goes. We have had this system in place for some time but over our Christmas break Dave added an additional nozzle inside the coop for me for doing fermented feed, cleaning dishes, mixing up medicated water and refilling the chicks’ water bottle. Eventually I would like to make an installed nipple watering system for the chicks too with a bucket that we refill on occasion.

img_3725

The water faucet inside the coop

img_3726

A real time saver . . .

img_3719

The water nipples outside at different heights for both chicks and adults

As well as “running water” in our coop Dave also took the time to run a power line to the coop from our house as a permanent source of power in the coop. We now have a power strip for plugging in things like our brooder heater for chicks and power tools if we need to use them inside the coop. Dave also installed a string of LED lights inside the coop with a switch on the door frame so we will have light in the evening when we need to go out into the coop. It gets dark here around 6pm EVERY NIGHT with a small variation of 30 minutes on either side because we are so close to the equator. So if we need to do any roost training, checking on the chickens (in case of driver ant attacks and such), and when we put our roosters to bed we now have a lighted coop.

img_3724Speaking of putting our roosters to bed, we now have a black-out box for our boys. Our chicken coop is very close to our house, specifically the bedrooms, unfortunately and because of this chicken noises can create a problem for us. This location also has some advantages for us – like we can hear when the chickens are being attacked by ants sometimes so it’s not all bad being close. The crowing is the biggest issue by far but there are other noise that can cause issues like an upset hen or a hen singing her egg song or if someone is getting picked on. Most of these noises happen during the day which can be a problem for naps but the early-morning crowing is the biggest issue we have to deal with. So to help deal with this we have constructed a black-out box that we place our roosters in at night. With them unable to see the light of day, there is less crowing and we can actually get some sleep. We have to nail a piece of plywood on top to completely seal it but for now, the two layers of cloth help them not to crow until about 6:00-6:30am. MUCH better than 4am – just sayin’.

img_3723

img_3722We also added curtains to our nest boxes the same day that we worked on the black-out box for the roosters. Hens need a quiet, private and dark place to lay their eggs and sometimes a plain nest box is not very inviting simply because they get too much light. So to help with this problem you can add curtains to the nest boxes to block out some of the light and give your girls some more privacy. I have been EAGERLY awaiting our first egg from the ducks (they were due to start laying first and should start anytime . . . ) when low and behold I was surprised to get our first egg from one of our 4 month old hens!! She has been laying for almost a week now but still has yet to figure out where to deposit her egg. I’ve found them in the run under the tree, in the dust bathing box, under the water tower and under the water nipples. I think I may need to move the nest boxes outside for a while to help her learn to lay in them.

img_3657A small change that came about because of Christmas but has made a HUGE difference in our lives was the addition of our new motorized grain mill. It isn’t a true mill because in truth it doesn’t grind the grain – the motor spins a couple of metal paddles inside the chamber that then hit the grain breaking it while a screen holds in the pieces that are too large so they can be hit again.You can control the size of the particles that you want by changing out screens or in some cases, like our adult chicken feed, not having a screen at all. It has changed my life as far as mixing feed goes – it used to take literal hours to mix and then grind our feed each week. Now, doing a double batch, the entire process takes about 20 minutes with the grinding being the quickest piece of that. Compared to 10 minutes mixing and 2+ hours of grinding the grain by hand, it’s a God-send.

img_3720

Another smaller addition/improvement to our run was changing our feeding vessel from a platter on the ground to a rain gutter. Now why is this an improvement? With the platter there was less room for everyone to crowd around it and eat, especially for those low on the pecking order who would get picked on. It also was far too easy for them to stand in their food which causes contamination and leads to cocci outbreaks. With the rain gutter there is more room for everyone to eat and they are less likely to stand in the food, thought they still do at this point. This weekend we will hopefully add some wire to the top of the gutter to hinder them even further from standing in their food.

img_3728

The vines growing on the chicken side of the run have finally started looking healthy and growing fruit

There are a few other things we need to add and a few I would like to add to the coop in the future. The biggest thing we need to do is pour cement “baseboards” for the run. The boards we buried when we first built the run and coop have been eaten away by termites and although this provides the occasional termite snack for our flock, it is falling apart now. The other necessary repairs are around where the tree in the run broke through our chicken wire cover leaving some gaping holes and a less-secure pen. This happened during our furlough when I wasn’t here to keep up with the trimming of the tree. Some of the things I would like to add to our chicken set-up in the future are some roosts outside and a few more nails to hang things like cabbage from fore fun. There is a lot to do still on our set up along with the upkeep but for the moment this is where we are at with our chicken/duck set-up. I mean the coop has indoor plumbing and electricity so I’d say we’re doing pretty good, all things considered.