Our trip has been rescheduled for departure on Thursday November 24, returning December 13. Essentially, it is a mirror image of our original plans, with one extra day added.

A complication for our return could be the Congolese elections which are scheduled for November 28.  In the past, there has been violence around the elections and the borders have been closed, so we needed clearance from those in Africa before concluding it was safe to go.  Fortunately, the current president Kabila is expected to be re-elected.

Kabila Campaign Sign 2006

Bemba Campaign Sign 2006

Kabila is from the east, so any dissatisfaction with his victory will result in violence in the west (where during the last general election in 2006 the Supreme Court in Kinshasa was set on fire).

Congo Supreme Court Burning 2006

Congo Election Results 2006

Our risk is to have Kabila lose, but compared to previous dictatorial governments, he has been a relative saint.  Heavy on the relative, but this is Africa.

Further, the problems will arise not on the election day, but on the results day.  Imagine the logistical issues in a country like Congo.  It will take a minimum week and likely much more to determine and announce the results.  We will likely have already left the country, but we were in Congo in 2006 on results day (surrounded by South African peacekeepers).

South African MONUC (UN) peacekeepers

The decision involved knowing that if we didn’t go now (some work constraints prevented us from going sooner), then we couldn’t go for months.  To adjust for the risk of not getting a flight out of Goma to Beni (there are only flights on Monday and Tuesday each week), we advanced our trip a day so we have a chance to board two flights, not just one.  We cleared our decision with Nancy Wood of CME after she discussed the situation with multiple people in multiple cities on our behalf.

It was the weirdest feeling to drive back home from the airport and know that for two weeks you have absolutely no commitments.  That’s very different from nothing to do!  But we were kid free and faced with a clean slate of no meetings to attend, no deadlines to meet, almost total flexibility to decide our priorities.  It’s a cleansing process!

We’ve been asked about the rescheduling costs.  The trend started when we returned to the Direct Flight parking lot at Pearson where the manager waived our parking fee.  The only hotel that required a 50% deposit waived their right to the deposit.  Canada Post waived the additional mail hold fee.  Our only cost is with KLM where the flight differential with KLM was a whole $2 (foreign exchange change?), but there were rebooking fees of $250 per ticket.  More will be said about KLM later.  Brenda is crawling out of her skin to talk about their customer service and lack thereof.

On Saturday, we were presented with quite a co-incidence.  Brenda received a call from her aunt in Stony Creek, asking if we knew a Katembo Kaluma who was speaking at their church this weekend.  Of course we knew him!  He was our original connection for our trips to Congo. Kaluma (he goes by his “last” name) and his amazing wife Kaswera founded the charity CSCODI which run the orphanage and school in Butembo we visit.

CSCODI Butembo Students

Living in Quebec to earn his Masters and later his Ph.D., Kaluma and Kaswera were unable to return to Congo with the outbreak of war.  He has made amazing sacrifices and advanced CSCODI to now include microfinancing for women.

Also speaking in Stoney Creek on Sunday was Rosemary Walker who has served in Africa with AIM for many years.  She sends a big Jambo! to the Woods and others at CME.

Kaswera, Kaluma and Rosemary Walker of AIM

Meeting with Kaluma on Sunday enabled us to gain many valuable contacts in Goma, Beni and Bunia.  These connections will likely both increase our effectiveness as well as our personal safety.  We also learned that Kaluma intends to serve with African Inland Missions in the role of Program Officer for Relief and Development for 22 countries.  http://www.aimint.org/can/en/give/relief-and-development.html.  Unfortunately, it is a role that he must self finance through contributions.  If you can manage $10 per month or more in support of Kaluma, please let me know and I will connect you with him.  Imagine trying to raise funds when you don’t have family or many friends while living in Quebec with relatively weak Protestant churches.  It must be tough, so please support him if you can.