Seminars and Caterpillars

Trip Start Feb 13, 2011
Trip End Mar 14, 2011

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Where I stayed

Flag of Congo - The Dem. Repub.  , Kinshasa,
Friday, March 11, 2011

This morning I was again ready again and in the lobby at 08:30. There were groups of foreigners waiting for their transportation and ready for the adventure of Africa. One group of Chinese caught my eye. There were about 10 of them, obviously new to the continent. One of them handed around his new ball cap with the Massai-shield symbol of Kenya on it. It was passed around and there were Chinese oohs and aahs expressed. Several held large SLR cameras with long zoom lenses. At a given signal which I didn't understand almost all of them pulled out tubes of mosquito repellent and began massaging into their arms and necks. They were not self-conscious at all, it was as if they were in the privacy of their rooms rather than a busy lobby full of diplomats and UN military officers. Cultural differences are often fascinating.

Justin was much closer to on-time and we rode in the taxi to the hall, fare: $3.50 for a twenty minute ride. We arrived right at 09:00 when we had agreed to start, but there weren’t many there. Justin told me some have to leave hours early to reach this hall by bush taxi and taxi, so I can’t really complain, though it is frustrating to go to such lengths to get here and then only be able to have so many useful hours in the day.

We started at 09:45 with a new seminar subject. Today it was the topic of the character needed for leadership. This was very interactive with lots of participation and input and it seemed very interesting to those present. We sent through the morning with one short break and then broke for lunch once again, before heading back in for more presentation and discussion. Lunch today was chicken, rice and fufu with sauces and plantain and a side dishg I didn’t recognize. "What is that?" I asked one of the men. “Chenilles” he responded. I thought to myself, that perhaps that was the name of some pasta that looked like that. But no, it turned out to actually be chenilles: fried caterpillars!

This is a group that found us on the Internet and came to us as a group already formed with certain understandings and practices. They carefully observe the Sabbath and the annual Holy Days, and have been eager to put into practice new things they have learned. I have visited them quite a few times over the last five years and among other things we’ve discussed dietary laws and I knew we were on the same page as far as the major issues are concerned, but I never thought to ask about caterpillars. I mentioned to them Leviticus 11:41-42: “And every creeping thing that creeps on the earth shall be an abomination. It shall not be eaten. Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth—these you shall not eat, for they are an abomination.”

They thought for a moment and one responded “yes but this kind of caterpillar doesn’t crawl upon the earth; they always stay up in trees.” We will obviously have to revisit this passage and their understanding of this particular topic. Such are the challenges of working in areas such as these.

Around 14:00 the sky grew very dark and the power went out, meaning there were no lights in the room. It wasn’t possible to easily read and there was obviously going to be a heavy rain storm. I called the meetings for the day so that everyone could reach their home before dark. Rain slows transportation down quite a lot and some are already riding for several hours each way to reach this hall.

I asked to take a photo of the group before everyone left and before the storm broke. In a light rain, I took of photo of them as they would usually pose and then asked for a second one for them to smile which is strange and slightly embarrassing for them. But they were willing to play my strange foreigner game, though some laughed a little uncomfortably while doing so. In Africa if one smiles it means things are going really well, especially materially. And if things are going well that way, one’s relatives have the right to profit from the good fortune and collect part of the blessings that have been bestowed. So family and friends show up with their hands out. Most Africans when a photo is taken will prefer to look stoic and rather grim – that keeps the relatives at a respectful distance. That’s why the usual pose is very serious and businesslike. I will post a normal type photo and then one where the crazy foreigner asks them to actually smile (go figure!).

There was a heavy storm that lasted half an hour. We waited quite a while beyond that for the taxi to make it through the rain and traffic jams, before I could ride back to the hotel for the day.

Tomorrow will be my last Sabbath on this trip and my next to last day. I’m getting eager to return home!
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peppz on

Really enjoyed reading your blog... You show a good and even-handed knowledge of the land. Since I see that you travel to many places and are a religious man, I wanted to ask you why you think there is mistrust and fear of Christianity and Christian proselityzing in parts of Africa and Asia. Why do you think some predominately Muslim countries outlaw proseletyzing or conversion? Why do you think they punish it? Is it because of a fear that Christianity will win so many converts? Is it because of their colonial past? It hasn't been lost on me there seem to be few if any predominately Christian countries that display this sort of intolerance towards people of outside faiths? I'd like to know your view on this.


jpvernaud on

Nous vous souhaitons un très bon Sabbat, une très bonne fin de séjour et un très bon voyage de retour.

reba walker on

Greetings Joel, I have enjoyed your blogs and keeping up with your activities as well as the minor glitches along the way. I'm pleased your are almost finished this tour and can appreciate the feeling you have of returning home to family! thanks for all the effort in writing and all the work you have carried out along the trip! Reba

joelmeeker on

Hello Phil,

Thanks for following my blog. I’m not an expert, but will share what I’ve learned from my reading and some experience on the ground. The religion of Islam considers converting away from Islam to be the sin of apostasy and it is to be punished, in hard-line counties by death. So obviously they don’t want people of other religions in proselytizing; that is also to be punished – it is actually against the law to proselytize. Islamic nations may tolerate Jews and Christians as “people of the book” and allow them to keep their faith but are supposed to impose a sub-status on them with higher taxation and fewer civic rights. This is sometimes called “dhimmitude”, which you can Google for more information. Such nations may tolerates the transmission of those faiths from parents to children, but conversions away from a Muslim to another religion is again apostasy and to be punished.

Hard-line Islam believes its mission is to convert the world and that it will succeed one day, so any progress toward that goal should not be allowed to fall back, to be prevented by force if necessary. Many Muslims are still upset and clearly remember that Spain and Portugal were recaptured from Islam to the Christian faith around 600 years ago. Long memories.

So serious Islam is not really into “freedom of religion” at all.

joelmeeker on

Thanks for all of you for your comments of support. I read them all and really appreciate your taking the time to write.

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