Saturday, January 25, 2014


We arrived in Kinshasa late Thursday night, and were welcomed by a blast of warm humid air. All travel went well – the only hiccup was that the travel agency that was supposed to meet us had made an error in their schedule and did not show up. So, that meant we got to find a taxi, but God provided one that could fit all of our luggage, and got us to the guest house in record time - nevermind that it was a scary ride because he was driving so fast and the stop lights appeared to be meaningless!

En-route, we were pleasantly surprised to be randomly selected for a new “expedited line” going through security in Chicago – which meant we did not have to take out laptops, take off shoes, etc. A huge blessing, given how much we were carrying! We didn’t even know that they had started offering such a line, so imagine our delight when they explained how easy it was.

We are staying in Kinshasa briefly, en-route to our home in Kananga, and are trying to adjust to environment that feels so familiar and yet so different. We remembered just in time not to brush our teeth with the water from the tap at the guest house. We spread out the mosquito net over our bed, and realized how different it feels to be warm with just a sheet rather than an electric blanket and 2 quilts! We went to buy tickets yesterday for the flight to Kananga, and got to experience the chaos and gridlock of Kinshasa traffic when a stop light was out. We are grateful for internet access, but it makes us realize how spoiled we were by a fast connection in the U.S.! Getting e-mails is no longer a trivial task. And, of course we laid awake for a few hours last night because of jet lag – just when the alarm went off, our bodies felt ready to go to sleep.

Drivers have to be aggressive as they nudge their way through the intersection

Tomorrow we fly to Kananga. We look forward to reconnecting with friends and colleagues, settling into our apartment, and adjusting to this environment. I’m sure along the way as we get used to taking bucket baths, cooking with charcoal, and shopping in the “interactive” way of Congo, there will be moments of frustration. But we trust God who called us here to also help us through this transition so that we again can feel at home in Congo, embracing people and culture alike as we partner together in God’s work. We welcome your prayers!

Flowers at MPH1

I took a walk today to enjoy the tropical birds and flowers at the guest house.
Plumeria (I think, pictured) growing at MPH

Thursday, January 16, 2014

St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi

The mural will serve as a lasting memory. It lies just off from of the nave of the sanctuary of the St. Francis of Assisi Church. Francis’ absolute surrender and devotion to Christ, his prophetic King, cannot be avoided. His arms outstretched. His head bowed low. Kneeling before his crucified Lord.

Recently Kristi and I retreated to the Chiara Center in Springfield, IL. This center is a Franciscan Place of Spirituality. As noted on their website, it is “grounded in the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi…and offers a peaceful, inspirational setting for individuals, couples, and groups who seek Christ’s healing presence.” We traveled to this place of quiet and healing to refresh our spirits before our return to Congo. We enjoyed long periods of silence, centering prayer, meditation walks, reading and studying Scripture and Christian books, walking the Stations of the Cross, journaling, thinking about our return to Congo, and learning more about St. Francis and St. Clare. We also learned about the devotion of the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, an order of nuns who have served the sick and infirm in the Midwest for more than 135 years.

DSC_0110St. Francis of Assisi Church, Chiara Center (Springfield, IL)

The greatest gift I received during this personal retreat was a greater appreciation for St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi. Both coming from affluent and noble homes in a decadent culture of 13th century Italy, they gave up all for the cause of Christ. Francis even left the clothing off his own back in the hands of his merchant father as he pronounced his sole devotion to Christ before the Bishop of Assisi. He took on the crude and hard life of poverty. He found that the less he had, the freer he was to serve Jesus Christ. In his devotion, Francis would spend days weeping over the passion of Christ. He was gripped by the suffering of Christ and the sufferings of the poor. He sought to identify completely with the poor, the lame, and the outcast. He and a committed band itinerated throughout the land preaching this good news of Christ. He was fearless. People began flocking to him and his message; his radical life transformed the church. Francis had a profound love for all of creation. He referred to the sun as “Brother Sun,” and the moon as “Sister Moon.” All of creation had a wondrous ring to his ears and a familial tie to his heart.

DSC_0126 (2)
Two story stained glass in prayer chapel -
“Canticle of the Creatures”

Clare was no less resolute in her devotion. She would spend days on end simply worshipping her Creator and praying to Him. Food and clothing and the things of this world were of no consequence. Her commitment to a life of poverty and simplicity were unparalleled. When Francis was near death, it was near Clare he chose to be. Clare, he knew, would tend to his soul.

St. Francis, depicted with a gentle lamb

Upon our departure from the Chiara Center, Father Andre accosted us in his simple, brown raiment. His frock reminded me of something Francis might have worn. Father Andre explained to us that he serves as the chaplain to the Sisters. He gathered the two of us in his large arms and prayed a blessing of safe voyage upon our return to Congo. Thank you Lord for the Chiara Center, this place of Franciscan Spirituality. Thank you also that the spirit and devotion of St. Francis and St. Clare lives on through your people…

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year from Snowy Illinois!



Sorry for our silence the past few weeks. We have been hibernating in IL, enjoying some time with family over the holidays, shoveling snow and trying to stay warm! We praise God for His protection and provision on our travels to many new places this past year, many new friendships begun, and seeing His spectacular beauty in creation.

Christmas Family Pic 2013 best sm

Bertolet clan, together for Christmas

Snowy street in Dec 13

We have our tickets to return to Congo in a few weeks. We appreciate your prayers for our preparations in the next few weeks!