CONGO RIVER

Darkest Africa.”  “Deep, Dark Africa.”  These terms remembered from my youth, evoke in the mind, a world of mystery, intrigue and danger.  The name “Congo” would cause me to think of drums beating in the night and tribal warfare.  These images may have stemmed from stories like Tarzan of the Apes, but there has been a grain of truth in them in history.

As a young person I read about Stanley and Livingstone searching for each other, as they attempted to find the source of the Nile River.  Their tale of trudging through disease infested swamps and hacking away at impossibly thick jungle grasses paints a distinct picture of the African landscape.

Today dirt roads allow travel through the jungle from one end of Congo (The Democratic Republic of the Congo – DRC) to the other, though the roads are poorly maintained and deep potholes can swallow up the sturdiest vehicle.  There is no AAA and no McDonalds along the way.  Dangers await those who venture through forest and traveling all the way from Kinshasa to northern Congo is often done by way of the massive Congo River.  Air travel has become a more commonplace, albeit expensive, way to cross the vast distances covered by swamps and jungle too.  Nevertheless, transporting food and supplies by barge is still the most economical process.

The river is nearly 3000 miles long and curves within the country of Congo, though its tributaries come from as many as nine other nations.  It isn’t as long as the Nile, nor as massive as the Amazon, but it remains one of the world’s wonders and is still the life blood of this troubled nation.

Being a missionary in such a land was not something I ever expected to do, but God had other plans for me.  When I attended seminary in the 1980’s, I thought about working as a missionary doctor someplace closer to home such as Mexico or Ecuador.  Africa seemed so remote and dangerous that I didn’t really believe that I would be needed there.  However, there was a need and my family and I answered the call to serve that need.  In 1988 we traveled to Congo (then known as Zaire).  Our outbound flight took us to five countries along the west coast of Africa before arriving in Bangui, in The Central African Republic, just north of Zaire.  The journey was difficult for my wife and I with three children over thirty hours of travel time from New York to Bangui.  We ultimately made our way to the edge of the jungle forest of Zaire, not far from the Congo River.  Working at a hospital in a village called Tandala.

In my next book Dr. Sharp experiences life in Congo much like we did and has some dangerous encounters.  The story is, of course fictional and the characters made up.  Jack’s experiences, while fictional, are, nevertheless, realistic depictions of life in Congo and other African nations.

I have been intrigued by the blog of Peter Gostelow who, at great risk, has bicycled his way from England through Africa  all the way to Cape Town, South Africa over three years.  His description of riding a barge up-river on the Congo is fascinating.   I encourage you to read of his adventures at –     http://petergostelow.com/thebigafricacycle/

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About smcpherson58

Aside from loving chocolate and coffee (not necessarily in that order) Scott McPherson has learned that he loves to write. He writes fiction and, so far, has published two novels. Scott has many varied interests, though he tries to focus on one at a time. He has worked for nearly thirty-five years as a family physician, a pass-time that gives him great pleasure and pays the bills. He has five daughters and dotes upon three grandchildren. Recently married, he really loves life. Scott writes from his life experiences and from travel. His career in the active Air Force was brief, but he has been a member of the Nebraska Air National Guard since just before 9/11 in 2001. The aftermath of that great disaster changed the face of the Guard and led to missions in far-away lands. He has spent time in Turkey, Iraq, Spain, Crete and Guam in missions related to support for Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has been to Iceland and Antarctica as well. Scott has no personal experience with violent death or murder, but has gained knowledge from experts. In his first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death,” his character, Jack Sharp MD, becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. First as suspect, then as amateur sleuth, Jack tries to make a difference. He finds himself right in the middle of an investigation well beyond the scope of a local murder. A man of faith, Scott traveled to Africa with his small family in the 1980s and served as a medical missionary in Zaire (known as Congo today) with a church organization. The vast difference in what it takes to exist in such an environment served as a basis for much of his second novel, a thriller, “Congo Mission.” His character, Jack, is twenty years younger than in the first novel. In “Congo Mission” Jack serves as a physician in a missionary hospital in the jungles of northwestern Zaire. There he is not only captivated by a young woman visiting the region, but falls victim to his nemesis Jacques Levant. His motivations and faith are tested and his resolve to do God’s work gets pushed to the limit. When he is not writing Scott enjoys walking, a practice that actually led to his first attempt at writing a novel. He began making notes and writing prose about the mundane things around him. He tried to make the details sound interesting, even though it was just for his own pleasure. Eventually he found that he could expand his prose to “what if?” “What if I just kept walking?” “What if I, or my character, found a dead body in the ditch along the side of the path?” That was the premise for the first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death.” Scott McPherson is an avid trombone player and has played since he was nine years old. He marched in the Cornhusker Marching Band at the University of Nebraska and now takes advantage of one free football game a year by playing in the half-time show with the UNL Alumni Marching Band. He plays in the Lincoln Civic Orchestra and a community band from the nearby town of Waverly, Nebraska. Scott loves to sing as well, though his range seems to have diminished in recent years. He has sung in college and church choirs and remembers performing parts of Handel’s Messiah as a highlight of his singing experience. One little-known fact about Scott is that he once sang soprano in a boys choir. Scott plans to keep writing as long as the ideas flow and others show interest in his stories. He loves to interact with other writers or readers about what has become a passion in his life. Reviews are always welcome as are questions and comments.
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