Missionary Life

Looking back at Congo Mission

One person asked me, “What was your first day like in Africa?”

As with many big changes in our lives, the first day of a new experience is one of the most memorable.  Moving to Africa and becoming a missionary was a major life change and challenge in my life and for my family.  At the time, I was married and we had three daughters.  Getting to Zaire (referred to as Congo in the novel, Congo Mission) had taken over 30 hours of travel time.  We stopped in airports in Dakar,Senegal; Abidjan, Ivory Coast; Lomé, Togo; Lagos, Nigeria; and Douala, Cameroon before our stop in Bangui, Central African Republic.

We were all exhausted and hungry, hot and felt dirty.  We stayed in a guest house in Bangui, with other missionaries heading to various countries in Africa.  The hosts in these guest houses have a huge job, juggling incoming missionaries, handling mail, picking up packages(another whole story).  Without such gracious people, I don’t think we would have been able to navigate our way to Zaire.

Bangui Guest House

With 8 hours difference in time, it took several days to adjust.  We all slept the first night but I remember being wide awake until early morning the next night.  Bangui was just a stop on the way to our ultimate destination where we had to wait for a flight in a Missionary Aviation Fellowship (MAF) plane (another agency that is a Godsend for missionaries).  It was a small Cessna with a large cargo pod beneath.  It was just large enough to carry the pilot and the 5 of us in my family.  At the time, our youngest daughter was Christine, only 7 months old.  On our third day in Bangui, we boarded the small plane with some of our luggage (we had suitcases plus 11 boxes of supplies for the year).

Every step of this experience was a new adventure for my family and me.  It was hard for my parents and sister to understand my desire and feeling of a calling to go to Africa.  My heart was set on giving back to God what He has so graciously given me. We planned for a year.  My respect and prayers go out to those who make mission work their life.  I believe they live in such a way as to not put limits on God. Their trust must be total to dedicate their lives to such difficult work.

Zaire Jungle
Tandala Hospital

As we flew from the international airport in Bangui to the mission, called Tandala, we flew south over the ever-increasing dense green jungle.  Much appeared swampy as I could see water reflecting the sky.  It was about a 2 hour flight but seemed like only minutes. When the pilot pointed at the airstrip where we would land, at first I couldn’t see anything but a few buildings. At last, we could see the hospital and the airstrip as we descended.  He took a loop around the hospital and surrounding village then came in for a smooth landing on the all-grass landing strip.  Cows loitered along the edges of the landing strip but, thankfully, none of them chose to run across at the time we landed.

I remember that it was very warm and I was covered in sweat.  I met Tim Wester, my partner for the next year, as he approached the plane. Dr. Bill Colby, the senior physician, was there to greet us as well.  He and his wife were planning to return to the U.S. at the end of the month (June 1988).

The gaggle of missionaries and their house helpers who met us, helped us unload the plane and carried the luggage to an awaiting truck.  We rode, as well, the half-mile to the house we would occupy for the next year. 

Help with unloading, heading to our new home

The house, built in the 1950s, was fairly large with 4 bedrooms.  Each daughter had her own room.  The house was built of earthen bricks coated with cement.  The floor was a concrete slab.  Furniture was locally built from mahogany.  Chairs and the couch had foam padded seats and were relatively comfortable.  The house had not been occupied for 8 months and, though it had been cleaned, lacked some basics.  Someone had stolen the electrical wires that could be accessed outside the house. This meant that we had no power for several days.  It wasn’t a major problem because power was only available when the hospital needed the generators to run.  Lighting was primarily by kerosene lanterns.  The refrigerator used kerosene as well (an interesting process I’ll try to describe at a later time).

Our jungle home

The bathroom had running water (water was carried by bucket to a half-barrel which was plumbed to the sink, toilet, and shower. Unfortunately, a gecko had found a home in the pipe and died.  The first shower (I’m sworn to secrecy on who took it) was very foul-smelling.  Not a stellar way to try to cool off.The pantry was empty and we had no helpers yet.  We were hosted by other missionaries for several days until we could stock our shelves.  The first day ended with us very tired, very warm, but very happy to have finally arrived where God wanted us to be.

Congo Mission on Amazon

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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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