Most of this week consisted of "Diamond Mining for Jesus" so I will start with that story. We have had this flight on the schedule for a month. I did not really know what the flight was about, but I did know a few general details, which included the words missionary and diamond mining. So I therefore dubbed the trip as "Diamond Mining for Jesus". There was room on the plane so I was more than happy to go along on this 4-day trip to the center of DRC and see what this whole thing was all about. The trip started off with a bang when our Jesus-loving diamond miners lost their baggage on a connecting flight from Zambia. Since they were short on time, we offered to fly down to Zambia to pick up the bags.
Everything went smoothly in Zambia, as it is an African country that seemingly has things put together, until we went to takeoff from Zambia. Apparently we had missed the part were we needed an additional clearance from the Zambian Air Force to fly in their airspace. After informing the air force that we had flown in their airspace, which they yet to realize, this is what the commander in charge said, "We are going to have to lock you up." He said it so nonchalantly that I almost laughed out loud the moment he said it, which probably would not have been good. We ended up not being locked up but were trapped in their offices for a few hours until our proper clearance came through. Then we were off to Lubumbashi to pick up our passengers.
From Lubumbashi we flew into Lusambo, which is almost smack-dab in the middle of DRC. From there we took a motorized canoe up river on a 2.5 hour ride. The area the diamond-mining missionaries is pretty far out there in the middle of the bush. Just a small village set up around this mine. The purpose of the visit this time was to do some testing on the soil to see if the earth appeared to be rich of areas where you might find diamonds. This testing required lots of trekking through the dense surrounding jungle to put in cables that would produce the test results. I spent a little bit of my own time exploring the area on my own. One of the sad things about Congo is that most of the wildlife has been decimated, either due to the war or starvation of the locals. The villagers there said they had hunted and killed pretty much every animal in the area so I knew I was pretty safe not to run into any killer animals or snakes.
I was pretty skeptical about this project before and throughout the trip. It seemed like a far-fetched idea to do some diamond mining and call it a mission project. However, after spending 4 days and hearing the strategy and the heart behind the man with the plan I think I became a believer in the project. The project has been a long time coming and there seems to have been a lot of preparation. It is a project done for the community and includes the community and will really benefit them in the long run I think. The money made will cover the costs of the mining itself and the rest will get put back into the community (hospitals, schools, roads, churches, etc.). Plus the mining itself will employ many of the locals, who have been without substantial work for many years. So during my trip with the team I could really notice that the locals were excited to have the project and were already very involved. The focus of putting God in the center of the project was very evident as well and had already made an impact of the people's lives there.
Some highlights of the trip were.
- The boat ride up and down the river. Beautiful large river in the middle of the Congo. Surrounded on every side by think jungle. African grey parrots and other birds flying all around. Amazing. And to do the boat ride in a dugout canoe just makes it so much more better.
- Trekking through the jungle. They had already been hacking away at the jungle in previous weeks to make some small paths through or else trying to walk through the jungle would have been miserable. Beautiful though just to stop and hardly be able to see any sky because the vegetation is so thick.
- One day we were there their was a man just digging on his own. He called us over because he had found some diamonds that day. He had a handful of about 20 tiny stones. All diamonds. So crazy to see real raw diamonds freshly plucked from the earth.
- The night before we left the small village there gathered and sang some songs for us. Everyone in the village joined in from the little kids to the mamas and papas. Everyone singing and dancing and worshiping in the middle of nowhere. Just another surreal experience.