Propelling vision and mission through celebration, connection, education, and inspiration.

Africa Report: Meeting the President (almost)

Mar 5, 2005

We continue with reports from Miriam Pacheco, GBIM board member, who is assisting missionary Barb Wooler for six weeks in the Central African Republic with her Pygmy and orphan-care ministry.

SATURDAY, MARCH 5 — Yesterday was a hard day! We took a day trip up-country to Yaloke. We left around 6:30 am and it was relatively cool. That was a blessing because the air conditioning in the vehicle we took wasn’t working right, so we used the back-up 455 air system ~ 4 windows open at 55 MPH. There were 6 of us (2 Africans) in a 3-seat Nissan (which means no trunk and very little room behind the 3rd seat), with a 100-pound sack of rice, plus some baggage, plus a water cooler, plus chicken and rice for our lunch, plus backpacks.

About 2/3 of the way there, the African gentleman wanted to stop and buy fish–fresh fish! When we drove into the next village and pulled over to the side of the road, there were ten boys at our windows holding up strings of fish to sell. You can probably guess that it began to smell…..well….fishy! Thankfully, one of the missionaries’ policies is “no fish inside the car.” And since there was no trunk on this vehicle, they had to tie the two strings of fish on the rack on top. Twice we had to stop and rescue the fish as they started to come undone and were hanging down by the window.

We got there and were greeted by the James Gribble High School (the Lycee) band playing and everyone in a festive mood, but not because we were there. It was because the President of CAR was coming soon. There is a helicopter pad right in the middle of the campus and that’s where he was going to land. We soon saw the motorcycle entourage–about 20 of them–come roaring in with balloons. Several official cars and men in officers’ uniforms were milling around.

Before long the director of the school came to get us and have us stand in line with the school officials and professors to greet the President, telling us that when he shook our hands we were supposed to say our names. Of course this line was formed away from the shade and in the full sun, which by now was very hot. A soldier with orange lenses in his sunglasses was standing guard in front of us with a bottle of water and munching on something. Good security! The helicopter flew over and turned a little like it would head into the wind and then land–and then it was gone. We still waited in line. Pretty soon an army jeep came into the area and in a few minutes the director of the school came and told us that the President was landing somewhere else closer to the main part of town. Well, standing in the sun wasn’t that pleasant to do for nothing.

We then were taken on a tour of the buildings and grounds and that was one of the hardest parts of the day! It was very discouraging to see how things have deteriorated. The good people who oversee the school and teach there have very little to work with in the way of resources and they have 106 students right now, most of whom can’t pay all their bill. I think the profs have not gotten a salary for several months now. During a recent windstorm, roofs of several buildings were damaged and one cooking station right beside the kitchen building was completely demolished, walls and all.

One of the delightful moments of the day was lunch in the director’s home. His wife is vivacious and delightful and she and her girls fixed the chicken and rice, and the fish, with delicious recipes. We had a good time visiting with them and the professors.

Another hard part of the day was to see the missionary homes and the large maintenance garage vacant, ransacked and overgrown. Nothing refreshing or relaxing about it anymore. It seemed harsh and desolate. It will be interesting to see what future plans God has for all of this area.

The trip home was hot and long, and no fun. By God’s grace we made it back to the Bangui Hilton, and Janet Varner had some supper waiting for us. Bless her!