What does the Congo look like? Here, let me show you some pictures

As I continue tell you all more and more about what Stephanie and I are going to be doing in the Congo during our mission trip, I thought that it might help to show you some pictures of what the area we’ll be staying at looks like.

A couple of years ago another group of missionaries from our church headed over to the Congo and one of them was our pastor Gary who is also going with us on this trip as well. One of the first things that Gary showed us once we said we were in for the trip was his collection of pictures that he took while he was there. I feel like the pictures told a much better story than just reading about the area and the amazing people who live there, so here are a few that I wanted to share with all of you.

I’ll add some more information below each one, but I think that most of them don’t really need captions. You’ll see what I mean.

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This first picture is a little blurry because it was shot from inside the smaller plane that flew Gary into this particular village from Kinshasa, which is the capital city of the Congo. The group of local Congolese were all singing while they were waiting for him to arrive and once he got out of the plane they greeted him like a rockstar. He says that it was very humbling and was so powerful that it literally brought him to tears.

After he was out of the plane he was greeted by nearly every, single of these Congolese who were waiting for him. Not a bad way to start out the trip, huh?

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Some of the Congolese kids struck a pose with Gary after he arrived. The little kid on the left might be one of the cutest things that I’ve ever seen. It’s like he’s on a photo shoot or something.

You can tell by what they’re wearing that their clothes are mostly donated by the United States and other countries. Some of the little boys are wearing women’s clothing (like the kid in the pink shirt that I think is actually a nightgown). I can’t wait to meet these kids and I know Stephanie is super excited to meet them, too.

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This is the church that everyone in the village goes to. Nearly 80% of the Congolese are Christians and when they have a service they go all out.

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This is what the inside of the Church looks like during a service. The girls in the white hats in the front row parade into the service and do different dances during the musical sections. I’m hoping that I can dance right along with them while I’m there.

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This is Paul Carlson’s gravestone. Paul Carlson was a missionary doctor back in the 1960’s and was killed by Congolese rebels after they captured him for being an American spy. After his death his widow created the Paul Carlson Partnership, which is focused on raising money and ministering for the medical needs of the Congolese people who Paul gave his life for while serving.

Since the 1960’s the white missionaries have been evacuated from the area that we’re visiting a few different times due to political unrest, but it seems to be much more stable now.

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This is a hospital bed that’s used for delivering babies. Enough said.

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This is where Stephanie and I will be sleeping while we’re in the Congo. The mosquito nets are needed as the bugs are a little out of control in the jungles of Africa (as you can probably imagine).

Joan, a woman who has been in the Congo before and who is also traveling there with us this time around told me that some of the bugs “sound like helicopters flying around the room” and are so loud they’ll wake you up in the middle of the night. Can’t wait for that.

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All of the electricity in the Congo comes from generators, which makes it really expensive. This is why on any given day the generators are only ran for about 4-5 hours.

This picture is of a solar power project that will hopefully help with this problem by creating a more sustainable energy source. All of our work is all about creating sustainability — we don’t want to create a situation where the Congolese are always relying on us for help.

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This is a class of local Congolese pastors who were taught English by our church missionaries. Helping educate the local people is a major focus for our trip and I’ve learned in the past day or so that both Stephanie and I will be teaching over 20 hours of classes while we’re in the Congo. I’m going to be teaching computer basics (Microsoft Word, Excel, basic functionality and hardware) and Stephanie is going to be teaching English.

The native language of the Congolese is French, so we’ll have translators who will be helping us out. Should be an interesting experience, don’t you think?

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This gives you a good idea of what the local marketplace looks like. We’ll be doing quite a bit of driving during our time in the Congo, including a 2-day trip from the Northwest side to the Southwest. Not really sure what to expect during this part of our trip, so I’m trusting God with that one.

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This is Gary praying with some of the local Congolese kids. What a powerful picture, huh?

The one thing that Gary continues to tell us over and over about our upcoming trip is that we might be rich in resources, but the Congolese are richer than we could even imagine in spirit and faith. Stephanie and I are both looking forward to experiencing this for ourselves.

Well, I hope that this has given you all a better idea of where we’re headed here in about 10 days. Be sure to keep us both in your prayers and if you feel motivated to help us out by donating some money for the trip, you can do so through our giving page over here or by clicking the widget below.

Also, I wanted to give a HUGE thanks to Molly Zigovits and Kristen Burtch for giving us our first $100 of online donations!

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Kristen and her hubby Alex just had their own trip to Kenya over Christmas.

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Molly (Zigs) is a friend from Indy who now lives near us in Northern California and goes to our church. She’s also an amazing photographer.

Boo yah! We just launched online giving for our Congo trip

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Let me ask you a question: is all of that new Christmas cash burning a hole in your pocket? Are you looking for a great place to spend all of the money Santa stuffed into your stocking?

Well why not help the Hupfer’s go to the Congo? We just launched our IndieGoGo giving page so that you can give us your cash via PayPal or credit card — it’s completely up to you. Our online giving goal is set for $4,000 which will cover our plane tickets to the Congo (and we thought tickets to Indiana were expensive). You only have until January 10th to shell out some dough, so head on over there as soon as you can!

To donate, you can click on this link or on the widget below and you’ll be taken to our giving page.

Thanks to everyone who has already given, who is planning to give online and who is praying for us. Stephanie and I need all of your help in order to make this trip a safe and effective success. We’ve been running around like crazy since we’ve been home for Christmas, but we’ll be sure to keep you all updated as we get closer to when we take off. Have an awesome new years and we’ll be in touch soon!

If you’re going to do it, then go all out

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In life, I tend to feel like if you’re going to do something then you should go all out.

Meaning, if you’re going to sing Karaoke, then go nuts and sing your freakin’ heart out. (like how Jason and I did in Vegas)

If you’re going to take engagement pictures, then make them ridiculously awesome. (like how Henry helped us do)

If you’re going to jump in a frozen lake for charity, then grab some friends, dress up all crazy and do it in style. (like how Stephanie and I did in Indiana)

If you’re going to dress up for Halloween, then take it to the next level, remember the details and make people think you’re like that year-round. (like how Stephanie and I did on Halloween last year)

If you want to do something that’s a little bit scary, then find a way to make it happen and get after it. (like how Stephanie and I are doing with out mission trip)

To be honest, sometimes life gets in the way and I feel like just doing what everyone else does and making just enough of an effort to get by will do the trick. Each time I do this I end up with a sub-par effort that usually results in me having a mediocre time or getting mediocre results at best. I’m not sure about you, but having a mediocre time or doing a mediocre job isn’t what I’m usually going for. Mediocre will get you nowhere. Mediocre is lame.

If you want to see someone who goes all out when given the opportunity check out the video below of the Duke University student who’s now simply known as “Speedo Man”. If he would have have half-assed his one chance to distract Jackie Manual, the free throw shooter from the University of North Carolina, then he probably would have only got the standard few laughs and some high fives. But, since he decided to go all out he’s now turned his 15 seconds of fame into something that only legends are made of. Check out the video to see what I mean.

So, next time you’re planning on doing something — go all out and see what happens. It might feel a little crazy at the time, but I think you’ll like the results.

UPDATE: My homie Mitch just left an awesome comment on Facebook with a link to another video that he thought was relevant to this post. Check it out below — it’s pretty sweet. Mitch’s simple advice: Never be afraid to be the crazy one.

The holidays are for storytelling

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me and two of my favorite friends and storytellers

Whenever I come home for the holidays there are a few things that I focus on doing:

1. Getting some rest (which usually means that I sleep in most days)
2. Catching up with family (Christmas with the Hupfer’s is always an adventure)
3. Eating lots of good food that I never get to eat anymore (hello home cooking!)
4. Getting some good workouts in (this is to help balance out #3)
5. Hanging out with friends that I never get to see anymore (it’s like an awesome Indiana reunion)

For this post I’m going to focus on reason #5 and give you a taste of why I always look forward to catching up with my friends so much. I really should post more about my friends from Indiana as they’re some of the most unique and interesting people I’ve ever met, but for some stupid reason I never do. They’re crazy as hell and are fantastic at telling stories, which is one of my favorite byproducts of spending time with them over the holidays. I’m not sure if I can even do them justice when it comes to telling you about the stories that they can rattle off and I’m usually included in most of them.

Whenever me and my friends meet up there’s always lots of stuff to catch up on and lots of past stories to tell all over again like they just happened for the first time. It’s kinda funny — before I moved away from these guys I took these types of stories for granted, but now that I don’t get to see them very often I have realized just how important and unique they really are. I think that the only person who loves them more than me is Stephanie. She loves hearing all about all of the stupid things that me and my friends used to do before she knew me and just like me she also loves hearing about all of the new stories we’ve missed being a part of since moving away.

Now that me and most of my friends have fantastic women in our lives the stories tend tend to be told with the female gender present more and more which usually produces comments like “I don’t think that girls ever do this stuff.” and “Why do guys do all of this stupid stuff? Me and my girls never even came close to doing something like this.” I guess that we never really thought about it from a guy/girl standpoint, but the more women who hear our stories the more it reinforces the point that when growing up girls just don’t do nearly as crazy stuff as boys do, which leaves them with WAY less stories to talk about. This is why they enjoy listening to ours so much as they shake their heads due to a mix of disbelief and embarrassment.

I’m not sure why girls don’t do these types of things when growing up, maybe they’re too busy thinking about other stuff? Maybe they’re too busy shopping, talking about what all of the boys are doing or putting up posters for their favorite boy band? Even if they did spend a majority of their time on these types of things there still had to be room for some good old-fashioned mischief and nonsense. I mean, me and the rest of my friends had video games, computers, sports and other things and can still tell stories about our mindless and sensless adventures for days. I guess we’ll just mark it up to the fact that boys and girls are built differently — you know, the men are from Mars and women are from Venus type of thing.

The more I think about these stories the more I want to write up a collection so that none of us will ever forget any of them. As we get older they’re not getting any easier to remember and I would think that one of these days some will get left out and forgotten about never to be heard of again. This makes me sad because I feel like the stories that we create with the important people of our lives are what keep us connected and keep us remembering why we became such amazing friends in the first place. If we forget these stories and stop talking about them then we’ll start to forget what first brought us together and our friendship will get downgraded to the “people who used to hang out” level. Ewww.

What does all of this mean? Heck if I know. I guess all I’m saying is the next time you’re with your friends and you can’t believe that so and so is telling the same story that he always tells when you’re all together you should shut your mouth and just enjoy it. These stories are more important than you know.

Getting into the Christmas spirit in Indiana

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Stephanie and I (and Frank) are hanging out in Indiana for the next couple of weeks, which we’re both really happy about. Even though it’s way colder than San Francisco and there’s a ton of snow everywhere, getting to see all of our friends and family make it all totally worth it.

We had a heck of a time catching all of our flights to get here (we waited over 4 hours at SFO just to check out bags and get our boarding passes), but we finally made it and it’s been pretty much a whirlwind of eating, meeting up with friends and family and driving (with a little bit of napping thrown in there for good measure). This is really the first time that I’ve been able to hop on my laptop for an extended amount of time, which should tell you a little bit about how busy we’ve been. But, the way I figure is the more I can hang out with the people I never get to see anymore, the better — even if that means sacrificing my beloved laptop time (did I really just say that?).

Both Stephanie and I are having a lot of fun catching up with everyone and telling them all about our upcoming mission trip to the Congo. We’ve got really positive reactions when we tell people about what all we’re doing and some have already donated some cash to the cause. Of course both of our parents are worried about us, but what’s new?

We both hope that you’re getting into the Christmas spirit and if you need any help with your holiday cheer I think that this video might give you nice nudge in the right direction. Now let’s get festive!

The Hupfer’s are heading to the Congo!

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Now that’s a headline, huh? We’re heading to the Congo!

(Well, The Democratic Republic of the Congo if you want to get specific.)

It’s still hard for me to even believe that Stephanie and I will be heading there in less than a month, but I can now officially say with full confidence that we will both, in fact, be heading over to the Congo for a mission trip on January 10th of 2011 (assuming, of course, that our temporary tourist visas will be approved). To all of you who were hoping we were having a baby, we’re sorry to disappoint.

I know that this news is probably a bit of a shock to a lot of you (well, some of more than others I’m sure), but to be completely honest we’re still a little shocked at this point, too. But, more than anything we’re over-the-top excited to have such an awesome opportunity to travel to the Congo to serve and love on some people who haven’t ever had much of either in their lives.

We haven’t really talked much about how we’ve both been on fire for missions lately, but it’s been something that we’ve prayed about, talked to our church leaders about and have kept an open heart for ever since we got the initial itch about two years ago. So, when God threw a new opportunity in our faces a couple of months ago and yanked us towards going we quickly made a decision and now it’s happening. Just like (*snap*) that (*snap*) Stephanie and I went from thinking about how awesome it would be to go on a mission trip to going all in for traveling to the Congo. A little crazy, but hey - I guess that’s how we roll.

I don’t want to make this first post too long and we’ll be sure to add more details about what all we’re doing to prepare for the trip, but I thought that I would first answer a few of the more common questions that some of our friends and family have asked us about our decision to travel to a place like the Congo. Also, from here on out you can check out all things Congo over on this page that we’ve set up: hupandsteph.com/congo.

1. Where is the Congo?

The Congo is the third largest country in Africa and used to be called Zaire. In terms of annual per capita GDP it’s the second poorest country in the world (behind another African country Zimbabwe).

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2. Is it safe over there?

This is a tough question to answer. Compared to most countries the Congo is definitely considered dangerous. We’ll be in the northwest section of the country most of the time, which is much safer than the eastern border near Sudan, where there is constant war and violence.

3. Why are you guys specifically going to the Congo for a mission trip?

The main reason we’re going is to show God’s love to a group of people who need it and to receive a lot of love right back. If you Google the Congo you’re going to read a lot about a group of people who have been taken advantage of for decades and a country that has been through a lot of changes over the past couple of years. For some reason God has decided that we should be a part building them up, so who are we to say no?

Also, our church has a great relationship with some specific villages in the Congo. We’re very involved with helping them create some financial, medical and educational sustainability and trips like these help lay down the plans and groundwork for how we continue to help them in the future.

More specifically, I’ll be focusing on improving their technology and Stephanie will be teaching English and helping out with an orphanage.

4. Aren’t you going to need some vaccinations before you head over there?

For our safety’s sake we definitely needed to get shot up with our fair share of vaccinations before traveling to the Congo. Last week we went to the medical clinic in the San Francisco airport and were given four different vaccinations all at once. The four vaccinations were Yellow Fever, Cholera, Hepatitis A and Polio. They put two in each of our arms and even though they didn’t hurt right of the bat, our arms were super sore later that night. The one that hurt the most was Yellow Fever, which is a required vaccination if you’re traveling to the Congo.

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5. Is there any way that we can we help you out with this?

Of course there is. There are two main things that we need from our family and friends and those are:

1. Lots of prayer for us before and during our trip. This is the most important thing by far and something that will ensure that our mission trip is an overwhelming success.

2. Some money to cover our costs of the trip (for both us and our church). It’s not cheap to fly into a jungle all the way on the other side of the world, but it’s a cost that’s well worth spending. If you feel like you want to get involved with our mission trip by giving, we would be very grateful for whatever you could give. I don’t want to pitch you now, but I’ll have a way for you to give to our mission in a later post so keep an eye out.

6. If something unfortunately happens to you both while you’re in the Congo, can I have Frank?

Come on now, this isn’t even funny. Ok, it actually is pretty funny, but only because it’s true.

We have yet to decide on a benefactor for Frank, but once we figure it out I’ll be sure to let you know. Until then, thanks for being so concerned.

That’s enough for now, but there’s a lot more where this came from.

The Hup and Steph November 2010 San Francisco spending update

Now that it’s a brand new month, it means that there is a whole other month now behind us. In other words goodbye November and helllllo December! The fact that it’s a new month means a few things to Stephanie and I:

1. It’s now December and Thanksgiving is officially over, which means that we can now finally listen to Christmas music 24/7 (which we now do). We’re actually going to watch Straight No Chaser later on tonight so that Stephanie can get her fix.

2. We’re going to be back in Indiana later on this month for Christmas, which is the only thing that gets Stephanie more excited about than listening to Christmas music. Yeah, I’m super excited to go home, too but Stephanie takes it to a whole new level. She almost makes herself sick she gets so excited. Seriously.

3. We now have a whole new month of our spending data so that we can give our official November update. I’m not sure why I get so excited about doing this, but I just think it’s so much fun to crunch the numbers on what we spend our money on and to see what creates the fluctuations in our bank account. For instance, last month we had all of our money wiped out (except for $.65), which makes for an interesting graph to look at (see below).

Before I get started on the November spending you should probably check out our initial post called What Hup and Steph spend their money on each month in San Francisco so that you can get a good idea of why I put one of these posts together in the first place. Basically I think that it’s a great way to stay updated on where your money is going each month because knowing where your money is spent can tell you a lot about what you’re focusing on in life. Not trying to lecture anyone here, but it’s the truth and it’s even stated in the Bible: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:21.

So, with no further ado here are some more sweet looking graphs and thoughts on what Stephanie and I spent our money on in November of 2010.

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The ways that we spent our money in November weren’t a whole lot different from last month (see last month’s graph), but there are a few things that I would like to point out.

Food Spending Stayed the Same: We ended up spending the exact same percentage of our monthly budget on food — 12%. We made a conscious attempt to lower that amount by not eating out as much,  but we came within like $50 of what we spent last month. We also ended up spending the same percentage of our spend on eating out vs. eating in which surprised me since we were trying to eat at home more.

Charitable Giving vs. Entertainment: One other thing that Stephanie and I talked about working on last month was making sure that we spent more towards charitable giving than we did towards entertainment. Last month entertainment won out, but this month charitable giving took the lead.

Shelter Spending Gets A Boost: When compared to last month our shelter spend went up quite a bit and this is due to the fact that we finally got around to buying ourselves a couch. We still don’t use it a whole due to the fact that we haven’t bought a TV, but it looks great in our living room.

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Here is the graph that I’m a little disappointed but not that surprised about. I say this because Stephanie and I tried to cut down on our overall food spend by eating out less and making more food at home. I feel like we had a great start, but it seems like our busy days got the best of us as the month went on. We’ll continue to work on improving this, but due to the fact that we’re never home I’m honestly not sure how much less we can spend.

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Sometimes categorizing entertainment gets tough due to the fact that it’s a very broad thing to keep track of. One thing that I decided to throw into this category is all ATM withdrawals due to the fact that whenever we get money out of an ATM we seem to blow it pretty fast. All of that chunk might not be entertainment, but I’m pretty sure a majority of it is.

You can also see that I added a Frank category since my friend Amanda asked me where his spending was last time around. To be honest, we actually don’t spend much money on the little guy besides some food and a bath/nail clipping here and there, but next month it will get a little boost as it’s time for the Frankster to get his shots updated. I’m sure he’s real excited about that.

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I didn’t add this graph to my post last month, but I think that it’s pretty interesting to look at. This shows what the running balance of our bank account looks like throughout the month. The big drops are usually when we pay our rent or some other large monthly bill and the big spikes are when we get paid. Kinda cool, huh?

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This graph has a little more personality due to the fact that we had our bank account emptied last month after someone stole my credit card number. That little gap between the bottom of the graph and the bottom line is what was left after they hit our bank account over and over with $275 Target gift card purchases. It was a little scary at the time, but not as bad as I thought it’d be. I mean, it’s only money, right?

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Here’s a look at both month’s running bank account balances with October in green and November in red. It’s not exactly synced up day for day and transaction for transaction due to the fact that we had more transactions go through on our account in October.

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One last graph that I was curious to see was when all of the transactions on our bank account actually go through so I broke them all out by day of the week. As you can see there are no transactions processed on weekends and nearly 75% of our monthly tranactions hit our bank account on Monday. I never really noticed this before so it was a little bit of a surprise to see how the transactions graphed out. I guess that’s why we make graphs in the first place, huh?

Just like with last month’s installment, if you have any questions about any of these graphs please leave us a comment and we’ll get you an answer. Also, even if you don’t feel like going through the trouble of graphing out all of your monthly spending like I did in this post, taking a look at and better understanding your finances is still an awesome habit to get into. I’ve really enjoyed pulling all of this information together each month and it’s sparked some great conversations between Stephanie and I along the way, so I would highly recommend doing it if you can find the time.