Our Congo presentation and why we need the Congo more than the Congo needs us

A couple of weeks ago Stephanie and I joined Gary, Anthony and Joan in a presentation about our mission trip to the Congo. It was on a Thursday night and everyone who was interested in hearing about our trip were invited to come out and listen to some of our stories. The presentation was a way for us to share some of the amazing experiences we had while over in the Congo as well as a way to cloose the loop on the entire trip from a church-wide perspective.

What I mean by closing the loop is that by inviting everyone out and allowing them to hear and see what we did while we were in the Congo it lets them get a better feel for why we went, what we did while we were there and how it has affected us. This is a very important thing to do as the church body gives a lot of money each year to support both short and long-term mission trips, so it’s good for them to see where the money goes and how it gets spent. It also brings back a strong sense of being part of a church community that is doing some incredible things (like going to the Congo) in the name of God, which is also very important.

Before the presentation all of us decided that we wanted to tell our story of the Congo in a way that was beyond just listing out our goals for the trip and how we checked each one off of one by one. Instead of talking about how we helped out the people of the Congo with this and that we decided to put more of a focus on the realtionships we built why we were there and how we’ve realized that we need the Congo (and these relationships) much more than the Congo needs us. Each of us chose someone who we had built a strong connection with while being over in the Congo, which ended up being a pretty easy decision for all of us. We felt like by focusing on these relationships we built as opposed to the things that we did everyone would get a much better sense of what truly impacted us while being in the Congo.

Stephanie quickly chose Sarah, who became an amazing friend of ours during the trip. Sarah has one of the most amazing stories of survival that I’ve ever heard and despite the fact that she has been educated in the United States and could get a job with pretty much anyone she wanted, she still chooses to make her home in the Congo where she is making an incredible impact. She’s super awesome and she has a pet monkey. Like I said, awesome.


Sarah gets ready to translate Gary’s sermon to over 2,000 pastors. No pressure.


Sarah strikes a pose in her house

When it was my turn to present I talked about two guys who made a big impact on my trip, Texa and Zubusu. Texa and Zubusu are some of the most loyal and hard-working guys I have ever met. They both live and have families in Kinshasa, but they always seem to be traveling throughout the Congo helping out the church in any way that they can. Texa was our main contact while we were in Kinshasa at the beginning and end of our trip, which meant that he was there to pick us up when we first arrived in the Congo (I was never so happy to see him) and he also made sure that everything went smooth on our way out. Like I said many, many times while being over there — Texa is my homeboy.


Texa poses with his kids and Zubusu’s wife and kids

Zubusu, my other Congolese homeboy, is one of the best dressed guys I’ve ever met and as Gary puts it so perfectly, “is a beautiful man”. Wherever the president of the church was, that’s where Zubusu was, too. Like me, Zubusu has a serious passion for taking photos and video which meant that he was always running around getting great footage of all the people and places he saw each day. If he wasn’t holding a camera he was usually translating Lingala for us and doing other things that helped make us all feel as comfortable as possible. Like Gary said, Zubusu’s a beautiful man.


Zubusu and Gary at the pastor’s conference before the opening service

After the presentations we showed a video that I was asked to put together as a way to highlight some of what we did during the trip. The fact that I was forced to have something ready to show finally motivated me to edit up some of the hours and hours of video we recorded while being there. It wasn’t easy to squeeze 3 weeks of a trip into 3 minutes of video, but I think that it will give you a good sense of what life is like in the Congo and will also show you some of the experiences we were able to have while we were there. You can view the video below or over here.

As you can see, we definitely need the Congo a lot more than the Congo needs us.

Back from the Congo and how we learned to expect the unexpected

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yet another unexpected experience in the Congo

Well, it’s been about three weeks since I’ve posted any updates (whoops). I promise that it’s not because I haven’t wanted to. I would have loved to hop online and post about something about some of the incredible people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had. But, unfortunately I wasn’t able to due to the fact that there wasn’t a decent internet connection within 15-20 kilometers of where I was staying. My expectations before I left was that I’d be able to keep you updated, but one of the first things I learned after arriving to the Congo was that nothing is as you expect it to be and everything can change in a matter of minutes.

For instance, we thought that we were going to be dropped off at the airport in Gemena and head to Kinshasa around 10am last Saturday. It seemed like it would be a fairly straight forward day to me. We would get up, eat breakfast and then be notified after our jet arrived by someone at the airport so we could drive over and take off shortly after. But, like I said, things change quickly in the Congo and the night before we were planning on leaving the plans changed completely.

Mossai Sanguma, the president of the CEUM and our awesome host while being in the Congo told us that we were changing up the schedule a bit due to the fact that some head honchos from the World Bank were coming in on a private jet into Gemena and that his presence (along with many other local Congolese leaders) was needed to welcome them in. As I asked some questions about why the representives from the World Bank were making the trip to Gemena he told me that they had been working together on a $120 million dollar agriculture project that was recently approved and is set to begin soon in Gemena. It was a big investment and a big deal for the city of Gemena and the local officials wanted to make sure that the people flying in were received with a proper Congolese welcome that showed them how happy they were to see them.

Just like that our seemingly normal trip to the local airport was turned into an experience that I’ll never forget and once again what we initially expected was flipped upside down and turned 180 degrees into something completely different.

Instead of being dropped off by one of Sanguma’s drivers he ended up driving us, along with some of his most trusted church officials to the airport around 9:00am. When the guard in front of the airport saw who was driving us he quickly said hello to the president and raised the red and white striped gate so that we could park. Instead of driving into the regular parking lot we made our way to what was a type of VIP-only building that was reserved only for the who’s who of Gemena and apparently that included Sanguma. Just like the rest of trip none of us asked questions and just followed him in.

The VIP building included several nice-looking couches and a front row view of the airport runway. When we first arrived we were the first people there, but quickly more and more city officials, miltary leaders and religious represenatives made there way into the building as well. There was also a good-sized crowd forming outside of the building which was made up of the local people of Gemena. Some were playing musical instruments while others were holding huge banners and branches filled with green leaves. All of them were preparing to to sing and dance like crazy once the World Bank officials showed up. Once the band started playing I even saw one woman who was waving around a chicken while she danced and sang to the music.

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Sanguma chatting with some of the local officials in the VIP

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Stephanie, me and Joan in the airport VIP


the crowd was ready to celebrate


this woman was so excited that she was waving around a live chicken!


the band was getting the crowd fired up

As our jet arrived and was ready for us to board, the crowd only continued to get bigger and only sang louder and louder. The amount of joy and excitement was contagious and I couldn’t help but feel the joy and anticipation that they had for the arrival of their guests. Unfortunately we had to take off before they arrived, but I can only imagine the amount of celebrating that went on at that airport once they did. One thing that the Congolese people can do is celebrate and that day they were pulling out all the stops. We all felt blessed to be a part of it and like I said, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

We made it to the Congo and my thoughts during the 34+ hours it took us to get here.

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the Congo crew before takeoff. Me, Stephanie, Joan, Anthony and Gary

The First Flight (San Francisco to Washington, DC)

Right now I’m sitting on a huge United Boeing 767. I’m sitting next to Stephanie and as she is reading over some history of the orphanage in the Congo while listening to an episode of The Office they’re showing on the in-flight TVs. I can’t help but think about how in a couple of flights from now we’ll both be smack dab right in the middle of Kinshasa (The capital of the Congo). Everything that we’ve grown used to and everything that makes us comfortable is about to be stripped away and replaced with about 40lbs of luggage a piece and a few carry-ons
To be honest, I feel great — especially considering the fact that I went to bed last night around midnight and had to wake up after sleeping under 4 hours later (I like to call it napping). Mentally I couldn’t feel  more on point. Stephanie and I woke up at 3:45am, left our place around 4:45am and met Sharon (one of our mission leaders) at my office in Burlingame at 5:30am so that we could be at the airport at 5:45am. Everything went super smooth and we were all checked in for our flight and through security with still enough time to grab some tasty airport food court breakfast. As we said goodbye to our luggage and to Sharon we all prayed together and thanked God for giving us the chance to go on this mission trip and asked that us, along with our luggage makes it all the way across the world. That’s not too much to ask, right?

Physically my arm is still really sore from that last-minute Tetnus shot that I got at Walgreens a couple of nights ago and it’s also given me a little bit of a fever, but hopefully all of that will go away by the time we make it into the Congo. I need to be on top of my game and full of energy so that Stephanie and I can go hang out in Kinshasa the day after we arrive.

Speaking of arriving in Kinshasa, we’re currently flying from San Francisco to Washington D.C., which is about a four and a half hour flight. We’re all supposed to stay awake for this flight, which is why I’m trying to occupy my time with typing this. After we arrive in Washington, D.C. we’ll hop on another flight to Brussels, Belgium which will be a longer seven to eight hour flight. We’re supposed to sleep for the duration of that flight so that when we arrive in Brussels (where it will be morning) we’ll be rested up and ready to stay awake for a while. We’ll then take off from Brussels and will head to Kinshasa, which is our final destination. It will be around 11pm in Kinshasa, so at that point we’ll all crash at a hostel for the night and will wake up the next day for a full day in Kinshasa.

I’m super-excited for this day in the big city and I’m hoping that Stephanie and I will be able to venture out a little bit and soak up some of the local culture. From what I hear it’s pretty safe, but I’m sure it will still freak me out a little bit at first. It usually tales me a couple of days to adapt to a new place, but even before then I really enjoy the rush of being in such a different environment. I’m getting pumped just thinking about it right now.

Up until this point things have been smooth and fairly uneventful, but I’m not going to get used to it. I know that in the upcoming weeks Stephanie and I will be experiencing things that we can’t even imagine at this point, but until then I guess I’ll just sit here on my laptop and enjoy the comforts of the civilized world for just a few more hours. Now, where’s that flight attendant with my oranje juice?

The Third Flight (Brussels to Congo)

It’s now two flights and about 22 hours later and we’re all flying in a Brussels Airlines Airbus A 330. Thanks to Joan we’ve figured out that our entire travel time to Kinshasa is right around 30 hours and we’ve all been trying to sleep just the right amount so that we’re not completely jet-lagged once we get to Kinshasa. The last flight, which was from Washington D.C. to Brussels, Belgium, was the was supposed to provide us with a good nights sleep as we’d be arriving there in the morning. Thanks to their sleep masks and noise cancelling headphones Gary and Anthony were ready to catch as much shut-eye as possible during the 8 hour flight. I crashed out after watching The Social Network and Stephanie and Joan got some quality nap time in as well. The flight ended up leaving D.C. about two hours later than scheduled, which burned through a majority of the three and a half hour layover we were supposed to have in Brussels. There was something wrong with the gas gauges, which I’m guessing are pretty important? We unfortunately had to skip the big Belgium breakfast and head directly to our next flight, but we were just happy to make it there before it took off (there’s only one flight per day to Kinshasa).

Although we didn’t have much time in the Brussels airport I could still tell that the workers there were much nicer and easy going than the ones that I’m used to dealing with at home. The people who were working security all had great attitudes and seemed to be having fun while working a job that most don’t usually enjoy. The flight attendants on this flight are also really fun and we have had a great time talking to them so far. Also, the food that they gave us was ridiculously tasty for an airline meal and included chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies, a wedge of brie, a roll, a bar of chocolate (Stephanie stole mine) and some kind of desert pastry. It’s probably the first time that I’ve ever cleaned my plate during a flight.

In other interesting news I can’t find my wallet (don’t worry, I still have my passport), my contacts are getting really dry and this flight is full of really interesting people. Some of them can’t speak any English which makes common things like asking how someone’s doing much more difficult than usual. I should probably start getting used to it.

UPDATE: I just chatted with my co-worker Jason and he said I left my wallet in the office on the way out. Sweet!

Our next stop is Kinshasa, which is going to be more different and culturally overwhelming than anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m excited and nervous all at the same time and I’m feeling like I need to get myself prepared spiritually for the environment I’m jumping head first into. It’s getting close to game time and I want to be sure that I’m as ready as I can be.

Next stop, Kinshasa.

Arrival In Kinshasa

It’s a little after midnight Congo time and I’m sitting in one of the apartments at the Methodist/Presbyterian Hostel (MPH) which is located in Kinshasa. As far as hostels go this is really a nice place and it’s got good food, hot showers, air conditioning in the rooms, indoor plumbing and a halfway decent wi-fi connection (which we won’t have much of after today). After 34+ hours of travel it’s nice to be able to clean up and get one really good night’s sleep before waking up tomorrow and heading out into Kinshasa.

The rest of the flight from Brussels into Kinshasa was about as smooth as could be and all I kept wondering about was why the rest of the hundred or so people on the plane were heading to the Congo and what their story was. I’m sure they’re all interesting.

I met one guy named Charles who was Canadian, worked for the UN in Norway and was heading to Goma (which is on the East side of the Congo) to find and detain members of the Congolese police and army who commit sexual crimes. This pretty much blew my mind. The guy was sitting behind me playing Angry Birds on his iPad and for the next six months he’s going to be hunting out the men who are raping women, children and other men as a strategic way to instill fear into the people of the Eastern Congo. I can’t even come close to imaging what he sees and deals with on a day-to-day basis working for the UN here in the Congo. He also looked out for us as we made our way through customs and grabbed our luggage. I feel like I met him for a reason and that God was having him watch over us as we made our way through the madness of the airport. We needed all the help we could get.

Speaking of the Kinshasa airport, I have no idea how that thing works. We first walked down a set of stairs off the plane in muggy 75 degree weather and then took a quick bus ride to customs where we all made it through with no problems. I have no idea what the guy who looked over my customs info was saying, but I swear that at one point he asked me for an American dollar. I politely said no, said ‘Merci’ and grabbed my newly stamped passport from him and headed out with the rest of the group to get or luggage.

On the way to the luggage carousel we ran into Mr. Kuwale who was hired by Texa to be our driver. Texa is a local Congolese guy who traveled to California a few years ago to learn English at our church. He’s now involved in all kinds of stuff and is a great friend of ours. Mr. Kuwale helped us with making sure that no one took our luggage and with getting us everywhere we needed to go in and out of the airport. Once we walked out of the airport with our luggage there were dozens of Congolese guys who wanted to help with us out (for a small fee, if course). Texa and Mr. Kuwale did a great job with keeping them away from us for the most part and Texa even paid a few of the guys who were following us around to help pack our luggage into Mr. Kuwale’s white van. As Texa talked to them in French they did what he said and before you know it we were rolling nine people deep through Kinshasa.

Driving through Kinshasa on the way to our hostel was a trip. The roads are terrible, there’s no real separation of lanes and the buses we passed were literally overflowing with people. As Mr. Kuwale drove us around cars, people and potholes like a seasoned verteran Stepahanie and I checked out all of the Congolese people who were out and about in Kinshasa. It was dark out while we were driving and most people in Kinshasa don’t have electricity so we saw lots of people sitting around candles, car lights and any other sort of light source they could find. Most people seemed to be dressed nice, but I’m still not really sure what so many of them were doing out in the city at 10pm. They were all over the place.

I’m starting to get really tired at this point, but I wanted to make sure that I got all of this written out before I crashed for the night because I’m not sure when I’ll be able to get to an Internet connection again. So far this has already been an amazing trip and God has already showing himself in so many ways and we’re just getting started. Tomorrow we’re going to wake up, eat some breakfast and then head with Texa to the Kinshasa market. Even though it’s usually safe we were told that white people should never go without someone who’s Congolese, which is why Texa’s going with us. I can’t wait to check it out.

Keep on praying for us and I’ll be sure to write up an update again soon with some pictures once we get out and explore. If you have any questions for us along the way, feel free to ask them in the comments and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.

Just call me Professor Hupfer

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Over the past  few weeks Stephanie and I have been introduced to several people who we’ll be hanging with while we’re in the Congo. Two of these people are Pete and Cindy Ekstrand (who are pictured above). I don’t know a whole lot about Pete and Cindy, but I do know that they’re full-time missionaries in the Congo, have 3 adult children who all live in the United States and that they write an amazing blog about all of the day-to-day stuff they’re doing and experiencing over in Africa. They’ve dedicated their lives to God by serving Him though serving the people of the Congo and I think that’s pretty awesome. Talk about being different and living out what Christians are called to do — wow.

Anyways, I’ve been emailing back and forth with Pete about what all Stephanie and I should be prepared to do while we’re in the Congo and how we can be the most effective with the time that we have. He’s been in the Congo for several years and has a great relationship with the church leaders over there, so he’s one of the best resources as far as where we can have the biggest impact. It’s been great to chat with him about some of the different projects that have been going on and that are being planned and he’s even looped into several email threads that were started months ago in an effort to get me up to speed on things as quickly as possible.

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a little overwhelming, but it’s also been great to have a better idea of what we can help out with so I guess  it’s all good.

One of these projects we’re gong to be involved with is the Ubangi Protestant University (UPU), which is a local college that was started in July of 2008. This university was established to provide local Congolese a college-level education locally so that there was no need to travel out of the country to get a degree. The UPU graduated it’s first class just last August, which was a huge deal and was attended by 1,200 people.

I tell you all about this university because the last email Pete sent told us about how he wants both Stephanie and I to teach a fully accredited course at the college during the short time that we’re in the Congo. I’ll be teaching them about computers and Stephanie will be teaching them English and grammar. We’ll only have about 14 days or so that we can teach, so you can imagine how much  we’re going to have to hustle (which Pete mentions in his email below).

Here’s part of the email that he sent — the man named Mossai he mentions is Mossai Sanguma, the president of the church and the founder of the university (he’s the real deal):

I just talked with Mossai this morning about what he would like you to do when you are in Congo.  Mossai told me that he had talked to Sharon earlier this week and explained some of what I’ll say.  He also talked with Sharon about the English teaching.

Mossai wants you to teach an introduction to computer class at UPU, the Ubangi Protestant University.  As he explained it the class should include these elements:

- Basic intro to computers, how they work, turning on and off, etc.  This is to students who probably have absolutely no knowledge of computers.

- Computer maintenance such as troubleshooting, computer viruses and the importance of an AV program

- Introduction to word processing with either Word of Open Office.  One objective is to prepare the students to be able to use a computer to type their master’s theses.

- Introduction to basic concepts of Excel

Mossai is working to get a copy of the curriculum that someone from Kinshasa taught last year.  When he either gets that or more information about the course I’ll pass that on to you.  The teaching will be in French and the school is arranging for a translator.

We are learning that university courses here have strict requirements about the minimum number of classroom hours and total hours for the block courses.  The requirements are understandable and appropriate.  What it means is that to get in the hours in the time you have available you will all be pushed.  A block course is to have 30 hours; 22 classroom hours and remainder for research time, exams, discussions.  You can work on this schedule with the school director when you’re here.

Sounds like I have my work cut out for me, huh? Just call me professor Hupfer.

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Thanks for reading and be sure to keep us both in your prayers! 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.

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.

mosquitonets

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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!

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.