Congo: September 7. Day 1 of Training

This morning was full of what trainers do before a training. We set up the room, taking care to think about how to arrange tables and chairs and presentation area.

When we were done, I laughed, because in the States, I knew that the size of the room (maybe 10’x25′) vs. the number of people attending plus trainers (16) would be considered a tight squeeze. Feedback after the training would tell us to find a bigger room, if we were in the States. I’ve had that happen with about the same amount of people in a room twice as big.

At supper last night a missionary was telling a story about how he was on a bus sitting in a row with three chairs, and six people (one of whom was an obese mama who wanted her little boy to sit on the missionary’s lap). People are used to crowding into smaller spaces here, and our arrangement will be more than adequate.

We pulled tables out of storage that had a thin layer of dust on them, black as charcoal. I mean, black FROM charcoal dust in the air. One of the helpers at the Guesthouse (maintenance man) cleaned up the tables.

Charles, Jeanette and I had a long conversation about how to conduct the training. We’ve been circling for weeks, and we finally have a plan — for the first two days. I’ll be presenting Tuesday afternoon; Charles has everything up to that point. It’s now about 1:30 and our trainees are due to arrive in about half an hour. We’ll be sharing our room with Jacques, so we tidied up before he arrives (we had crap splayed all over the place). Grabbed a power bar and some jerky for lunch: our meal plan includes breakfast and supper today, the rest of the week only breakfast and lunch. We are pretty much foregoing one meal each day so that we are eating when the trainees eat.

I still haven’t changed any US dollars for Congolese Francs. I will probably ask Jacques to go with me this afternoon to help me change money. I want to buy some roasted peanuts to have in our room and I’ll need some Francs for that. I’ll probably pay Jacques 1000 Francs to help me change $20, which is to say he’ll get about a 5% fee. I brought 10 baseball caps I’ll give him and ask him if he wants to sell them. An opportunity to clean our closet results in some income for my brother…

IMG_2371 hibiscus.


Training off to a good start. The trainees trickled in from 2 PM until maybe as late at 5 but eventually everyone was here. Tonight my brain is a little like that egg on drugs. Scrambled. I’ve been using my French at my max capacity all day and I can’t even speak anymore this evening without jumbling my words up. Jacques has joined us and I spoke with him for a while here in our room, but eventually I had to tell him I just can’t speak anymore French today. The reality is I’m actually getting along pretty well and I’ve been asked before if I can coach in French. I think I might say next time “yes” because really I feel like if I can follow someone’s accent I should be able to handle 95% of the vocabulary. We’ll see about that later. Perhaps if I coach one or two of these guys after I go home a few times we’ll see how that goes.

We had an interesting conversation about the word “accountability” and its French counterpart. Accountability has usually had a negative connotation in English, but the French word we’re using does not have that. I’m glad for that.

I watched the guys eat at supper. There are some hungry trainees here. I know these guys, who are mostly pastors, are probably feeding others before they eat. Or they may not have eaten all day! I was glad they had a place where they could really chow down. I thought we’d get Congolese food tonight, but instead we had a very American meal indeed: spaghetti (which the Congolese call macaroni) and meat sauce, garlic bread, salad. Supper was really important. Really, tomorrow we are offering to feed them lunch. There isn’t money in the budget for supper so I won’t be eating supper either. We brought some granola bars and jerky and that’s going to be our supper for the next three days. Food is important here. Really I thought that Robert could have eaten twice as much spaghetti. The dude is hungry. Here in the middle of training, guys are hungry. I mean it can permeate your thinking in a way most of my readers aren’t used to. So I’m praying that our lunches will be robust and that they’ll really carry us through the afternoon and evening training sessions.


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The author lives in Goshen, Indiana with his wife and four children. He is self-employed as a leadership coach working with business executives, writers and other artists, and spiritual leaders. His clients enjoy business growth, increased vision and purpose, work/family lifestyle balance, and freedom from writer’s block.

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