CONGO (Location of Scott’s next book soon to be available)

Congo Free State

The Belgian Congo

Zaire

Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo

(not the Republic of the Congo – this is a different nation)

These are all names of one of the largest nations in the continent of Africa and the largest in sub-Saharan Africa.  This nation’s history is filled with strife, from the days of exploitation under King Leopold of Begium through modern day.  There are over 75 million people in this country that is known for the massive river from which it derived its name.  Yet, it is among the poorest nations of the world.  While the government has remained relatively stable for over a decade, the presence of rebel groups, across border raids, and ethnic massacres continues.  Disease and famine claim massive numbers of lives each year.

Despite hardships the people who live in Congo are among the most resilient as well.  When fighting breaks out whole villages disappear and people take to the jungle.  Once violence wanes they return to rebuild what they can and replant, starting over from where they were.  Christianity has taken hold in many parts of this country, though the Muslim religion, which was outlawed for years under President Mobutu (ruling from 1966 through 1997) has made major inroads, especially in the northern reaches of the nation.

In 1988, when my family and I were in northern Zaire working as short term missionaries, Mobutu was the president.  People in the rural area where I served in a hospital, felt relatively safe.  There had not been any rebellions and people could focus upon their livelihood trying to eke out a living from their gardens and whatever they could sell.  Travel was hampered by poor roads, but there was no restriction of movement within the country.  Rains hampered travel in many areas and roads were poorly maintained.  Here and there would be seen piles of stones and dirt that local men would shovel into potholes to try to keep the roads passable.

Many of the diseases were similar to those we see in the U.S., but poor nutrition causes devastating consequences to even the most minor of illnesses.  Lack of medicines and clean water were constant roadblocks.  Malaria, the ever-present scourge, especially affected the children.  AIDs was just beginning to be recognized and tuberculosis was endemic.  A nationwide vaccination campaign provided relief from some major maladies, but these could only be taken to clinics with functional solar refrigerators that were few and far between.

Government run hospitals often lacked even basic medical supplies so mission hospitals, like ours, played a major role in caring for the ill in large tracts of the country.  At that time it was difficult to find enough Zairian doctors to fill the positions where they were needed.  Missionaries from all walks of life continually manned hospitals, clinics, schools, to try to provide expertise and training to local people, to help them, ultimately, to manage the facilities on their own.  At that time missions were owned and run by “western” organizations.  However, war did break out.  Foreigners became targets, though so did many, many people.  Some were targeted because of their location, some because of their ethnic origin.  Most of the missionaries were forced to leave and seek shelter outside of the country.  Many returned home.  Nonetheless, the result was that the missions had to learn to function on their own.

Today, many of the missions in Congo remain open.  The hospital, where I worked, is run by local men and women and the doctors are graduates of the medical school in Kinshasa (the capital).  It is true that a great deal of support, both monetary and in the form supplies, still comes from western countries, but the work goes on. 

Little has changed, save the introduction of cell phone technology and the internet.  Homes are made from mud and grass, the roads continue to be hand –repaired, and disease and famine have not been conquered.  But neither has the attitude of the people changed.  They still love life and pursue it wholeheartedly.   

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About smcpherson58

Aside from loving chocolate and coffee (not necessarily in that order) Scott McPherson has learned that he loves to write. He writes fiction and, so far, has published two novels. Scott has many varied interests, though he tries to focus on one at a time. He has worked for nearly thirty-five years as a family physician, a pass-time that gives him great pleasure and pays the bills. He has five daughters and dotes upon three grandchildren. Recently married, he really loves life. Scott writes from his life experiences and from travel. His career in the active Air Force was brief, but he has been a member of the Nebraska Air National Guard since just before 9/11 in 2001. The aftermath of that great disaster changed the face of the Guard and led to missions in far-away lands. He has spent time in Turkey, Iraq, Spain, Crete and Guam in missions related to support for Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. He has been to Iceland and Antarctica as well. Scott has no personal experience with violent death or murder, but has gained knowledge from experts. In his first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death,” his character, Jack Sharp MD, becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. First as suspect, then as amateur sleuth, Jack tries to make a difference. He finds himself right in the middle of an investigation well beyond the scope of a local murder. A man of faith, Scott traveled to Africa with his small family in the 1980s and served as a medical missionary in Zaire (known as Congo today) with a church organization. The vast difference in what it takes to exist in such an environment served as a basis for much of his second novel, a thriller, “Congo Mission.” His character, Jack, is twenty years younger than in the first novel. In “Congo Mission” Jack serves as a physician in a missionary hospital in the jungles of northwestern Zaire. There he is not only captivated by a young woman visiting the region, but falls victim to his nemesis Jacques Levant. His motivations and faith are tested and his resolve to do God’s work gets pushed to the limit. When he is not writing Scott enjoys walking, a practice that actually led to his first attempt at writing a novel. He began making notes and writing prose about the mundane things around him. He tried to make the details sound interesting, even though it was just for his own pleasure. Eventually he found that he could expand his prose to “what if?” “What if I just kept walking?” “What if I, or my character, found a dead body in the ditch along the side of the path?” That was the premise for the first novel, “A Step Ahead of Death.” Scott McPherson is an avid trombone player and has played since he was nine years old. He marched in the Cornhusker Marching Band at the University of Nebraska and now takes advantage of one free football game a year by playing in the half-time show with the UNL Alumni Marching Band. He plays in the Lincoln Civic Orchestra and a community band from the nearby town of Waverly, Nebraska. Scott loves to sing as well, though his range seems to have diminished in recent years. He has sung in college and church choirs and remembers performing parts of Handel’s Messiah as a highlight of his singing experience. One little-known fact about Scott is that he once sang soprano in a boys choir. Scott plans to keep writing as long as the ideas flow and others show interest in his stories. He loves to interact with other writers or readers about what has become a passion in his life. Reviews are always welcome as are questions and comments.
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