Monthly Archives: March 2013

Congo Cathedral


Today I flew with MAF on a path that took us over the Ituri Forest. As we were heading home to Bunia from Isiro, the pilot, Joey Martin, suddenly said, “Want to see a cathedral?”

Why not?  I never say no to these kind of questions. We were, however, flying over an expanse of jungle that is the 2nd largest rainforest in the world. It seemed an odd suggestion.

He dropped down from about 10,000 feet to circle a church in the middle of the jungle. I’ve seen some large churches in large villages in the jungle, but nothing has compared to this. This is most certainly a cathedral and it was not in a city or even a village. I searched the internet and found one photo of it on Google Earth that called it Tschungel near Maboma. I then searched for information on this odd monument in the middle of nowhere but came up with absolutely nothing. If anyone out there knows something about this place, I’m dying to know. Here are some pictures of the cathedral as we circled it, and the photo I found online.


** Update: Someone found an interior photo of this church online:



Goma Plane Crash – 4 March 2013

This post is primarily for my Goma friends who may want to see more details on the location of the recent plane crash.

On Wednesday, I joined a MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) flight to Goma and Bukavu. We flew over Monday’s plane crash in a residential area of Goma. A Folker 50 plane of the Congolese private airline Compagnie Africaine d’Aviation (CAA) apparently came in too low during a fierce hail storm, hit a tower and crashed in the backyard of a house, killing seven and injuring three. Miraculously, no one on the ground was hurt.

I took photos from the air as we left Goma. Below are some of the pictures with marks to identify the crash site, a house with a blue roof that was hit before landing, a road where part of a wing landed which was removed by the time we flew over (based on a photo found online), and a tower that may have been hit (based on information from a UN friend) on the UN compound.

PHOTO 1 (Click on Photo to see larger)

Goma Plane Crash

The antenna the plane hit on the UN compound is off camera on the left of the photo, part of a wing fell into the street, a blue-roofed house was hit and ripped off part of the roof (a friend knows the people who were there when it hit), lava walls were knocked down and some trees flattened, and the plane landed in the yard of a house.


Goma Plane Crash


Goma Plane Crash

Two pilots looked at these photos and pointed out how the trees in the lower part of this photo look “burned” or dead and they speculated that it is from jet fuel which they said can kill plants quickly, in hours or days. The brown parts might be where the fuel spilled onto the trees.


Goma Plane Crash

Photo 5

Goma Plane Crash



Additional note on the airplane wing:

A reader just asked me about the wing of the airplane that can’t be seen in the above photos. It was removed by the time we flew over, but we found the location of where it had dropped by searching for the street using the picture below taken by Sinziana Demian the day after the accident. If you look at the walls and house in this picture, you can see that it is the location circled above, 2nd circle from the bottom. The tower circled in the photo above may not be the tower that was hit (the photo isn’t wide enough to tell), but it is very close as it’s in the UN compound on the lake.


Below is a photo I found on a UN website of the antenna that was hit on the UN base before a wing dropped in the street and the plane crashed:

UN Antenna



Flying in Congo

Flying in Congo seems to be in the category of a life-threatening adventure your mother would plead with you to avoid. Like sky-diving, riding a motorcycle through Africa, traveling alone around the world, working in rebel-controlled territory. My mother doesn’t know about the dangers of flying in Congo. She probably doesn’t worry because I usually fly with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship), and my brother is usually the pilot.

Yesterday, we were all reminded once again of the dangers of flying in Congo when an airline crashed into a residential area of Goma in a hail storm. Miraculously, no one on the ground was killed, and the flight only had a few passengers. A few actually survived, although most of the crew were killed. This was an airline that most expats who live in Eastern Congo have flown at some point in time. Congo has one of the worst airline accident rates in the world.

Tomorrow I’ll be flying to Goma and Bukavu with MAF and Lary Strietzel as pilot – an experienced bush pilot who has worked in Congo for decades. I have complete faith in these pilots. Thank God for MAF and the work they do.

Dust in the Wind – Water Nearly Gone

I’ve concluded two things recently:

1. I hate dust. It has the potential for making me lose my mind (what’s left of it).

2. If I had to choose between electricity or water, I would choose water. No hesitation.


I’m living in Bunia right now where there is little water and the dust is reaching that insane level, especially when the wind blows. It has been about three weeks since the last rain. Because my brother’s house is almost solely dependent on rain run-off for water, the huge water tanks are almost empty.

And with no rain to temper the dust, it permeates everything. Within hours of dusting the house, you can write your name in the dust on the dining table. I can feel the grit on my computer even though I wiped it off just an hour ago. Yesterday, Jon whacked the arm of the sofa and a cloud of dust rose about a foot. It gets in your ears and nose and settles on your arms like talcum powder. Driving down the dusty Bunia streets is like driving through a fog, and you can’t help breathing it no matter what measures you take to avoid it.

The most difficult thing is that the dust makes you desperate for a bath…but that water-shortage problem prevents it. When I arrived in Bunia three weeks ago, Jon informed me I could have a shower once a week and only flush the toilet when absolutely necessary. One of the MAF families have four children with one in cloth diapers and one being potty trained. They haven’t been able to do laundry for 10 days now. Think about that for a moment…then try to remove the image from your head.

For all of you with endless water and paved streets, savor it and thank God.