Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas in the Congo.

As well as stuffing our faces, Christmas is traditionally a time we think of others.I want to take this opportunity to tell you about Dr.Joe Harvey.
I first met Dr.Harvey in Impfondo ( Congo) whilst I was travelling to the Likoula swampland to look for the Mokele-Membe, the Congo dinosaur. He and the other American missionaries there were kind enough to put me and my team up while we waited for onwards transport. It was an incredibly dangerous place, right on the edge of a war zone. At night, the bright yellow glow of artillery flares lit up the sky.During the day, I saw combatants exchanging fire across the Umbangi river, only a few hundred yards from where we were staying.
Yet this did not deter Dr.Harvey.Whether you share his beliefs or not, I have no doubt in my mind that he was doing real good for the community.There were originally two foreign Doctors;but one had died of cerebral malaria. Undaunted, Dr.Harvey carried on.
Returning from the swamps a month or so later, I helped out at the hospital. At one stage a woman came in with a dreadful abcess in her stomach.I and another man comforted her, while Joe performed surgery. The other man helping out had been badly disfigured by Leprosy-giving the appearance that his face had collapsed on one side.As I looked outside at the ever expanding queue weaving its way around the little hospital, I realised that this man was all these people had.
That night I went to a bar on the other side of town.It has to be the roughest joint this side of Moss Icely !(Star Wars). As the evening wore on `soldiers`, turned up with their weapons, and after a few drinks ,began shooting them in the air!The following night ,I spent with Dr Harvey, his family and the other family there. We sang Xmas carols around a little silver tree they had brought from home.
As we sang `Silent Night` I could hear the Kalashnikov fire getting nearer, and nearer. Everytime I hear that Carol now, I always think of that moment,captured in my mind forever, of decent caring people stuggling against violence, horror and disease. Stood around a little tree singing songs while guns blazed around them ,risking their lives for others. Doing good.....
Have a fantastic Christmas everyone!

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