The Journey to SCAD and Bagandu
The next day, Saturday the 3rd of March, I met with the dutiful Ms. Macheree Samo and alongside Brice Ngatte we bought some supplies and headed outside Bangui. After crossing the rigorous checkpoint at Bimbo, we boarded a van which was cramped with people, and began our journey from Bangui to the interior of Lobaye prefecture, 100 kilometres away. Because of the several checkpoints and the bad road, the journey to Mbaiki, took us well over 3 hours. Arriving Mbaiki at about 5:10pm local time, we boarded motorcycles that evening and began the One-hour journey to the village of SCAD (Societe Centrafricaine de Deroulage), not far from the banks of river Lobaye. We drove through dense forests on a dirt road. At some point, I wondered I humans would actually be at the end of the road, but again and again I saw huts, and hamlets littering the lonely forest.
Just outside the village of SCAD, we encountered a strong military checkpoint which delayed us for about 5 minutes; but when we showed our papers, we were allowed to enter the town. We were warmly received by the team members who were there. And we retired for the night
By 9am on Sunday the 4th of March 2018, we began our trek to the banks of river Lobaye from whence we took a wobbly canoe across the river to the Pygmies of Boukarakombo who had been singing and waiting for us since dawn. Their voices were harmonious, their joy was palpable and contagious, and the whole riverfront was filled with God’s presence.
We baptized about 12 souls into the faith, and thereafter proceeded to a communion service at the grass church erected by CMD there. This was the very first church among the Pygmies of Boukarakombo.
That afternoon we crossed the Lobaye river and headed back to our rest house, from whence we had a meeting with the CMD team on the ground. We later left SCAD and took a long meandering road and arrived two hours later in Bagandu.
We got to Bagandu that Sunday night, and were received by the passionate workers there. That night we had a lengthy meeting with the CMD leadership Bagandu, headed by Pastor Arthure. For effective operations, they were organized into leadership cadre and membership cadre. Our meeting centred around the existing Prayer Network, future missions training for the workers, CMD Bagandu 2018 projects, and the word of encouragement from CMD Nigeria.
The next morning, we made our way to the first Pygmy settlement. We met the leader of the settlement, and his team marking out the boundaries of their settlement. He complained of rejection, oppression and encroachment of their land by other village folks. The community was well above 100 persons, but there was no church presence. The CMD team in Bagandu was determined to correct that, I was told.
That afternoon we visited the Pygmy site at Kenga forest, where CMD Bagandu had planted a church. We were greeted with joy by the brethren there, even their church choir was on hand to welcome us with wonderful tunes and songs. We thereafter baptized about six (6) souls into the fold. After a short word of encouragement, we prayed together and started our journey back to Bagandu.
Having assessed the immense need and opportunity in this region, CMD purchased a land which would serve as a base for our missions work in that region. The land is just 3 kilometres from the centre of Bagandu town. By the grace of God, it would host basic social amenities like a hospital, a school, and a church, and a rest house for workers around the Lobaye-Congo basin area.
- The Journey back from Bagandu
The journey from Bagandu back to Mbaiki was quite adventurous. After seeing through the process of the land purchase at Bagandu, we embarked on a 20-minute motorcycle ride to the banks of river Lobaye, from whence we hoped to cross to the other side, and then begin our twenty kilometres (20 KM) ride to Mbaiki. On getting to the river bank it began to rain heavily, and we had to locate a shelter. When the rain finally stopped, we loaded our motorbikes into the canoe; but darkness was fast approaching. We took another wobbly canoe ride to the other side of the river and continued on motorcycles through the forest dirt road.
It was 7:30pm that night, and everywhere was completely dark, when two of our bikes began developing an unusual tire problem. This continued until they finally ground to a halt – the tires got burst. Here was I and others in the middle of the jungle with pockets of pygmy settlement here and there, with no access to civilization whatsoever. Two of our team members became convinced that we may have to spend the night along the road. “Not me!”, I said to myself. “I must get to the nearest civilization that night”, I suggested.
And so, with the only bike still functioning, I was driven towards Mbaiki. After driving for about 20 minutes, the sight of human settlement gave spontaneous joy and relief to my heart. To cut it short, we all arrived Mbaiki safely, and passed the night at a local church. By then I was too tired to know bother about the petty things of life. I just wanted to sleep.
The next morning, we went to the local motor park to await the arrival of a bus heading to Bangui. We eventually got to Bangui by 1:30pm on Tuesday the 6th of March 2018. It was indeed a trip to be forever remembered.
Friday Otuya (Missions Director, CMD) was on a working visit to the CMD Missions effort in the Central African Republic