Returning to Kapanga

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In June 2018, three missionary daughters from different families traveled to Kapanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where their parents had served as doctors, nurses, teachers, mechanics, pilots and engineers beginning in the 1940s. Working with Bishop Kasap Owan Tshibang of the South Congo Episcopal Area and Rukang Chikomb, a missionary pilot, Dorothy Loving, Nancy Riley and Cathy Strate coordinated a campaign in the U.S. to collect medical supplies for Samuteb Hospital in Kapanga, as well as clothing, books and shoes.

Dr. Arthur Piper, Maude Garrett Piper, Ruth and Margaret in the 1920s.  PHOTO: GCAH MISSION ALBUMS PORTRAITS #4, P. 253.

Dorothy "Dottie" Hardee Loving is the third generation of her family to feel the pull of the Congo on her heart. Her grandparents, Dr. Arthur and Maude (Garrett) Piper, were among the first Methodist missionaries to work in Kapanga in the 1910s, John Springer's early recruits to the Congo mission. The Pipers arrived in 1914, and Piper began medical work and built the first clinic and hospital there.

Cathy Strate is the daughter of Harry and Phyllis Little. Harry was commissioned to direct the rebuilding of Samuteb Hospital (Advance #00596A) in the 1950s. Phyllis was the assistant director of hospital construction and industrial work. Harry Little accomplished many engineering feats in the remote Kapanga village, including the water tower and the airplane runway, which Cathy said touched her deeply when she saw it come into view on the approach to Kapanga.

Everett Woodcock in his "portable office" in the back of a truck visiting a mission station in Kabannie District, Congo, 1951. The Woodcocks were missionaries in the Congo for 40 years.  PHOTO: GCAH MISSION ALBUMS AFRICA #16, p. 175.

Nancy Woodcock Riley is the daughter of Everett and Vera Woodcock. The Woodcocks continued in missionary service in the Congo for 40 years. "My father worked with the Littles as hospital business manager for a time while in Kapanga," Nancy said. "He also had other responsibilities with the pastors in the area. The last half of their career, dad was the bush pilot for Wings of the Morning.

The memorial service for our parents and my grandparents was another emotional experience. They had died after retirement in the U.S., but the people of Kapanga wanted to remember them, and we brought some of their ashes. Three things were most memorable for me. First, there were the small, beautiful handmade wooden coffins, painted white with black trim and a Methodist insignia, for the ashes of my mother, Ruth Barton Piper Hardee, and Harry Little. Pastors carried them, along with photos, into the church where my parents were married. Second most memorable was Bishop Kasap's sermon about how each of us should leave a legacy for those that come after us just like the missionaries in Kapanga. Thirdly was the burial, a short graveside service in a small cemetery across from the hospital – a perfect location for Mom.

Missionary Wings of the Morning pilot Rukang Chikomb with Cathy Strate. PHOTO: COURTESY CATHY STRATE Reflections on Kapanga.

Our visit to Piper Falls was unforgettable. I was overcome with joy when I saw the ruins of the cottage Grandpa and Grandma had built. The fireplace and some of the walls are still standing. It overlooks a lovely valley, and I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been when Grandpa discovered the spot many years ago when the trees were much smaller. The falls themselves were a little underwhelming – their beauty somewhat destroyed by the electric company, but I know it benefits many, including the hospital. And the visit fulfilled my dream of taking Mom's ashes back to where she spent her honeymoon.

All in all, our trip will never be forgotten by Cathy, Nancy, myself or the people of Kapanga! It was truly a trip of a lifetime and God's plan.

 

Dorothy Loving, flight attendant and Christie House, senior writer/editor, Global Ministries.

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