Letters from Rwanguba – September 25, 1985

My mom started saving my letters from Rwanguba in 1985, despite my protests. I’m so thankful she did!

My husband and I were appointed as missionaries in 1980. For the next two years we visited churches in the Pacific NW and California to raise support. Finally, in 1982, we moved with our three kids to Paris, where we studied French. In 1983 we moved to Belgium to study tropical medicine and to Kenya in 1984 to study Swahili for two months. At last we moved to Rwanguba, a mountain village in Zaire (now known as DRC) in the heart of Africa, where we lived from 1984-1989, except for a ten-month furlough.

We loved seeing the sign to Rwanguba, because we knew we were almost home.
We loved seeing the road sign to Rwanguba, because it meant we were almost home.

Several years after we moved back to the States, my mom presented me with two big black binders full of pictures and my letters from Rwanguba. The first letter in the binder is typed on tan onion-skin paper. As I remember, I used my husband’s old Royal portable electric typewriter. For this blog post, I’m going to copy the letter pretty much as written, except I’ll add our kids’ ages in parenthesis, and omit sensitive info and our friends’ last names. You who worked in Zaire with us know who you are. 🙂

Rwanguba, Zaire
Sept. 25, 1985

Dear Mom and Dad,

Well, fall is upon us, but it sure doesn’t seem like it here. We are having lovely warm weather except for our daily afternoon rains, during which it is rather chilly. Since the kids have started school, they have started taking their jackets for the walk home. Which reminds me: now that the kids are with the other students in school, I have noticed they have some needs which I had not thought of before. Would you please do some shopping for me and mail the things airmail? I am enclosing a check which should cover the items and the postage. (Just one good afternoon at Sears or Penny’s would be wonderful for me…)

We loved going to church and singing in Swahili.
We loved going to church and singing in Swahili.

This is the list:

2-3 T-shirt type school shirts for ML(age 10) in different colors, stripes, etc. 1 nice plaid button-type short sleeve dressy shirt (the kind Lee always wears) – $25

5-6 pairs of sox for LD (age14), size 9-11. She likes lightweight knee sox, white Navy, neutral colors and maybe a pair of something that’s really “in” (ask cousin Pam?) – $10

5-6 sox for RL(age 7) – some knee sox, some anklets, one pair of pretty white lacy ones – $10

4 pairs of nylons: 2 to fit 5’9” 125 lbs, and 2 to fit 5’9” 150 lbs. (med. color) – $15

1 pair denim jeans for RL, girl’s size 7 slim. Regular blue denim color. She wants belt loops and a zipper in the front.- $10

1 jacket for ML: boy’s size 12. Brown or blue. Lightweight, rain repellent, with a hood. – $20

Rit powdered dye: 2 packages of med. blue – (more toward gray than green). 2 packages of deep pink (strawberry?) – $5

Swimsuit for ML – boys size 12 – $10

Swimsuit for LD – jr. size 11? (she needs length. Likes blue or a pattern of bright colors, geometric maybe) $20

I know some of these things may be hard to select, but I would prefer you to buy something rather than nothing at all because if we can’t use it, it’s probable that someone else on the station can. Swimsuits are not available at all and LD is still wearing the one she left the States with. It’s getting rather thread bare and we are now mending the patches! Some of these things are things that I had shipped but were missing from our shipment when we got it. Thank you so much for shopping for us. It really is a help. I suggest that you send small packages (2 lb) as you have been doing, and also, please send everything to this address:

Norma Nill
C/O Tudy K.
B.P. 202
Gisenyi, Rwanda

The reason I want you to send the things to Rwanda is it is right next to Goma and will save us the MAF charges for flying it from Nairobi to Goma. This way, we may have to pay some duty but not the air freight.

Lee preformed C Sections at the Rwanguba Hospital.
Lee preformed C Sections at the Rwanguba Hospital.

Well, during this past week, I’ve started working at the hospital every morning Mon-Fri, and have found it to be an eye-opener. I just help on the wards, but am gradually doing more and more. One interesting patient is a diabetic woman who needs insulin injections every day. We would like to teach her to give her own shots and to follow a diabetic diet, but it’s almost impossible. For one thing, she has no refrigerator. Also, she eats beans and sweet potatoes and bugali, made of manioc flour, day after day (like everyone else here.) How can I possibly teach her to eat meat twice a day, an assortment of fruits and vegetables, and to limit her starches when she’s so poor? Sure is a challenge to come up with something that will help her. She might be able to move close to a dispensary where she could go for insulin every day. We’ll have to look into that possibility.

There are now 10 kids in the school. And the kids really like Aunt Karen, their teacher. RL is happy that she’s no longer the youngest student, now that Kristin S is here, who is in kindergarten. LD sometimes tutors her when her own work is done. Guess the one-room school has some advantages.

Mail is to go out momentarily. Thank you again for doing the shopping. We love you.

Lee + Norma + kids
~ ~ ~
Thanks for reading along with me today!

Posted on March 8, 2016

4 thoughts on “Letters from Rwanguba – September 25, 1985

  1. What an interesting life you must have lived! Missions, mission fields, and missionaries have always been dear to my heart. Thanks for sharing your personal letter with us. I’m hoping we’ll get to read more!

    1. Every person I meet is interesting to me, whether or not they’ve traveled. I can tell from your blog that you’re a person who encourages, supports, and prays for missionaries, Anita. May God bless you for your ministry! Missionaries would get nowhere without it. Thanks again for reading. 🙂

  2. Dear Norma,

    Thanks for carrying Rwanguba in your heart.

    Your family is one of those who brought life, hope and joy in the village. We hope to have the kind of guests again.

    May God bless your for ever.


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