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by Rick Bartlett

(These are excerpts of Rick's email from Africa, where he was for three weeks, along with Elmer, who was there for six weeks.)

I think I told you in the other email, or it's in my journal, that the city of Brazzaville, 3 km. away, is being shelled by rebels. So, although this is a quiet place, that isn't the case everywhere. It is strangely eerie to be near fighting like this. Last Thursday was exceptionally bad. The shelling started at about 7am with a loud 'BOOM' and didn't finish until about 7pm tonight. All day long we heard machine guns, mortars and today for the first time, rockets. I realised that I am such a child of the media, the only thing that I could compare this to was the film, Saving Private Ryan. Isn't that sad? Across the river people were probably losing their lives and I was comparing it to a film. It's times like these that show me how shallow my life experiences really are.

Wednesday 29th Jan
I was in a car, riding to a church to preach, when I saw something I had never seen before. It's important to realise that here in Kinshasa there is no such thing as an MOT or smog test for cars. In fact, I have seen many cars that are so wrecked and rusted I wonder how they keep moving. What I saw coming toward us on the road was a large truck. The hood was open and a man was sitting in the engine compartment pulling the lever to send petrol into the carburetor with his hand. The driver (?) had his head out of the window (he couldn't see out the window, the bonnet was up), and he was steering this big truck down the road. But this isn't the end; in the back of the truck were about 50 people getting a ride. I think I would have waited another hour for a different taxi.