KARAWA, DR CONGO (February 15, 2012) – The newly constructed bridge over the Lumba stream seven miles east of here will make travel much safer and provide more opportunity for farmers to get goods to market.
With much fanfare, the first truck drove easily across the new structure on February 2. That maneuver had been dangerous because the previous bridge was little more than logs placed somewhat side-by-side.
Three years ago a truck loaded with medicines destined for the Congo Covenant Church hospital in Loko and other medical facilities fell into the water as it attempted to make the crossing. One woman was killed. Click here to read a previously published story.
The previous bridge as well as others is typical in a country where almost no infrastructure exists. The new bridge is expected to last more than 20 years, says Evangelical Covenant Church missionary Pete Ekstrand.
The project actually began in September 2009 when Tom Lawson of Tulsa, Oklahoma, surveyed the site as well as another over the Gbagbau stream. Lawson returned home and designed the bridge and ordered the supplies. Lawson and Al Howerton of Redeemer Covenant Church in Tulsa along with Burt Holmes were primary contributors.
Lawson and a friend returned in January returned to supervise construction. The first beam was pulled across the gap on January 28 using a temporary A-frame in the middle of the stream, says Ekstrand.
“Manpower and smarts got it and all the rest of the beams across safely,” says Ekstrand. Tearing down the old bridge and constructing the new one took nine days.
The large mass of the new 12-foot-wide bridge gives the structure its strength and stability, says Ekstrand. The beams weigh up to a ton each and are cut from trees with high density to resist deterioration.
A bridge spanning another stream 1.5 miles away from Karawa will be completed in the next several days.
Lawson says he was humbled watching people cross over the new bridge. “When you’re out there working on the bridge and you see the old bridge and people struggling to get their heavily loaded bicycles as well as truck drivers risking their lives, you feel humbled and a sense of satisfaction.”
Lawson adds that he has been grateful for the opportunity to make a difference. When you see the same people who were struggling to get across the bridge have smiles on their faces and are waving and saying thank you, then you know that in a tangible way you have made their very difficult lives a little easier.”
The Congolese are not the only ones to have benefited from the project. “I’ve learned so much from them,” Lawson says. “Even though they have – in terms of economics – so little, they are so full of joy and faith and hope. They have taught me a lot about having faith in God and not on material things.”
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