Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Signal or no signal?

Today I went to my Beth Moore Study, "A Woman's Heart", with which I am enraptured. Beth is the real deal. She speaks truth into my soul, and I am moved to tears and belief, sitting there nodding my head in agreement and Amening her all over the place.

For those of you who have attended her studies, you know how connected she is--to the Lord and to her audience. I started pondering the importance of being connected--to my God to my husband, to my family, to my friends. You and I know well how sometimes that connection falls through the cracks, maybe because the busyness of living the life that is right in front of us leaves little or no time to keep that level of connectedness we like to maintain. Or, we are so squeezed out and wrung dry at the end of the day, there is little energy to make the effort to keep the communication lines flowing freely.

As far as maintaining a consistent free flow with the Lord, it's better if we do that when the day is still before us. I am sure that is why David said, "Early will I seek you." All too soon, if He is not the first objective of the day after we put our feet on the floor, other demands storm into our lives and the hours slip away without having soaked in His presence, allowing that time to transform us, renew our minds, and enable us to walk away in His refuge for the remainder of that day. Bypassing Him at the start of the day means we are taking risks. We can walk in the flesh. We can fail to be open to His presence. We can miss hearing the voice that says, "This is the way; walk in it." The day then is left in our own hands and is not really His to command. We can forfeit the blessings He so wanted to bring into our path. We can lose our signal.

Digressing now. . . the Laban Mission Campus in Congo is located 450 miles due east of the capital city of Kinshasa, in what is commonly referred to as the "bush." We are out in the boonies surrounded by savannah, small forests, some jungle, rolling hills, and plains; in other words, it's Hicksville. The location of the bush does not mean that we are isolated from people. Thousands of people live there. However, there is definite isolation from technology. Few technical perks are to be had by living in the bush. I'm thinking hard right now to come up with any. For instance, there is no electricity unless you have your own diesel or gas generator. (Talk about signals!) There is no running water provided unless you are the provider. And worst of all, there is NO INTERNET!, at least not where we are. So, living for the average national is similar to Little House on the Prairie days.

BUT, BUT, BUT, we have this incredible 300' RADIO TOWER AND STUDIO that the Lord provided through wonderful Christians in America. The tower was erected by our great friends and fellow colleagues in Indiana, Towers for Jesus. Each day, up to 8 million people (not including their children; children don't pay taxes in Congo, so they are not counted in any census) can tune in Radio Glory at 89.0 on the FM dial and hear Bible teaching, Christian music, hygiene, Christian Family Living, anyone of the books of the Bible being read, questions and answers about the Christian faith, team teaching between pastors, noted American authors and pastors (tapes we have taken over there, of course), announcements, and local church services who boast amazing musical chorales.

You might be thinking, "Where in the world do they get radios from?" They can either buy them in the city of Kikwit, 60 miles away or in Kinshasa. Those who do own radios set them outside (battery operated, mind you) in their village in the mornings, and people gather around who may not own one to listen to Selah opening the day in song and the Word of God being preached and taught. It is an awesome sight to behold. The broadcasts start at 5 a.m. and run until 10, and they resume at 4:30 p.m. and end at 9:30 p.m., provided there is fuel. Our radio station comes alive only when it is connected to a generator.

Since its inception, Radio Glory has gone through some tough times. The first transmitter was defective, sent back to the U. S., driven all the way to Texas by Jim and Connie Hulse of Towers for Jesus, repaired, and taken back to Congo by Jim Hulse. He lovingly and tediously hand packed the transmitter so it could make the 16 hour trip on Air France without a hitch. But in France the trunk containing the transmitter was broken into, and parts were slashed and pounded and ruined. A new transmitter was provided by generous souls in America in 2006.

During the time when we had either transmitter or generator problems of various sorts, the radio lost its signal. The people had no connection with this life-giving source of hope. That meant that millions of people who looked to Radio Glory each day for spiritual sustenance because Bibles are not plentiful in Congo, or perhaps they had no church to attend in their village, or maybe they were not gifted with a pastor, returned to what they had before--hopelessness, despair, and depression. The Lord's blessing and presence was so real through Radio Glory, and they missed the broadcasts so much, that they began to cry out after 3 days, "What has happened to our mama? We are sick without our mama. When will she return?" I am happy to tell you, the signal is back and free-flowing encouragement fills the air waves 7 days a week from Radio Glory these days. Mama's soothing voice is going strong! Praise God!

Being connected makes all the difference in the world. The Lord makes that ability to be connected so possible through His Word. The Holy Spirit runs on the railroad tracks of the Bible. We have these eternal, vibrant, breathing words of God that have been preserved for more than 2000 years at our disposal. Scripture has everything profitable for life in it! When we avail ourselves to The Book, the signal is strong. The potential is unlimited. The power in our lives can be awakened and explode because the same resurrection power that raised Jesus from the dead is ours!

Conversely, when we avoid making God's Word a part of everyday living, we begin to die spiritually. We dry up. We wither on the vine. Joy flees. The signal is gone.

It's our choice. Remember Malachi 3:16. At the end of the day, it is not our check list of finite "things to do" that the Lord necessarily takes note of . It's our passion for Him, our putting Him on top of our list of priorities. It's our effort to keep the signal connected between Him and us, to have a free flow of communication. It's the sacrifice of praise (cause we just don't wanna give Him praise sometimes) that causes Him to inhabit those praises, turn our mindset from ourselves and our woes to his wonder, fill us with awe, and walk with a lighter step.

Have you checked your signal lately?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

My Hiding Place

After 44 years in the ministry, I often look back on our lives and stand amazed at the many, many times the Lord has literally hidden us from impending danger, especially in Africa. How often that protective hiding has kept me alive. Not only can we find refuge in Him for the demands of daily life and renewal that only He can give, but He has the ability to overshadow us in such a way that nothing and no one can penetrate that shadow with which He clothes us. Danger can surround us, and we can remain totally oblivious to it. One such experience occurred on a rainy night in tropical Congo.

We returned to our home at Nkara, our mission station, to find the place in need of much cleaning and repair that is inevitable after being unoccupied for months at a time. That is, we live in the States part time and in Africa part time. Much time in the States has to be spent in fund raising and exposing the ministry to keep up with the needs and demands of our growing work in Congo. Soon after our return, our National Director, Pastor Gary Kapinga, pointed out defective plumbing in the downstairs bathroom. Jim removed the old pipes and replaced them with new ones in a different location on the wall, leaving a gaping hole where the old pipe had been located. He covered the hole with mud because it was the easiest and quickest process. Mud is readily available in Congo, and there are always a hundred things needing our attention RIGHT NOW upon our return. He had every intention of using cement to seal the opening.

Several days passed, and Gary said, "You had better cover that hole with cement. On a rainy night, the mud will be easily washed away, and a snake will find the opening and crawl inside to get out of the rain." We agreed. We forgot.

Sure enough, one night the tropical rains exploded out of the sky with vengeance. Our big diesel generator was out of commission, so we used a very small gas generator. The flip of an electrical switch in the bush of Congo does nothing unless the wiring is connected to and powered by a generator. Because of the heavy showers, we placed the little generator on the wonderful screened-in porch just outside our bedroom. Dusk was approaching. We had the option of using the generator to give us a light, not lights, but a light, or we could choose to watch a video. We opted for the video.

In entertainment-starved Congo, we often find ourselves settling for things like opening ads from a Target-purchased video and actually watching the ads if they are decent until we come to the main feature. This is what you do when you are 450 miles from the capital city, and your video library is rather limited to what was packed for this trip. Even though each time we return more videos are taken, the cockroaches and other insects may find the videos left on the shelf in Congo from a previous trip a delectable tidbit in our absence.

I told Jim I would be right back and so, with the hum of the machine only feet away, he began watching the preshow features. I went into Shawn's old bedroom (our oldest daughter) in search of my toothbrush. As I pointed the flashlight on the floor and then all around her room, bingo! There it was. Time to make my way to the bathroom and brush my teeth before settling down in bed to watch the show. When darkness falls in Congo, you cannot see your hand in front of you unless there is a full moon. Black skies prevailed on this evening. So, again, I pointed my flashlight in the direction of the bathroom, glancing down at the floor beneath my feet, when to my horror, I saw a snake. He had the same idea I had and was headed for my destination. I gladly acquiesced.

I remembered that a snake doesn't necessarily attack its prey on the basis of its eyesight, (in this case the prey would be my bare feet). Rather, he responds to objects by their vibrations. So I froze, screaming out to Jim to come to my rescue. Of course, the rumbling of the generator drowned out my cries. So I screamed again and again until he heard me. By this time, that slimy creature had made its way up the shower stall.

Jim yelled, "Yeah?" I said, "There's a snake. Go get your gun." He said, "Oh, great, I'll get the video camera!" I said, "Video camera nothing! Get your gun and shoot this thing." Jim ran down the stairs. I felt like Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt--too scared to move and almost too scared to breathe. He bound up the stairs with both! We stood there together and took note of the snake's next move. He had already climbed up one side of the shower stall and down, then up again on the other side. He traversed the wall next to the shower and decided to slither down into the tub. My heart was almost pounding out of my chest as I stood in disbelief. Was this something out of a horror movie?

Jim waited, aimed, and viola! The creature was history. He instructed me never to pick up a dead snake by its tail because her young may be there (who's brave enough to check the gender--just assume it's a female for crying out loud), and they can come out biting. No convincing necessary; I'm a believer! So he played with the snake, poked at it to make sure it was dead, removed its head and scooped it up with his machete. We strung it out on the floor. It measured almost six feet. He then cut the tail off. No babies. He took his precious videos. I joined in, filming him so we would have actual documentation. Excitement mounted. This was the closest I had even gotten to this cursed creation.

Sleep didn't come easily that night. As I lay in bed I asked the Lord in total awe, "Oh, Father, how many times have you done that before? How many snakes have you NOT allowed to come into this house? How many have never come near me because you diverted them? How many narrow escapes has our family experienced without our ever being aware of your Mighty Right Hand of Righteousness being raised against whatever foe was threatening us?"

My mind's eye is now replaying that night as I sit here at my computer. I am filled with wonder at the One who sees every sparrow fall, as my husband says, "He attends every sparrow's funeral." A sense of gratitude overwhelms me. I ask forgiveness for letting the level of wonder and awe slip to a lower intensity than it should be. It is remembering Your incredible acts of deliverance that surges my thermometer of gratitude once again. No wonder you tell us over and over in Scripture to REMEMBER. How soon I forget, Lord. How soon I allow the present circumstances to be a gauge of the decibels of praise I give You. Forgive me for taking my eyes off you long enough to be sucked into the stresses and woes of this life. I so desire to . . . continually offer the sacrifice of praise to You, that is, the fruit of my lips giving thanks to Your Name. Hebrews 13:15

The next day, we called several of the seniors attending Laban Bible Institute on the mission campus to come to our house. Jim pulled the snake out of seclusion. Their eyes danced. Their mouths watered. "He's yours," Jim told them. "By the way, guys, what is he?" They said, "Oh he's an egg eater. He was probably looking for a way to get into your attic and search for eggs." "Is he poisonous?" I asked. "Well, he probably wouldn't take your life, but his venom can make you real sick." This almost six-foot-long disdained piece of flesh would provide dinner for them that Sunday.

It's all what you are used to, right? In a country where stark poverty prevails, where it is a way of life for most, and where it causes many go to bed hungry night after night, the snake was a welcomed entree. They weren't about to turn up their noses at this delicacy.

These men had paid great sacrifices to attend Bible school. They left their families, jobs, and familiar surroundings. Why? Because they in their heart of hearts believed the experience of studying God's Word and learning to use it as a tool in their hands to draw men and women to Christ was more than worth any temporary luxury this world offers. Most had come with only the shirts on their backs, perhaps one pair of flip flops, and no money, not even soap or paper or pencils. But they were foolish enough to believe the Lord would provide for them just as He did daily for those trudging through the wilderness after the big exodus from Egypt. They tenaciously clung to the hope that God would lavish upon them all their needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus.

They counted it a privilege to walk 50 miles one way to share the Word of God with the demon possessed, with the person struggling with despair, with cannibals (yes, they are still present in Congo), and with the one who has strayed and needs to be loved back to the Savior. They were part of a crowd that when a prayer meeting is called, everything is dropped, and they come running to see what God has done, what we are asking Him to do, and confidently trust Him for what He says He will do. They're the ones that James heralds in his book. You know, about being as poor as a church mouse, but soooooo rich in faith, they move the heart of God.

We are the privileged ones to work with people of their caliber, people who carry the sunshine of heaven in their countenances because they have a real grip on life. They know what true wealth and riches are and their meat and drink is the Lord. They have taught me more than I can ever teach them.

We took it all in--the unbelievable pleasure and satisfaction they got out of life evidenced on their faces. We joined in their merriment, wished them bon appetite, and watched them trailing down the hill praising God, and I am sure discussing the best way to serve their God-given provision.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

I remember the first time I went to church as a five-year-old with the little girl and her mom who lived across the street from us. My family did not attend church, ever. A giant of a man stood before our large class and said something like, "If you go to movies, you are going to go to hell." These many years later I do not truly believe that is all that came out of his mouth, but for some reason that line has stuck with me for years. I had just seen the movie, Bambi and went home very worried about the consequences of my "sin." The concern caused me to share his declaration with my mom, who just about went through the roof. I was never allowed to attend that church again.

Seven summers later, at the age of 12, I invited my best friend over to share a Spam sandwich. Spam was big during World War II and has remained on grocery store shelves since then. Many people are not familiar with this "poor man's ham" as it was called. Because it needs no refrigeration until opened and is convenient to pack, we always take Spam to the Congo. Funny how good it tastes there. We never go near it here in America. Judy and I saw each other almost every week day that summer, taking turns riding our bikes to each other's home. Our lunch always consisted of fried Spam, white bread, and Miracle Whip. Life was great.

One day Judy opened her Bible and asked me if I were a Christian, to which I replied, "What is that?" She explained Christ's death for me on the cross, the need to recognize I was a sinner, forgiving for the asking, and the response I needed to make in faith, believing that by His power, He would really save me. This is the first time I can ever remember hearing the Gospel. It was definitely the first time I totally understood what the Gospel meant. I discerned at that young age that anyone would be a fool to let that offer slip through one's fingers, so I immediately bowed my head and invited Jesus into my life.

Wonderful as my parents were, they did not understand my decision, and for many, many years we were spiritually estranged. Judy and I parted ways that fall. She started 7th grade at a private school. I attended the neighborhood junior high school. We have seen each other only once since then and conversed a few times on the phone. I am eternally grateful to Judy's knowledge of the Scriptures and her concern to win me into the kingdom of God at such a tender age. Thank you, Judy, from the bottom of my heart. You introduced me to my wonderful Jesus and He changed the course of my life!

Ecclesiastes says that God puts eternity in our hearts. I so believe this. I can remember winning a Bible by memorizing verses which I recited in a Sunday School class at about the age of 10 or 11. What a treasure that became in time. But before I really understood much of it, I would pick out a book of the Old Testament, select a chapter at random, and try very hard to understand its meaning. I remember lying in bed at night knowing I should pray, but not knowing how to, and so I just started blessing all my relatives from A to Z before peacefully dropping off to sleep. As Philippians states, "It is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." Even this act was prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Entering 10th grade meant attending Pontiac Central High School. I was so excited to move on up in the world. That year another girlfriend asked me to join the youth group at her church. What a foundation was laid there for me. It was one of the happiest times of my adolescence, as I discovered this whole new world of people who actually believed in and lived by God's Word. They walked to a different drummer. They loved me and guided me into truths that forever molded and changed my thinking. The church became my new home--Sunday School, Sunday morning services, Sunday afternoon youth group, Sunday nights services, Tuesday night choir practices where I played the piano, mid-week prayer services on Wednesdays, and Saturday night socials with the youth group. I loved every minute of it.

My poor mom, on the other hand, did not understand what was happening. In her frustration one day she asked me why I didn't just move my bed to the church and live there all the time. I met a young man at the church and eventually we became engaged. However, in my heart of hearts I knew we should not marry. When I broke off the engagement to attend Bible college, again my mom threw her hands up in the air. She just didn't know what to do with me. My father, on the other hand, was so embarrassed at my applying at Detroit Bible College, he told people at work that I was going to barber school instead of Bible school. The estrangement continued. We lived in two different worlds.

It was at that College that I met Jim. The first time I saw him I knew he was God's man. He was the man! His commitment to and knowledge of the Scriptures blew me away, and his voice stirred my soul, but there was one small complication. He was engaged. When he returned from Christmas, however, the news spread all over the small student body that he was a free man again. Sorry for her, but goody goody for me.

At the time we were both in the chorale at college. Jim was often called upon to sing solos, and I as many times accompanied him. We fell in love. I put out a fleece before the Lord, and what I asked of Him, He made happen. We were married the next fall. Again, my parents wondered if I had both oars in the water because I chose to marry a minister. The pay was not great, and they didn't know how to act around a "preacher." Eventually, they grew to love him, but we were still in some ways estranged. We lived our lives, and they lived theirs.

In time, we had children and left the church where we had been so involved in the music ministry, youth ministry, evangelism outreach, teaching Sunday School, running the bus ministry, and living life with people we dearly loved. After 13 years, the Lord moved us on. We moved up north of Muskegon, Michigan on 10 acres of land in dutch country. We knew no one. The farm house we purchased was 85 years old, quaint, (needed a ton of work), but 4 hours from my parents. My father and mother drove up one time. Jim was just getting started in music evangelism, having cut 3 albums with Singcord, a division of Zondervan. Life was challenging. Money was tight, and when six-year-old Nicol asked the blessing on our meal and thanked God that her Daddy brought home enough money for not only one house payment but two house payments from a recent trip to West Virginia, my father almost broke down and cried. Our surroundings were not life as he had pictured it for us. He left mumbling something about it being a God-forsaken place.

After fire destroyed our home, we sensed the Lord was calling us to the Congo. I remember phoning my mom to tell her that our home had gone up in smoke in less than 20 minutes. She said to me, "Nan, what else is going to happen to you?" The "what else" I dreaded telling her turned out to be our going to Congo. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. In their own way, Mom and Dad tried to put their foot down. It didn't stop us. They again didn't understand, were hurt beyond description, perplexed, dismayed, and I am sure resented greatly having to give up three of their grandchildren to the "far flung battle fields of the world." Four hours' separation no longer seemed that big a deal. The estrangement became intense.

Our first term in Congo was three and a half years. I look back now and am saddened that my parents missed out on that much time with their grand kids. That period of time brings a lot of change in a child's life. My mom by now had made a profession of faith. Because she continued not to have any church background, she did not understand even the basics of missions. My dad just thought we were nuts.

We stayed 16 months in America, and then it was time to return to Zaire (before it became Congo again). It was so hard to say good bye to everyone, especially my mom and dad. They weren't getting any younger. At this stage of life I can so identify with what must have been their fear and dread in seeing us go. Our fourth child, Jack, was only four.

Mom was faithful in writing us, but neither one ever came to visit. They could have. They should have. It would have opened their eyes to another world and expanded their horizons beyond imagination. Before our second term was up, Dad had to have emergency cancer surgery, and Mom had a stroke. I flew home to be with them. They were definitely aging. The estrangement followed us even in these hard times.

After the second term in Congo, which was cut short by another bout with cancer for my dad and a bus accident that could have taken Shawn's and Nicol's lives here in the States, we asked the Lord if we could set up a stateside base for our ministry in Detroit as well as carry on the work He had called us to do in Africa. We longed to be with our maturing children, one of whom was now entering college, but did not want to walk away from His incredible Hand of blessing overseas. We wanted the best of two worlds. In His mercy, He granted our hearts' desires.

As my parents continued to live to ripe old ages, they were able to enjoy their grandchildren once again. We both resided in Michigan; they in Waterford, we in Detroit. My father still refused to accept the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ. He would rather get to heaven on his own merit. Then something happened that made him see the light. Mom died. As Mom grew older, she grew softer, and I believe came to the conclusion that maybe we had something going after all as far as choosing ministry for a career both here in the States and abroad.

When my mother died, it broke my father's heart. He lost his reason for living. He recognized the fact that he really was a needy person, that it was okay to be needy, that recognizing his human frailty was a good thing. He was not created to be an island. He didn't have to live like the Lone Ranger any longer. He was devastated. In his growing state of weakness and fragility, he was drawn to--of all people--my husband. In fact, when Dad had to move to an assisted living facility and could no longer fully take care of himself, he wanted Jim to come and spend his days with him. What? Are you kidding? Amazing, isn't it, how the Lord can brings things back full circle.

One morning Jim said to me, "Nancy, today is the day your dad is going to get saved." I just looked at him in astonishment. We drove to Dad's apartment, and as I was washing dishes, Jim said, "Dad, don't you want to see Mom again?" At that point, my father cried like a baby and said, "Oh yes, I do." I turned around to see my wonderful husband lead my father from death to life in his living room. I had prayed for my father's conversion for 44 years. The estrangement ended.

Six months after he confessed Christ, he was in full-blown Alzheimer's. He went to be with the Lord one year later, embracing the Savior just in time at the age of 88!

When I see my parents again, there will be no trace of estrangement, distancing, awkwardness. We will understand each other perfectly because "we will know even as we are known." My parents will fully understand why I made that life-changing decision at the age of 12. They will totally see why the Lord put Jim and me together, why we chose ministry as a vocation, and why we were committed to fulfilling His call to Africa. I will be able to look into their hearts and appreciate how pained they were, how weird it all seemed to them, and the hole we left in their lives during those 8 years we were gone.

Maybe some of you have experienced the "sword" of division Jesus brings into family relationships because you have paid the price of being willing to follow hard after Jesus. You may be going through the same painful reality of being the first one in your family to embrace Him. You may be feeling the sting of isolation because you have changed your life course. You may be lying on your bed at night weeping because you fear that your beloved mom or dad or your siblings may continue to reject him and spend eternity in Hell.

I'm here to testify that God is doing amazing things behind the scenes. His Spirit is striving with your family. They are watching you with an eagle eye and are taking in the bent and flow of your life. The effectual, fervent prayer of a woman or man who is in Christ avails much! Some day they will see their need. Life may be looking real good for them right now. They may have their health, their wealth, and their independence. But that won't always be the case. The day will come when they will have to face the fact that they are mostly a spiritual being dwelling in a physical body instead of the other way around. They are created in God's image, and they will not be able to get away from that.

So take heart, dear one. and lean hard on Jesus, who never fails, who never forsakes, who treats your tears like a precious commodity, bottling them up and writing them in His Book! He is weeping too. He loves them far more than you do, and He is orchestrating everything in their lives to cause them to turn to Him. He will not forget your labor of love with them. Be patient. Only the Holy Spirit can bring them around. One day they will wake up. You may be privileged to lead them to the Lord, and you will have all of eternity to make up for the heartache and lost time you experienced because of their spiritual blindness. God's promise in Acts 16:31 is for your whole household to be saved.

Allow me to share the lyrics of a song by Jesse Dixon that has ministered to me so many times when I was on the brink of despair:

If you feel today that you can't make it
Keep holdin' on, cause you can take it
If you hold on a little while longer
Hold on a little while longer
Hold on a little while longer
Hold on
Hold on

If you feel it's raining all in your life
And day by day, there's nothin'
Nothin' going right
Just hold on a little while longer
Hold on a little while longer
Hole on a little while longer
Hold on
Hold on

You gotta hold to His hand
God's unchanging hand
You gotta hold to His hand
God's unchanging hand
You gotta build your hopes on things eternal
My God will never let you down

Weeping may endure for the night
But if you trust in Jesus
Everything's gonna be all right
Just hold on a little while longer
Hold on a little while longer
Hole on a little while longer
Hold on
Hold on

Amen and Amen!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Scrapbooking, anyone?

One thing I absolutely LOVE about Scripture is that each time I read it, there is the probability that something new and fresh will jump out at me from its sacred pages. Some years ago now, my daughter, Shawn, recommended the Amplified Bible. As I read through Malachi, which is the last book of the Old Testament, to see what this version said about "robbing God", I came across two verses that have become two of my very favorites. They are found in chapter 3. Dip in with me at verse 16.

"Then those who feared the Lord talked often one to another; and the Lord listened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who reverenced and worshipfully feared the Lord and who thought on His name." These words gripped my soul.

The background here is that Malachi was given a hard job to do as the last minor prophet in the Old Testament. He was commissioned by God to tell His people to clean up their act. It was still a good 420 years before Christ would come on the scene. The church was in a deplorable state. Not only did the priests stray far away from God's Word, not venerating it as something to be acknowledged and followed, but they were accepting maimed, diseased, and defiled animal sacrifices from their congregation, which resulted in defaming, and polluting the table of God and profaning and despising His Name. He suggests that they offer such "gifts" to their governor to see how he would like them.

Chapter two grinds the men to pieces who have left the wives of their youth in lust to marry foreign wives who worshiped foreign gods and left their first wives sobbing at the altar because of being abandoned. These same men came crying at the altar as well--not because of their penitent hearts--but because the Lord would no longer accept their contemptible sacrifices. Amazing isn't it how sin blinds us. In verse 16 of this same chapter He speaks of this behavior as an act of great aggression. ". . . I hate divorce and marital separation and him who covers his garment (his wife) with violence. What an intimate description of our relationship to our husbands. We are their garment.

One sin leads to another when we do not guard our hearts, out of which every issue of life proceeds. I love this next warning: "Therefore, keep a watch upon your spirit that it may be controlled by My Spirit."

Chapter 3 speaks of impending judgment from The Judge who does all things right. However, God's heart cry is that they will turn rather than burn. Part of the returning to Him requires that they stop withholding their tithes and offerings, and consequently they are cursed for robbing the God of the universe. We've all been there I think. You know, thinking that we can handle our finances better than our Creator can! Giving God what's left over instead of the first fruits, or maybe nothing at all because there's more month left than there is money. It's painful to hear, but God just doesn't see it that way. He calls us thieves and frauds.

They were not much different from today's society, really. But remember God's eyes always roaming the earth in search for those who are fully committed to Him? This is where verse 16 comes in. I believe in addition to the Book of Life where our name is recorded once we become a child of God through the blood of Jesus Christ alone, there is a book of memories. This is where the scrap booking comes in.

It says here that the Lord actually opened up His ears and took it all in when he saw some who feared Him and talked about Him, and thought on His Name. He is so stirred when we respect Him enough to follow Him in awe and talk about Him, and take the time to meditate and allow our minds to be full of thoughts of Him, that He makes sure that those thoughts and words are recorded in a special book.

My God is impressed with what I occupy my mind; and, when it is filled with Him, when my mouth speaks His praises, and when healthy fear causes me to worship Him, He makes a note of it! I am suggesting that we can scrapbook with the Lord each day. We can make a memory with Him, for Him, about Him. We can determine in our hearts not to forget to set aside some time to store up memories with Him for the future. What will my scrapbook look like? When I lay my head on my pillow at the end of the day, will I have made sure that I took the time to extol, esteem, and honor my God? How thick will my scrapbook be? Won't it be fun to look back with the Lord and see how we looked when we first came to know Him as Savior? And what about the next decade after that all important choice of becoming accepted in the Beloved--what will those years look like? What about the breakthroughs, the lights coming on in our spirits during prayer, and the times we determined we were going to wait on Him instead of running ahead impulsively?

It's all for the taking. We can make a difference for all of eternity by what we choose to do today. Why wouldn't we want to remember the One who has the hairs of our heads numbered and who considers our tears valuable enough to bottle them up and put them in a book as well? Psalm 56:8 And, oh, such delight He takes in us. Look at verse 17 of chapter 3. They shall be Mine, says the Lord of hosts, in that day when I publicly recognize and openly declare them to be My jewels, My special possession, My peculiar treasure. . . ". Wow! He's going to put us on display!

"I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will show forth, recount and tell aloud all Your marvelous works and wonderful deeds. I will rejoice in You and be in high spirits; I will sing praise to Your Name, O Most High! Psalm 9:1,2

Happy scrap booking.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Number One Hero

Everyone has a hero, at least one. Through the years, I have admired many people in the ministry here in the States. Congo has its heroes too. These soldiers of the cross have impacted my life in a myriad of ways for the past 30 years. They have my greatest respect.

But the person who has influenced me most in my day-to-day living, my walk with Christ, my faith, my spiritual aspirations as far as goals and outreach, my attitude toward Scripture, and my making decisions now that will affect me for eternity, among other things, is my husband, Jim. He is my number one hero.

Here is a man whose greatest spiritual gift is faith. Here is a man with larger-than-life vision. Here is a man who has faced hardships and experiences we would call tragedies beginning with his childhood that would send most people to the funny farm.

So this blog is a tribute to my man, my best friend, my life partner, and my constant companion because we have been together 44 years together. Thirty-four of those years we have shared the same space because he did not have an office to go to in Congo where he stayed 8 hours a day, as he had at the local church we ministered in before Africa; nor does he have an office now. We both work out of our home. He is the person with whom I have had the most intimate relationship here on earth. What a blessing after all these years together not to have to resort to living separate lives under the same roof because we have become bored with one another. No one living with Jim could ever be bored, believe me!

He is the son of missionaries, Dr. Laban and Marcella Smith. I never met my father-in-law, but I know from what my eyes have seen and my ears have heard from not only my husband, but from our Congolese family, that they were valiant warriors. Their hand-dug trenches carved out a remarkable pioneer career, leaving a legacy which was totally embraced by their son. They did this by the sweat and toil of their hands, a mindset that was fixed like a flint, a prayer life like Daniel, and hearts of purity and purpose. They are a remarkable replica of Romans 12:1, totally offering up their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. They did it! Big time!

This man, Laban, whom my husband absolutely adored and imbibed growing up in Congo, "tragically" died from a fall when Jim was only 10 years old. Marcella was never the same again. How could she be? They were such a team. He was her heartbeat, and she was his soul. Together they opened 90 villages in the then Belgian Congo, and they personally saw 10,000 Bayanzis come to Christ and be baptized in the late forties and early fifties.

So when you grow up with that kind of heritage and that big a God, you are a blessed person. Jim was blessed to be an eye witness to remarkable and humanly speaking incomparable events that left indelible impressions on his young mind.

After his father died, he, his mom, and his older brother, Jack, came back to the States to try to take a breather after a 7-year term in Congo. I'm not sure how much they allowed themselves to really grieve. In those days, for the most part, the reaction to death was to push it under, stuff it behind. A wonderful lady invited them to share what she had, which wasn't much. They all three slept in the same bedroom for several weeks to begin with, and then Jim and Jack moved out onto the couch, which was their "bedroom" for the next two years. Marcella, so burdened for the work in Africa, left and, for the next 12 months, provided support and direction to the Congolese people. Jack and Jim went to live in a home for missionary children in Wheaton, IL. Life was hard. Funds were extremely limited, but everyone survived.

Jim's father's death was the second one suffered by his family. His little brother, Gareth, died at the age of 14 months from the inefficiency of vital organs that were dwarfed. They never grew to full capacity. He didn't speak or walk or sit up, ever. That occurred during the first and only furlough the Smiths took before their return to Congo and before the great Bayanzi awakening from 1947 to 1953, when Laban died.

Five years after Laban died at the height of their ministry, in 1958, Jim and Jack were camping out for the second night under a rock bluff in Bella Vista, Arkansas. Marcella was now dorm mother for the Baptist Institute of the Ozarks, the high school both boys attended. Jack had fallen asleep, and Jim was chopping wood right by him. The air was pierced with a loud cracking sensation. Jim shook Jack and yelled, "Jack, get up!" Jack responded with, "Huh?" Jim said, "Jack, get up! The roof of the cave is caving in!" Jim then grabbed Jack by the shoulder and tried to rouse him as he lay sleeping on his stomach. Jack could sleep through anything. Jim thought he was rising, when right before his eyes, ten ton of rock fell, splitting in midair. Five tons hit Jack from his waist up and five tons from his waist down. Every bone in his eighteen-year-old body was broken.

Jim and Marcella were left alone with their thoughts, their grief, and their life without Jack, Jim's best friend. They couldn't even pass in the hallway as brothers without slapping or making some kind of contact. They counseled each other. They hunted together. They grew up together. They experienced Congo together. They were inseparable until Jack left. He had prayed that very night as they sat around the campfire. "Lord, we pray for your safety tonight, but how wonderful it would be to see you and also to see Dad." The Lord granted his request.

Jim finished high school and at the age of 19, he was invited by Pastor Robert Armstrong to come to Warrendale Community Church in Dearborn to direct the music first of all and then the youth. That was in 1961. We met in 1963 at Detroit Bible College which became William Tyndale College, from which we both graduated in 1966 and 1967 respectively. The next 10 years were spent intensively, developing youth, music, teaching Sunday School, holding Evangelism Explosion sessions three times a week, and overseeing the bus ministry until Jim became Co-Pastor of Warrendale. We were blessed with 3 beautiful children, Shawn, Nicol, and Todd.

Jim became a private pilot which came in handy when we went into Music Evangelism in 1974, and we partnered with two other individuals to buy a plane. He never forgot how long it took to get his dad to the hospital in Kikwit. Nine hours. It was only 60 miles away from Nkara. Laban died one hour later. So in the back of his mind was this great desire to fly.

I shared with you that fire took our home in 1977, and then we stepped into the great adventure of returning to Africa as missionaries one year later. Our baby, Jack, was born in 1978, and I so loved taking care of him. It kept me from going insane. I felt like I was in another world. Jim was so patient and understanding. I cried for the first 2 years, and he kept telling me that I would someday make a great missionary, as he lingered many times in front of our bedroom window, asking the Lord what he had done to his family by bringing them all the way to Africa. I didn't want to necessarily be told that I would make a great missionary. Personally I would have preferred the rapture to have taken place. That would be an honorable way to get out of that wilderness I found myself in, which was supposed to be what God had prepared me for all of my life. However, God has a remarkable sense of humor, and He kept me alive.

We were met by tremendous opposition from a national "pastor" who turned out to be a reprobate in sheep's clothing. Talk about standing still and seeing the salvation of God. We were helpless. Prayer became our constant mainstay. Mapungu was finally ousted by the national church, and we saw God move in marvelous ways.

The work was going well. The big area of gray, however, during our second term there was sending our children away to school. We both languish over this, even today. Did we do the right thing? Did we have a choice? Our wonderful kids and we have had many discussions about this. I don't know how many times we have had to leave it at the foot of the cross. The remarkable thing is that Shawn, Nicol, and Todd have not run from God because of this. In fact, they and their awesome spouses follow close and seek hard after Him. Thank you so much Jesus for that!!! Jack and Molly are God chasers too. Jack was too young to go away to school in case you are wondering why I did not include him.

In 1989, after escorting his cousins to the checkpoint just outside of Kinshasa, Jim said good bye to them. The cousins would drive all night into the bush until they arrived at Nkara. Jim planned to fly the little Texas tail dragger we had been given on furlough up to the mission station the next day. Details are unknown to this day, but it is thought that the flatbed of a hauler, a huge truck with a flatbed attached, pulled out in front of Jim and another missionary by the name of Tim Downs, who was driving the Isuzu Trooper that was transporting them back to where Jim was to stay that night.

Without warning at a speed of 60 miles an hour, they hit that flatbed and slid under it, which should have caused decapitation. Remarkably, Tim suffered only a concussion. Jim suffered a closed head injury. Three weeks in a makeshift "hospital" in Kinshasa with urine saturated privacy curtains, unkempt surroundings, contracting hepatitis B from contaminated needles, spending 5 days in a coma, experiencing a totally disoriented and alarmed state of mind, being medivaced on Swiss Air, 3 weeks in Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, and another 6 weeks of rehab brought about adjustments we had to make to survive. Jim was another person.

It took four hours for the only crane in the city, which happened to be working at the time, to remove his body from the crushed trooper, the top of which was peeled back like a banana. While Jim lay on the pavement unconscious before being rushed to the hospital, he was stripped of everything but his underwear and his glasses. His watch, money, wallet, camera and all personal belongings were stolen. Everyone thought he was dead.

During this horrible aftermath of the accident that almost claimed his life, I saw in Jim a determination not to let this bludgeoning trauma break his spirit and ruin his life. He fought depression every single day, but decided he would not turn into a bitter old man. We had always prayed since we were first married that we would not become bitter old people. At 47, that was a ways off. Nonetheless, it could have been the beginning of the end. The grace of God is ALWAYS SUFFICIENT. He would not forget that. Ever.

Emotionally, closed head injured victims go through the scary experience of growing up all over again. Jim can remember when he felt as if he were Jack's age, then a teenager, and then coming back into adulthood. It was a nightmare. Our sacred marriage vows were put to the test. The neurologist gave him 5 years to return to his baseline but could not guarantee anything. Jim was flying again in less than 2 years. He was remarkably healed but not without a few scars. His left leg constantly tingles as if it is asleep as a result of nerve damage. Thus, it is difficult for him to get up quickly from a sitting position. But I will take that any day as opposed to the fallout I saw in other patients suffering from an injury to the head. They were no longer able to walk, or talk, or even think.

We have had a glorious life together, enriched by pain and spiritual gain. They have been so interwoven in all of our years together. I love you, Jim. I thank God for you all of the time. I honestly don't know what my life would have been like had the Lord not brought you to me. I don't even want to think about it. Thank you for your undying devotion to me, for your eternal optimism, for your fresh approach to life each day as we begin it together, for your profound love of the Lord and driven desire to see as many souls come to Christ as possible in your lifetime, for the exemplary, devoted father you have been to our children, for the countless prayers for all of us and now for our sweet grand babies as well, for helping me walk this road of sorrow over the loss of Audrey and Lukey, of staying true to me all of these years. I love you with all of my heart. You are my heart, dear Jim.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Be on the lookout for wells

The Lord reminded me today of Hagar and Ishmael. I asked him to help me see the wells around me.

Remember Hagar, Abraham's Egyptian concubine? After spending most of their lives childless, Sarah was fed up with the promises of God to make their descendants more numerous than the stars. She decided to take things into her own hands (ever done that?), and gave her hand maiden over to Abraham to help speed the process along after decades and decades of waiting to become a mom. As you recall in Genesis 21, she and Abraham celebrated Isaac's 3 years of life. Ishmael put a real damper on the festivities. Sarah became very upset and told Abraham to tell Hagar and Ishmael to hit the road, literally. By now, Ishmael was about 17. Of course, Abraham loved this son very much. He was distraught and told the Lord about his messy dilemma. However, the Lord told Abraham to let them go, to allow Sara's desires to be fulfilled. So Hagar and Ishmael departed on foot with little provision.

Think of it, a single mom with her teenage son trudging off to who knows where with a jug of water and a loaf of bread! Well, all too soon, the enormity of their wilderness surroundings encompassed them and most likely sent them into paralyzing fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the blazing sun that would literally dry them out. Fear of starvation. Fear of the new "life" or death awaiting them. Perhaps they were in shock, never thinking the consequences of Ishmael's ill behavior toward Isaac at his celebration would amount to such tantamount proportions. But much more was involved. In reality, it was the consistent, taunting, upper-handed, negative influence Ishmael was exerting over Isaac that bothered Sarah so much that she told Abraham to get rid of them. Ishmael was introducing behavior into Isaac's young life that would eventually lead him astray in the area of his moral purity, his pursuit of faith, and his concept of killing and death. Potentially, he could have been robbed of his innocence and any future holiness (Rabbi Daniel Lapin). Sarah could tolerate it no longer. The rotten apple had to go.

So here they were wandering in the wilderness. The water and bread were gone. They were feeling the heat. Hagar, thinking that the only recourse was to wait for the end to come, settled Ishmael down under a shade tree while she went off a bow shot away (approximately 1500 feet), not only to leave him to die, but to face her own death. Why in the world did she do this? How could she walk away from her teenage boy and let him die alone? Where was her nurturing motherhood side that would never abandon her son in his and her worst hour?

Nevertheless, she did abandon him. Interestingly enough, it is not the cries of Hagar the Lord acknowledges, but those of Ishmael. Are you impressed with that? I am. The young man's cries went right into God's ears. After all, his name actually given by God Himself, means heard quickly by God, and the Lord responded. I am impressed with God's faithfulness to fulfilling the meaning of Ishmael's name. However, he did not show Ishmael where to go for water. He showed Hagar.

Hagar chose to be swallowed up in the circumstances around her rather than lift her heart to the one who gave her Ishmael in the first place. It appears that Hagar was so upset and blinded by her tears that she never saw the well and probably walked right by it. I am putting myself in her shoes now and seeing that her attitude was undoubtedly one of doom and gloom. She panicked and freaked out. She allowed fear to overwhelm her. Where was her God? Where was the God she had watched Abraham bow the knee to? Did she even know God? Well, if not, now is a good time to get acquainted! So in her state of understandable hysteria or total exhaustion, and/or lack of faith, the well goes unnoticed.

Why didn't the horror of a parched throat and aching stomach drive her to search for the Lord's Hand like one searches for the treasures of darkness in hidden places, which are only discovered when our eyes are trying to find Him? When we seek His face with all of our hearts? When He is acknowledged as our vital necessity as the Amplified calls it. When we admit our brokenness and come-lately dawning of our need for Him. When we come to the end of ourselves, knowing that He is our only hope. When we so long to be highly esteemed by God as Daniel was that we swallow our pride and admit that we are like a wild beast as far as our tainted, limited understanding is, Psalm 73:22. It was after she cried, and after the Lord acknowledged Ishmael's cries, that her eyes were opened to the well that was there all the time.

Then the mercies of God stare her in the face. What a defining moment that must have been when she discovers the life-giving water. With your mind's eye, watch her excitedly fill the skin with the now abundant resource of water. Her hands shake with the realization that there is plenty more where that came from. Water spills all over that skin. She runs to Ishmael. They are not going to die! Their dehydrated bodies are restored to life by the water from the well that was there all the time.

I truly believe there are wells all around us. They spring with eternal hope, signs from the Lord that He is crazy about us. That He is a God of detail and constancy. That He is the resource we need for that particular moment of drought, disbelief, discontent, sin, depression, doom and gloom mentality, negativity, a complaining spirit, brokenness, and the ailment of being human (we're only dust) which quenches our faith, of seeing things only through our eyes, of putting God in a box and believing that 2 and 2 make 4, of looking at the logical outcome, of failing to realize our desperate need of a renewed mind.

Looking for wells requires that we unwire our natural tendencies. Praying that He will help us remember where His blessings have fallen around us. Remembering to recognize those blessings we so easily take for granted. Asking for strength to lift our hearts to the Giver instead of being so caught up with the gift. Opting to WORSHIP Him instead of concentrating on serving Him. Recognizing the barrenness of a busy life. Remembering who God is--He's Majesty, He's royalty--and healthy lifestyle is one of fearing Him. Being open to the fact that He is more interested in what He is doing TO me and IN me rather than through me. Esteeming His opinion of me more than other people's opinion of me or my opinion of myself. Believing what His Word says about how He feels about me. Realizing in Jesus' Name I can renounce and walk away from fear and dread. Deciding to wait on Him instead of manipulating, and trying to fix, and masterplan, and even micromanage my life. Determining not to move before I hear His voice, even at the risk of looking lazy or sluggish or unambitious in the eyes of those around me. Waiting on the Lord is an active state; it is not slackness or laxity. It is a state of expectancy; it takes work to determine to remain in that state or to get back in that state. It is proclaiming my oh so little faith and jumping on in after He has given direction, instead of worrying about looking like a fool and relinquishing the safe route.

I promise you there is not just one well of life-giving water around us that will more than slake our parched souls and cottony-dry throats, resulting from trudging through the desert of stress and toil of life in which we find ourselves. The wells are everywhere. We just need to ask the Lord where they are and be on the lookout for them. I love Psalm 27:14. "Wait and hope for and expect the Lord; be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout (have a heart as big and strong as a tub). Yes, wait for and hope for and EXPECT the Lord." God bless us all as we look ambitiously and expectantly for the wells, drink the life-restoring water they contain, and remember Who they come from.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Off to Congo

In another post, I spoke of God's calling on our lives to pick up and move to Africa. Fire was the catalyst. So today I would like to take you back to that post fire year of 1978 as we made preparations to go.

Our children at the time were 10, 8, and 5. We loved to sing and dove into many of the newly composed Gaither hits for kids. Shawn chose It's a Miracle; Nicol, I Am A Promise, and Todd, Jesus I Heard You Had a Big House. In July of that same year, we made our way to the Gaither studios in Indiana and recorded these heartfelt tunes for posterity and as a thank you to our supporters who were coming on board one by one. Jim's rich, velvety voice rendered powerful expressions of What Grace is This, Saved by Grace, and Precious Lord. He and I sang a duet, and I played the piano version of How Rich I Am.

All of our children began singing at age 2 and performed publicly from then on. Todd's fee was gum or a quarter by the time he was three. He moved more than one audience with his rendition of The Blood. Casual suits were in, and he wore one the same color as his dad. One day as we were preparing to participate in the missions conference at Calvary Baptist Church of Hazel Park, our home church, he looked at us and said, "I sure hope they don't ask me to preach today." He was four years old.

Jim and I had been in ministry all of our married life, first at a local church in Dearborn and then in music evangelism. From November of 1977, when the fire took place, to December of 1978, I spent most of my time in contemplation, accompanying my husband to various churches, letting them know of our new direction, inviting them to partner with us in winning souls in Africa, and pleading for their prayers.

Going to the mission field for me was like going to Mars. It was something I had always avoided, run from, and prayed would never happen. But the fire was a turning point, and the Lord made it very clear that Africa was where he wanted our family. I knew we would be safer there than anywhere else, despite the isolation we would experience living in the Interior. With a combination of great resignation, a lot of pondering and praying countered with kicking and screaming inside, I submitted to this strange, new venture.

On December 4, 1978, one year after we began deputation (raising support), which included over 50,000 miles of travel, we boarded Al Italia and made our way to Rome for an overnight. We were en route to Africa! Everyone was excited about staying in Italy and eating at the hotel restaurant. Our anticipation soon turned to half nausea when they brought fish with the head still on and other scrumptious delectables (not!) to our table. The next day we landed in Kinshasa, the capital of the country which was then known as Zaire, formerly Belgian Congo. As we stepped on to African soil, "the mission field," the ultimate God was leading us to, I said "Ugh"! Less than a month before, we found out another baby was coming. As we deplaned, the heat, humidity and body odors, latrine, and stench of garbage piled high wherever sent my head reeling.

I had always believed that the will of God fit like a leather glove. What I didn't know was that it sometimes takes years before the leather actually conforms to the hand. With more use comes more conformity, a relaxed fit that allows the hand free movement. I was expecting an immediate sleek, smooth fit.

I also had a deception about foreign service. I believed it was always for other more dedicated and more qualified. You know, those who were called as a teenager to serve Christ on foreign soil. Those who set their face like a flint to experience that goal. Those who took courses in college geared toward being a missionary. Those who contemplated serving the Lord in this capacity from an early age on. I was none of the above. I felt totally unworthy and inept. And you know what? I was. God doesn't ask us to follow Him because we are worthy and capable. His eyes scan the earth, running to and fro, looking for the ones who love Him. I did love Him, and that was my driving force.

With no one to meet us at the airport, we hired taxis to transport us and our baggage to the only hotel we were familiar with--the one we had stayed in when visiting Congo in 1969--which was run by Jim's Uncle Howard. We were totally unprepared for what we found: One gray towel for all 5 of us. Walls which hadn't seen paint in years. Sheets that hadn't been bleached in forever. Cockroaches and lizards everywhere. Unfiltered, unboiled water. Diarrhea soon followed.

The next morning we walked over to the International Church and introduced ourselves by invitation during the morning service, as was the custom for all newcomers to Kinshasa. Jim explained how his mother was waiting for us in the bush (450 miles due east of the capital) and shared our ministry goals at Nkara, our mission station. The next morning a missionary doctor by the name of Dan Fountain took Jim aside and told him that just that morning he had confirmed the fact that Jim's mom had died 3 weeks before our arrival and was buried in the city of Kikwit, 60 miles from where we would be living. I remember Jim almost collapsing on the short brick wall that made for a makeshift porch just outside our room. Marcella Smith had gone ahead to prepare the way for us. Our letter notifying the African church that we were coming, and their letter notifying us of Marcella's death crossed in the mail.

A couple of hours later the same day, the Lord sent an angel of mercy. Mrs. Jody Voth, whose husband was employed by the American Government in the division of US Aid, came to our rescue. She said she heard our testimony in the morning service, and as Jim was speaking, the Lord told her to come and get us. We were to stay at their home until things were in order for us to go on into the bush. Though I had never laid eyes on the woman, (I am shy by nature) I ran to pack the few belongings we had taken out of our suitcases. I couldn't wait to get out of that flea-ridden pit. For the next 7, yes I said 7! weeks we lived with the Voths, who provided a haven until we could finish the legal requirements for entering the country and await word of arrival of our 7 crates, 30 barrels and Suburban that had been shipped from America the previous October.

The Voths' home had all the amenities we so enjoyed--air conditioning, carpeted floors, and electricity 24 hours a day. Living in the bush would be a far different story. I want to say something here about Jody and Lee Voth. Had they not taken us in the way they did with open arms, I honestly don't know where we would be today. Jody obeyed the bidding of God. She not only listened to His voice, she acted on His direction. What a great risk she took, not knowing us, inviting 5 more people to occupy their home. Her obedience amazes me even today; it amazes our whole family. Going back to the Congo Jim left in the fifties was such a shocker; that Congo no longer existed. The Voths provided stability and refuge to us. They introduced us to the missionary community. They prayed for us. They loved us. They accepted us. They encouraged us. For the next two years whenever we traveled to Kinshasa to pick up our food shipment (450 miles to go to order our food, which had to be flown in over a thousand miles away from South AFrica), we always stayed with the Voths, who had made another move by now to a home with all the amenities we enjoyed after our arrival, plus an added swimming pool. It was heaven on earth. When their tour was up, we were heartbroken. We had become family.

No wonder the Lord tells us to be hospitable. So many times I have thought of time after time when they calmed our hearts through prayer meetings, when they allowed Jim to hold a Bible study in their living room, when they laughed at a new challenge we were facing instead of treating it like it was the end of the earth. When they assured us God's Hand was on our lives and that we could do it in His strength. Thank you Jody and Lee for the many mercies and grace you extended to this scarred, pregnant, city girl who so needed everything you offered us. You are so loved and appreciated. Someday we will stand around the throne and share the profits of serving the Lord together. Without you, it could have been a very different story. Thank you for rescuing us, total strangers. We came with no references! You gave cup after cup of water to us in Jesus' Name. You shared your food with us. You shared your hearts with us. You are so dear to our hearts. We thank my God upon our every remembrance of you, blessed ones.