Monday, December 7, 2009

Dream Package

Are you having fun yet? The joys of Christmas include a lot of hustle and bustle as we search for just the right gift for our families and friends. We anticipate the look on their faces as they open each treasure under the tree prepared and packaged especially for them. Far greater than any earthly treasure we could ever buy for the special people in our lives is THE GIFT of God's Son, Jesus Christ.

What an unfathomable act of humility it was for Christ to become an embryo and nestle in the womb of Mary, a woman He Himself created. What must it have been like for Jesus to limit Himself to that seclusion for nine months? "Who being in very nature God did not consider his equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Himself the form of a servant." The Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah "had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people." To you, Lord, Who earnestly remembered us in our low estate and imprinted us on your heart, (and both of your palms) for your mercy and loving kindness which endures forever, we give you praise.

In Congo this day are 83 staff members maintaining Laban Ministries abroad. We love these people, from the leadership of Gary Kapinga, our National Director, Kapem, Vice National Director and Dean of Academics at Laban Bible Institute, Iwungu, Mboma Director of Radio Glory and Assistant National Director to our masons, carpenters, mechanics, women professors, male professors, Mama Marie, Director of the Women's Literacy Center, nurses, radio announcers or journalists, evangelists, to our general foremen and general work staff. They love to laugh. They love their wives, husbands, and children. THEY LOVE GOD. From time to time they pray all night for you and us. They are rich in faith, moving mountains in their prayers. Many live the fruit of the Spirit. They have nothing yet they possess everything. They are real people! They feel deeply. They are emotionally rich, intelligent, brilliant men and women who you help through your gifts each month.

Every Christmas we invite you to provide a Dream Package for one of these precious families. This enables them to buy cloth for their wives, shoes for their husbands, a little dress or shirt and pants for their girls or boys, a Christmas dinner consisting of dried fish, rice, bread, a coke for each faily member, silk worms, fresh beef, and a special toy or gift for each child.

For $300 you can furnish one of our overseas families with a feast and wonderful gift day. Your Dream Package will go a long way to lift the hearts of wonderful staff members who serve the Lord in Laban. The Lord bless you as you contemplate making a huge difference in the life of a servant of Christ in Congo, Africa.

Merry Christmas to you all!


The radio is having such an impact on thousands of people, truly millions in Congo. Our evangelism team went to Yasa, a village of 5,000 + people. They welcomed us for two reasons: 1. The pastor of the village was a graduate of Laban and 2. Because they most certainly hear Radio Glory or Radio Nkembo everyday.

The first choir met us 1/4 of a mile from the village. As we grew nearer, even more choirs (at least 8) met us. We were thronged by crowds. The Land Cruiser couldn't get through, so I got out of the car and walked. The Presence of the Holy Spirit made the 1/4 mile walk to the church grounds a celebration of joy and no fear. I honestly had a sensing of Jesus riding on the donkey at the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

One hundred and forty souls accepted Jesus that night. More could have, but that wonderful graduate of LBI, Pastor Aio, and his staff had already led many to Christ and so did the Holy Spirit use Radio Glory. He has been ministering in Yasa for 13 years.

The radio is so important for follow up and the growing of Christians to be like Jesus. It is the most cost effective arm of evangelism we have in the bush. Praise God for His mighty power in raising up this incredible tool of outreach!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

High Prices to Pay

Today in Congo the temperatures will rise to about 90 or so degrees. Our winter is their summer. Women will leave the "norm" of their villages to attend the literacy center at Nkara mission campus. Nkara is located 450 miles due east of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is neither democratic nor republic. Nevertheless, they will courageously leave the daily routine of going to the gardens at 3 or 4 a.m. where they plant or harvest crops of the cassava root, its spinach-like leaf, corn which is now in season, peanuts, squash, and other greens, some of which are more palatable than others, but eaten by all nationals in Congo. After all they are hungry people.

The cassava root, which is similar to wallpaper paste in texture, contains only one percent protein, but it swells the stomach, and sensing a full feeling is essential to people who have so little to consume before they go to bed. Its odor is similar to sweaty armpits, and for so little return a lot of work goes into serving "manioc" as it is called or luku each night to the family. My husband loves luku. He grew up with it and the smell doesn't phase him. Filling the kids' and husband's plates with this stuff is no easy task. First the root is planted. Harvesting takes 3 years, but then it is basically low maintenance for the next 5 years of reaping. The bark-covered starchy vegetable is dug up with a small hoe from the ground. The covering is peeled, revealing a white, turnip-shaped plant which contains arsenic. So. . . this means that it must be soaked in a local stream for 3 days for purification, after which it is dried on the roof of a lean-to, and then pounded into a floury powder. It is then stirred into a large black pot of boiling water and when enough has been added, the thick, gooey substance is rolled into a big ball and served to the kids and the man of the house. One phase or another is going on everyday in the average home of the Congolese woman. You can imagine the uproar if this process gets out of sync.

The women also leave the water getting to someone else as well as the care of their children, getting home in time to cook supper, and the drag of status quo villagers whose aspirations have many times long been abandoned by death, disease, or lack of opportunity. To break away from this rut is costly. No one likes public ridicule.

The ladies arrive on campus at 8 a.m. each morning Monday through Friday. If she is a second year student, she will begin her day discoving the alphabet so she can learn to read and write, and then take the following courses: Domestic Economy, Women of the Bible, Etiquette, Christian Family Living, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, I & II Timothy, and African Culture. On Fridays she will pursue knitting and crocheting, and sewing with a hand-operated Singer sewing machine from the early 20th century, which by the way is great for Congo because there is no electricity in the school or in the villages. First-year students basically have less of the same instruction so as not to overwhelm them. Many are not able to read or write their anything.

Third-year students vary in their subjects, adding The History of Congo, Hebrews, Health and Hygiene, Philemon, Romans, and French. Everyone once again gathers on Fridays to learn skills that will give them an opportunity in the future to sell their handmade goods. In the spring the "mikati" course is added. (mee . cot . ee) Remember the luku? Instead of rolling the luku into a big ball, the sticky paste is divided into smaller sections and rolled into little donut holes, dropped into hot palm fat, and sometimes rolled onto unrefinied sugar, making a delightful snack for any time of the day. It might seem a small accomplishment to some, but these donut holes are loved as much as ours, and remember there is no Dunkin Donuts in all of Congo! So any "shoppers" can purchase these tasty treats as they cruise on by. Mama's kitchen has become a little business center, and she can help support her family in a creative way.

Our Women's Literay Center opened in 2004, and until recently women had to fight the taunts and jeers of fellow villagers whose value of education was measured by their lack thereof. They bravely set aside the traditions of their culture to move up to a better place in life, though it was a costly move. They worked through the challenges of walking long distances daily, coming home to perhaps a family who did not appreciate having to wait and wait for supper unless she had older children who could go to her gardens and get water for her. She had to wrestle with the reality that attending school may not equate to having a job when she finished which would guarantee a better life style for her family. Was having the skills of reading and writing really worth it all?

These first 3 graduating classes were the pioneers in adventuring out of the mold of rut living, of breaking through the chains of darkness produced by ignorance, of the embarrassment of not being able to read notes sent home from school with their children and of having to rely on them to inform them of the contents of the note, of enduring the stabbing pain of ridicule and being called "stupid" for not being able to read or write, the shame of even being treated as a slave by their husbands and other men in the village, the immeasurable sadness of not being able to read the blessed Word of God to their children, and the despair that that hopelessness renders.

But God. . . God makes all things new. He is always doing a new thing. He not only redeems our souls but our situations, our spirits, our circumstances, no matter how downtrodden we and they may be.

Today, these women are respected and admired in their villages. They carry themselves with dignity because of the reassurance that God loves them. For the first time in their lives, the living, breathing Word of God can minister to them at their will, just by picking up the Book and reading it. The deep-seated peace that encapsulates their being is a treasure long sought after, and it comes across in their daily living. You can imagine the thrill our women profs have of leading many of them to the saving knowledge of Christ. We were all moved to tears recently at one such testimony.

So now, we are faced with an incredibly wonderful, delicious problem: Every village nearby wants its own literacy center!!! I don't know what that means. I don't know if that's God's plan. I am just relishing in the way God has lavished His love on these beautiful people who are born and die in obscurity from the world, but who are so near and dear to the heart of God. I love it when something works and it works well. We have a gold mine, and praise God, its true worth is being embraced by more and more lovely women of Congo. Thank you Jesus. You are so amazing, you take my breath away with your Greatness!

We would love to introduce some of these incredible heroines to you at the tea we are hosting on January 30 in Trenton, Michigan at the First Presbyterian Church, 2799 West Road at 1:30 p.m. Shawn Lantz is our featured speaker. She is the author of Congo Vignettes and Living with Unmet Desires - Exposing the Many Faces of Jealousy. Tickets are $10. Come celebrate their transformations with us. To make your reservations call 313 292 5445. Looking forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What I'm Thankful For - this did not get posted in time

Two days before Thanksgiving. My head is still reeling from events and life as it took place in Congo this past September and October. The word disparity comes to mind. How so? There is an incredible gap between the way we live life in the States, and how life is lived out in Congo. How is it that men and women who actually live by prayer with no medical help within a 2 1/2 day walk, who make an average of $110 a year, who lose their children to a disease called malaria that could perhaps be cleared up by DDT treatments as it was how many years ago in this country?, who probably will never own a bicycle let alone a car, who beg us to stay longer and come frequently to teach them the Word of God, who have a grasp on what it is to pray and to pray fervently--not just give God a wish list, treating Him like a genie who is supposed to fill all their desires, who deal with death and unmet expectations everyday of their lives, who openly praise God quickly without being solicited to praise Him, why is there such a gap between their high level of thanksgiving and ours?

I don't know all the answers. But I do know that wealth does not necessarily result in an increased level of wonder and awe for the Hand who gave it.

That life does not consist in the abundance of things we possess.

That an abundance of things does not necessarily result in an attitude of thanksgiving.

That life is not viewed by God at all as we view it.

That the Lord maintains their lot in their lack just as He maintains my lot in our abundance.

That I am able to lavish myself on His grace and mercy. I do not want His justice when it comes to my sins, but His mercy, and His mercies are new every single morning!

That I must remind myself we are only a little while on earth. We are eternal, all of us and will either live out eternity in hell or in heaven. Either way, our lives will never end. This reality propels us to be ever fervent in getting the Gospel out so that we can literally snatch them from the burning embers of hell.

That the truth of the matter is there is so much more unseen than seen. Someday we will behold and understand the hidden because the unseen will be unveiled. Till then we continue to trust God for all the unknowns.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Upcoming Benefit for Laban Ministries

We ask your prayers for a benefit concert to be held this Thursday, November 5, at 7 p.m.

Jack Smith, our youngest son, will be the featured artist. His wife, Molly, will also join him on a number or two.

The concert is free. The public is invited. Bring your friends.

The 300 foot tower in the heart of Africa broadcasts 7 days a week the great news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The radio studio is powered by an 18,000 watt diesel generator. Diesel fuel is purchased 60 miles from the mission campus.

Radio Glory is manned by a national staff of 8 men and women, all graduates of Laban Bible Institute. One amazing phenomenon is that the tower and studio are located in the bush of Africa, 450 miles due east of the country's capital city, Kinshasa. Only the Lord knows how many thousands of souls have been saved through the ministry of Radio Glory or Radio Nkembo as it is known in Congo.

A love offering will be taken to help maintain Laban Ministries and this evangelistic arm of the work there. Come and be a part of this outreach.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ecole de Femmes

On Wednesday we took videos and snapshots of the women in our literacy school. I wish you could have seen them singing, sewing, knitting, and reading Scripture for themselves. One of the tough decisions we had to make this month was to hold off taking any more new students because the school does not receive enough outside financial suppo9rt. It breaks my heart to turn the women away. We met with 2nd and
3rd year studnet, but there are no first year students this trimester.

We asked 3 of them to give their testimonies. One young woman said she was in such chains of darkness before coming to school that she felt imprisoned in ignorance. She knew none of the alphabet. She could not write her name nor could she read anything. There was such joy on her face as she spoke of not only her deliverance from pure drudgery and ekking out a physical existence, but also of her new transformation spiritually. She was lost, but now she is found. We stood there in awe of the reality of the Holy Spirit in her life with tear-filled eyes.

Oh Lord, my heart is full of praise for your unfathomable love, for godly professors who literally become mamas to the younger women and loving sisters to the older ones, and for empowering souls to live above the despair of self-abasement and the shroud of hopelessness their circumstances often dictate. Truly, the same dynamos that raised Jesus from the dead has also resurrected them from the bondage of sin and death. II Corinthians 5:17

Friday, October 23, 2009

Out of the darkness into His light

Some of the evils people in Congo have been delivered from:

the darkness of cannibalism

the darkness of various forms of witchcraft

the darkness of murdering through food poisoning

the darkness of child sacrifice

the darkness of worhiping manure

the darkness of visiting cemeteries to call evil spirits out of dead bodies for protection

the darkness of the myriad faces of idolatry

the darkness of ignorance that paralyzes

the darkness of trying to please the spirits of their ancestors by dancing 3 days straight

the darkness of offering the poison cup to determine guilt or innocence in that person's life

the darkness of believing that sickness and death stem only from the power of evil spirits

Now the mind of the flesh which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit is death--death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter. But the mind of the Holy Spirit is life and soul, peace both now and forevermore. Romans 8:6 amp

Out of the darkness into His light

Some of the evils people in Congo have been delivered from:

the darkness of cannibalism

the darkness of various forms of witchcraft

the darkness of murdering through food poisoning

the darkness of child sacrifice

the darkness of worhiping manure

the darkness of visiting cemeteries to call evil spirits out of dead bodies for protection

the darkness of the myriad faces of idolatry

the darkness of ignorance that paralyzes

the darkness of trying to please the spirits of their ancestors by dancing 3 days straight

the darkness of offering the poison cup to determine guilt or innocence in that person's life

the darkness of believing that sickness and death stem only from the power of evil spirits

Now the mind of the flesh which is sense and reason without the Holy Spirit is death--death that comprises all the miseries arising from sin, both here and hereafter. But the mind of the Holy Spirit is life and soul, peace both now and forevermore. Romans 8:6 amp

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Called to Memory

The rainy season is officially underway in Congo. This means there is little cloud cover and the air can be stagnant with heat from the tropical sun. Since the mission campus is in a valley, it makes it even hotter. With no air conditioning, we can become drenching wet with perspiration in no time. Our elevation is only 1600 feet above sea level.

However, about 4 p.m., a breeze begins to stir at the site of our airstrip. From our house, it takes about 25 minutes to climb what we call Aerobic hill and make our way to the hanger. During our second term here, I often found great solace walking the 3400 foot long strip each afternoon to pray. It is sacred ground to me, as I remember pouring my heart out to God when I missed our children terribly while they were in boarding school 450 miles away. When an evil national pastor tried to have us deported from Congo, when spiritual wars were raging around us.

Over the years while here, I have made it a delightful practice to continue those prayer walks. Recently, as I was praying there, I remembered some incredible events that took place in the '90s. 1993 was the year of great pillaging in Congo. Many missions were ransacked. Their equipment was devoured by rebels. Twenty years worth of our tools were taken, all of Jim's beloved hunting guns were stolen, and basically, anything that could be carried away, was plundered.

1997 was another year to remember. Sitting under the hanger was our little Texas taildragger, an aerobatic 150 that our former mission board procured for us through an insurance agency. That plane has been used to save lives, hold evangelism, drop notes in villages to give them a heads-up of our team coming to preach the Word of God, open the airstrip at Iwungu, and start our second Bible Institute. It is highly treasured by the local population. For miles around, there are no other planes at mission campuses.

One day, a group of pilots flew in from Kinshasa to steal our little yellow "bird." Our plane was in good shape, but not one of those experienced national pilots could get it started. So they decided to burn it. News of their plans spread rapidly. Soon a crowd gathered at the hanger, fell on their knees, and begged the men not to burn that plane. Remarkably, the pilots listened, got back into their own planes, and flew away. When Jim, Todd, and Jack returned to war-torn Congo later on that year, Jim got into the plane and started it up with absolutely no difficulty.

The Lord recapped Israel's downfall in Psalm 78. He gives a running account of His mighty works performed in Egypt, as well as their deliverance from Egypt, and the miracles He performed in the desert. Until He actually slew some of them, they chose not to remember His great acts and continued to show disbelief and rebellion.

When we remember His glorious undertakings, with which He has chosen to pave our paths, we cannot help but be encouraged that He will show the same faithfulness in the future. So I, too..."will tell the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord and His might and the wonderful works that He has performed." Psalm 78:4

Monday, October 19, 2009

Righteous Indignation

Tonight, after a full day's work, we made the 30 minute drive to Mpene--the village that aggressively resisted Dr. Smith's coming here in 1947 and has strongly fought us since 1979. Three thousand people gathered around two dozen chairs that were set up for us and some of our pastors. The first meeting was supposed to include only the village chiefs of Mpene, the pastors there, and our pastors. Our national director, Gary Kapinga, made introductory remarks. Then I spoke a few words, and Jim stood and reminded them of the seriousness of their offenses two years ago. He was very animated and told them they had better seek Jesus. He asked them why they had sought his blood, and did they not understand that when they attacked the mission campus, people could have been killed? He thanked them for inviting us, but told them that they needed to remember the brevity of their actions. The Congolese tend to just want things to be right and forget their wrongs. They don't really want to acknowledge the damage and consequences of their actions.

Tonight was a night toward reconciliation. We must proceed with caution and give them time to further consider the seriousness of their behavior. Thank you for your prayers. Jesus is the Victor and He will show us how to respond. We were happy to go and return in His name. Please continue to pray because you never know, but God does.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

An Historical Day

Monday, October 19, 2009, will be a first for Laban Ministries, Congo. In 1938, when Dr. and Mrs. Smith arrived here, they were well received at Kajiji, then Iwungu, and finally at Nkara, except for one village. The name of that village is Mpene, and they refused to welcome and embrace the Smiths. So was the case when we came here in 1978. One man, in particular, from that village, has fought our presence here in Congo and has exerted his evil influence on the ministry and his own village of Mpene. We have rocks thrown at us and our evangelism team has been refused admittance in the past.

An uncooperative spirit has prevailed to the point of refusing Campus Crusade--whose policy is not to go anywhere unless the local pastors unanimously invite them to come in--in the '80s. This reprobate "pastor" was in charge of the state-operated high school here on campus. His requirement for the young women to pass their exams was demanding sexual favors from them. He pocketed tuition funds and teachers' salaries and required the students who paid dorm fees, which included a feeding program, to go scrounge for food in the forest. He threatened to cut the heads off of some of our pastors and threatened to poison others with his witchcraft brews. He has ravaged women, cheated the local church, and infiltrated his hatred for us, Laban, and the gospel for decades.

His village has sent five to our Bible Institute, five to our work staff, and has been a menace to the work here at Nkara, and, in general, to this region of Congo. He was defrocked as a pastor by the national Congolese church, but still held tremendous sway through his tribe and the schools in which he continued to be involved.

He was Satan with skin on and he wreaked havoc until this year when he died. To put it in the words of the chief of Mpene, "Satan claimed his worker and now they are together."

Jean Kapinga, wife of our national director Gary Kapinga, is now president of the local women's federation. She was invited to speak to the mamas at Mpene just before we returned to Congo this time. The chief openly apologized with a contrite heart and asked for forgiveness for all the horror that this man had caused us all these years. He then invited our leaders, our evangelism team, and Jim and I to come preach in the village where they want to publicly make their regrets known and ask for forgiveness.

THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE. Since 1947, this village has stood out as an enemy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, in 2007, they sent a mob here to attack Jim, destroyed much of our Bible school roof, put holes in the church roof, and claimed this must have "a little of Jim's blood." Local soldiers and police from Bulungu were driven in to protect him. He was a prisoner here in his own home for days until the village of Mpene and its sister village, Mibere, were dealt with by the local authorities. They were told that if they ever again posed a threat to Nkara or Jim, their villages would be burned to the ground. The real truth is, the troops wanted to burn the villages of Mpene and Mibere right then, but Jim said no. He remembered how devastating our home fire was to our family. If God opens the door, no man can shut it.

Please pray as we go in Jesus' victorious name. Amen.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New Lab Tech at Nkara

I just met with our new lab tech and was so excited I had to share the good news with you. In all our history here at Nkara, never have we had a more capable lab technician because they are hard to come by, and we would prefer that they know the Word of God. Kilasi, a graduate of Laban, has just finished specialty school in Kikwit. He managed to pay for his three years of training on his own. Now that is an accomplishment in Congo.

Kilasi has always been a bright spot. Remembered by professors as an energetic go-getter, he is of inestimable value at our dispensary. In the bush, or the nseki where we live, he will be one of a kind for miles around. Three years ago, during one of our pastoral reunions, I ran into Kilasi in the valley and asked him what he was doing. My heart beat rapidly when he told me he was in training to be a lab tech. It will take about $1500 to equip him to run a good lab. He gave me a long list of needed items, including a microscope, a diabetes tester, and an expensive machine that performs various blood tests. When he is set up, we will be able to give pregnancy tests, tests for malaria, AIDS, diabetes, Tb, and typhoid, to name a few. The long-awaited day has come, though we can't afford to pay him eveb the small salary he will earn to begin with, the truth of the matter is, we cannot afford not to.

Join in praying for the funds to buy all the equipment in Kinshasa week after next, which will revolutionize our ability to care for the local population.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Friday morning after chapel, Marie Aza (director of our Women's Literacy Center), Jean Kapinga (wife of the national director of Laban Congo), and I went to the village of Mbila. Last Sunday morning as Jim and I started up Aerobic Hill, we were met by seven women carrying a stalk of bananas. A stalk holds up to twelve bunches of bananas. It weighed close to 70 pounds and was about four and a half feet long. Wanting to console us in the loss of our two grandbabies, they made the long seven mile trek by foot, carrying that heavy stalk all the way. I had chosen Romans 11:33-36 and the entire twelfth chapter to share with the policemen's wives at the local sheriff's office. So a few days later, the ladies visited us. I decided to teach them this portion of Scripture as well. Radio Glory gave them a heads-up regarding our arrival.

As we approached the church, we heard the milolo in greeting us. The women cupped their hands over their mouths to show their excitement as they screamed. All but one corner of the roof of the church was covered with tin. Large tree branches composed the walls and connected to the roof. The "pews" were made of logs. In the front was a small table draped with Africa cloth and decked with beautiful flower bouquets. Pastor Hosea started the singing and the crowd gathered quickly. Soon we were underway. It turned out to be a regular church service and I was touched by their rapt attention. Their hunger for the Word of God is astounding.

Out of the 90 present, only six had Bibles. We just cannot find Bibles anywhere. I took seven radios, one for each of the women who came to the mission campus. They were overjoyed. Sixteen people made professions. Word spread and in addition to sharing this same portion of Scripture on Radio Glory, for the next two weeks, I will be traveling to Longo, Itwai, and Mbila again. I will be traveling with Mama Marie Aza and Mama Jean again.

Out of all the Lord has done in this region of Bandundu, the greatest and most rewarding that we have been involved with, is exposing the Word of God. It will never return void--no never! Please continue to pray with us!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Their Fervent Prayers

"The fervent prayers of a righteous man avail much." James 5:16 The Amplified Bible says, "The earnest, heart-felt, continued prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available, dynamic in its working."

Tonight special prayers are being offered at the radio studio from 7-9 p.m. The staff will hold up their shield of faith before God and cry out to Him from the depths of their souls. Pastor Masina came by yesterday and asked if he could have a little tea and sugar to serve, and I threw in some rice. Since we are behind in paying our staff, they don't have any food to spare in their homes. It brings tears to my eyes.

He also asked for prayer requests from Jim and me. We gave him fifteen requests, including prayer for our beloved America and our prayer partners and donors. So, by the time you read this, know that intercessory prayer has wafted its way up to the throne of the Almighty God on your behalf.

My mind's eye goes back to our first term out here when our Bible school was just beginning. I can't tell how many all night prayer meetings were held. Jim and I would try to last for several hours and then we fell into bed. What a beautiful sound we heard as we woke up to their rich rendering of hymns, sounds from way down deep. Prayer is as natural to them as breathing. It is their sustenance, their strength, their joy.

Often we have called the leadership here for one emergency or another while in America, or they have been aware of critical needs while we were stateside. They would snap to as if they were in the military, call an all night prayer meeting in the building we call the "white house," and fast and pray for three days without even drinking water.

Congo is a hardship post. The American Embassy found it extremely challenging in the '70s and '80s to get employees from America to stay here for two years. Four years was the limit. The country is in much worse shape today than it was then. I shudder to think what life would be out here without all those prayers down through the years.

What a pleasing aroma they must be to God. I remember in those early days waking up in the night to their beautiful singing and feeling so safe. Then I would fall right back to sleep.

Their precious offerings are kept in bottles and recorded in one of the Lord's books. Only He knows how many pages they fill. Thank you, Lord, for people who really have a handle on life. Next to my husband, they are my heroes.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Samedi means Saturday in French. Some of the names people choose to give their children here in Congo just crack me up. Some favorites are safety pin, jealousy, cursed, hot pepper, mischief, and bone.

Samedi is a man in his thirties, I believe, though he has no birth certificate, no mom or dad, and no siblings. Their is no way of knowing his true age, especially since the Congolese tend not to show their age. He roams the mission campus and has no bed of his own to sleep in. Various families have tried to take him in, despite the fact that he would be one more mouth to feed in their already hard-pressed circumstances. But Samedi stays nowhere more than a day or two. He is what we might call a simpleton. Repetitious and unkempt, he has to be told to take a bath and wash his clothes. However, his mild manners and sweet spirit win you over every time. He is also a very hard worker and as strong as an ox.

Tonight, when we were calling America, he appeared on the scene and told Jim he hadn't eaten all day. So when we finished, we all walked down Aerobic hill (I love coming, just not going up!) and we ran into another staff member, Lobo. We gave them a large can of sardines, half a loaf of freshly baked bread, and four bananas.

Samedi's intelligence limits him academically and socially, but not spiritually. Psalm 19:7 in the Amplified Bible says, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the whole person; the testimony of the Lord is sure MAKING WISE THE SIMPLE." So Samedi is able to be wise spiritually because God is not impressed with our intelligence. He is impressed with our hearts. He and the Spirit of God can communicate freely; and, though he may not articulate his thoughts in a rational fashion with people, he can know true wisdom from the Father. I love it that the Lord has all of Samedi's bases covered. I love it that He is the Way-maker. He goes far beyond our limitations and brick walls we come up against and frees our spirit to adore Him. Truly, isn't that going to be a big part of our work in heaven--adoring Him?

Oh, Samedi, the best is yet to come, and you are in for such an amazing awakening. You will sit with the throng from ages past and the Ancient of Days at the marriage supper of the Lamb. I can't wait to see you in your glorified body. Till then, we will do our best here at Nkara to see that you are taken care of and enjoy some of the dignity you deserve because you are a valued and beloved creation of God.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Exciting News!

We received news today that a supporter of the ministry is willing to match all new contributions to Laban Ministries up to $5000 until the end of October! This is an opportunity to make your gift to your brothers and sisters in Congo go twice as far. We have the convenience of accepting funds through Paypal on the ministry's website which you can link to right here: If you would prefer to make your donation through the mail, please earmark your gift for the October Matching Fund for Laban. The address is:

Laban Ministries Int'l
P. O. Box 5133
Dearborn, MI 48128

We so wish we could transport you to the bush here in the Congo. The landscape is breathtakingly beautiful--lush green and tropical. But the needs would break your heart as you watched so many suffer with so few resources. One day those of us who believe in Jesus Christ will praise Him around the throne. The gift you give today will have eternal impact. You may never meet those you help on earth, but one day, you will witness when God Himself wipes away the tears of the Congolese.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:1-4

Worthy is the Lamb who was slain for us!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Glory Day

Yesterday was a glory day. We rose at 4:40 a.m., after loading the car with supplies and picking up our travelers, we were off to Bulungu, the local government center. Nkara is in the district of Bulungu, in the province of Bandundu.

Bulungu is the kind of town you can spend a week in in one night. Various and sundry "tax-collectors" come from Bulungu to attempt to levy some sort of fine on the mission here. They usually visit Nkara only when we are here, figuring that our presence equates to money. As mentioned in the past, two of our graduates minister to the police. They travel many miles on foot each month. God is doing amazing things through His word in and to the policemen and their wives. We decided to visit the large group of men and women in Bulungu, look them in the eye, share our testimony and the Scriptures, and watch the Lord work. The 30 miles took us 2 1/2 hours one way, over dirt roads, which led us to the Kwilu River. We made our crossing in an oversized raft, driven by a diesel-generated tugboat. Hand-dug tree canoes fight the strong current of the massive Kwilu for those who choose not to take the raft. To my mind returned the vivid memory of our family crossing the crocodile-infested river years ago in one of those crude canoes when the ferry was not working.

Everyone got out of the car and the driver eased our vehicle onto the ferry. We followed and reached the other side uneventfully. A half hour later, we arrived at the post and received a royal welcome.

About 200 policemen and their wives listened intently as Pastor Ezekiel from Psalm 2:1-12 and Jim shared the story of the forty wrestlers. I spoke from Romans 11:33-36 and Romans 12:1 to the wives. 90 men and women put their hands over their hearts to signal their acceptance of Jesus Christ. The Major is a Christian and begged us to come back. Their animated singing and infectious enthusiasm delighted our hearts. The Lord's heart had to be moved as well.

After the service we were ushered into the modest headquarters and served Cokes and cherry and orange sodas. The Major then begged us for Bibles and radios. He acknowledged his observance that poverty-stricken are we if we feed only our physical bodies and fail to feed our souls. His words refreshed us like cool springs on a blistery-hot day.

Pastor Ezekiel knows these men well because he was one of them for years, while his wife prayed faithfully for his salvation. He met Jesus and graduated from our Bible Institute. He vividly recalls the atrocities commonly practiced by the police and soldiers in Congo, so his burden for them is sincere. Yesterday he told me how unreceptive they were at first. Now he and Pastor Hosea are well-received. The men and women have learned many of the Christian songs and sing them with vigor. One big change among the leadership of the police these days is the forbidding of beating a person, guilty or not guilty, and ravaging the women after robbing the men. Instead, they bring to their offices only those they think are guilty and do not proceed with a punishment until after they have prayed for wisdom. He said this is all so new to the police. "We preach the Word of God and then we just keep adding more and more to what we have taught them. Eventually, we see change."

We had no money in the budget for bikes for Ezekiel and Hosea, but we bought bikes anyway at a cost of $230. Who in the world could look them in the eye, pat them on the back, wish them God's speed, and expect them to simply keep walking to Bulungu and the other posts every month.

Pray that the government with be open to the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ by allowing us to minister to the police division. Amen!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I Walked Today Where Jesus Walked

Why is God's presence so real out here in the bush of Africa? Why is He so evident? Why do I sense Him so fully and freely?

For more than 30 years now, Jim and I have had the rather unique privilege of living in two worlds--America and Congo. We travel from a world of high tech sophistication, wealth, affluence, unparalleled educational opportunities and a sense of entitlement to a world of abject poverty, filth, unbelievable corruption in the government. There is absolutely no governmental infrastructure and heightened suffering. Yet the presence of God is so embracing and enveloping. Why? I have been pondering this reality over the past three weeks since our arrival.

Tonight it dawned on me: GOD LOVES THE POOR! Now that's not the only reason. Millions of poor people live in Kinshasa and that city is one of the darkest places in the world. But poverty is definitely a factor here. Another factor is the wealth of their faith and the prices paid to exercise that kind of faith. Nkara (our mission station) is holy ground. This valley, surrounded by a horse-shoe shaped hill, was a center for ceremonial cannibalism and child-sacrifice until the 1940s. Then God sent a vibrant, sold-out, Spirit-filled couple by the name of Laban and Marcella Smith, and through the power of the gospel they preached, 10,000 men and women were delivered from the despair and hopelessness of their abounding sin known in the Bayanzi tribe.

That same power kept the Bayanzis from joining in the civil war when it started in the 1960s. Their salvation meant so much to them that they refused to allow anyone to pillage this campus. Their beloved pioneer missionaries, Laban and Marcella, enriched the African soil through the offering of their bodies through death. They are both buried in Kikwit. On the hill where Laban Bible Institute stands was the first church made up of palm fronds. A ritualistic spilling of blood by killing sons of royalty, who were then eaten, as well the horrific infant sacrifices by holding the babies over hot coals, cutting them up, and eating them, have been replaced by a training center whose heart beats for evangelism.

The legacy handed down to us is sobering. It is a legacy of sacrifice, dedication, putting one's hands to the plow, and never looking back, tireless evangelism, and thrilling to the privilege of serving the God of the universe. How could the Lord not be real here? How could His presence not be so palpable? He is the most dynamic force at Nkara. He has to be. With no hospital, no capable doctors, no way out of here by plane after nightfall due to the lack of VOR's here in the bush, we are desperate for Him. We have control over nothing--and He loves that. Because He then can be "our strength, our personal bravery, our invincible army, and He can make our feet like hinds' feet and will make us to walk--and not stand still in terror--but to walk and make spiritual progress upon our HIGH PLACES of trouble, suffering, or responsibility." Habakkuk 3:19

Praise the Lord!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pastor from Ilebo

Congo is an incredible land of opportunity for ministry. Our staff meets at the chapel on campus every morning at 7:30. Today my husband, Jim, introduced a pastor from the town of Ilebo (ee-lay-bo). No one knew he was coming. He stood and proudly reminded us that he graduated from Laban Bible Institute six years ago. He was a man of distinct features, medium stature, and slight build, enthusiastically inviting our evangelism team to hold an outreach in his town.

He spoke of the cults there, people steeped in darkness and despair, a town laden with witchdoctors and evil. Underneath his enthusiastic exterior was a man needing encouragement and a helping hand. I wondered how many nights he lay in bed praying safety and protection for his family from the evil surrounding him. How many times had he prayed for deliverance from any kind of food poisoning that the witchdoctors may have tried to pass on to him. What kind of chains had he had to trust Christ to break just to free his mind from the overpowering oppression of being outnumbered by the dark abode of wicked spirits dwelling there?

I asked him how he came. "Well," he said, "I took a boat, then I took a truck, and then I walked the rest of the way", which could have been as far as fifty kilometers or thirty miles. He asked Jim for a Bible. We had only one left in the Kituba language. I walked inside the house and ran upstairs to get him a little money as well. How much should I give him, Lord? How much can I spare? There are so many needs out here. Lord, show me, please. My eyes fell on 25,000 francs. I was at peace with that. In our money, that amounts to $29.76. Lord, you know this is so meager, but you can multiply it. Do that Lord, please!

I returned with the Bible and the small gift and he beamed. Because the Lord loves the Lord so much, I will do the same. I asked the Lord to bless him and return him all the way back the 400 kilometers (240 miles) he traveled here, just to invite us to his church.

What an honor to see the fruit of our labor, Lord, thank You!

Thursday, October 1, 2009


"Mawa"...the word means "sorrow"--brokenhearted. "Mpenza" means "deeply, really, truly, to a great extent"

Today was a day of great, deep, extensive sorrow. Why? Because one of our staff, Mupia, whose name by the way means "twin," lost his twenty-something year old daughter. He came to work to give us a hand because we have missionary guests from Kinshasa. Jim drove him to his home about 4 p.m., only to find out that his daughter had just died. She waited and waited and waited before seeking help to deliver her second baby. The first baby died at birth. Unable to deliver by herself, when labor came on strong, the village women came to her aid to no avail.

Finally, with no more options, she went to the local state-operated clinic, where horror stories are heard all the time. She could not go on any longer so the "doctor" gave her a C-section, and her uterus ruptured. The baby was already dead.

Pastor Mboma told me that hers is the fifth death in two months of women receiving a C-section at that clinic. I listened in shock as he told me, "Sometimes C-sections are performed with razor blade and a flashlight." Think of it! Five women have lost their lives, perhaps needlessly.

It was just such a death that occurred at our airstrip with a women named Shindani that made us decide that we must have a hospital here. Shindani waited for three day, while in intensive labor, before the villagers brought her to us. Jim, my husband, was fueling the little Cessna 150 to take her to the medical mission of Vanga, he heard the death wail. Her mother was flailing her arms in disbelief that there, before her very eyes, her daughter passed from this life into the next.

We have two young men training to be doctors in Lumbumbashi, but it will be another three years before one of them will return to the local population's rescue. How many more women will die from childbirth before he returns?

We visited Mupia in his village. His face was swollen from crying. My heart breaks for his family. Please pray for them. We attended the funeral for his daughter and grandchild. I watched as they lowered the wee casket into the ground next to the baby's mother. It was a little boy. Oh, what great sorrow...mawa...mpenza!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Police/Soldier's Wives

Each morning our staff meets in the room we call a chapel, which is the old Bible Institute building we used 30 years ago. Kade, a rather recent graduate of LBI, preaches each morning at 7:40 a.m. after the men and women sing songs of praise and inviet Jesus to be the center of our day. His strong, loud, admonishing tone can be heard from our front porch. Kade suffers from serious deafness which amazingly affects his speech only slightly.

After chapel, Pastor Hosea, whose left pupil is covered with an opaque scar, ran up to me and asked if I was going to see the mamas of the police/soldiers who serve our area. They live about two miles away. My first response was No. I didn't feel prepared. I would go next week. As quickly as I said that, I changed my mind. The women are a new group. Their husbands change locations every year or two. They are hungry to hear the Word of God. I decided to go.

I spoke out of Malachi 1 and explained how the deceptive, sick, blind and stolen animals the priests allowed the people to sacrifice to God made God very angry. I told them how serious it is to make a vow to God to give Him something that has cost us a great price, only to change horses in the middle of the stream, and offer that which has cost us little. Instead of a life consecrated to Him, a life spent in self-seeking, self-indulgence, self-gratification. Instead of transparency, a lying tongue, a proud look, a double-mindedness. Instead of singleness of mind and heart, duplicity.

We don't offer animal sacrifices anymore. The sacrifice the Lord is looking for from us is a contrite heart, the real deal, letting our "nay" be "nay" and our "yea" by "yea." On the way home, Pastor Hosea and Pastor Ezekiel begged me to consider traveling with them and Jim to Bulungu. A group of 150 police/soldiers and their wives equaling 120, are pleading for us to go and minister to them. I asked how long it would take. They said, "Well, when we walk there, it takes us a whole day."

They didn't see the tears flooding my heart for their incredible endurance. The tears for the price they are paying to serve Christ. The tears over them spending themselves in 90-100 degree temps so that JEsus can break through strongholds of an occupation of men who used to steal from innocent victims in order to put some food on the table for their families. You see, the government only pays them $10 a month, when and if they get paid. But these groups of men and women are changing under the ministry of pastors Ezekiel and Hosea.

I just sat there numbly, the perspiration dripping down my face and had to ask myself, "How much does my Christianity cost me?" Oh God, why do these pastors have to walk so far? They have worn out their bikes for Your sake. Why must they go on foot? Something is wrong with this picture. Why, Lord?" Once again, I have no answers. My trust is in You, God. Help them, please help me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Gas Bomb Project Turned Evangelistic

In the bush of Congo, electricity is not automatic. In order to have lights, one needs a gas or diesel generator plus fuel for the generator, either gas or diesel. The price for a 55 gallon drum of diesel fuel can cost as much as $365. Currently, the price is about $250. For home use, we have a gas generator. A barrel of gas provides one week of electricity for about eight hours a day. It's obviously expensive. Who in America has to pay $250 a week for their lights that come on for such a short duration each day? But there are no other options, and eight hours provides the ability to use tools, wash clothes, read books, entertain, run the DVD player, enjoy light, and keep us from going insane in the dark.

However, eight hours a day is not long enough to run appliances, such as our fridge and freezer, so we must purchase a propane tank for those. These tall gas "bombs" as we call them weigh 190 lbs. each filled. Each provides us with six weeks of use for one appliance. Four appliances run off these bombs, including our hot water heater, stove, fridge, and freezer, and each bomb costs $175 to fill. So for six weeks, that total is $700. This doesn't include the price of transporting them on MAF planes into the interior. Next time you look at your utility bill, thank God you do not have to pay what we do.

The gas bombs are available only in the capital city of Kinshasa, 450 miles from our mission campus. Last week, Jim went with a few of our staff to pay for and arrange for the bombs to be delivered to the MAF hanger to be transported. After the men had loaded the bombs, Jim asked the men if there were to be an accident on the way to the airport, where would these men go if they died? Some said they would go to hell; others didn't know. By the end of the conversation Jim and Pastor Mboma had with them, all six of them asked Jesus Christ into their lives. Then they clapped their hands and gave a thumbs up. To Pastor Mboma, the clapping of the hands showed that the men were sincere.

Ministry opportunities abound out here. We are now living at our mission campus of Nkara-Ewa. Last night we called America on the hill up near the hill by the dispensary on our cell phones. What a beautiful sight as we rode the Artic Cat again back down to our mission to see our home all lit up. It was such a stark contrast to the pitch black darkness all around us. No denying that life resides in this home. May there be no denying that the light of Christ resides in our minds, souls, and bodies as well.

Thank You , Lord, for electricity in the bush!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

From the back seat . . .

I've spent the last 3 days shopping for goods to take into the "bush" of Congo, Africa, where our mission campus is located. There are no malls in Kinshasa, the capital, so every store has its own product, making shopping a challenge and an all-day, many-day event. From the back seat of the little car that Matondo, the driver navigates, I have plenty of time to take in my surroundings. He eases/jerks through lanes of slow-moving vehicles on "highways" and side streets built in the late forties, totally incapable of handling today's increased population.

Windows are kept rolled up, and doors are locked as refugees, beggars, and vendors walk freely on the boulevard and side streets, dodging traffic everywhere to make their presence known, in hopes of selling their wares in order to take a few Congo francs home with them in the evening. The physically and mentally handicapped are always nearby as well, crawling or squawking for help. Poverty abounds. Rotting trash lines the street shoulders. Hundreds of people pass on foot, many looking for work of any type to help ease their family's financial burdens.

I must distance myself from the shops where the goods we want are located because my white skin means a higher price for products normally costing less when purchased by the Congolese. While waiting for our pastors to find the best prices and buy the supplies, I have only to glance out of my window to view an assortment of products for sale carried by men and women, such as brooms, watches, soap, shirts, pants, jewelry, rat poison (that's a biggie for the bush where rats abound), shoes, and almost anything else one can imagine, even toilet bowl cleaner, waffles, hot dogs (who knows how long they've been exposed to the tropical sun?), toothbrushes, and whatever. You get the idea. These are for the bidding. A negotiated price is expected. It never remains the price suggested by the vendor. Thank God the temps have been in the 70's and low 80's, so perspiration is not at a drowning level.

Millions are without work. Hundreds rise each morning with some francs in their pockets from the previous day's sales. They scramble to buy goods from the stores downtown and then hand carry their purchases to resell them at a little bit higher cost. Hopefully, they will gain enough that day to feed their family supper and perhaps even make an installment on their children's "public school" tuition, since there are no free public schools in Congo. The tuition charges goes toward paying the teachers, whether it be grade school, middle school, or high school.

Times are hard in America, but they have always been hard in Congo. Now they are even harder. People are starving. Many are homeless. Others live in squalor. Most are born and die in obscurity; and, though they appear to be in the category of the "least" as Jesus called them, they are acknowledged throughout Scripture again and again. In fact, as you may recall, Jesus says that whatever we do unto the least of these, we actually show kindness to Him.

I have comforted my sad heart regarding their perilous condition, the despair in their faces, and the pain and agony on the countenances of the mamas who carry their babies on their backs looking for help with the words of the psalmist who says that it won't always be this way for the poor. Psalm 22:26 declares that they will one day eat and be satisfied. Not now necessarily, but one day. Men are dying from the stress of leaving their children in their homes hungry day after day as they seek employment which is just not to be had in Congo these days. So the fathers are literally dropping dead from the horror of watching their children starve according to Pastor Kanzila, one of our graduates who ministers in Kinshasa. But "the Lord hears the poor and needy and despises not His prisoners (His miserable and wounded ones). So our hope is that He will relieve them of their suffering one way or another; many times it is through death out here because of the lack of medical care facilities and/or no money to pay for health care of any kind.

I am reminded as I continue to watch abject poverty in my face of our meager efforts to help our staff physically with a small salary and other goods as God provides through you in America. Those efforts pale in comparison to what we aggressively attempt to offer them through the Word of God, specifically through the Gospel, and then further training in the Word of God by means of our Bible Institutes. It helps me breathe a sigh of temporary relief because if they are in the Beloved, relief and deliverance are on their way. But oh the suffering they experience in the now! Unfathomable unless you smell it, taste it, hear it, and touch it for yourselves. And even though I do all of that--smell, taste, hear, and touch it, it is still unfathomable. Psalm 131 becomes my refuge once again in dealing with the afflicted. It says, "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me ceased from fretting.

We cannot allow ourselves to fret. We just can't. Fretting leads to sin, and sin is equivalent to distrust. It's telling the Lord He is not doing a good enough job of this business of keeping everyone fed or whatever we may be personally facing in our lives that is beyond our grasp. There are no answers to the plight of the Congolese. I once again choose to rest in Him and remember that the "least" are of great worth in the Lord's eyes. He considers them precious cargo awaiting their flight to the comforts and splendor of Heaven.

God values the poor so much that the first 3 verses of Psalm 41 state that He handsomely rewards those who find like value in the poor. "Blessed, to be envied, is he who considers the weak and the poor; the Lord will deliver him in the time of evil and trouble. The Lord will protect him and keep him alive; he shall be called blessed in the land; and You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. The Lord will sustain, refresh, and strength him on his bed off languishing; all his bed You O Lord will turn, change, and transform in his illness."

Wow! I want to be one of those You call blessed, one of those you protect and deliver because of the way I respond to the poor in my life. I happen to know some of those "least" who will be in your Hall of Fame, Lord. Their day is coming, Father. You will esteem them publicly, and they will no longer be pressed into the wall of despair by their lack. Bless Your Holy Name! You have it all figured out! I will rest in You.

Friday, September 4, 2009

On the Road Again

In just seven more days, we will wing our way to another land, another world, another existence.

When we set foot on that land almost 31 years ago now, I felt that I might as well have landed on Mars. Things so strange, alien, and undesirable in everyday life in that part of Africa now arouse my soul to return. Things like another language, and an exceedingly curious people who possess amazing tracts in their mind, enabling them to speak many times a minimum of 5 different tongues and a maximum of nine.

Things like stirring soul music with a great beat, foundational for their worship, unlike we frozen chosen in the States. We can be way too inhibited and self-conscious. I hate it that I am that way, and yet I find myself struggling to change.

Things like serving up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or popcorn, freshly harvested peanuts, and bananas and feasting over the riches of genuine fellowship with people who will be very comfortable in the courtly atmosphere of heaven because they have lived their daily lives on the edge and died to self more than not.

They don't sweat the small stuff. They go right for the jugular--souls, prayer, praise, and surrender to God's highest for them.

And what is the catalyst for their living life the way they do?

It's a realization that the best is yet to come. It's an awareness that some men think they are rich and yet possess nothing eternal, while others consider themselves poor, yet they possess. . .

Why do they get it? Because they are so poverty stricken, it drives them to their knees for everything.

No one can breathe without God's permission, but they actually believe their every breath comes from Him. Their health care program convinces them that the Lord actually is the Great Physician because without His intervention, they would have no children at all. Half of their children could be taken from them and many times are.

They understand that a man is not judged by what he owns.

They live by Psalm 103 which proclaims that things too wonderful or great for me. . .

And we get the privilege of rubbing shoulders with them. Of serving Christ together. Of laughing, crying, and praying in the same room. Of watching together miracle after miracle. It's awesome. I am not worthy of this privilege, but I LOVE IT!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Begging to hear. . . An amazing opportunity

Today we live in an era of exclusivity, choices, entitlement, prosperity, incredibly sophisticated hi tech, and advanced medical options and treatment, to name a few. This era's personality is intertwined with hope on one side and apathy on the other. Because we are surrounded by opulence compared to third world countries, and because many of us have only experienced what we have seen, touched, and tasted, we cannot easily relate to the realities that exist in other lands.

One such reality that renders an amazing opportunity is the hunger for the gospel in Congo. Like America, people in Congo are desperate for Jesus, and they know it; unlike Congo, people in America are desperate for Jesus, but they do not know how desperate they really are. I would rather work with people in the first category because there are far fewer barriers to break through than the latter.

Just this week, Pastor Kapem N'Koy called my husband, Jim, and told him that many many surrounding villagers near Iwungu are literally begging the evangelism team there to come and share the Gospel and the Word of God with them. They are crying out for spiritual help.

Let me tell you that when our evangelism team goes into a village, it is cause for GREAT CELEBRATION! People come running out of their huts with hands waving in the air to greet, welcome, and rejoice with dancing at their arrival. Bodies surround the truck, eagerly anticipating the joyous break in the monotony of village life. As the team exits the large x-military vehicle, the guitars, drum set, fuel, generator, food, tents, video projector, and other supplies are carefully unloaded and set up to prepare for the evening gathering. Our team of ten pastors/musicians start cranking out the songs which attract thousands to come from as far away as the music can be heard.

There are several videos that can be shown, but the favorite is The Jesus Film, which is shown after the music and the preaching of the Word of God. So by the time the invitation is given, 4 to 5 hours have passed. Small pieces of paper are handed out as people raise their hands to accept Christ. As those people proceed to make their way to the front of the crowd, they are ushered to another area, either a hut or some other building, to be dealt with individually. So let' do a recap:

First the music program (30-45 minutes, then preaching (about an hour), then the Jesus Film (3 hours in the Kituba language with some interpretation for those who only speak the tribal dialect), then the invitation (20 minutes), and then one-on-one counseling to ascertain understanding what the individual is coming forward for, which could mean a total of 5 1/2 hours. Does the crowd dwindle? No. Do people complain? Not usually. Do they want more? Always.

Do you see what I mean by an amazing opportunity? Congo isn't America. They have no distractions in the bush comparable to what we have here in America. They know how much they need the Savior and how much they need the hope that the Word of God affords them.

Of course, it takes money to do all this. Missionaries don't get their fuel for free cause they're missionaries; we pay the same amount as the corporate world pays. A total of $2000 is needed to feed our team, fuel our trucks, and visit several villages for an extensive period of time. Please join us in prayer for this great outreach possibility.

You can go vicariously through us on September 11, when we depart Detroit for Chicago, then on to Washington Dulles, then on to Johannesburg, South Africa for an overnight stay, and then on to Kinshasa for a few days, after which we board the Mission Aviation Plane to fly into the bush of Congo, a land ripe for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Help us find that ripened fruit that is waiting to be harvested for the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Souls are one thing we can take to Heaven with us. Help us do the picking in Jesus' powerful Name!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

He just needed to hear our voice. . .

We just received a call from Congo. Pastor Gary Kapinga, National Director, dear friend, brother, counsellor, daily cross bearer, coworker, downright beloved by us, called us on his cell phone minutes ago.

That just cracks me up. Years ago, a cell phone call would never have happened. It's a strange wonder these days.

He called to tell us everything is okay in Congo.

He wants to know when we are coming back. . . we promised August, thinking it would be good to get back then. . .

Thinking the Lord would want us to return sooner than later. . .

Hoping that despite the sluggish (understatement) economy would not prevent us from returning because concerned individuals who love Laban might be in a position to help us out as they have in the past. . .

Thinking of how much healthier it is to return again after 4 months than to wait a whole year or a good portion of the year. . .

That still may happen. We have lived by the undergirding miracles of the Holy One through 40 years of ministry. We believe God's arm is not shortened that He cannot save and that His ears are not deafened to dullness that He cannot hear. . .

In the meantime: we wait--expectantly, anticipatingly, hopefully, and sometimes joyfully.

So to Gary's question and comments: "Are you coming in August? Everything is okay here. Is everything okay there?"--we heard the underlying need for the call. He just needed to hear our voice.

It moves me to think our voice is that important--soothing, comforting, reassuring, vital to his welfare.

And it makes me cry out, Lord, we are so in need of hearing your voice.

Come, visit us.

Speak to us.

Make yourself known to us.

Reassure us.

We can't do this thing called life without you; we can't go to Congo without you; we can't take a breath without your permission.

You say in Zephaniah 3;17 that you are in the midst of us. That in and of itself is absolutely amazing. You are mighty to save. You take great delight in us. You cover us with your love. You rejoice over us with singing.

And though we know this verse to be true experientially in days gone by, the fact of the matter is, today is a new day.

We don't want a day to go by without it. . .

In fact, we don't want much time at all to go by without hearing the comfort of your voice.

Go before us Ancient of Days. You've promised that you will. Go alongside us, Father. Be our rear guard.

Please, Daddy, we just need to hear Your voice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June 16, 1989

For about a year now I have wanted to put my finger on the newsletter describing in detail Jim's accident and the events immediately following. Today, while unpacking more than 40 boxes of "stuff" (how we love our stuff) brought here about 4 years ago, I FOUND IT! Yay. We just "celebrated" the 20th anniversary of that unforgettable night.

I share this with you because of the amazing healing that has taken place since that day. Rejoice with us at God's mercy and kindness. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead also resurrected my husband.

I quote. . .

Jim Smith Update (written 7 months post accident)
January, 1990

"Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the fame kindle upon thee. . . I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." Isaiah 43:1,2; 41:10

The ministry of the Holy Spirit through these verses has been so real throughout our married life, but they remain ever new, and have ministered with even greater impact in the months since Jim's accident last June.

On June 1, 1989, Todd, Jackie, and Jim's cousins, Judy and Leon Knopp, from Pennsylvania, and I were scheduled to arrive in Kinshasa, Zaire, where Jim would be awaiting us. Judy and Leon made it. Jackie, Todd, and I had to stay behind because our flight on Northwest from Detroit to Chicago was cancelled due to "mechanical failure." Since Swissair only flies into Kinshasa on Tuesday & Thursday, we were forced to wait until Monday the 19th to attempt another departure to Zaire.

We were to depart at 1:30 p.m. However, at 3:00 a.m., the phone rang. Kathy Kirkpatrick, a friend, was on the line from Kinshasa. She calmly relayed the tragic news that Jim had been in a serious auto accident on June 16. This news was already three days after the face as the phone lines had been down in Zaire. This is what happened:

Jim drove Judy and Leon, Jacque (our mechanic) and Narro (Todd's buddy) to the lst checkpoint in Kinshasa before heding up to Nkara, the "bush" where we live. Sometimes the soldiers hassle their own people, so Jim felt that driving them himself that far would avoid any problems. Tim Downs, a fellow-missionary friend, followed in his Isuzu and would be driving back to Kinshasa with Jim. They passed the barrier with no difficulty, proceeded up the rod about a mile, had prayer together, and Jim bid them good-bye. Tim & Jim proceeded to return to Kinshasa; they left the others about 9:30 p.m. Jm had planned on flying up to Nkara the next day in our little Texas Tail Dragger, and would still beat the group as they had a 15-hour drive to cover the 400 miles to Nkara.

The enemy really came in "like a flood" that dreadful day and roared relentlessly throughout our family's stay last summer in Zaire. On June 17, one day after Jim's brush with death, Judy and Leon Knopp, cousins from Pa, arrived at our mission station totally unaware of what had occurred the evening before. Jm was to fly our Cessna Texas Taildragger to Nkara early that morning and arrive before the Knopps. At 4 p.m., a few hours after the Knopps arrived, a Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot flew overhead. The Zaireans (today known as Congolese) mistakenly took him for Jim and seemingly running out of the woodwork, many piled into our Chevy pickup we had just purchased early in 1989 through your contributions. They were going to meet him at our airstrip. Narro, Todd's good national friend, started the car and tried to make a quick get away, as he knew we don't allow the vehicle to be overloaded with passengers. In his excitement, he put the truck in reverse and floored it, smashing it into the side of our house. With the ignition still on, the truck then proceeded downhill in reverse toward our lake. Narro jumped out, circled a small area of the yard three times, and fainted while the truck ran over one of the passengers who had been thrown underneath the vehicle but was not touched by it. Judy and Leon were passengers as well, and someone reached over and turned off the ignition switch. The truck halted and has not been driven since.

MAF dropped a note telling Judy and Leon about the accident and picked them up the next day to fly them back into the city of Kinshasa, where Jim was hospitalized. About ten days later the Knopps courageously braved Nkara agin by flying back with Shawn, Todd, and Jackie to go ahead with as much building as possible and to handle the affairs of the Bible school, dispensary, feeding programs, orphans, general work staff, etc. Jim had just purchased a new TV for the school. Now they could see some of the people involved in the ministry of Laban plus videos on the life of Christ, ministry in Zaire, and so many other visual aids. But the TV and VCR only lasted a week as the electricity was mistakenly turned too high in its voltage, and both burned out.

The next catastrophe occurred when Shawn, Todd, and Jack were back in Kinshasa on their way to the States.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A new creature. . .

Gary is the National Director of Laban Ministries in Congo. He resides at Nkara with his second wife, Jean, and their eight children. He oversees our multi tribe staff of 101, deals with the State when they come in to "tax" us, negotiates on our behalf, and has the final word in our absence when it comes to decision making. He is a man of integrity, spirit filled, and walks by the drumbeat of Scripture and a consecrated life.

The following is a historical account of this prized fellow servant of the Lord. I want to share with you the wealth of his transformed life.

As a teenager of very lean stature, Gary earned money by distracting men walking through a particular area of hangout for him and his friends near his village. When the targeted individual passed by, Gary caught his attention by harassing him and calling him names. As the victim neared the secluded gang members, Gary annoyed his prey to the point of being chased by him, leading the unsuspecting person right to the gang in the tall grass. The victim was then attacked, and whatever possessions he may have been carrying were stolen. This is how he eked out an existence until he became notoriously known in the area.

From his village of Gombe, this teen-aged man from the Bawongo Tribe, made the 130 mile trek to Kikwit, a city of 1,000,000 people to make a decent living. In 1978, Mrs. Marcella Smith, wife of the late Dr. Laban Smith, was shopping in Kikwit for supplies while staying at the guesthouse, an extension of which was built by her husband in the 40's, which served as his dental office. Mrs. Smith, Jim's mother, had just returned to Congo to precede us and help us get settled into missionary life at Nkara. This was October; we left for Congo on Dec 4 that same year.

Gary was assisting Solomon, the cook at the guesthouse. Mrs. Smith asked Gary to help her with her shopping as she looked for large items like a refrigerator, mattresses, stove, etc. After several days of traveling with him at her side, they struck up a friendship, and one night in the guesthouse she introduced Gary to the Savior. Marcella Smith left a note which Solomon gave us months later when we arrived at that same guesthouse, urging us to consider Gary as a potential worker because he always gave her the correct change and was so kind to her while she was in Kikwit. His transformation was underway! He had become a new creature in Christ Jesus.

On November 14, 1978, Mrs. Smith went to be with the Lord at Nkara, a distance of 60 miles from Kikwit, where she and Dr. Smith had ministered together from 1947 to 1953. She died in what is now Jim's office as she was leaning over her bed. In March of 1979 we arrived at Kikwit only to find Gary still working there and very willing to help us adjust. After six weeks in Kikwit, we made our way to Nkara and Gary became a beloved member of our family. Gary "grew up" in our home with our own children, spending as much as twelve hours a day with us. The only two phrases Nancy could muster at first were masa ya madidi, masa ya tiya, meaning cold water and hot water, buckets of which were carried upstairs for daily bathing. Gary saw Nancy's pain, culture shock, and pregnant state and was a great help to her.

In the summer of 1979, Gary was imprisoned. The local "pastor" Mapungu, an infidel and reprobate whom Mrs. Smith had taught English, falsely accused him of fathering a child with a single girl on the mission station. Gary was taken to Bulungu, put in chains in his cell, and tortured for no reason. After two months of unjust punishment, he was released without bond and walked the 60-mile trip back home to Nkara. We can still see our children running across the valley to hug him and welcome him home.

Late that fall, Gary returned to Combe to find a wife. Suzanne had never seen a white person in her life. He brought her to our home soon after their wedding to introduce her to us. She had the look of electric shock on her face and was extremely shy. One year later, they lost their first baby. In all, Gary and Suzanne lost five children, among them twin boys. Their beloved Diana died in 1995 of Hepatitis B at the age of seven.

Then in 1997, after suffering from liver cancer resulting from Hepatitis B, Gary lost the love of his life. By this time Suzanne and Gary had become a strong team. She did all the cooking and gathering of food for the Bible school students who lived on campus at Nkara. She was Nancy's good friend. Whatever job she was given, one could be sure it would be done. Often, she would come to our house to say "hi," and there in our kitchen, Gary would wrap his arms around her and say, "Nothing will ever separate us but death." When Gary lost Suzanne, we all lost. . . a wonderful friend and partner in ministry. Gary spent many hours on his knees begging God to let her live. In Congo, the person who is in the last stages of life is seldom told the truth by the medical personnel who deal with each case. They are sadly given false hope, and the family is left unprepared for death.

Finally, Gary realized that she was not going to make it. After burying their premature twin boys, Gary hired a truck to take Suzanne back to her village to die, which is the cultural custom in Congo. The truck took them most of the way, and then he and friends carried her on a stretcher-like apparatus on the road for miles because the truck they had ridden took another route. At one point they stopped, and in great pain and agony without the relief of pain killers, she made him promise to take care of their children alongside a dusty, remote road with unbearable heat pouring down on them. Then her spirit and soul fled like a dove into the courts of heaven, never to suffer or sorrow again. Heartbroken, Gary returned to Nkara. How we longed to have been there with them in those final hours. However, Nancy's father at the time was dying here in the States, and our first grandchild was born.

The Lord provided another woman for Gary from Gombe to love him. Jean is also a gift from God. She has been a wondrful asset to Gary, his children, and the ministry.

Gary Kapinga graduated from Laban Bible Institute, and has been directing the work in Congo for many years. His two oldest boys, James and Todd, are now in university. James is studying at Lumbumbashi to be a medical doctor, Todd in Kinshasa to be an engineer. Shines Peace graduated high school this year, and Caleb is in middle school. Gary and jean have four children of their own. He has remained faithful under excruciating pain and rejection of tribalism. He has defended the faith and Laban Ministries in Congo. He is totally trustworthy. He knows our sense of humor and is fun to be around. He is a great husband and father. He has lovingly and justly dealt with staff who have defied his leadership because he is an outsider. No matter what is set in front of Gary, he chooses to sing Hallelujah. He praises God through every storm. He is a hero of the faith. He is the man of God's choice for the hour. He is a marvelous trophy of God's grace. And best of all, he is our true friend and brother.

Just today we talked with Gary. He told me to thank America for your faithful support of Laban Ministries because it means that he along with 100 other men and women are able to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in Africa at Nkara, Iwungu, and Kinshasa. Your monthly gifts help us pay these awesome people who are so rich in faith and glow with the sunshine of heaven on their faces. Your participation with us in the Gospel translates into producing fruit like Gary. Your gifts are being harvested in transformed lives that lay hold of eternal life and anchor themselves steadfast and sure in scripture. God bless you for keeping us and our family in Congo on the move for Jesus' sake.

You are creating hope for the Bandundu Province of Congo by enabling more than 500 graduates of Laban Bible Institute to evangelize an area the size of Michigan. On any given Sunday, more than 57,000 men and women meet to worship our Majesty, the Lord Jesus Christ. There's a big introduction awaiting you in heaven to these redeemed souls because of your obedience in getting the gospel out to this far-flung battlefield of the world. Amen and Hallelujah!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The plans of the heart. . .

In our sight, our plans are good. At the moment, those plans include a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo in August. The staff of 101 nationals who rank from sentinels (watchmen) at the houses, airport, radio station, dispensary, new hospital site, and Cell B (a small warehouse of supplies, including a container where diesel fuel and gasoline are stored) to cooks for the Bible institute dorm students, professors, radio journalists as they are called in Congo, pastors, students themselves at the Bible institute as well as the Women's Literacy Center, masons, carpenters, grass cutters, and more, are eagerly waiting for our promised (by faith) return.

Some in America may question our coming and going to Africa. Why don't we just stay out there? It's expensive to go back and forth. But the majority of people with whom we come in contact understand that the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" truly applies to our situation. There must be continual representation in the US to expose, fund raise, proclaim the great things God is doing there, and promote this multi-faceted work we call Laban Ministries. If we were to go out and stay in the bush with no internet and the other disadvantages of long absences, soon the support level would drop. It takes eye balling people, personal communication, phone calls, special handwritten notes, banquets, smaller venue events, DVD and video exposure in homes, maintaining relationships with donors, and maintaining church contacts to keep the wheels of Laban turning. And, you know, we can do all that, but if God's blessing isn't on those efforts, it will go down in smoke. Ultimately it is all of Him.

So here's our dilemma. We long to go back. We need to go back. I can either become frustrated with the lack of funds to send us back or cease from fretting by nestling into the Lord Himself. If I truly believe that "the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord", (Prov 16:1) and follow the 3rd verse of that same chapter, "Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established," then I will choose to surrender to the paradox of having a good plan which needs to be relinquished to Him and rest in His better plan, which could mean. . . not now.

Actually, it goes beyond submitting, surrendering, and resting. It goes as far as death. I must die to myself and my good plan. Life in general and ministry in particular calls us to relinquish and die to our own will everyday of our lives-- letting go, letting be, and allowing God to actually be God, though we may think we clearly see a better way. How ludicrous! How arrogant! How insulting to the Lord of the universe to throw an emotional tantrum because He is seemingly bypassing our desire to fulfill His will? Sounds insane, doesn't it. But isn't that what we often do? Do we not come up with a "noble" plan and then not just ask Him but expect Him to bless it, and when we run into road blocks that clearly signal it isn't His plan, I at least fret and stress about it.

Wrestling in prayer about the next trip will continue. That's a good thing. The Lord loves that, but my inner being, my soul, my deep seated emotions and responses must be constantly lifted to Him for the soothing that only He can give, so that He will be praised instead of questioned and disrespected. I will choose to remember I am as safe in the stops He orders as well as in the starts, despite the fact that once we announce our month of departure to donors, they tend to want to hold us to it. After all, they live vicariously through the excitement of returning to a land full of adventure, great stories, tons of people asking for salvation, and a work flourishing in the bush of Africa!

Lord, you owe me nothing. You are not obligated. You are Your Majesty, the Lord Jesus Christ. I will choose to remember today your deliverance and provision in the past time after time, and I will trust you for the same in the future.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Take up your cross. . .

As I read from Luke, Chapter 9 today, one thing jumped out at me. In verse 23, Jesus says, "And he said to all, if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross DAILY and follow me." I have always thought that taking up the cross was related to a particular area of difficulty God may allow a person to experience. I still do think that is true, but today what seemed so real is the idea that taking up the cross is so equivalent to denying oneself that the two cannot be separated. Life is so full of challenges and surprises, twists and turns, unexpected situations, and sometimes looks so much different than one could ever have imagined, that not only can we have a particular cross to bear, such as the onset of a dreaded disease; i. e., cancer or an infliction that causes paralysis, death of a child, or financial devastation because of economic collapse in America, to name a few, but also in addition to that we all face other daily challenges, such as parenting, working in the marketplace, or fulfilling a God-given call to follow Christ in ministry as a vocation. So we may or may not have one distinct cross (infliction if you will) to bear. On the other hand, all of us are called to deny ourselves and take up that up a notch so that we can bear the cross of self-death.

It seems apparent to me that the cross is all about death. It begins with denying myself. Telling myself that I am not entitled though I live in a world where everyone says that I am. It means I understand that God does not owe me anything, yet He has provided everything needful for. . . . It means I deserve nothing, except Hell in my unregenerated state. Hell was not created for mankind; it was created for the devil and his angels.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

imbedded and engraved. . .

My heart is fixed on You, oh Lord. The salve of your Holy Spirit lubricates my sorrowful soul through Your Word, making its way into all the hidden crevisces, restoring hope and repairing wounds caused by the storms of life that sweep over me like sea billows. You are awesome. You are just. You are not only righteousness, but You are my righteousness.

You have indelibly imprinted (tattooed a picture of your children on the palm of each of Your hands (Isaiah 49:15 and engraved us in Your compassionate and loving heart. We are that valuable in Your sight; in fact, we are priceless. Priceless because You and the Godhead agreed in eternity past to crucify Your own Son so that we could spend eternity with You.

And for those times we cannot understand; for those times that are past finding out, You state "Who is among you who reverently fears the Lord, who obeys the voice of His Servant, yet who walks in darkness and deep trouble and has no shining splendor in his heart? Let him rely on and be confident in the name of the Lord, and let him lean upon and be supported by his God. Isaiah 50:10.

If you, Father, allowed Your Son, the Darling of heaven "to become an object of horror and many were astonished at Him for His face and His whole appearance were marred more than any man's, and His form beyond that of the sons of men. . ." for us, Lord. You allowed that horror to shroud Him for us. Then we have no other recourse than to trust You.

We await the day when we will join the many angels on every side of the throne as well as the living creatures and the elders who number ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands, saying in a loud voice,

Deserving is the Lamb, Who was sacrificed, to receive all the power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and majesty, glory, splendor and blessings! Rev 5:11,12

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Only 4 days 'til Laban dinner event

. Laban is hosting an informal gathering

. Thursday, 6 p.m.

. Crystal Gardens

. 16703 Fort Street, Southgate MI

. $25 per person or $200 for a group of ten

. Jack Smith, Music Minister at Gilead Baptist of Taylor, MI, along with his wife,
Molly, and Mariah Humphries, also of Gilead, will provide music

. Jim and Nancy Smith, founders and directors of Laban Ministries Int., will provide
fresh updates from their recent trip to Congo just this past Feb, Mar, and Apr,

. Lovely sit down family-style dinner

. Informal dress

. Free will love offering

. Contact Molly Smith at 734 775 8125

Saturday, April 25, 2009

yet another loss. . .

The new arrival would be a Thanksgiving baby. Names had been narrowed down to favorites. There would be a brand spanking new baby to hold and cuddle at Christmas by all the family on both sides. Would this little one look like Summer or Luke? How comforting it was to think of this new life. Such welcome news Nicol gave us while we were still in Congo. Our hearts lept for joy. Summer would have a sibling she could touch and stroke and love and be big sister to. Greg announced it on his blog, not only because he was bursting with joy, but because he valued the prayers of blog readers. Hope revisited. New beginnings.

Then, without warning, something went terribly wrong. Baby Sponberg due in November will not make his or her appearance, not yet, not now, not on this earth. We've lost yet another baby. Gut-wrenching sorrow. Reasons, past finding out. No explanation. Overwhelming grief once again. Words aren't good enough. Please pray for Greg, Nicol, and Summer.

Monday, April 13, 2009

On the heavier and the lighter side of things. . .

I sit here amazed and flabbergasted by the recent two-month stay in Congo. It was so full of God. Tears stream down my face as I remember Him showing up time after time. It was more than His shadow, although that would have been all right. He is the boss. We must allow Him to call the shots, whether they be like piercing arrows that penetrate the darkness and visibly--even right in our face--win battles we cannot deny and provide in such a way we sense His delight. Or, whether it be struggling to rest in His wisdom and grace though we see the storm clouds gathering and even surrounding us, and we--like a weaned child--in that storm opt to cease from fretting because He doesn't feel near, even though our ears recollect that He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. Either way, we in those moments do best when we allow Him to be God. There is great freedom as He hedges us in when we decide to "be still and let be", rather than fretting which only leads to sin.

Today I miss our dear, dear partners in ministry, partners in death (they lose so many of their babies as well), partners in faith (they as well as my husband are giants in the faith), partners in plain old living--the good, the bad, and the ugly, partners in love (they drop everything and come running when we need them), partners in joyful exultation of our Lord Jesus Christ ) one never has to be hesitant to share the latest praise, whether it be the tasty crumbs falling from the table or jaw-dropping delicious accounts of His divine orchestration), partners in the pursuit of souls (they are fervent in their pursuit), partners in crime (especially Pastor Gary Kapinga who has imbibed our sense of humor and much of our culture) which oftentimes results in laughing from the gut together, and just the all around unity we have with most of our staff. With many there has been a history now of more than 30 years, and we are not just like family; we are family in a most wonderful way.

Today I am loving them from afar emotionally through what I feel for them. I will love them through my prayers, and I will love them through my efforts to fulfill my mission which in part is spelled out in Proverbs 31:8 and 9. . . "Open your mouth for those who are unable to speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are left desolate and defenseless; open your mouth, judge righteously, and administer justice for the poor and needy."

On April 30 we will gather with old and new friends at Crystal Gardens in Southgate, MI to update and encourage, rejoice and marvel together at God's amazing sustaining faithfulness of Laban Ministries. My head swirls as I think of what must take place between now and then to make that night a reality. Lord, please put it together. We are so frail and inadequate, but You can really make something of the evening. Please, God, strengthen what you have wrought for us. . .

However, in the meantime, I want to share with you the amazing phone call I had with Jim, my husband, yesterday, Easter Sunday. It was a delightful day here in Nashville. In fact, so balmy, I rocked with 3 of my beautiful grandchildren and son and daughter-in-law in the porch swing. Just before that, Jim called from Congo. The tone of his voice told me he was up to something fun and exciting. We do have fun in Congo, you know. It isn't all serious, life-threatening, tear jerking stuff.

Well, it seems they went on a hunt. But it was a hunt only to look. You know, like window shopping--just to look, not to buy. I say just to look because he owns no guns anymore. They were all stolen during the pillage of '97, even his big 300 savage was taken. He was so proud of that gun because with it he downed a hippo which had killed a missionary at Vanga in the mid 90's. Many of his childhood memories take him back to thrilling hunts with his marksman father, who brought home meat to put on not only his table, but on the tables of his national staff as well. Jim loves hunting, but without a gun, what can you do? Just look, I guess.

So after he and 5 of our staff evangelized at Mpene Nseke (about 18 miles from our home) they decided to do something fun and frivilous like. . . look for bambis or antelope. Off they went. The first phone call was to tell me they were really stuck. The second phone call reported they were unstuck. The third phone call is the best. They went to those same old naustalgic hunting grounds and guess what? They found lion tracks!!!

Yeah, that's right. A lion had wandered probably hundreds of miles from where they normally hang out into a farmer's plot of ground. His paw prints were so large and deeply imbedded in the soil that Jim guesses he must have weighed in excess of 400 lb. Now that's big for Congo. He had captured a goat for dinner and carried it off to enjoy the morsel, and the farmer thinks he will come back for more. They heard the roar. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up straight right now.

And then--of all things--they spotted a bambi. I wonder if that is where the name for the movie came from because that is the kituba word for antelope. How did Disney know? No bows and arrows. No guns. Just the sheer delight of actually seeing one again after so many years, as Todd said, gave Dad "his fire back."

Of all the things I think that could have topped this unique trip off like frosting on the cake, is the goose-bumping, thrill of adventuring, man thing in Congo to do of tromping out in the sheer, raw nature of Africa, so close to it as to hear the roar of a real live lion just like he did so many times in the night at Kajiji attending school as a young boy. That, back to back with spotting a bambi in the nseke or plains of Africa--well, what more could this incredible man ask for?

Lord, I just love it when you show your Hand in ways unique to us--our past, our personalities, our likes, even our whims. You have our names engraved in your heart and hands. You have the hairs of our heads numbered. You keep our tears in your book and in a bottle. You are writing a book of memories we have made together, keeping track of the praises we offer like incense to you. You know us with Psalm 139 knowing. I see your great sense of humor and delight in us and with us in ways that continue to amaze me and make me love you more cause you care about everything in our lives. I love you so much, Lord. I cannot tell you how much it makes me delight in You when I see you so intricately involved in our footsteps. Why does that always surprise me? When will I know you? Looking so forward to that day when I will truly know you even as I am known.