Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We're Here!

We are at Nkara. Everything is going well. As usual we have a great need for supplies, but praise God we have also been able to purchase many supplies. We've held two staff meetings and have a meeting tomorrow to discuss in detail the 2009 reunion of many of our grads. Graduation 2008 will take place on March 15th. The reunion is starting on March 14th-March 21st. We're expecting hundreds of guests. Our staff is awesome, but we need your prayers because there are some staff problems. It's in the 90's and 100's here, but we're not getting tan. You're backing has been wonderful and we so appreciate your continual prayer.

Jim and Nancy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is a change in the air?

Congo is ready for change. The last election promised that but has not as yet delivered. Today I went to exchange a check for American dollars from a former classmate of Shawn's when she attended TASOK (The American School of Kinshasa) here in the 80's. Was it really that long ago Shawn?

I asked him how he sees Congo today. He said that he expected some kind of impending explosion. The soldiers haven't been paid. When they are paid, they receive only a stipend, enough to appease them until they feel they can't take it any longer. Each night their children wait for them to come home with food or money for class. There is no such thing as free public education. It is public, but at a cost. With the average person making only $100 a year, each day holds its own fears, uncertanties, and dread. Will their kids go to bed hungry again tonight? Until a few years ago, teachers made about only $3 a month.

He told me that toward the end of March, there may be a new bill printed. Last month the treasury here was down to zero dollars. This month there is less in it than is needed to get by for one month. People have to be paid, so the answer must be to just print new money, a franc with a higher number. And, although the number on the franc will double, its value will be less than the present highest numbered franc. He said everything will double in price almost overnight.

At first, his words stunned me. But as I walked out the door, I recounted how many times we have been hearing these same words down through the years. "This situation can't go on; it can't last forever. Something is going to happen." But it has lasted much longer than any of us thought possible, that is the continuing of Congo.

When we first arrived in what was then known as Zaire in 1978, one of the first tidal waves of shocking news was that the government has just changed all their currency. That means that whatever money one had at home today would be of absolutely no value tomorrow. The only hope of redeeming that money was to run to the bank and have them buy it. However, if one had a great deal of money, the bank refused to exchange it or buy it, and that person was left literally holding the bag of worthless "Zaires" as it was called. In amounts so great that a house could be purchased or a new car, the mounds of "cash" became good for nothing more than starting a fire. So people jumped out of story buildings. They hanged themselves. They fell into the depths of despair not to return to what was their norm ever.

Psalm 18 came to mind. It's an incredibly powerful song about the Lord taking a stand when His children have been attacked ruthlessly their enemies. In this case, it was the Lord's beloved David. What hits me about this Psalm is that the Lord actually changes position when He has had enough of the onslaught of evil on his babies. I have noted this change of position over and over again in the Scriptures. Just think about it: the Lord will rise up at the right time, the succinct time--not a minute too soon or a minute too late which is only known to Him--and by the breath of His nostrils throw our enemies to flight, consuming their power and very presence by His zeal alone. It amazes me. It gives me goose bumps, and it is worth posting this dynamite section of the Word of God.

It gives me such hope for the people of Congo who love Him and pray through many nights, fast many days, and bow before Him in great fear and reverence. Take a minute and read it for yourself with me one more time beginning with verse 4 of Psalm 18:

"The cords or bands of death surrounded me, and the streams of ungodliness and the torrents of ruin terrified me.

The cords of Sheol (the place of the dead) surrounded me; the snares of death confronted and came upon me.

v 6 In my distres when seemingly closed in I called upon the Lord and cried to my God; He heard my voice out of His temple, and my cry came before Him into His very ears.

v 7 Then the earth quaked and rocked, the foundations also of the mountains trembled; they moved and were shaken because He was indignant and angry.

v 8 There went up smoke from His nostrils; and lightning out of His mouth devoured; coals were kindled by it.

v 9 He bowed the heavens also and came down, and thick darkness was under His feet.

v 10 And He rode upon a cherub and flew; yes, He sped on with the wings of the wind.

v 11 He made darkness His secret hiding place; as His pavillion round about Him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

v 12 Out of the brightness before Him there broke forth through His thick clouds hailstones and coals of fire.

v 13 The Lord also thundered from the heavens, and the Mot High uttered His voice, amid hailstones and coals of fire.

v 14 And He sent out His arrows and scattered them; and He flashed forth lightnings and put them to rout.

v 15 Then the beds of the sea appeared and the foundations of the world were laid bare at Your rebuke. O Lord, at the blast of the breath of Your nostrils.

v 16 He reached from on high. He tooke me; He drew me out of many waters.

v 17 He delivered me from my strong enemy and from those who hated and abhorred me, for they were too strong for me.

v 18 They confronted me and came upon me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my stay and support.

v 19 He brought me forth also into a large place; He was delivering me because He was pleased with me and delighted in me.

I love verse 19. Oh, God! You are going to bring your Congolese children forth into a large place; You are delivering them because You are please with them and delighted in them.

As I stated, this is not the first time of a threatening future for these people and others who work and minister here. So it may be nothing more than spoken fears and projected dread. But will you pray with us for a diffusing of any plans satan has to harm, kill, and destroy for whenever the changeover of currency may take place?

I leave with you two comforting portions of Scripture that so wells up in my spirit during a wanna be crossroads facing Congo. It is this:

When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift a standard against him and put him to flight; It will come like a rushing stream which the breath of the Lord drives.

and Isaiah 8:13,14

"The Lord of hosts--regard Him as holy and honor His holy name by regarding Him as your only hope of safety, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread, lest you offend Him by your fear of man and your distrust of Him.

And He shall be a sanctuary, a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him."

We are leaving Kinshasa tomorrow. I won't be able to post as I have been posting. And though it will be wonderful to be back on the mission campus of Nkara, there is a degree of isolation. Part of that isolation is the fact that we have no internet access. Therefore, I will call our sweet Molly and dictate short updates for her to post or to send JCI Design in Dearborn to post for us. I am not sure how that will work.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I will miss blogging these updates so much, and I will yearn to read email. That is something we want to change by the next trip we make to Congo. And the Lord can do anything--even give us vital connection through the internet in the bush, 450 miles due east from here. nancy

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wish I had a camera. . .

Cameras are forbidden on the streets of Congo as a rule unless they go undetected, of course. Yesterday, we did some serious shopping for the upcoming reunion we are praying to be able to have from March 14 through March 21. One of the delectable dishes is makayabu (mock ah yaboo). Makayabu is a mild fish to begin with, but for the sake of preservation, it is heavily salted to the point of brine so that it can remain eatable without refrigeration. You can smell it a mile away. Bones are still intact, and it is as stiff as a cutting board. After soaking or boiling the salted fish for a good length of time, it tenderizes and is delicious with beans, rich, and palm fat. I can't remember if palm fat is currently not good for you or it is now okay to consume. The rules keep changing.

At any rate, on Monday we priced the prized catch in downtown Kinshasa (known as Kin), and yesterday while at another market far from downtown, we noted a much better sale. Changes in prices take place momentarily depending on who is buying, how poor or affluent they are, and what skin color they wear. We drew a lot of attention as we purchased two 100 lb. sacks of dried beans, 20 kilos (2.2 lb. to a kilogram), and about 50 lb. of onions. In fact, with windows rolled down but the space filled with bodies and faces and thus no air circulation, the temperature inside Augi's little car mounted. Swarms of Congolese quickly surrounded us, hoping to make a quick sale of everything from brooms, to flashlights, to gaudy colored bras, to aprons, to butcher knives. . . you get the idea!

As we began to look for vegetable oil, two men appeared out of the woodwork; and, voila, they opened cartons of huge pieces of the smelley commodity we needed. Then the fun began. In Congo, I learned the hard way to always weigh products being sold on the streets that claim a certain weight on the package. In the past when purchasing makayabu, the stated weight of 9 kg. has fallen far short when I failed to do this at the time of purchase and later had to weigh the product so it could be transported on the MAF plane to go up country to our mission campus.

After an hour of weighing 10 boxes of the nauseating salt brine and fish smell, with half of my body out of back seat window and persperation dripping down my face, constantly reminding them to take their hands off the carton as they weighed the fish, we successfully validated our 9 kg. per carton x 10, piled them all in the trunk, and sat back to enjoy the breeze that we were afforded because of the disappearance of vendors, and made our way home.

Jim decided to go with me yesterday, and we both wished we could have shot that scene with my little camera.

Today was more of the same. In order to cook, have hot water, and refrigerate and freeze food, we must use propane tanks. For the last 3 years, however, propane has not been available in Kinshasa. That means men have to risk their lives going across the crocodile-infested waters, avoiding whirlpools which took the life a former beloved MK several years ago, and carry those 100 lb tanks in a canoe, purchasing them in Brazzaville. So you know what that means--the price has doubled.
Since eating raw meat is not an option, we choose to pay the high price. That meant spending an hour and a half in the back seat of Augi's car in temps of nearly 90 while the men weighed the tanks, filled the tanks that were underweight, called a delivery truck, loaded the tanks on the delivery truck, and then we all drove out to the MAF hangar, had to get special permission from MAF to put them in the hangar, drive through a gated entry, and hire a few men to unload the tanks and put them in a secure place.

It is a different world out here. The good difference is that as people are standing around--in particular a policman yesterday who calmed the crowd and kept it from total bedlam because of their desperation to sell something so they can buy food for supper that night--the Gospel can be freely shared, welcomed, and actually embraced without any looks from the recipient that make you think he thinks you are not operating with a full deck, or that you might be a finatic, or you are emotionally deranged.

And that is what makes it so worth it to be here. People are desperate for God, and THEY KNOW THEY ARE DESPERATE FOR GOD. In America, we are desperate for God, but we don't know that we are or how desperate we are. Most actually want to hear. Most are teachable. Most embrace the Godpel. Many crave actually owning a Bible. They take a tract as if it were a newly discovered treasure.

The most disappointing thing about the last 3 days is that sweating boat loads does not necessarily equate to losing weight! Makes me so bummed.

We can't wait to get up country as they call it here or into the interior. It so brings us back to basics. It is so satisfying to watch people light up when given the smallest token of appreciation for what they are doing. To see how much the Word of God is treasured here, validated, and held soaringly high. To sit down with people who never make you feel rushed or as if they have more important things to be tending to. To gather with those who will set aside what they are doing at the drop of a hat to gather for prayer and take those requests home with them to lift them to God day after day until the answers come. What a privilege to walk with them. They teach us soooo much.

Your prayers are being felt. Can't thank you enough for interceding. God treasures your prayer thoughts so much he keeps them in a bottle and writes them in a book. Serious stuff. Makes us recheck our priorities. I love Congo. I love being here despite the difficulties. It makes me fiercely God dependent. No fluff here. Genuine warfare. In His strength, we are going to see victory after victory. Lord, strengthen what you have wrought for us! You are AWESOME.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday. . .

Not much happened today. We went to get Congolese currency, which was a distance of 2 miles which took more than 30 minutes. What is known as a main highway, the 30th of June, is two large lanes of cement pavement embedded with thousands and thousands of cars. The street is the same as it was when constructed by the Belgians in the forties, maybe the thirties. I don't know what the population was back then, but today it is probably close to 9 million, and the road is the same. So it is bumper to bumper and zigzagging from more lanes than there is room for to get to one's destination. It definitely requires a defensive driving attitude. We leave the driving to Augi who has been on staff with Laban since the late 90's.

Little children and beggars come to the car windows. Clusters of scattered refugees can be found on the streets downtown. Dodging potholes is a full time job, and windows must be kept rolled up to avoid being robbed. Mind you, they are not malicious robbers in that they will not harm one bodily, but are desperate for food or money for their children's education. Vendors also run up to the cars, selling anything from maps of Congo to watches, to kleenex to puppies. Thousands upon thousands are walking the sides of the streets as well, trying to catch a ride to work or going to buy goods they can turn around and sell down town or wherever. What a sad life the people of Congo have been forced to settle for from policial leaders who promise them everything and just do not deliver to the masses.

Every time we leave Congo, we say to ourselves that surely it can't get any worse, and then when we return here, we see that it has in fact become just that.

Pastor Gary Kapinga, the national director of Laban in Congo, called us today on his cell phone. He lives at Nkara, our mission campus. It was good to hear his voice. We will see him on Friday. Funny, everyone--even the poorest--has a cell phone here, just like everyone in the States has a TV, even the poorer.

Bodies everywhere. Faces I don't know. Many tongues; in fact, I hear there are over 800 dialects in Congo alone. And God knows everyone of those faces and understands all those tongues!

Someday you will make it all right, Lord. Cannot the judge of the earth do right? We place them all into your hands, Father. It is overwhelming. The need is beyond fathoming or putting into words. Lord, bring them to yourself.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are we there yet?

We are! For the next two months, our blog will consist of live updates from Congo. Friday, Feb 13, we left Detroit to Chicago to Washington Dulles, to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then today on up to Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. A total of 21 hours was spent in the airplanes, and we are thrilled to report that all 17 trunks made it in good shape.

We are staying at the home of Dan and Karen Carlson in the capital city and will have internet access until late Thursday night. That's because on Friday we fly into the bush via Mission Aviation Fellowship, and there will be no internet access there. So to keep you current, we will call home and dictate updates which will be sent through an email to JCI Design who will post them on this blog. Cool, eh?

Tomorrow will be spent going to several different locations to get propane tanks so we can have COLD water and ICE from our propane frig and freezer, HOT RUNNING WATER set up by Towers for Jesus some years back, and COOK QUICKLY on a propane stove. We go one place for dried beans for the students at Laban Bible Institutes as well as dried fish and another place for rock salt, 100 lb bags of sugar and flour, another place for 50 lb bags of dried milk, and another place for potatoes and fresh vegetables. It takes all day going for several days, but we should be through by Thursday night.

We expect to have a grand time with our people. One highlight will be a reunion, Lord willing, if funds are available (and we have a good start on them) around Mar 20
with graduates coming as close as 50 miles and as far away as 200 miles. By the way, they don't fly in, nor do they take a Greyhound bus; nope, not even a bicycle. They walk to come and be refreshed in the Word of God and by their fellow grads. (See our website, home page, for more information).

Another event will be attending graduation. Because we were unable to return to Congo last year, the ceremonies will be held in March. We are thinking of combining the reunion with graduation. A couple of cows will give their all to help feed the hundreds who will attend, along with goats, chickens, and fish, dried beans, rice, caterpillars (silkworms) cooked in palm fat with onions and hot pepper, saka saka (similar to our spinach), fresh bread baked in clay ovens, tea, coffee, and sardines. Are you working up an appetite? It will be a great week, and our grads will go home so encouraged and ready to plunge back in to their routine with fresh zeal.

Please pray for Satan's defeat. He hates seeing Christians praising God together. He hates the advancement of God's kingdom. He hates seeing God rescue the perishing. He hates seeing triumph and valor and rejoicing. He hates seeing God glorified and worshiped. He hates seeing our trust strengthened, deepened and solidified. That's what is in store, so we can be sure he will appear in many different forms. After all, he poses as an angel of light doesn't he? We want to see him coming and see him defeated in Jesus' name, diffused before our eyes, and fall into the pit he is attempting to dig for us all our here who love the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be high and lifted up by men and women we consider

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The warmth of great friends

January has been a whirlwind of a month for Jim and me. We moved our ministry and personal belongings after 22 years from Detroit to Nashville. No sooner had we moved than we returned to Detroit for ministry reasons. Back to Nashville to further settle in and prepare to return to Congo after a 15 month absence.

We left Nashville yesterday worn out from the drain life has brought our way and walked right into the warm and peaceful atmosphere of friends near and dear to our hearts. They have graciously opened their home to us until we leave for Congo on Friday, Feb. 13. The wife of the couple has been very involved in our lives as well as Laban's for 20 years. We met her shortly after Jim's accident when we were both bruised and broken, carrying around half-crushed dreams yet to be resurrected and lived out. The unpredictably of Jim's closed head injury rushed into our livesunannounced, unwelcome, and unwilling to leave. Uncertainty plagued us. Life had become a tornado-like whirlwind that left in its wake fear and shock and sudden change. Doctors could promise nothing as far as when or if Jim would return to his normal preaccident baseline.

She has been a solace and cheerleader to me personally down through the years. I can't tell you how many lunches we have shared together and poured our hearts out to each other. She is one of my soul mates, and I love her dearly.

As we walked into their home, I felt the exhaustion take flight. The

Friday, February 6, 2009

How we are shaped by those who have gone before. . .

Building a hospital in Congo can be very overwhelming. Tonight I am overwhelmed. This is going to be a long post. I may lose you before you finish attempting to read it all. Nonetheless, I feel I must lay my heart and thoughts on the table.

My husband, Jim, is a man of great vision and capacity. He grew up on the mission field and saw the hand of God move powerfully as far back as he can remember. God's power was the backdrop of his childhood. That power unleashed resulted in Jim seeing people, whose darkened minds were controlled by the evil of witchcraft and satanism, turn from cannibalism, child sacrifice and fetish worship to awakening to new life which radically transformed them. Several such outcomes of radical change were their burning of fetishes--the custom of worshiping parrot feathers, goat manure, and squash seeds contained in a gourd was held near and dear to their hearts for decades to honor their ancestors--forsaking cannibalism and child sacrifice, and entering baptism 7 abreast at one time by national pastors in the lake down the hill in front of their home with as many as 1200 individuals in a single day. He still recalls how his mind's eye sees rows of women, maybe as many as twelve in a row, locked arm in arm dressed in their new beautiful African cloth (as opposed to going topless before being saved), singing, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus."

Jim saw more than 10,000 of these Bianzi people make such professions of faith and testify of their new resurrected life through baptism. He saw much more. Adventure and drama filled his youthful days, and many evenings were spent listening to his parents discuss the return of Christ. Laban and Marcella were pioneer missionaries. They were gutsy. They plowed in virgin territory. Both their bodies have enriched African soil, someday to be resurrected in total splendor and light. This great stock left him an incredible heritage which he not only embraced early on in life but continues to cherish, greatly respect, and cling to in order that he may honor the Ancient of Days until he stands before Him one fine day in total rapture.

Being shaped by this amazing background has made Jim seize and run with the truth that Jesus Christ is all powerful and can do ANYTHING. In other words, there is nothing that the Lord cannot do! Jim is a man of faith, and he boldly brags on God all the time, fanning the fire of faith in others because he himself has the gift of faith. Do you see where he is coming from?

Recently, Jim has been challenged to involve himself in a monumental task. It entails writing 10 out of 15 comprehensive case points to present to able-bodied philanthropists who may decide to back a major portion of this enormous undertaking of erecting a hospital in the bush of Congo, Africa.

One of the points to be covered is human/societal need. Thus, the topic of this blog. In covering this point, Jim shares how the loss of a human life so dear as his father's as well as other losses over the years may have been prevented had there been a hospital near Nkara. After copying his chicken scratch (sorry Jim, your handwriting leaves a little to be desired), about a week or so ago, I can't seem to stop thinking about that day when Laban Smith left this earth. For the past several days my thoughts continue to wing their way back to those 9 hours of horror, a day forever locked in Jim's mind, a day full of bewilderment, shock, disbelief, and incredible loss, a day that heavily influenced everything about my man--his future, his commitment to Scripture, his goals, his thought patterns, the way he would walk with the Lord--everything. Not only did it alter his life, but the man and his death continue to shape his steps and life pattern and temper who he is and what he does. Not just the heart wrenching experience of watching his Dad's life fad, but the man his father really was. Nothing would ever be the same again because of what took place on that day when he was only ten as well as the years leading up to his dad's home going. On January 24, 1953. Dr. Laban Smith fell just 8 feet, and 9 hours later he was with Jesus. Read it for yourself.

The recount of my father's accident:

Breakfast was a 8 a.m. on Saturday morning. The Shannon Family had traveled 300 miles so that my father, Dr. Laban Smith, could fix Mrs. Shannon's abscessed teeth. He was an oral surgeon but also committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, His Lord. Malaria and high blood pressure had made him weak, but he would not stop building the new house of brick, stone, and wood with an aluminum roof.

As he was sitting down at the table, he said, "I feel so good today." I was glad to hear him say that. Dad was my hero. Nothing seemed to stop him. A prayer of thanks, breakfast, and off to work on the 3-story home. Mrs. Shannon's x-rays were not ready yet, so the dental office sat empty that Saturday.

My brother, Jack, and I took Ralph and Jack Shannon to find a fruit tree our African friends had discovered across the Ewa stream. In Congo, this was like finding a candy store, of which the closest one was 65 miles and 5 bumpy hours away.

Hardly crossing the stream, we heard and saw a young man running across the big long tree bridging the stream. "Jack ti Jim, kwisa nswalu. Tata ya beno me kubwa. Yandi kebasisa menga na munoko." Jack and Jim come quickly. Your father has fallen and blood is coming out of his mouth. "Yandi kele mbote ve." He is not good, which means it is very serious.

Jack and Ralph soon out paced me and my friends running back to the house and second story. Instead of a candy tree of fruit came the broken tree of terror, hopelessness, fear, and total desperation. This 10-year-old heart with uncontrollable tear-filled eyes ran the quarter mile to the beautiful new home Dr. Smith was building for his family, expecting to live there for many years.

As I made my way through the kitchen door to the dining room and starting up the stairs, my brother, Jack, met me at the landing. "Jimmy, Dad is lying on the cement floor unconscious and is bleeding out of his mouth badly. He can't talk. He's unconscious. I continued up the steps, turned left, and through the family room to the wide upstairs porch. My mother, Marcella, was kneeling by Dad's side, holding his hand. Her face was one of bewilderment, a voice of deep pleading, " Oh God! Help! Jesus, help!" Mrs. Shannon, a nurse, was cupping his head, examining him. The African nurse, Pierre Nsenge, had his stethoscope draped around his neck, having tested Laban's heart rate and blood pressure. Some of the work staff silently in a daze of prayer, stood at a desperate vigil that "Munganga"--doctor--would come back to normality.

Of course, Laban must be gotten to a doctor and hospital. Marcella's first choice was Vanga, the American Baptist Hospital and their friend, Dr. Osterholm. Mrs. Shannon thought my Uncle's Willys station wagon would be so much smoother than the big 6-ton Chevy truck. My uncle Mit lived at Iwungu, 65 miles away. Mr. Shannon would take Makumbi, Dad's trained driver, to get the Yosts. But at Iwungu, the Yosts were on their way to Kikwit another 60 miles. At Kikwit, Yosts had gone to Kafumba--too far away. Better use his pick up. The fact that My uncle was not available in Iwungu or Kikwit took Mr. Shannon several hours to find out.

He began the return to Nkara for Laban. It had been at least 6 hours since Shannon left. Marcella Smith and Mrs. Shannon decided they could not wait any longer. The decision was to use Laban's 6-ton Chevy truck, and the driver would be Jack Smith, who started to drive t age 7 and was now 13. Dad was gently loaded into the truck by several men led by Dad's dear coworker, Toma, who began to work with Dad 14 years earlier. They picked him up carefully, firmly, tenderly from the porch, cautiously watching each half step they took down the winding staircase. This was the body of the man who led them out of darkness into The Marvelous Light, a representative of Jesus Christ. They gently loaded him into the monstrous truck. I sat in the front. Mom, on her knees, cradled Dad's head in the back of the truck. Mrs. Shannon kneeled by his side. Jack started the truck. Toma would not leave his side. He would see him to the hospital, helping and encouraging Marcella all the way. He also counseled Jack to drive easily and with courage.

The two Lukwa bridges were 20 and 10 feet long, rather narrow, and immediately there was a steep hill to climb. Up the 1/2 mile road leading from the mission Jack drove to the top, made the left turn on the main road, which was hardly fit to be called a road, to Kikwit where the hospital was located.

As we passed the village of Longo--the largest of the Bayanzi Tribe and the village which called Dr. Smith to come tell them of Jesus Christ , God's Son, to which 10,000 Bayanzi's in a matter of 5 years responded wholeheartedly, accepting Dr. Laban Smith's Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ who forgave all who believed all their sins, even their cannibalism--quiet bodies stood, slowly waving, praying Dr. Smith, their missionary and doctor, would live and return to them again.

Jack slowly approached the Lukwa Bridge and stopped so Toma could direct the wheels over the planks. I was told to get out of the truck, but Marcella and Mrs. Shannon stayed with Laban. They would not leave him by himself. They would also go down if the truck and Jack went down.

Reloaded, Jack started up the steep Lukwa River Hill. The truck engine did not stop but smoothly, thank God and Jack, 12 minutes later made it up the winding hill to the level savannah. The drive was normal and smooth as Jack at 13 drove the lumbering beast carefully. His father was on the floor on a mattress.

Driving in the Kwilu Forest and down its hills to end up at the barge of the Kwilu River--always a breathtaking experience, even for professional drivers--how will Jack do? Maybe an experienced driver will be available to put it on the barge. More than once trucks have gone off the front, killing driver, riders, and the loss of all cargo. Our cargo was Dad. The river was over a thousand feet wide, 90 feet deep with a 6 mile an hour flow speed.

At 13, Jack had become a young man trying to save his father. Jim was praying and meeting God in a real way at the age of 10.

Halfway to Kikwit with quiet but strong supported national staff and Toma, they began to say, "Mr. Shannon's truck is up ahead coming toward us." Jack easily but immediately rolled to a stop. Shannon and Makumbi took Shannon's truck and Shannon took the 6 ton Chevy truck. Jack would not have to drive Dad on to the barge or off of it into the city of Kikwit.

Mr Shannon drove up the hill at 5 p.m., and 45 minutes later he was at the hospital. Toma helped to push Dad and the mattress to the end of the canvas-covered truck. Male nurses were on the ground to receive him and carry him to his room.

Marcella and Mrs. Shannon were talking to the head doctor, Fimi, describing what had happened.

Laban was given morphine to put him to rest. Jack and Jim were brought in to see their dad. He seemed to be resting. All was quiet. We were praying and trusting in Dr. Fimi. Mom led us back out to the truck where Jack and I sat in the front just waiting, praying, bewildered, hoping==waiting for mom to come back and say something to us. In an hour of arriving at the hospital, things went fast. After a half hour, mom came out to the truck and said, "Boys, I think your daddy will be leaving us soon." I said, "Where is he going?" "To be with Jesus," she said. " He will have a new home and be with God." Courageously, Marcella returned to Laban's side.

Fifteen minutes later Marcella let out with a desperate, lonely wail of a 49-year-old wife and partner who saw her husband's soul and spirit depart his body to be with His Lord, Savior, Creator, and God, whom he loved and served faithfully.

Mom came to the truck. Her cry told us something bad had happened, but we hoped to her that he was worse but not dead. However, she said, "Boys, your dad is with Jesus. He died a few minutes ago." Jim asked, "Will Jesus let him talk to us tonight?" "No, Jim. Daddy can't talk to us on earth. You will someday." "Mom, what does Daddy look like now?" "He is in glory in the presence of Jesus and God, the Father. In Revelation it says, 'The saints are dressed in white clothes, and they are all glorious within."

Uncle Howard Street drove his panel truck to take us down to the mission hostel to eat and sleep. The next day the funeral would be in the dining and living room area which was connected and open. The Belgian Governor of the Kwilu District told Marcella that Dr. Smith is "one of ours, and we will make his coffin, and we want him to be buried here in Kikwit."

That dad's body could not walk, talk, build, evangelize, fix teeth, be present, protect, lead, but be put into a casket and that in the ground was unthinkable, strange, another world. But that would happen to my father, a man of doing, solidness, life, purpose, a love for God and the Bible. However, now he was in the presence of Jesus Christ. He was seeing his son, Gary, who died 6 years before on furlough. The dreams and realities of life after death were his to know now--more real than the physical of 53 years. Earth cannot describe it. Paul said, "To be with the Lord is far better."

Howard Street preached the funeral. A Mennonite ladies' trio sang Saved by Grace, Face to Face, and I Shall Know Him. We did not know there were so many cars in the Kwilu District as Belgian officials, businessmen, and their wives, and the many Portuguese families who were involved in the palm oil industry came to honor Dr. Smith, who was their dentist but also the man whom they could easily talk to. And out of the love of his heart for them and for the Lord Jesus Christ, he had in such tenderness and joy shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How interesting, as they sat in his dental chair and he shared Christ with them, he spoke in the Kituba language. When they could, they would respond in the Kituba language. He never pushed, never forced but in grace. Now they were saying goodbye to him. A long line, practically bumper to bumper, most unusual in that part of the Congo, followed Mr. Street's green suburban Chevrolet up the mile-long road to the cemetery. Hundreds of Africans were there. Many missionaries and government people who knew and greatly respected Laban were there for the funeral.

As we walked out of the guest house, it was amazing to see all the cars waiting nearby in the compound which they had filled, who could not even attend the funeral, but wanted to be part of the funeral procession. Missionary men let his body down into the grave with straps and, as Mom, Jack, and I stood off to the right, I remember that hit so hard--my father was being put into the ground. But the soul and spirit were with the Lord. Dad and Mom had so prepared Jack and me for what happens to the Christian when they die because they talked about heaven as if they were had been there. The world we lived in changed and changed me in many ways I can't even tell. Dad was no longer with us, but he was with the Lord. I would see him again.

And so a boy losing his father at age 10--what is that all about? I don't know. What I do often ponder are these possibilities:

Would Jim have become the man of faith he is today if his father would have lived?

Was his father's death the catalyst along with his older brother's death that made him promise God he would give Him a year and read a chapter everyday for a year to test God and see if he was who he said he was.

Is Jim's drive so strong because he lost his hero at such a tender age?

Would the Lord Jesus Christ be so vital in Jim's life had he not had to thrust himself on his only real source of comfort besides his mother at that age?

Would he seek the mind of Christ without experiencing the sufferings of Christ; i.e. the horrific death of his dad?

Would he ever have gone back to Congo to give his life for the African people he loves so much without being stripped of the life of his father?

I have no idea, but I thank God for having shared 44 years with a man who

walks the walk instead of just blabbing a bunch of empty, air-filled words and unkept promises.

has chosen to walk away from bitterness and self-pity

whose lips are full of praise all the time for the Great I Am

who locks his sight into things afar off which are unseen rather than centering his short life on earth on things that are tangible

and I am still overwhelmed with the idea of building a hospital in the bush of Congo! HELP!!!