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.