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!