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!