Thursday, December 16, 2010

Diversion: Christmas in Congo

For the last 3 posts, I have been sharing our early days in Congo on this blog. Today I want to share with you what a typical Christmas in Congo is like. Transport yourself to another world, the Third World country of the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, formerly Belgian Congo, and see that many of our traditions will not find themselves out there whatsoever. No Christmas trees. No decorations. No Santa. No gifts most likely. No snow. No malls. Try to start with a clean slate, which means erasing your childhood and adult memories that equate Christmas to you. As best as I know how, I will describe to you the surroundings that you would wake up to on Christmas morning. Here we go!

Christmas in Congo

Your bedroom consists of one small wooden bed frame covered with a grass-filled "mattress" gathered by you on a dry, sunny day. No dresser or chest of drawers enhances your bedroom, just a small trunk with yours and your siblings clothes locked inside; no comforters or soft sheets to cover up with, just maybe clothes or old rags. If you have visited the local boutique lately, you may have been able to purchase a small, lacey curtain to cover your screen-torn window.

The living room consists of a couple of unupholstered wooden chairs surrounding a small coffee table, and off to the side of the room is a somewhat larger table and two more chairs used for guests who drop by to visit and chat. The coffee table may boast a daily crocheted by the woman of the house after attending the Women's Literacy school where she has learned to sew, write her name, and read the Bible for the very first time. Some of the walls may be lined with Penney's catalogue pages with which children have been rewarded for memorizing Scripture in Sunday School. No Christmas tree will light up the room, and no decorations will give a festive mood.

There is no inside plumbing, no closets, no picture windows. The home will either be made of cement block, approximately 600 square feet with a tin roof, or it will be a mud/stick dwelling with a thatched grass roof, about 400 square feet. As many as four children will sleep in one bed. The average-sized family has eight to ten children because so many die in childbirth or from malaria, typhoid, measles, pneumonia, or who knows what. So your home may have three bedrooms with four or five kids in two of the bedrooms and a third "master bedroom" for the parents.

Your feet will not feel the comfort of rugs, but instead a dirt floor. There will be no pretty dishes, no wallpaper, no paint on the walls, few towels, no TV, and no kitchen cupboards. An outside kitchen, which is really more like a smoke house, sits close by. That way, if the kitchen catches on fire, at least the whole house doesn't burn down. meals are cooked over an open fire, no ovens, unless you have had one made out of mud brick. In either case, the aroma of Christmas cookies will not entice your senses.

Stark is the atmosphere, drab the surrounds, but stout are many hearts because their faith in Jesus is rich and firm. However, Christmas is still Christmas, and children are still children. you can make a big difference in the lives of these hard-working men and women of Laban and their precious families. One option we offer every Christmas is what we call The Dream Package. For $300 you can feed an entire family of 8 to 10, consisting of a meal of beef, rice, gravy, bread, chicken with palm oil and tomato sauce, luku (like a thick, thick porridge), greens, beans and cokes for the family. This Dream Package also includes a new cloth for the mother to make her a dress, a new pair of shoes or shirt for the father, clothes for each of the children as well as a toy. Will you pray about how you can make their Christmas Day special.

Your kindness will brighten up the dullness and flood their lives with holiday cheer and the love of Christ.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Kikwit, a place you can spend a week in in a night

So after arriving in Kinshasa, Democratic of Republic on Dec 8, 1978, my husband, Jim and our three children Shawn, Nicol, and Todd with one more on the way, and I were rescued by a unique couple called the Voths. The next seven weeks we learned a few ropes in the capital city, met some wonderful fellow missionaries, and then it was time to leave.

We flew on a Mission Aviation Fellowship plane to the city of Kikwit, a town of then around 700,000 people, including several mennonite missionaries, none of whom we knew before. After Solomon (cook at the missionary guest house where we were residing) exhausted his culinary arts, specializing in burnt toast, eggs cooked quite well, and plain rice for lunch and dinner, our taste buds got desperate for a change. Gloriously, one day Jim went to the post office where we had established a mailing address, and brought home a large box, really large.

Ode to Joy! A box! For us? What could be inside and who sent it? We excitedly gathered around the table and with bated breath waited to discover what treasures could possibly be inside. The box was addressed to Jim's mom from his mom, and she sent it fourteen months before its arrival date by boat. Two things I remember clearly that were inside were her girdle and some packages of dried gravy. Shawn (10) and I grabbed the packs and jumped up and down all over the room. We exclaimed, "Brown gravy! Now we can have delicious gravy to go with our plain rice." The lack of variety in our food for 21 days released in us all a deep sense of gratitude for something so basic as a gravy mix! Rice never tasted so good after that!

Loneliness settled in and made itself at home in our family. Times were hard in Congo. Gasoline was hard to come by. We had no car. The missionary families in Kikwit used very conservative measures to make things last, which meant no one offered to pick us up for church, fellow shipping in homes, holding or attending Bible study, or just visiting one another. By now, I was 6 months' pregnant and had actually lost weight. Be that as it may, we all longed to be with other people, and so walking became our mode of transportation despite the heat and pregnancy issues.

The first gathering we attended was a Bible study at an older couple's home. I remember walking up hill and down for what seemed a long time to get there. No children were present. There were no other missionary children in Kikwit the same ages as our kids, but that was not a problem. We were all so homesick that age didn't matter. All we felt that night was the wonder of being with people and the momentary subsiding and dulling of the prickling pain of culture shock. Our children experienced the comfort of men and women who could be their grand parents whom thy missed terribly. We sat together and held hands the whole time.

Missionaries are their own breed of extremely independently thinking, opinionated, survivors. They have to be. Sometimes the mix is like oil and water. I grew to absolutely love two women missionaries in Kikwit. One was a single lady, and the other was married, who could possibly have been my mother. Both had served the Lord for years and years in Congo. They were a marvel to me. Two other servants of the Lord there did no understand my pain. One told me to just snap our of it, and the other's stern way made me want to run out of the room whenever she came around.

Then one day in waltzed a woman to the guest house I can see in my mind's eye as though she is standing before me now. Tall, built like my mother-in-law, well-endowed, hair done up in a bun, wearing a typical missionary flowered dress, black old lady shoes as I used to call them (they tied and had stout heels), no make up, but what a face she had: full of love, chiseled out of a broad spectrum of life I had yet to know, including hardship, joy, sorrow, miraculous acts of survival by God Himself, predicaments that only the Lord could get her out of, wisdom and CONTENTMENT!!! We spent just minutes together, but she made a profound impact on me. She equated the Presence of a Holy God. Immediately sensing my not fitting in, she put her arms around me. Instantly I felt peace. Then she said something I couldn't have disagreed with more. Something so strange and so unlikely unbelievable, and unwanted I shirked inside.

She said, "Congo gets in your blood." Short. Pungent. Ridiculous.

It will never get in my blood, I screamed inside. But it did. . . eventually.

Life continued in Kikwit for the next six weeks. Jim made regular trips to the post office, where at that time we actually received mail. Each time we greatly anticipated his return. Would there be more packages? Yes! One day another box came. This time we found food items that were to die for! Cocoa mix, packaged mac and cheese, canned meats, peanut butter, and goodies we had not tasted in more than a month. Food never tasted so good. The Voths came through once again.

That same night Nicol and I went into the dimly lit kitchen, and our kerosene lantern showed us around. We combined the cocoa mix with powdered milk and sugar and drank in the deliciousness of hot chocolate. It was heavenly. Visitors from the area knocked at our front door. Jim, Shawn, and Todd were not there. I brought the lantern through the living room and for some reason let the strangers in. They sat there with us. We didn't understand a word they said; nor did they understand us, but their concern for us transcended our lingual lacks. Because they knew that in the States we were never without electricity, knew that Jim's mom had died, and knew that Africa was not our homeland, they wanted to comfort us. So we sat in silence and took in their love.

Easter was upon us. It was April, 1979, We all walked to church together and then to a wonderful resurrection celebration. There must have been 20 of us missionaries meeting together. And you know what? One of the items was real potatoes made into potato salad. Oh bliss!

While in Kikwit, Jim was able to visit his mother's gravesite. His father is buried there as well. But they are not next to each other. Both bodies are buried in African soil to be resurrected one glorious day. Both are legends in Congo. Totally sold out, not really counting their lives dear unto themselves, they put their hands to the plow and never looked back. Heroes. Servants of the Most High God. How indebted I am to them for not taking the easy way out, the simpler route, for doing the hard stuff by God's grace. They set the bar high. They inspired. They both finished the race well. Marcella and Laban, I don't know how to thank you. Words aren't enough. You made decisions that changed my life forever!!! I love you.

Next step is moving into the Interior or the Bush of Congo. Kikwit would become a much wanted retreat with paved roads, on again, off again air conditioning, other expatriots, and shops opening up with a little bit of real food in them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Part II: If i can be a missionary, anyone can!

Three months after arriving in then Zaire, Africa, we were ready to go on to the mission station of Nkara. Staying with the Voths for almost two months cemented our friendship til today. We love them dearly and, though they would never take any credit for helping our agonizing souls hold on and brace ourselves for what was ahead, the Lord knows how much of a Godsend they were. We so love you, Jody and Lee.

I will back track a little. During the 7 weeks we were privileged to begin the acclimation process to a third-world country in a state of the art home like the Voths were blessed with, we experienced some wonderful times. The first one was to meet other crazies like ourselves who decided to serve God in Africa. There were several MAF families there who to this day hold a special place in our hearts, plus a missionary couple, Jim and Dawn Sawatsky, a peace corp gal at the time by the name of Sharon Kenna, who later would come to live on our mission campus for a year, Wayne and Sylvia Turner, Jim and Sue Comer, Gary and Sharon Wagner (MAF), Bob and Carol Fish (Carol would later be instrumental in saving Shawn's life), and others whose names do not come to mind right now.

Since I felt like we had moved to Mars, I just didn't know if I could cope, and so one day early on, Jody sent me to the home of a couple I cannot for the life of me recall as far as their names are concerned. Their faces are brilliantly clear though. I remember sitting on the couch, asking this missionary wife if I could go in with her on a food shipment from South Africa. All that was available on the shelves in the capital city at that time were flour and tomato paste. The president had pretty much made it clear that x-patriot businessmen were not welcomed in Kinshasa, so limited availability of supplies, such as food and everything else really, made it necessary to order goods from South Africa.

Ah, her name was Jeanie and, after discussing the logistics of sharing an order, I looked at her straight in her eyes and asked, "How do you cope?" Rather surprised by my question, she said, "I beg your pardon?" So I said it again. "How do you cope?" and began crying. She came over on the couch and comforted me. Here was a woman who flight followed her MAF pilot husband everyday, seemed content and even happy to be there, and I was sure she could give me some secrets to how she maintained her sanity. She assured me I could do this. I didn't believe her.

On Wednesday nights the missionary community and whomever else desired rotated attending homes to eat wonderful food I would miss terribly once we went into the Interior, encourage each other by sharing their frustrations, testify of the grace of God in their lives, and pray together. Every Friday morning, Dawn Sawatsky opened up her home to anyone who wanted to pray and seek God's face. I so looked forward to Wednesdays and Fridays; and then on Monday nights, there was Bible study to attend at the Voths, which Jim often led, and Sunday we gathered at the International Church of Kinshasa to worship together. Life became bearable because of people sold out to God willing to share their lives with me. I settled into a pleasant routine, knowing it would come to an end soon enough.

That "end" seemingly came after about 5 weeks when we thought we were ready to leave for Nkara. All our bags were packed, and missing Jody before I even got out the door, I feigned courage to say good bye and climbed into the car that would take us to board an MAF plane and fly to Kikwit for the next stage of our life in Africa, since there was no airstrip at Nkara. Kikwit was 60 miles south of Nkara, and we would fly there first to make arrangements to drive to Nkara. As we pulled out of Voths' driveway, Jody smiled and said, "I won't change the sheets til I hear you have safely landed in Kikwit."

After driving all the way to the MAF hangar, when we passed through the gates, we were told we lacked one document needed to clear passage into the Interior. What? You're kidding, right? No., no one was kidding. Back into the car we climbed and drove back to the Voths. Jody had not changed the sheets. She knew life in Congo all too well.

That night at the supper table, I apologized with embarrassment for having to return to stay with them for a longer time until we were truly ready to leave. Hot tears poured down my cheeks. Then, gently Lee Voth, with a twinkle in his eye said, "Now we will have none of that talk. Obviously, the timing is not right for you to leave us. You are not to be embarrassed or ashamed about staying with us. You are part of our family. God wants you here. We want you here."I will NEVER FORGET THAT MOMENT. His kind words were a balm to my soul. And I began to think how wonderful that we had another chance to live with people I dearly loved for a little while longer.

During the next two weeks, we were given advice by another missionary lady who, along with her husband, served the Lord faithfully for many years in Congo. She told Jim that she really felt strongly about our spending a good amount of time in Kikwit to take more time to adjust to Africa before going to Nkara. How I wish I could see her today and tell her how invaluable that advice proved to be.

So that's what we did. We traveled to Kikwit and ended up staying at the Guest House Jim's dad had practiced dentistry in twice a year for two weeks. He had built an office there, and Jim's mom at one time had run the guest house, which was a haven for travel-worn missionaries. Kikwit was a large town with paved roads, a port city built on the Kwilu River, which could not be traveled any further south because of the rapids of the Kwilu. Hot and humid, we found sleep hard to come by. A national by the name of Solomon was the "cook" there. Simple meals awaited us each day, like burnt toast, a couple of eggs (for 5 people) which we took turns eating, and plain rice, Since we didn't know our way around Kkwit and had no car, we didn't know what other foods were available. We assumed that Kikwit was like Kinshasa, and for a couple of weeks ate these blah meals until one day, when a package arrived that my mother-in-law had sent 14 months earlier by boat.

To be continued. Don't want to wear you out.

Monday, December 6, 2010

December 6, 1978 - If I can do it, anybody can!

Thirty two years ago today, we boarded a plane and arrived two days later in the country known then as Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, a mammoth country 1/3 the size of the US. Scared, pregnant, and feeling ill-equipped for the mission field, from which I had always run, I sat numb in my seat.

Upon our arrival in Kinshasa I robotically made my way to the door to deplane and walked out into a sauna-like atmosphere. We were on our own. No one was there to greet us. No one even knew we were coming.

"We" consisted of my husband, Jim, born in what was then called the Belgian Congo of great stock: Dr. and Mrs. Laban and Marcella Smith. Laban we were told was the first oral surgeon in the history of the Congo. He lost his first wife to a brain tumor, which threw him into a tailspin of despair while trying to rear their two small children and maintain two dental practices on the East side of Detroit. He met Marcella while attending a small chapel where, after hearing Flossie Knopp preach one day, received Christ as his Savior. Marcella and Laban lived in a beautiful home in Grosse Pointe across the street from Lindberg's mother and not too far from the Dodges and other automobile executives. He had a taste for the finer things of life, but one day he called Marcella from the office and said, "God is calling us to Congo." Marcella had other thoughts. She told Laban he was too zealous, that he should pray more. He did. When she realized his zeal was not going away and that there may be more to it than just hyperenthusiasm, she wrote a mission board in Ohio, applying for approval to go as missionaries to the Congo. As she dropped the letter in the mailbox, she said, "Lord, I've done my part. Now please do yours, and see that this letter gets lost." It didn't, and off they went with two small children to Africa, never looking back. Laban wrote in his diary at the mission station of Kajiji on August 31, 1939, "Lord, I have covenanted for 10,000 of these precious souls. I thank you for the fire you have kindled in my heart, and may it never go out." He yearned to win 10,000 souls to Christ in Congo in exchange for his 10,000 patients in America. He got what he asked for. Jim grew up in the awe and wonder of first hand, pioneer missions.

In addition to Jim and me, we took our three children: Shawn, age 10, Nicol, age 8, and Todd, age 5. We collected our bags at the terminal, and a wave of nausea swelled over me as we made our way to a taxi waiting outside. The drivers of the two taxis our baggage required held up a one hundred dollar bill and said, "We want 3 of these." After negotiating with the men, we were on our way through the garbage and debris-lined streets of the sprawling capital.

We made our way to a place called CAP last visited in 1969 by Jim and I, when we took a trip to Congo to see if the Lord was calling us there. I remember standing at Laban's grave, 4 months' pregnant with Nicol, asking God if Congo was in His plan for us. Inside I prayed that it would never be in His plan. He didn't listen. Jim's missionary "Aunt Renie and Uncle Howard" were running the hotel then, and it was quite appealing. Nine years later it boasted one grey towel, half clean sheets, and hosted cockroaches, lizards, and mosquitos. My nausea intensified.

Diarrhea set in a couple of days later, but we managed to attend The International Church of Kinshasa. Visitors were asked to stand and introduce themselves. Jim did so and explained we were on our way to the Interior or Bush to meet his mother who had preceded us by a month, or so we thought. The next day, Dr. Fountain, a missionary doctor, met Jim on the porch and told him Marcella had died 3 weeks before at Nkara, where we would eventually make our home.

Jim sank in disbelief and the aroma of death was paralyzing. We were perplexed as well by the paperwork needed for us to go up country. Things had changed drastically in just 9 years. We just got there, but the thought of returning to America passed through our minds.

The next day out of seemingly no where, a lady by the name of Jody Voth appeared at our door step. She said, "Get your bags packed. You're coming home with me, and I don't want any arguing." Now, I am a shy person by nature, but I knew God had sent an angel, and so I ran back into the room and started packing.

We went from a non-rated excuse for a hotel to a comfortable, air-conditioned, beautifully furnished embassy home. Oh joy! Jody had heard Jim's testimony, went home and told her husband she sensed the Lord wanted them to take us in, and after he agreed, she came to get us. In my heart of hearts I will always believe that the Voths are the biggest reason we stayed in Congo.

We lived with them for 7 weeks, after which we made our way to Kikwit (a town of 700,000 people at thst time) after all our paper work was in order, staying there 6 weeks, and then into the bush at the mission station of Nkara. I dealt with all kinds of emotions depending on my hormonal level from Dec 6 to early March when we arrived at Nkara, but was sure once we got there, the will of God would fit like a glove. Not!

There is so much more to the story. Come back tomorrow for more. This is enough for one setting.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Evangelism in the boonies

We live in what is known as the Interior. It's a stretch to call it the country. Commonly referred to as the Bush, the best way to describe what it is may be to describe what it is not available there.

There is no electricity provided by the area or wells, let alone running water.

Hospitals and medical care facilities are few and far between. The nearest hospital in our area is a 2 1/2 day walk.

No paved roads.


There used to be no phone service, but now we enjoy the incredible technology of cell phones.

No internet, but we did have satellite TV this summer, which allowed us to watch the World Cup in Johannesburg!

Not many missionaries from America or other lands. Pillaging has discouraged many plus taxation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dear Kilundu

His condition is terminal, diagnosed with widespread liver and pancreatic cancer in June, we count every day he lives a blessing. As he taught Romans 14, his once crisply ironed shirt became drenched with perspiration. Power and peace permeated the atmosphere as he calmly admonished the other students who are filled with grief at the prospect of losing him. Strikingly evident was his recent dramatic weight loss and gaunt facial features. He spoke of Paul's urging to welcome the weaker brother and be careful not to crush him with criticism. In addition, he warned the young men to avoid all appearance of evil in their ministry so that they do not become stumbling blocks. He holds us all in the palm of His hand and we praise God for his wise, gentle counsel, shrouded in authority and transparency with which he has lived his life on earth.

Jim and I have a long history with Kilundu. In 1984, when a reprobate pastor was threatening to cut off the heads of some of our pastors, ravishing young ladies attending the high school on the mission, and robbing the teachers of their hard-earned salaries, plus keeping all tuition for himself, it was Kilundu who headed up all-night prayer meetings to get him out of here. He constantly challenged us to hold on, hang on, be strong, and be courageous because God will deliver us! And avenge He did!

As he stood before us, scenes of those long-ago days played through my mind. I was bawling inside as I thought of living life here in Congo without Pastor Kilundu. Once he enters the gates of glory, he would never choose to come back, but his ways, his personality, his sterling character, his big smile, and his wise counsel will leave a huge hole in our hearts.

He said, "The reason I am alive to today and able to preach in this seminar is because of my children's and wife's prayers. If you could hear the way my little boy begs God for my life every time he prays, big tears would fall down your cheeks"

Thank you, Kilundu, for the wealth of knowing you.

The riches we share because we were permitted to rub shoulders with you in this life, the enjoyment of meeting with you around our table, the challenges of organizing yearly reunions with you, the fun of laughing at ourselves with you, the moving experience of praying with you, the thrill of hearing you expound God's Word, and the gratification of fighting the good fight with you.

We love you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Seminar Enrollment

There he stands, Pastor Ndombe, in his tall, thin frame and hollow-cheeked face with a somewhat recently shaved head and tufts of white hair lecturing on Romans 15 - the way we should live with our Christian brothers. He spoke with humor, authority, and distinction, qualities he has acquired after teaching at LBI for more than 20 years. His gentle spirit honed by suffering one trial after another developed Ndombe's quiet personality. Warm laughter from the students filled the air. I laughed, too, at his illustrations, while trying to keep back the tears at the same time.

My mind's eye sees him in his youth when he came to enroll as a bible school student in the 80s. He came in humility and has stayed humble and grateful till this day in spite of a fire that destroyed his home and his entire precious library, chronic illness which has wreaked havoc on his wife's quality of life, the near death of his teenage daughter as he biked 65 miles to the nearest hospital, not to mention financial hardship. He remarked that when he came to attend LBI, now looking back, he doesn't really know if he was born again, and then turned toward another professor and asked him if that were true. Pastor Kapem readily agreed. Ndombe continued, "I was young and thought my life was under my own control." An hour and a half spent under his teaching was so worth it - a refreshing, cooling spring that washed over my soul.

What a source of comfort and joy after months of dealing with difficult staff issues that nearly broke our hearts. On the matter of gratitude - challenging the students of the need to thank God every time they pray for:

1) What you do have. Don't complain about what you don't have. Don't complain to God if you don't have a car - you may never have one.

2) Salvation. You could be on your way to hell, which we all deserve.

3) Life. You did nothing to keep yourself alive while you slept. We all sleep like dead men. Only God can wake us up.

And then he challenged the students to be generous.

"As a pastor, you have this obligation to help your sick brother even if you only have a dollar in your pocket. Don't just preach the Word of God to him."

Pastor Ndombe, I am so honored to call you my friend, my colleague in ministry, my brother and my teacher. You continue to enlarge my heart and my mind. Today I delight in the fact that God delights in you.

Friday, October 8, 2010

To Think That...

To Think That...

...the man standing before me, who is teaching the book of Romans in depth, is the grandson of a cannibal.

...the vocabulary of those olden days, once centered in the base, vile plot of eating human flesh, is now a glorious expression of redemption, imputation, sanctification, predestination, glorification, and on and on as outlined by Paul in Romans.

...the darkness of slavery to the bewitching sins of his forefathers has been replaced with the light and power of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ thus bringing him to walk with God.

...the droning, repetitive chants which characterized their vocals, offered up to the spirits of their ancestors' approval, is now given over to, "There Is Power in the Blood" and "How Great Thou Art."

...their foolish, darkened minds and hearts surrendered to serving Satan are now surrendered to the high calling of studying and pursuing Jesus Christ through His eternal Word.

...they have gone to wearing loincloths, steeped in miry clay and ignorance, to being fully clothed and in their right minds.

I am astounded, Lord, at how far You have brought them. To this broad place and level ground You prepare for those who love You.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Comment on Philippians 3:10

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death."

Philippians 3:10

I was profoundly affected by this commentary on the above verse:

Many Christians are satisfied with expenditure in which there is no shedding of blood. They give away what they can easily spare. Their gifts are detached things and the surrender of them necessitates no bleeding. They engage in sacrifice as long as it does not involve life; when the really vital is demanded, they are not to be found. They are prominent at all triumphant entries and they willingly spend a little money on colorful decorations - on banners and palm branches - but when HURRAHS and HOSANNAS change into ominous murmurs and threats, and Calvary comes into sight, they steal away into safe seclusion. But here is an apostle who joyfully anticipates this supreme and critical demand. He is almost impatient at his own dribblings of blood-energy in the service of the kingdom! He is eager, if need be, to pace it out.

"The Lord Jesus became fruitful not by bearing His cross only but by dying on it..."

There are not two Christs - an easygoing Christ for easygoing Christians and the suffering, toiling Christ for exceptional believers. There is only one Christ.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Well, after a long and wearisome day of transit, to say the least, I
have reached my long awaited destination of Kinshasa. I’ve been
thoroughly enjoying my first couple days here and spending time with
the Smiths (they are some genuine, quality people - if you didn’t
already know). But, I would like to share a bit about my transit
experience here, and just how explicit the Lord’s guidance and care
was made evident during this stressful period.

I am simply going to copy my journal entry that was written on the
plane after running the gauntlet of Kenyan Airlines check-in services
(my hope is that while reading, you’ll be able to experience the
emotions as I did at that particular time). I’ll preface this
fragmented entry by bring the reader up to speed on where it begins.
I had arrived at the Kenyan Airport at 5:30 a.m. locale time; I had
been up all night was running on fumes. The plane to Kinshasa was
scheduled to depart at 8:20 a.m. so this entry will begin as I enter
the check-in queue at around 7:30… enjoy

September 20, 2010:

… The check-in employee looked at my Congo visa and asked if there was
another (the entire visa stamp is in French, so neither of us can read
it). “- 2-“ (as listed) was really the only thing that could be
deciphered and she claim that meant it was valid until 2 months after
the issue date (which is “07/06/10”). I interjected and exclaimed
that the “- 2 -“ listed meant that I’m valid to stay for 2 months upon
my arrival (which is the true meaning). She then asked me to step
aside and wait for a French speaker that could come to the check–in
counter and interpret. So I waited… 8…. 8:15… 8:20 and its now the
scheduled departure time and we’re confined to the stagnant state of
waiting; while my nerves are doing just the contrary – intensifying
exponentially with each passing moment (only 10 others left to
check-in). I got the attention of another worker… and another… (no
help) and finally resorted to cutting in-line and talked with the
original lady proclaiming “the flight is leaving now! Can we please
resolve this issue and let me pass!” This was met with her simply
telling me to casually step aside once more and wait for the French
speaker. Another 5 minutes, only 4-5 people left in line - he finally
shows up and reads the visa. It translated that the validity is 3
months after the issue date… this is an improvement but the issue date
is listed as “07/06/10” (thats dd/mm/yy). So June 7, the 3 months is
up, the visa is expired, “I’m sorry sir, we cannot let you board this
aircraft”… as the final 3 people pass me in line and they are in the
final stages before closing the doors. “Sir, there is absolutely no
possible way you can make it to Kinshasa today.” (next flight was 5
days later)

Confused and anxious, I’m alone and the plane is leaving and I’m stuck
in Nairobi. I’m stressed to the point of near tears, my mind is
racing… “What’s going to happen with the Smiths meeting me Kinshasa?…
What about my checked bag that’s currently on the plane?… What about
the MAF flight schedule for tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.?… Will I be
here for a week to adhere to the ‘arrive on a Monday only’ policy of
the Smith’s?” My head and spirit sink to an inexperienced before low,
I’m praying like crazy for what to do next, why was this in God’s

Its 8:40, and I’m pleading for anyone that will listen… “is there any
way that I can make it to the Congo today”… “No sir, I’m sorry”. So
my next move is to attempt to retrieve my bag (providing it’s not on
the plane) clear the Kenyan customs, and head into Nairobi and locate
the DRC embassy. The final passengers are being permitted aboard, and
I’m searching for a phone in the airport to inform Smiths of my
situation, and preparing for an awful day (supplement to the fact of
being up all night) of wandering the streets of Nairobi. The French
speaker had left, and the gate was shutting down, its 8:45. But this
is when an idea hit me, I figured it would never work, but hey, it’s
worth a try and I’m pretty desperate. Now it certainly involved a lot
of improvisation but, what the heck, I’m good at that. I rose from
my stooped, depressed posture, and demanded the attention of the
original lady. With augmented energy, I’m proclaiming “I’ve got
it!!!” – she’s shaking her head “no” before I even explain, saying
“they are very strict in the DRC, I’m sorry”. Here I am pointing at
the issue date (07/06/10) saying “NO!….NO!… in the U.S.A. we write
month, day, year, ITS JULY 6th!! I have till October 6th!!!”(not
really). She brushed it off condescendingly, the doors have been
sealed to the entry tunnel, and the x-ray machine is being shut down.
I’m franticly announcing, “look at my watch, its 9-20!!!... think
about September 11th, we always say ‘9/11’… That’s how we do it,
PLEASE!!!” She continued shaking her head, my efforts appeared to be
futile. Tingled with flowing adrenalin, I realize it wasn’t going to
work ---

But then this next part I believe to be nothing other than divine
intervention. As I’m accepting my current fate, a distinguished Kenyan
lady, about 55, was walking past the gate and steps over hearing our
blabbering. She overheard what we were saying and, could you believe,
is standing there agreeing with me!!! And then, this is amazing, she
says “just think about 9/11… they mean September 11th…” WOW, hahaha,
I’m in disbelief. I don’t suppose anything would have happened if it
wasn’t for this passing lady. I’m at full attention, just lingering
for the next word from the lady’s mouth, and then she very reluctantly
and apprehensively, rolls her eyes, and hands me a boarding pass….
Saying “sir, you need to run”

HALLELUIAH!! I’m so excited right now!! I passed security in record
time and like Seabiscuit going for the triple crown, I’m sprinting
down though the vacant waiting area and slamming through the “do not
open” doors that lead to the boarding tunnel. Full speed for the
plane, some goofy incredulous smile on my face, “I’m can’t believe it
worked!” Just as I’m reaching the end, I’m greeted with a protective
safety chain, and a 10 foot drop off… NO PLANE!!!! Sinking emotions
are making an unexpected and unwelcomed counterattack. I’m wired, it’s
time to take matters into my own hands. I ran through “employees
only” exit door that has stairs leading to the tarmac… I’m racing
across towards the nearest plane robustly screaming “WAIT!!!!” The
ground crew is puzzled, but they soon realize my dilemma. The stairs
are brought over to the plane, a knock and the door opens, and I’m
flashing my recently acquired boarding pass to the flight attendant –
They shut the door right behind me.

So I’m currently writing this journal entry in seat 12F heading for
Kinshasa, huge smile on my face, in disbelief that this worked, my
head going 1,000 mph. But I’m currently thinking, if this worked in
Kenya is there a possibility of it also working in the DRC. But is
certainly expired, and here I am. I’m almost in tears of joy right
now, God answers prayers!!

Let’s hope I don’t get deported…

Wild, huh??? I had no problems in the DRC, I handed them my
passport, yet they stamped me in and I was on my way to baggage claim.
I’ve made it, thankful and grateful for this opportunity. I’ve
witnessed how God has unambiguously taken control of a difficult
situation. Thank you all for reading and your support. Please keep
praying for the Laban ministry and our remaining time in Nkara, it is
very much appreciated. – Daniel Monroe

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hair-raising departure, by Daniel Monroe

Daniel Monroe, a recent graduated of Taylor University, is viting us for a month at our mission campus of Nkara in the bush. Look for his post on what all was involved in his actually arriving in Kinshasa, that--had it not been for his courage and determination and the blessing of God--would never had taken place! Stay tuned.

Hope Deferred - Hope Fulfilled

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life. Prov 13:12

August 31 was the date scheduled for the MAF plane to pick up our pastors and evangelists, including Jim, here at Nkara. Heavy fog at Kikongo and Vanga (the first stop after takeoff in Kinshasa and the refuel at Vanga respectively) prevented that first day of the Ilebo crusade from occurring.

Hope was temporarily squelched and deferred, but quickly the Lord opened another window of opportunity to go there on September 10. Totally opposite of the severe tropical storms of August 31 and lightning, which struck two of our broadcasting pastors at Radio Glory, we woke up to a sunshiny day with blue skies and scattered clouds. Everyone agreed this was a day of blessing the Lord Himself sent us to show that His timing is perfect.

Since most of the baggage, equipment, and accessories necessary of the trip had been previously packed and secured in the building we call the White House, we were more than ready for the 11 a.m. arrival of MAF.

The crew loaded up our old x-military truck, and Pastor Yanduku gave us the signal to make our way up aerobic hill and onto our 3400' long bush airstrip. Bodies plus "bima" or things totalled 1,050 kg, not pounds, so that means just over 1 ton. Because of Rod's (MAF pilot) eye for packing and his patience, everything found its place 40 minutes after he landed.

Out of the team going only two had been on an airplane ever, but no little plastic "emesis" bags were needed.

Greeted warmly by crowds of people, including goverment officials, they made their way over bumpy, sandy roads to the location of the crusade after a 45-minute flight which would have taken up to 5 days by truck and canoe. The Word of God was preached in several areas in the next week, including the military center.

Jim said on Monday night, people in the audience were so eager to accept Christ, that they literally ran forward so as not to miss out on the opportunity. Steeped in witchcraft, idolatry, demonism, the occult, and worship of the waters, the sun, goat manure placed under their beds to bring good fortune to them, these people, left to themselves, are chained to the slavery of sin so captivating and entrenching, that only the power of the Gospel of Christ can free them.

Much prayer, fasting, heart preparation and searching, plus seeking the face of God took place long before the crusade began.

Each morning at 5 a.m., the staff rose for prayer and Bible study. Local church pastors joined in, and then seekers came inquiring, searching, pleading for answers, as they waited for the daily music fest to begin at 3 p.m. About 5, the preaching and Bible teaching started, which could easily go for an hour or two, followed by a group invitation, one-on-one counseling, sometimes the Explosion Program, and then wrapping up to get ready to show either the Jesus Film or The Passion.

The last day there Jim and Pastor Mboma interviewed a former "hit" man who selectively killed people while he himself was dressed in African garb, doped up strongly with drugs and seeking help from demons. Jim asked him what it felt like to be about ready to kill someone. He said he felt nothing because he was so full of whatever it was that he took, he had only one thing on his mind--to deliver his target into the hands of the man would pay him to do his "job."

All in all, the trip which cost thousands of dollars, was so worth it. A total of 1,570 raised their hands and came forward to indicate their desire to accept Christ. So, what is that per head? How do you put a price tag on salvation?

Speaking God's Word into their lives was a tremendous source of encouragement to the local Christians, and breathed new life into the souls of those who ministered. God's Word NEVER returns void, and if all of those 1570 meant what they said and did, then that 1570 less souls satan can claim for his as he is permanently expelled into the Lake of Fire.

With tears in their eyes and hearts full of sorrow at their leaving, people bid Jim and the team good bye, begging them to return soon. Going to Ilebo is a major undertaking, so it is not likely to happen in the near future, but God forbid that we fail to pray for them in their new-found faith.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Lightning, Ilebo Delayed, New Birth

From May 15-August 31st, very little rain fell at Nkara. Thirst-laden soil stopped producing greens, peanuts, pineapple, and papaya. Harvesting came to a screeching halt. This typifies the dry season in Congo. However, this year, it was particularly dry. Some have asked, "Is God punishing us?" The effort of prayer was redoubled as we saw the heat index soar day after day, followed by the stagnation and lack of relief caused by no rainfall.

August 30th was another hot and dry day. Then, the next morning, at 5:00 am, sound of distant thunder woke us; breezes turned into high, cooling winds, and the welcome sound of rain drops on the tin roof brought a feeling of refreshment and gratitude.

August 31st was a long-awaited day. That day our evangelism team would leave for Ilebo to hold a 10 day crusade in that port city which is spiritually dead. Prayers to the great waters of the Kasai and the Sunkuru, ancestral worship, and the idolatry of evil spirits and waste products under the bed (such as goat manure) have the population chained in darkness and terror.

So desiring to be a part of the freeing of their imprisonment by the power of the Holy Spirit, we had reached a "high" of anticipation, eager to see what marvelous breakthroughs the Lord would accomplish. About 15 minutes after the rain started, a roar of thunder was followed by an enormous boom and startling crash of lightning. We turned the radio on to see if Radio Glory was announcing...just static. As the sun rose, immense fog so hit the station you could cut it with a knife, blanketed the atmosphere.

We would learn later on in the day that Pastors Kasongo and Hosea were struck by that lightning boom, knocking Hosea to the ground in the studio, and burning Pastor Kasongo on both shoulders, which caused smoke to rise from his shirt and come out of his mouth. About 7 am, a new chubby baby girl (10 pounds!) was born to one of our professors at the Women's Literacy Center. As we looked down into her round, chunky-cheeked face, I wondered what her future would hold and prayed for her and her parents.

Ilebo disappated like the fog because the MAF plane was grounded at Kikongo and could not take off for Vanga where it would be refueled in order to come to Nkara to pick up the team. Eventually the fog cleared, but it was too late in the day for MAF to come to Nkara. You cannot get to Ilebo by truck, as it is up to a five day journey at the end of a long treacherous ride on the Kasai River. You need a large motored canoe.

Why of all days did the rain come after 45 days of no rainfall whatsoever on the very day set aside for Ilebo - a crusade planned for months and months? The Lord's ways are so far above ours. We are not going to waste our time trying to figure out why these events took place. But when such things occur, along with everything else that is happening out here, it causes us to look inward and ask, "Lord, we know You are speaking. Please tell us what are You saying?"

Thankfully, we are on the docket once again with MAF for Ilebo for September 10. Please, please pray. If Satan can hinder the apostle Paul, he can hinder us as well. We remember John's words, "Greater is He who is in You than he that is in the world." In the meantime, we marvel at and revel in the fact that the Lord, in His mercy, spared the lives of two special men on our staff. Radio Glory, praise the Lord, is just delayed in coming on. Please pray that we will be able to solve this problem as Jim Hulse just went back to the States.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pray for Ilebo Trip

Tomorrow - Ilebo. In its day, Ilebo was a prestigious town which spread the red carpet for King Albert of Belgium in the early 1920s. Today it is not heard of much. One of the Laban Bible Institute graduates has been pastoring there for about five years. After he walked, rode a commercial truck, and hired a boat, and walked all the way to Nkara last year to plead for our team to evangelize there, we decided to comply. His journey took five days one way. Much prayer has gone into this outreach and we don't want to stop praying now.

Tomorrow, Jim and seven other pastors fly to Ilebo on the Mission Aviation Fellowship plane and meet up with two other men who have gone on ahead to arrange for everyone's coming. Protocol requires that the village chiefs are consulted first and arrangements for the team made well in advance, including decided where the actual preaching will take place, where the tents will be pitched, where placement of all the equipment should be, etc.

Ilebo is located in the Kasai Province of Congo. We are located in the Bandundu Province. Through phone contact with the 2 pastors that have gone ahead we have learned that food prices are about the same as are gasoline and diesel fuel. Three sections of Ilebo will be evangelized, which is pretty much the whole town of at least 200,000 people. Pastor Kebembo tells us that scores of people are already waiting in anticipation of the King's arrival. Jim has to take his passport and money has been set aside for food, diesel fuel to give to rented trucks to travel to the other 2 sections of Ilebo, gasoline for the 2 generators so that the musicians can be heard and so the Jesus film and The Passion can be viewed. Approximately one ton of men and equipment will be flown to Ilebo.

Please pray for safety, for souls, for understanding of the Word of God as it is taught verse by verse. For order, for the defeat of Satan, and for good health and no injuries for the team members. Pray for protection and for deliverance from evil spirits and witchcraft. Please pray that the money Jim is taking will be enough. Prices can change here daily with no advanced warning.

"Behold the Lord's hand is not short at all that it cannot save nor His ear dull with deafness that it cannot hear." Isaiah 59:1

God has given us the great privilege and sobering responsibility of saying to those who are bound, "Come forth" and to those who are in spiritual darkness, "Show yourselves come into the light of the sun of righteousness."

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Great Light

"And I will bring the blind by a way that they know not. I will lead them in paths that they have not known. I will make darkness into light before them and make uneven places into a plain. These things I have determined to do for them and I will not leave them forsaken." Isaiah 42:16

In Congo, when the moon is only partially visible, the darkness is so deep and thick, you cannot see your hand in front of your face. Every night, dusk settles in about 5:30 pm and, within an hour, that which was dimly visible, is no longer in sight. From approximately 6:30 pm to 5:30 am, a dark blanket covers Congo until the rising sun releases the bright light of day.

The dawning of day shows the clarity of the path that was hidden in the dark of night. Those crooked places we couldn't see, places perhaps laden with unknown danger, such as snakes, rough terrain, cliffs, and ditches. The light of day tells us what dangers are lurking. So with the Word of God.

Jim couldn't believe the spiritual ignorance at the village of Pangu-Idiofa, just outside of the Bayanzi territory. These people are known as the Babundas and speak Kibunda, their mother tongue. They also speak the trade language of Kituba, which is the language we speak. Our evangelism team left Friday afternoon in the old military truck filled with instruments, musicians, preachers, food for the three day crusade and great anticipation of a weekend filled with teaching the Word of God.

Ignorance of the Bible was very apparent as the preaching began, but God's Word is light. It is more powerful than a two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and is the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Praise God and hallelujah, for as Scripture was divided for hours at a time- Friday evening, Saturday morning, noon, and evening and Sunday morning, noon and into the evening again, facial expressions changed. They came alive. As the light entered and shone on their souls, it was as if the people were resurrected from the dead. Ninety-seven stepped forward to leave the vacuum of darkness.

So Lord, Your gospel is powerful to work deliverance from death.

"For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord." Ephesians 5:8

"And you who made alive when you were dead, slain by your trespasses and sin." Ephesians 2:1

O giver of life and light, we bow before You in total amazement, for Your resurrection power, which now makes them heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. Amen and amen.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A New Day

Congo was considered a hardship post by the American Embassy for years. The longest term allowed by the US government for its American employees, hired stateside serving here, was four years when we arrived in Africa in 1978. If the US Embassy considers it a difficult post, even after providing their staff with a beautiful home, appointed with lovely amenities, plus a commissary stocked with all sorts of American groceries, including tasty delicacies, imagine what hardships the average villager lives with daily. The hardship of not only no running water, but no availability to clean water in close proximity to their mud/stick huts. Exposure to the elements- including tropical temperatures, torrid rains, high humidity, mosquito-infected living conditions, nutrient-deprived soil that produces next to nothing during the months of June, July, and August because of lack of rainfall. Up to a two-day walk to the nearest hospital, cooking over an open fire instead of a fast-cooking stove. Going to the bathroom in a standing position over an open hole, surrounded by dirt enclosed by a stick fence. Tending gardens almost daily, which to begin with, were covered with brush and scrub trees removed by their husbands, the planting of which in some cases, requires a 3 year waiting period before harvest.

So...many women do not finish high school at all. The child of privilege in the family in Congo is the male. If anyone has to sacrifice their education, it is the woman. She is needed to help bear her mother's burdensome life.

Therefore, not only is the woman's role in Congo oftentimes similar to a work horse of the land, but she is inprisoned in the chains of ignorance, darkness, and despair, and unable to escape to the world of reading and writing. The focus becomes her imprisonment. Her darkened mind longs to be freed of the heaviness she faces daily, but who will deliver her?

Thus the reason for L'Ecole du Femme (the Women's Lit Center) we started on the mission campus in 2004. Because many villages are begging for the same opportunity the women of Nkara-Ewa are experiencing, we started a 12 week summer reading school at the village of Mbila. In my eyes, it is a plan of simplicity we are bringing them. We go 3 days a week, offer those who cannot read at all the alphabet, while those who can read, math. Plus an introduction outline and verse by verse study of Philippians.

After our first session, the 74 women gathered outside to enjoy dessert. Dessert was "The Art of Knitting." Knitting? Dessert? To them it was delicious. The act of study, combined with the joy of learning a fun skill like knitting brought laughter and delight. Their tenacity paid off and smiles flashed as they successfully completed their first lesson.

The reality of Psalm 3:3 of would-be slaves:

"You, LORD, are a shield for them, their glory, and the lifter of their heads."

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Four Month Long Funeral

You don't know what is missing until it is missing. For the last six years, for miles and miles around, a potential audience of 8 million people have eagerly looked forward to hearing daily broadcasts on Radio Glory. Most of these six years, Radio Glory has broadcasted on a regular basis. However, this spring, something went wrong and the comforting voice of their "mama", as Radio Glory is known, was stilled.

Oh, how they began to miss her soothing words each morning and evening, the wise counsel, her inspiring music, her eye-opening teaching of the Scriptures, her announcements informing them of deaths, conferences, school openings, special exams, evangelism. Her loving words of encouragement and admonition and her faith-building messages were deeply missed. They had no idea they would miss their "mama" so much.

Someone told me, "Radio Glory's absence is like when our parents go away for a long time and leave us and we long to see them again. Then, one day in the distance, we view their silhouettes. And we run with open arms to embrace them once again."

Another said, "It's like Radio Glory died and we have been at the funeral for four months. She has been resurrected from the dead."

Thank you, Jim Hulse, for bringing her back to life. Thank you, Jesus, for showing Jim Hulse how to restore this amazing power plant here in the middle of the wilderness. We bow before You and life Your name high!

P.S. Yesterday, my husband Jim and fifteen others went to preach at the town of Mubeya- Musai, in particular the police force has been begging Laban to come and minister to them. Out of a large crowd, 36 men made professions of faith in Jesus Christ. They said, "We knew nothing about this. We have never heard anything like this before."

The trip took 8 hours because of the interest that five of those hours were spent explaining the Scriptures and dealing with them one-on-one. As they were pulling out, the police captain, begged-literally begged-Jim, with pleading eyes told Jim, "Please don't forget us. We must see the Laban team every month to feed us the words of God. We are starving spiritually." Hallelujah for the cross!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Gates of Bronze and Bars of Iron

These past 12 days, we have seen God make good on this promise found in Isaiah. Let me list the ways:

1) Jim Hulse, founder and director of Towers for Jesus, at the ticket counter in the US before departing for Congo, had to call a supervisor after a forty-five minute discussion in South Bend, IN airport to get his bags checked all the way through to Kinshasa. The airport only wanted to check them through to South Africa, where he would have had to recheck them and pay again.

2) They refused his passage out to board the airplane because they said the visa in his passport was messy and in a language they couldn't read. It was in French (duh!).

3) South African airlines claimed one of his bags which contained all of his clothes and the vital power supply needed to repair the transmitter enabling us to broadcast at full power.

4) Before discovering that the radio exciter voltage had been changed to a different voltage, he pulled it into the wall and it exploded in his face. He was not hurt.

Then God sent a little humor:

5) While turning on the air conditioner in his bedroom in the nearby home we call the white house, he stood directly in front of the A/C and was blasted by a shower of bugs that had long since died way back in 2005.


1) "Mama" has returned. This is what Radio Glory is called by the Congolese. We are back to broadcasting after four months of silence.

2) All of the radio equipment in the studio has been repaired and serviced and we are back to full power.

3) After climbing the 300 foot radio tower twice, Jim Hulse also came down 300 feet uninjured!

4) Recent local evangelism the past two weekends resulted in almost 300 people raising their hands to accept Christ.

5) We made payroll for the month of June! Yippee!!

6) Jim Hulse returned to his home after shutting the generator off just outside his door, only to step on a three and a half foot snake in the dark. Amazingly, he was not bitten! In fact, he thinks it's cool because now he has another great story to tell.

Lord you are our chosen and assigned portion, our cup. You hold and maintain our lot. Psalm 16:5

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Scorpion in the House

A few weeks ago two 17 year old girls, who live in Kinshasa, came to Nkara to spend some time with us. There are always concerns with visitors coming to the bush, especially someone else's child you have never even met. I prayed fervently for God's protective hand to evidence itself, something like this:

Lord, you know Nadia's parents are entrusting their only child to us. Please hover over her and Suzanne the seven days they will be at Nkara.

At the end of each activity-filled day, I thanked the Lord we made it through without a hitch. There was a wide range of events in which the girls eagerly participated: giving their testimonies to the work staff in chapel, testifying at the Women's Literacy Center at Nkara, as well as to the women of the village of Mbila where we will hold our first satellite reading school this August, September, and October. Every day they swam in the lake, which was a beautiful way to end the afternoon. No accidents there; no drownings, thank the Lord.

Ngwadi-Ngwadi welcomed them as they visited with and spoke to grade school-aged children. Nadia shared her father's humble beginnings as a local villagers who decided to live for God and his life of honesty, his educational background, and his hard work that had paid off. He is now CEO of a large oil distribution company, SEP, in Kinshasa.

Both girls participated in our graduation services. Nadia challenged the new graduate pastors to look after the teenagers in their churches and charged them to live for God, while Suzanne sang the national anthem of Congo. The people went crazy! They loved it. Their work with us was topped off with a trip to Bulungu, the local government seat. They testified to the police wives, as well as the policeman, in the crowded gov't center there, bursting at its seams with population of 904,000. The six hour drive there and back was without incident and prayers for protection rose up again for us all as we crossed the crocodile and hippo-infested waters of the Kwilu River in a large canoe. Eight or nine of us at a time crossed the river. The rapid current could have swept us away had it not been for the skilled oarsmen who paddled us across and back.

So when we were approaching the end of our visit at Nkara, it looked as if all that had begun so well would also end well until...

an unwelcome visitor made his way to the bathroom and decided to climb into the tub.

Nadia was washing her feet when she felt a crawling sensation on the outer side of her right foot. What did appear to her wondering eyes but a three-inch long scorpion, who can inflict such pain that when Jim's older brother was bitten by one years ago, he wanted their father to cut off his big toe. Nadia jumped out of the tub and after I calmly screamed for Jim, he stomped and killed the scorpion with my flip flop.

The mighty hand of God stopped the scorpion from inflicting his pain-filled wound and once we were all on the plane to return to Kinshasa, I breathed a final sigh of relief in incredible gratitude for deliverance from evil and harm for these special girls who were such a blessing to us and our people.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

MAF - Unsung Heroes of Congo

Today my husband, Jim, along with director and founder of Towers for Jesus, Jim Hulse, and I traversed miles and miles of rugged plains, steep valleys, savannahs, jungles, paved roads, and steep hills in a matter of one hour and 20 minutes. Amazing, isn't it? This is possible because of an organization called MAF: Mission Aviation Fellowship. In years past, we drove the trek from Kinshasa to Nkara or Nkara to Kin in either our 1957 army truck (in 1980) or our Chevy blazer taking 24 hours or 15 hours respectively. But today, Rod, our pilot got us there in no time.

Sensational as it sounds, it is lots of hard work for this pilot. He, on most flight days, gets up at the crack of dawn, drives the MAF van to homes of passengers, loads the van with all accompanying freight, only to unload and reload the freight into the beautiful 9 passenger Caravan before takeoff. This is back-breaking effort. Did I mention that he also drove us all the way to the airport? The passion for flying is a driving force, I am sure, but even greater must be his passion for Christ. The country of Congo is no piece of cake in which to serve the Lord. So the call of God on Rod's life has to be strong and his hunger and thirst to see souls saved here is a much more intense driving force.

Over the years, we have met and grown to love many MAF families. They are the cream of the crop, unsung heroes, valiant men and women fighting the good fight. We so miss our good friends the Carlsons who have moved from Kinshasa to Lumbumbashi, far south from here. The Frances gave us our home for a whole week while they were on vacation. Rod and Val continue to show us their hospitality when we are in town and are planning a visit to Nkara soon as well as Brian and Esther. Brian is an MAF mechanic who keeps these planes running smoothly. Where would we be without them? Location-wise, maybe we would be stuck on some 2 lane highway or a dirt path somewhere in the bush. Who knows?

Jim and I and a host of other missionaries, nationals, government officials, dignitaries, business people, and everyone else who depends on your services, are so grateful for you, MAF. And today in particular, for you, Rod, and all you do in your service for Him.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just the Basics

At our bush mission campus, we have a dispensary. Last October, Pastor Kilasi joined the team and has made a tremendous difference because he is a certified lab tech. So now people can actually be diagnosed with malaria, typhoid, Aids, anemia, worms (which kind as well), malnutrition, diabetes, and other conditions.

Marvina, our midwife delivers more babies in our county than anyone else. But she works in deplorable conditions. There is so much that needs to be done to the place. One very basic need has been mattresses covered with dark plastic made larger than a twin bed so that the mamas who give birth and continue to bleed can lie comfortably on surfaces that can be washed easily and kept clean.

450 miles away in Kinshasa, I finally found a place where these odd-sized mattresses can be ordered and custom made. And the only reason we found the place was because Pastor Kanzila who pastors a church in the city suggested we take a look. There they were, simple sponges of any and every size and plastic coverings of dark brown that can be made to fit any size bed you need.

So we will order three this week and pay the grand total of $175, have them trucked up to Kikwit, where our truck will pick them up, and deliver them to Nkara to be placed on the new wooden bed frames. Such a simple improvememt will bring great comfort to many women who will bear children there the remainder of the year.

There is one huge need we still have. We continue to lose mamas and their babies from inadequate medical care. One of our orphans, Mavanga, a good former friend of our son Jack (former, simply because they have not seen each other in years), has two years of medical training left before he becomes a doctor. The fact of the matter is, we just can't wait that long before we start saving women's lives.

The former doctor at the nearby state clinnic has lost 26 women in 4 years to C sections. We are told he performed the operations with a razor blade. A new doctor has arrived who is now working at the state "hospital", and asked to talk to us. He probably wants a job with Laban Ministries because the state does not pay him enough to live on, and he is supposed to provide for everyone's needs with little or next to nothing as far as meds, supplies, and equipment. We are seriously praying about whether or not to even consider taking him on.

It may seem like such an uncomplicated decision to make, but Laban already has 82 employees and struggles to keep their pay checks current. However, 500 people are dying each month in our neck of the woods, many of whom are from complications of pregnancy due to the need of a C section. The nearest hospital is a 2 day walk. How do we continue to allow these women to die before our eyes? If we have a hard time now keeping up with salaries, how do we take on a doctor and his family?

Only God knows the answer. We trust He will give us grace either way He leads, but He must lead. We cannot make this decision on our own.

But for today, we are happy to have found these basic provisions for women who deserve so much more.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Thoughts on Graduation at Iwungu

These are several of my observations at graduation on Sunday, July 11th, at the mission station of Iwungu:

* A cross carried by a chorale made out of wood, with sardine cans at the bottom. The sides were red and green with a green soda can at the top. Necessity is the mother of invention. There is no pretense here; they work with what they have.

* "Mu menga ya Yesu" (the blood of Jesus) wafting through the air.

* The singing of "There's Power in the Blood" reminds me of Laban and Marcella and their incredible legacy on this area of the Babunda tribe, which brings tears to my eyes. Though many have been delivered from the fires of hell because of this remarkable couple.

* Another chorale group fervently singing, "Be careful those of you who teach. Teachers will be required of so much more than listeners."

* Sitting for three hours in celebration of this big day could be miserable because of steamy temperatures, but the Lord mercifully gave us an overcast day with gentle breezes.

* Thinking how handsome the professors and students of Laban II look in their beautiful new shirts and pants the Lord provided.

* The blessing of dignity that new clothes gives these poverty-stricken students makes my heart sing. They left their families for two years, one trimester at a time, have walked mile after mile, have left their wives and children destitute because of the economy of Congo because of lack of jobs. Have gone without even bare necessities such as soap, meat, and other items stocked on our shelves with little regard. They have endured hardship as soldiers of Jesus Christ. It is because God has surrounded them with songs and shouts of deliverance that they have come this far. Psalm 32:7.

* So proud of the academic dean here at Iwungu, Pastor Kapem N'koy Delphine. He was steeped in the religion of works when he entered Laban Bible Institute at Nkara in 1981. His brilliant mind soaked up the life-giving Word of God and he soon embraced Jesus. The scales that had blinded his eyes fell like shackles. Kapem speaks three languages fluently and has poured out his life as a drink offering to our incomparable, Ancient of Days, here in the obscurity in the bush of Africa. In our eyes, he is a prince.

* Thinking how privileged we are to work with this quiet, respectful group of professors/pastors at Laban II.

* Trying to hide my laughter as another chorale walked up to the front of the church in all sincerity, kneeling with hands held skyward, with many dressed in white shirts and dark skirts or pants, and some in powder-blue robes, when Jim pointed out the writing on the back of one man wearing a bright orange t-shirt which said, "I am a pumpkin!"

* Love the way they sing - strong bass, many parts - they answer each other. One will start and sing a stanza or two and then this beautiful chorus joins in and repeats what the leader just sang.

* All in all, it has been a super day. Obscurity and abject poverty do not go hand-in-hand with royalty or nobility in man's eyes. But God's eyes are unlike ours. They search the whole earth to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose hearts are blameless towards Him. Here in our midst are many unsung heroes. Sometimes clad in rags, holding hearts sold out to Jesus Christ. Their nobility is not found by lineage; it is defined by courage, humility, sacrifice, death to self and a zeal for God that enables these men and women to pursue and continue to look at the things that are unseen which are deathless and everlasting. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

He Has His Way in the Whirlwind

Three years ago, our mission campus was invaded by a village long considered an enemy of Laban. I've mentioned before that the intruders wanted, "just a little of Jim's blood." The property here on the mission campus continues to appear to be under dispute. The village of Mpene refuses to acknowledge that the land was personally purchased by Jim's father in 1948. The price in those days was nominal, but still it was an official sale. We have in our custody the original document displaying the thumbprints of the chiefs of Longo and Nkara (they could not yet write their names). This signified the purchase and ownership of the land given to Dr. and Mrs. Smith. However, since an act of suicide through drowning in our lake, we believe in the early 1930s, of the men of Mpene, they equate that act with ownership of the campus.

Mpene is the only village that did not welcome Laban and Marcella in the late 1940s when the mother and father villages of Longo and Nkara opened their arms to them to live here and minister to everyone. In the summer of 2007, I got a call from Jim saying that he was being confined to our home and could only go up the hill to make phone calls. Even then, he had to be escorted by the police. Out of this whirlwind of rebellion, while Jim had to stay put, he began to teach the military entourage the Word of God in our home. When the soldiers guarding the radio station heard this they asked, "When do we get our own Bible study as well?"

So the days of "quarantine" were spent, morning and night, in opening up the Word of God. The captain of the police in our area, was a hard core soldier who showed little if any mercy to people who owed the state money, were caught in a crime, or were in prison. Today, I found out from Pastors Ezekiel and Hosea, who took over where Jim left off after he came back to America, that it was when the captain heard the Bible being taught that he opened his mind and heart to Christ. They said his almost ruthless tactics have so been altered that now, before he makes any judgment on a civilian, he reads Scripture to them and prays about each decision involving them.

The regional military headquarters in Bulungu is comprised of 1000 police and their wives. Bulungu is 25 miles, or three hours from here if the barge across the Kwilu is working. We plan to go with Ezekiel and Hosea once a month to Bulungu. The Bible studies held in our home three years ago have grown to about 800 men and their wives at the headquarters, who welcome Ezekiel each month. These pastors spend a week there after riding their bikes the 50 miles. Many, many are making professions of faith and now some of the earlier converts want to attend Laban Bible Institute here at Nkara. Next time we go, we will be privileged to watch some of them baptized in the Kwilu River.

They meant it for evil, but out of that evil intent, salvation has come to many. What glory is Yours, Lord, for You are mighty to save. You really do have Your way in the whirlwind and the clouds are the dust of Your feet.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Addendum to Aza

Life is disjointed here in Congo. Before I can finish one task, three others are in my face. Therefore, my blogs are totally unpolished and, sometimes, not well thought through or even totally complete. This leaves me feeling unsettled, but, nevertheless, sharing even incomplete writings is perhaps better than not sharing at all.

In particular, I felt this way about Aza's story. These are some of the things that I failed to mention about this interesting man.

Aza walked on our mission campus about 25 years ago with his wife, Marie, and their little boy, Ntonto. Jim took one look at Marie, who asked if she could attend our Bible Institute, and wondered how long she would last. To his delight, she came alive in class, is a favorite speaker at women's gatherings, and now the director of our Women's Literacy Center. I personally love to hear her pray. She offers much praise to the Lord and her words are coated with grace. The tone of her voice brings me great comfort. She can expose the Word of God beautifully as well.

Back to Aza...Due to his flight in running from the rebellion for 5 years, he never learned to read or write anything other than his name. When he finally came out of the forest, his mother rejected him. She failed to take into consideration the changes her boy would have gone through after five years and told him, "You are not my son." Last fall, Aza entered our newly formed Men's Literacy Center, along with two other staff members. We wait eagerly to hear him read his first sentence.

Out of all the years he worked with us in Congo, he has been a blessing to us, with the exception of an incident that occurred in 1989 when Jim had his accident in Kinshasa. Aza, along with another young man, stole one of Jim's guns. We had to let him go and we really missed him. About 7 years ago, he appeared on the station, confessed what he had done, asked for forgiveness, and asked if he could return here to work. Jim rehired him. He and Marie had four children, but they took in two orphans whom he and his wife loved as if they were their own biological children. Their home sometimes overflow with young people who come to seek the face of God through prayer. Aza is so thin, that when he turns sideways, and sticks out his tongue, he looks like a zipper!

Never has Aza allowed bitterness or resentment negate his grateful attitude. He comes every night, after working all day, to make sure that our water barrels are full. The water is driven up to the barrels via a pump through an underground hose. Aza always has an encouraging word on his lips. He is from the Mupende tribe, who are known to be jacks of all trades. They are also known for their witchcraft. He knows gardening and his job here is to keep close watch over the diesel fuel and gasoline and distribute each.

Lately, he has accompanied us on evangelism trips and his moving testimony has brought grown men to tears - a rarity in Congo. He doesn't own a bike (neither does 95% of the pop. in Congo) and he will never drive a car of his own. His mud/stick home, roofed in tall grass known as mafunga - humble as it is - in God's eyes, is a cathedral ringing forth daily praise and adoration of the God head.

What beauty the Lord has brought out of the ashes of Aza's life (Isaiah 61:3). Truly, "The Lord raises the poor out of the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap and the dung hill that He may seat them with princes, even the princes of His people." Psalm 113:7-8

Aza, you are a prince. We are indebted to you for enriching our lives. We are wealthier for having known you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aza's Testimony

From 1960-1965, there was a loose uprising which began the year of Congo's independence from Belgian's rule. It was a would-be Communist takeover that failed consisting of five years of war, torture, death, and unimaginable suffering. This invaded much of Congo. Jim asked Aza to share his testimony at Nkwaya yesterday, July 4, 2010. The following testimony is from one of Nkara-Ewa staff members. This is his story in his own words:

You will rejoice and weep at my testimony. The war began in 1960 and lasted until 1965. I was about 12 or 13 at the time. The war came on suddenly, without warning. My mother was in the forest and my father had just died. Word came that rebel soldiers were approaching my village. As you know, the normal procedure to run from war here in Congo is to place the father in front, children in the middle, and the mother at the end. All the utensils and food must follow because the children must eat. All the people began running in this order. But remember, I had no father, and my mother was in the forest, so I was all by myself.

I began running, following the others to the Valley of Water. A canoe was waiting there on the shore. The elderly were taken first and then the mothers and their children. I began to tremble. I stood alone. The man tending the boat took me, even though I had no one to belong to. No arms to hold me, no one to hide me. I talked to God. He hid me. We all ran to the forest and I found myself in the middle of a war I had known nothing about up to this time.

The days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. I was starving. I went from family to family as I found them hiding, but they said, "You cannot eat with us. We don't know you." The war was on me. My clothes wore out. I had no food. I thought, Maybe I will starve, maybe I will die. Airplanes were overhead and all I could hear was the sound of flying bullets.

Most of the daylight hours were spent in a crouching position. I knelt for hours. Eventually, I was totally naked. I managed to find bananas and vegetables. This is how I survived in the forest for five long years. I was haunted by my mother's cries. I knew she must be desperate to find me. I had no medicines, I had no meat. And my feet were injured from all the running without shoes.

I talked to God a lot. I pleaded with Him to let me see my mother again. Then a plane came one day in 1965 and dropped a letter saying, "You who are hiding in the forest, come out."

I ran out, bearded and naked. They dropped white shorts for us. I still remember the dead bodies - the dead mothers with their dead babies ripped out of their wombs, laying either on top of them or beside them. It was difficult to keep from stumbling over them. In fact, one night I slept in a cemetery and didn't even know it.

But God spared my life. He heard my prayers. I am healed.

Today I am married to Marie, who is the director of the Women's Literacy Center, and God has given us four beautiful children. I serve a mighty God who kept me in the palm of His hand.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Church at Nkwaya

To give you an idea of what church is like in Congo, I outlined an experience on Sunday to share with you.


Nine prayers were said by nine different people as an introduction to the service. We would call that the invocation. They prayed from the following:

* Refuting the evil spirits
* Asking for forgiveness
* That the Holy Spirit would manifest Himself
* Blockage for all the enemies of Christ, to break all power, and to invite the Lord Jesus Christ to come
* Prayer for the nation of Congo, its president, ministers, to put all in God's hands and ask for development such as electricity, hospitals, and good water.
* Acknowledgment that without God, these developments will never take place
* Laban Ministries put into the hands of God
* Giving of thanks to God for hearing them

Each individual who prayed did not pray sentence prayers, but paragraphs imploring the heart of God.

Formal introduction of each member from the Laban Ministries' team.

Prayer was followed by two numbers from one chorale. And the pastor pleaded with the other chorales not to complain that they could not sing because we had such a long program ahead of us.

An hour and a half of exposing 2 Corinthians 5:1-21 from 12 different people.

30 minutes for a baby dedication for three children.

30 minute meeting for the women by Nancy after all the men and children got up and left the church.

30 minute meeting with the village chief discussing problems using Joshua 1:8 to encourage him.

After all this, they asked if we could have another session of teaching that evening, stay overnight, and open up the Word of God the next morning.

Church is not an hour long here on Sundays. It is the life breath for a desperate people who look to God for their hope and deliverance.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Seeking Chiefdom

The chain of command in Congo is the foundation of its culture. Every village has a chief. Over the village chief is what is known as the groupement or a second village chief, whose higher authority makes him chief over several villages. The village population is comprised of a clan or clans within its tribe. The largest tribe in our immediate area is the Bayanzi tribe. Their native tongue is Kiangi. Each tribe has its own dialect and there are over 400 dialects in all of Congo. So how do we communicate with more than one tribe? Through the trade language of Kituba.

Seven years ago, a person with authority on our staff called another man to come here to be trained as a broadcaster for Radio Glory. He was a graduate of our third Bible school some distance from here. Following his move here, his family came as well. Truly, he had a radio voice, seemed so at home in that setting, and his voice has been heard by millions of listeners. Our 2500 watt transmitter reaches far and wide to cities and other bush missions. We have little competition here in the "nseke" or "plains."
Jim has always called Radio Glory a "voice in the wilderness."

When entering the village to evangelize, as soon as the women heard this gentleman speak, their eyes lit up and they were able to put a face with the voice and the name they had heard so many times on the air. For about five years, he seemed to be doing well. He endeared himself to his listeners, always attended our prayer meetings at Nkara, and appeared to have a good handle on preaching the Word of God. He handled himself well. Then something happened to change all that. Chiefdom become a strong urge in his soul. He began challenging the director of Radio Glory. He sent letters, signing his own name as director, instead of Pastor Mboma's name. A few months ago, he held a private meeting with the other announcers, without calling the director, to discuss a problem they were having with the director's wife. He lied. He openly disrespected our authority as well, and committed acts that were culturally offensive to the director.

After many telephone conversations with members of the staff and our leadership here, plus interviews after we arrived here, we, with the consensus of the board in America, decided to let him go. It has been a sad week. Jobs are very hard to find in Congo.

Is seeking chiefdom ever worth it?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Police Wives

Every Wednesday morning we go to the captain's house about a mile or two from our home to see the wives of the policemen who serve in this part of Congo. Three years ago, two of our graduates started going to encourage them and teach them Scripture. I first met them then as well. They were a pathetic group, spiritually asleep, no Bibles, living a transient life-here two years, there two years-and married to men who, instead of holding positions of honor, are neglected. Not only grossly underpaid, but have even gone without pay for a year. Some have chosen to rob, rape, and injure the local population in order to survive and release their rage.

Last week I went to share the Word of God with them. Their group had tripled in size. Their energy and enthusiasm was great, wearing big smiles, and they were just a delight to my soul. The captain's wife opened in prayer. A song followed, then another lady prayed asking the Lord to forgive us and make us clean, realizing we have lapses in our lives and thoughts that may blind us from the sins we have committed this morning. Another song followed. More prayer after that to invoke God's blessing on the time together and to assure the Holy Spirit He was very welcome to dwell among us as a group. More singing. Another prayer offered to bless the Word of God. I shared Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you. He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you; He will quiet you with His love. He will rejoice over you with singing."

Sheer ecstasy overwhelms my soul as I embrace the truth of God rejoicing over me with singing, quieting me with His love, and taking great delight in me. I can't get enough of the fact that the Lord would sing over me and they couldn't either. What amazing tools in the Lord's hands can be these women. They are being lifted from the pit of fear they have been handed. These couples are now finding power in restraining from sin, pursuing God's Word, and giving themselves over to holiness. That's the dynamite power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Touching Gratitude

Nkara is a beautiful place. We live in a lovely setting. Our home sits on ground that was once covered with elephant grass (denoting its height). It is also where the elephants used to eat. The mission campus consists of a valley surrounded by horseshoe-shaped hills. We have over 200 hundred acres at our immediate disposal. Since June and July are part of the three month dry season, the grass doesn't grow as quickly, but it can and does get out of hand. Our Bible Institute students are unable to pay but a little and sometimes nothing toward tuition, so they are given chores.

Three days this week, after completing final exams, they came to cut the grass on the hill, which has practically covered our pineapple patch, all the way down to the lake at the bottom of the hill. As they were vigorously cutting away with their coup-coups, or very long knives, Jim joined them. They are very respectful of us and all stopped to acknowledge his presence. He asked the seniors, "Have you learned anything these three years?"

At first they were silent and seemed perplexed, so he repeated the question.

"Oh, yes, Mr. Jim! The Word of God has turned on a great light in our lives. We have confessed to God that we used to teach what was not true. So many things we used to do and lies we used to tell, unintentionally, we are now ashamed of and sorry for. Scripture has set us free from our former enslavement. This happiness we have never before known."

Their contentment, joy on their faces, and their bright eyes awakened to new life and true treasure, continues to spill over on our lives. We know that it will spread to those who become fellow worshippers of the churches they will pastor in the future.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Deliverance and Transformation

Today has to be one of the most beautiful days in Congo ever. It is around 70 degrees with overcast skies (which diminish the rays of the hot tropical sun). These perfect weather conditions never fail to surprise and delight me because, after all, we are in Africa. June and July can be a dream out here. They are the months of Congo's "winter."

After an early morning, five-mile walk up Aerobic Hill and down the airstrip twice, passing the dispensary, which by the way, houses brand new lab equipment, which our lab tech proudly displayed to us, we returned to the house and ate breakfast.

I noticed about 8 women gathering under the big shade tree in front of our home, and so I went out to greet their happy, smiling faces. These women are third year students in the Women's Literacy Center. Beaming countenances showing white teeth expressed their joy at being "finalists" as they are called here. They will soon graduate. Attending school has changed their lives by:

* going from only being count to three to being able to make change when shopping.

* from not knowing how to write their names to being able to read the Bible they are given at graduation to their children and husbands every night.

* from living in the night of ignorance and shame to being able to earn money with the skills of cooking and sewing they learned in class.

* from feeling like a total dunce in their marriages to being able to communicate their opinions in a respectful way with their husbands.

Oh! I wish you could hear and see the delight of their souls as they praise God and thank Him in prayer over and over for their deliverance and transformation.

Are you not a part of this? Praise God, you are!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Enlarging Our Territory

Three years ago a former government soldier, after having left that profession, graduated from Laban Bible Institute, and began ministering to the local police/soldiers. He enthusiastically spoke of his conversion from a vile life of harming and robbing innocent civilians of their money, goods, raping women, drunken brawls, and living a lower life. He was even shot through the leg. The police in Congo move around alot. Every two or three years, they are relocated. Pastor Ezekiel started ministering at the local commandant's office, then expanded to Pindi, a port city 20 miles from our campus.

He then went on to the large town of Bulungu, the government center of the region with Bible teaching. Just a few days ago, he showed up on official invitation from the Congolese government that the whole Kwilu region had opened up to Laban Ministries. They want very much for him to come and share God's glory with them. This region consists of six other major areas in a locality of 5000 square miles. One of the towns is called Masa Manimba, which is 200 miles from us! The name means, "the water of sleep." How exciting it is to share the Lord in a part of the world that is desperate for God and knows it; and not only that, but a people who have seen God's Word and recognize that in it are the answers to life and the power to lift them from the ash heap. Amen, Lord!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Different Congo

The Congo of today is not the Congo of even 10 years ago. Jim and I had taken our early morning walk. We passed by our dispensary and then met up with a truck at the end of the road which leads to our mission campus. That road we call, "Aerobics Hill." We could see that the truck was headed down Aerobic Hill so we waited for him to proceed after several people got off and some things were unloaded. Because they appeared that they wanted to wait for someone or something else, we started down the path after giving them greetings. It was at that point, just a few feet ahead of the truck, that the driver revved his engine and began following us. He got closer and closer. The road is walled in by huge banks with brush and dirt on both sides. As he continued to approach us, we realized we had nowhere to escape. Jim turned around to stop him. I fell on the bank on the right side of the road so as to escape being run over. And the trucker ran into the left bank where Jim had been standing.


The other man in the cab of the truck got scared when he saw Jim's face and his response to the chauffeur, who came very close to running us over. He told Jim that the driver would have stopped, but he couldn't have stopped on his own as the 6 ton Toyota had no brakes. That is why he had to drive the truck into the bank of the hill to stop it. Jim could have been seriously injured or even killed. A decade ago, missionaries would rarely have been treated that way by a perfect stranger in the bush. The city is another story.

It just shows how important your prayers are for us. They avail much!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Snake Bite in the Bush

The bush is a special place in the interior of Congo. It is a place you must depend upon God because there are so many lacks. And a place also where God shows up because of the reality of lacks we face here. He is all constant.

The gap of lacks has narrowed at Nkara in the last 31 years we have lived here, especially in the area of communication. Five years ago, the cell phone came in. Six years ago, Radio Nkembo started broadcasting, giving hope to a potential of 8 million Congolese listeners. Through the preaching of the gospel, Bible teaching, Christian music, and announcements of deaths, births, and general village news, events can now be put on the calendar such as the starting the finishing of school years throughout the region, state exams, graduations, and special activities, plus invitations to conventions, conferences, and reunions. Before the sound of communication opened up, it felt more like Nkara was close to Mars but the radio and cell phones have closed the wide margin of isolation we once knew as a way of life.

In sharp contrast, however, other lacks still prevail. One big one is the medical care which is next to nothing in our area. The nearest hospital is a two and a half day walk. Five hundred people a month die in our immediate region from childbirth, malaria, and typhoid. But then more die each year from malaria. DDT would wipe it out for the most part, but that method endangers the animals. The fact that humans suffer with this dreadful malady makes my blood boil.

Back to the snake bite...since stun guns are not allowed on international flights, we are unable to have one at our disposal today. It would have come in so handy for the snake bite that a man received in the forest while tending his garden. Why a stun gun? Amazingly enough, the electrical charge from a stun gun, when applied to the bite site itself, neutralizes the venom. We found out about this when Jim read an article several years ago about a man highly allergic to bee stings. He was running to get away from them, after he had been stung, when he stumbled onto an electric fence. He lived, and not only that, he was never allergic to bee stings again. A missionary doctor who lived in central America decided to try the same thing on people who came to him after they had been bitten by snakes. They lived!

Since we have no stun gun, Jim took an electrical wire, attached it to a small generator, and touched the man's arm where he had been bitten. And voila! It worked! The snake was a mamba, deadly poisonous. Actually he had had to revert to this kind of treatment many times in treating snake bites.

Lord, we praise You for being our constant, to show us solutions out here because we had no other option--things we would never have to revert to in America. Truly, God, You are the Creator and Sustainer of life. How many times have we, especially shown it true in the bush of Congo, and we so love You for it!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest." Ezekiel 15:1,2

It has been recommended that reading include old books of yesteryear. I was reading one of Charles Spurgeon's sermons today and became stricken in my heart not only for my own edification but felt compelled to share it with you as well.

He is expounding on Ezekiel 15:1,and 2. "What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?" Spurgeon goes on to say, " In looking upon all the various trees, we observe that the vine is distinguished among them; so tht, in the old parable of Jothan, the trees waiting upon the vine-tree, and said uto it, "Come thou and reign over us."

Looking at the vine by itself, apart from its fruitfulness, there is nothing to see that would be that appealing. It has no obvious kingship over the other trees. The size of it, form, comeliness, or usefulness does not give it even a slight advantage. Not even the wood is of any good. It is only its fruit that makes it worthy, useful, and appealing.

We are called "God's vine," who love the Lord, yet apart from God we neither are nothing. Apart from the grace of God and if in this life, this is all there is, we are among men most miserable, Paul exclaimed.

Another paragraph by the author states, "Great Christian, thou shouldst have been a great sinner if God had not made thee to differ. O! thou who are valiant for truth, thou wouldst have been as valiant for the devil if grace had not laid hold of thee. A seat in heaven shall one day be thine; but a chain in hell would have been thine if grace had not changed thee. Thou canst now sing his love; but a licentious song might have been on thy lips, if grace had not washed thee in the blood of Jesus. Thou are now sanctified, thou art quickened, thou art justified; but what wouldst thou have been today if it had not been for the interposition of the divine hand? There is not a crime thou mightest not have committed; there is not a folly into which thou mightest not have run. Even murder itself thou mightest have committed if grtace had not kept thee. Thou shalt be like the angels; but thou wouldst have een like the devil if thou hadst not been changed by grace.

Therefore, never be proud; all thy garments thou has from above; rags were thine only heritage. Be not proud, though thou hast a large estate, a wide domain of grace; thou hadst once not a single thing to call thine own, except thy sin and misery. Thou art now wrapped up in the golden righteousness of the Saviour, and accepted in the garments of the beloved; but thou wouldst have been buried under the black mountain of sin, and clothed with the filthy rags of unrighteousness, if he had not changed thee. And art thou proud? Dost thou exalt thyself?

O! strange mystery, that thou, who hast borrowed everything, should exalt thyself; that thou, who hast nothing of thine own, but hast still to draw upon grace, shouldst be proud; a poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of thy Saviour, and yet proud; one who hath a life which can only live by fresh streams of life from Jesus, and yet proud!

Go, hand thy pride upon the gallows, as high as Haman; hang it there to rot, and stand thou beneath, and execrate it to all eternity; for sure of all things most to be cursed and despised is the pride of a Christian. He, of all men, has ten thousand times more reason than any other to be humble, and walk lowly with his God, and kindly and humbly toward his fellow creatures. Let this, then, humble thee, Christian, that the vine-tree is nothing more than any other tree, save only for the fruitfulness which God has given it."

Purge us, Lord, of pride in any form. We are nothing without You, but the sky is the limit with You, Father. We come broken, cracked, and bleeding to your Throne room, boldly asking you to reign in us today, so that Your fragrance will fill the air and waft over those around us. Every breath we breathe comes from you. Every good thing comes from Your hand. Deliver us from the mentality of entitlement. You owe us nothing. We owe You everything. May Your mind be our mind. We humbly bow before you in worship.