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!