Tuesday, February 8, 2011

As your days, so shall your strength be

I ended my last post recalling how I prayed for the rapture to take place each night in bed while listening to the rats gallop across the attic floor shortly after we arrived at the mission campus of Nkara-Ewa.

We had really arrived.

We were really here to stay.

No more dreaming or wondering what life would actually look like in Africa. It was now in front of our faces. We were living life in the BUSH.

Eventually, the D-con we brought took care of the "horses hooves" sound in the attic. Nonetheless, I continued to ask the Lord to come rescue me from my loneliness, culture shock, inability to communicate with the people He called us to minister to, and fear of losing the baby I was carrying because that might be what it took to make me a good missionary! Crazy?, yes, but that was my reality. I pondered losing our baby over and over again.

Why? Because I knew it had happened to others in Africa. Yes, the rapture would be an honorable way to leave it all behind.

I had signed up for ministry at the age of 22 when I married Jim. We were immersed in every phase of outreach at the Warrendale Community Church in Dearborn, Michigan, he for 13 years and I for 10 years. Then we went on a wild ride into music evangelism for 3 years. Being called by God into ministry as a vocation, as a passion, and as a lifetime endeavor is risk taking. Because God chooses to prove Himself again and again for His glory's sake to anyone willing to be a proving ground, He can show up in any fashion He so chooses. Since His ways are so far above our ways, I knew we would not be exempt from some of the suffering missionaries and pastors undergo, even to the point of dying themselves or surrendering their children into the arms of God; i.e., Laban and Marcella Smith.

They were my role models.

They set the stage.

They were my pattern to follow.

They were a legacy in Congo.

They were my legacy.

Still are.

As I faced this real possibility but long-shot probability each day, I began developing a pattern by the grace of God that would more than likely save me from high blood pressure, heart attack, and nervous breakdown big time. I entered the life-support world of RELINQUISHMENT and SURRENDER. If there is one place in the world where one is never in control, it is Congo. More than not, whatever can go wrong usually will go wrong. Despite the curse the country seems to be wearing, the spiritual returns are absolutely incomparable. Congo is so ripe for the Gospel, it makes most struggles pale in comparison to the results seen when the Gospel is delivered and preaching and Bible teaching find place and take root in the hearts of the nationals.

The idea of surrender was not a new theme to me. But I definitely needed to step it up and to take my level of relinquishing much higher. The bar needed to be raised. Dying to self took on whole new dimensions.

Opening the 31 barrels and 7 crates that same week we arrived at Nkara was a delightful distraction. It was so delicious seeing, touching, and using something from our homeland. We love our "stuff", don't we?, and this stuff became a part of who we were 8500 miles from our mother country. Our stuff brought America closer.

One of the most important items we shipped to Congo was a generator to give us electricity each night. Jim did the necessary wiring, purchased fuel to run the generator, and voila! we had lights!!! Oh, the joy of not sitting in the dark, dark nights in Congo with only candle light or kerosene. To this day, one of the reasons I love my husband was that he saw to it we had electricity from the start. Try going without it a couple of nights and see how you fare!

No phones. No gas stove. Cooking was done on a wood stove, which contained a dial up timer on the front. We used to turn that timer on and wait for it to go off. It was the closest thing to a telephone we had. The kerosene refrigerator we ordered from South Africa never really cooled food or water well. There were no kitchen cupboards, and so sheets of plywood became my counters, placed over the shipping barrels once emptied. No running water. All hand carried. We took baths in a big bowl filled with water carried to the house from a far-away stream and then carried up two flights of stairs. Water was more than a precious commodity!

One day I moved an empty barrel in the living room, only to find a family of scorpions living underneath it. If we only knew--you and me--what the Lord has protected us from all these years, we would fall on our faces and praise HIM!!! Even without knowing, let's fall before Him.

In the meantime, I survived by home schooling Shawn, Nicol, and Todd each day and waiting for Jack to join our family.

My feeble attempt at speaking the language caused great distress. Because I was laughed at, I retreated many times due to embarrassment and frustration. Many days out of those first two years I cried. Jim would often stand looking out our bedroom window, forlorn, repeating, "My God, what have I done to my family?"

Here is where the glory began showing its face. . . in stages.

The glory was in the grace of God that enabled us to stay.

The glory was in the grace of God that enabled us to obey.

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

Because Jim was so concerned about my mental and emotional well being, he decided we needed to get out of the bush on a regular basis. Since few groceries were available in Kikwit (60 miles from us) and on a helter-skelter basis, we would travel to Kinshasa, the capital, 400 miles away to pick up food and supplies and fellowship with some people who would become dear friends.

On one such trip I made my way to Dawn Sawatsky's home to attend the Friday morning prayer time. In the center of the bed was a box of tissues and surrounding the bed were we women on our knees petitioning the Great I AM. Next to me that particular day was a single veteran missionary. I would later learn that a missionary could be called a veteran after one term of service. This lady, however, had given most of her life to service in Congo. I found myself gawking at her, wondering how in the world she managed to accomplish that feat. She was joyful, focused, full of faith, and loved to praise the Lord.

It was the month of December. We had been in Congo for a year. As we knelt that day and I imbibed the prayers of these wonderful heroes of the faith, something miraculous happened in my heart.

As what I perceived to be the beautiful incense of their prayers rising up to the throne of The Ancient of Days, I started praising God for the two arms and two legs I had to serve Him. I heard myself saying, "Oh, Lord, if I only had two more hands and two more feet to serve you with, I would gladly do it." All of a sudden (it felt like) I got it! It became real in my heart, not just an intellectual assent, that He kept track of everything I was going through, and nothing would be wasted. He saw my tears. He heard my cries. He knew my fears, and NONE of any of those things would be in vain. None of them. They were not being spent on mediocrity. They were given up to the One Who is Worthy. He was worthy of it all. . . and so much more.

Something was released in me that day. I was never the same again. He spoke peace over me. I experienced the reality of Zephaniah 3:17, "The Lord Your God is in the midst of you. He is Mighty to save. He will rejoice over you with joy; He will rest in silent satisfaction, and in His love He will be silent and make no mention of past sins, or even recall them; He will exult over you with singing"

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, glory and honor and blessing!"

What glory! what bliss were mine!