Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Clean Sheet of What?

The excitement was mounting!  Just weeks away from our first furlough after 3 1/2 years "on the field" as they say, Jim, Shawn, Nicol, Todd, little Jackie, and myself were all ready to head back to dear friends, missed family, catching up with supporters, central air, running water, shopping malls, high heels, clothes with fashion instead of faded, worn out duds, mobility, and fine fast food!  

And we couldn't wait!!!

Home schooling for Shawn, Nicol, and Todd was coming to a close as the spring semester was about to end.  

But we had one small problem, not for Nicol or Todd, but for Shawn.  

The Congo of those days was at a low ebb.  After former President Mobutu told the ex pats to go home; that Congo (then Zaire) did not need them, well--they up and did!  And they took all of their gear and products with them.  Supplies were at an all time low.  

And one supply we could not do without was. . . 


We had run out.

She still had a very important assignment to mail to the US which was due before we were to leave the country.

So we did what had become a natural response to any need.

We prayed.

The year before, visitors had come from America to spend time with us at Nkara.  One was a pastor from Hixson Tennessee, whom we had never met until he planted his feet on the mission. Of all things, the mission board we were with at that time made an appeal to ministers over the radio to come to Congo and actually visit us.  And this pastor took Dr. Zodhiates up on it!  Totally a God orchestrated encounter, he eventually became a dear friend.  

Having had no idea of the dearth we faced, he apologized repeatedly for not bringing gifts for the family.  After a couple of weeks, we said our good byes and agreed to visit his church when we got back to the States.

So, you may well imagine our surprise and delight when we discovered that a package was waiting for us in the city of Kikwit, about 60 miles away from us and sent by this very pastor.  Most packages were intercepted long before they got to us, so we pretty well gave up on asking anyone to send anything.

But, this one made it.  Hurray!

Since there was no easy way of communicating with people in America those days, we had no idea it was on its way.

Jim hand delivered the precious cargo to our dining room table, and we all gathered around to see what treasures might be inside.

Not one time did we suggest to this dear man what he might send us.  This was a loving project he took upon himself.

And that made it all the more intriguing.  What could possibly be inside?  After all, it was a good sized box.

With only days away, Shawn, almost 14, and I had gathered in our bedroom many a night with the other children, who were now almost 12, 9, and almost 3 along with Jim to spend our evenings together.  It was the prettiest room in the house, with wedge wood blue walls Jim had so lovingly painted, sheets with a matching blue pattern in them serving as drapes over the 4 windows, and a matching bedspread--all purchased in the States by a generous cousin so we could have some pretties in dark Africa--and it became a refuge for our family. 

There were times, many times, when I felt like I was losing my mind I would go to this room and pray for sanity and the grace to stick it out.  The Lord always, always came through.

It was on this almost sacred ground that we prayed, we talked, we laughed, we cried, and we dreamed--of furlough and returning to all we had known previously.  

And it was in this room that I prayed in the quiet of the night as I lay on my bed that the rapture would take place in those early days of our arrival at Nkara so I could get out of what I considered the worst nightmare of my life--being a missionary in Congo!

We waited no longer.  Jim got a knife and slit the box open.

And right there

On the top of all the other goodies

Was of all things

A ream of the paper we had prayed for!

The paper that would enable Shawn to finish her report

The paper through which God showed His loving care

The paper which was a picture of God's faithfulness

The paper the Lord told Pastor B to buy and send

And not only to send but to put right on top so we could see God's face when we opened the box

The paper that would be appreciated more than the toys and goodies that lay beneath it; that is, by Shawn at least.

And that night as we gathered once again in that beloved haven of a bedroom, which even boasted a small piece of bright red carpet (the only carpet in the whole house which Jim had taken out of the top of our Suburban to cheer me up and put on the floor of our bedroom)

Shawn, sitting on the floor of our bedroom, glanced up at me, and said as she held her gift,

"Mom, have you ever seen anything so beautiful as a clean sheet of paper?"

I shall never forget that day.  

A day that is one of my most beautiful memories of living in Congo with our whole family among us.  It still brings tears to my eyes and joy to my soul as I think of Shawn's words.

Words of deep satisfaction and even joy over such a simple commodity as a sheet of paper?

Words she would never have uttered had she not had to do without.

Words of bounty because she knew what it was to experience lack. 

Words of thanks because she had a dead line that could not be met without paper to write on.

That deadline could only be met by God's supply.

God had supplied.  Big.  Time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Our solace: a bottle of Coke!

She missed her sister terribly.  The pain was almost unbearable, not only for Nicol who was 10 years old, but for me, her mother watching helplessly.

We had been in Congo for less than 2 years, returning to the scene of a great awakening among the Bayanzi people which took place in the late 40's.  Life was far from great at this point in our lives.

It was now late fall of 1980.  Nicol spent a good deal of time with the Congolese children, especially after Shawn left to attend 7th grade at school at Karawa, the Swedish Covenant mission station. . . 600 miles away with no available roads, accessible only by air.

We struggled and struggled with the thought of packing her off to boarding school, but she was down to about 80 some pounds at the age of 12, suffering severe homesickness and culture shock.  Virtually everything had been pulled out from under her:  no more grandparents, no more friends she grew up with, no more familiar surroundings, including department stores, grocery stores, playgrounds, school grounds, tasty food, and snow or at least a change of seasons.

So. . . we decided to try the option of different surroundings.

Because Nicol played with African children whose parents many times had to choose between a can of sardines or soap for the family with which to bathe, she developed recurrent cases of lice.  We had no good and tried treatments for lice, we resorted to what we did have--kerosene.  Mind you, we lived 400 miles in the interior of Congo, not exactly a place filed with Walgreens or CVS pharmacies

Bout after bout of these lice plagues, delayed culture shock (Nicol adjusted extremely well in the beginning), malaria encounters, and missing Shawn put Nicol in a pit of despair and loneliness.

Things came to a head.

I found Nicol in her bedroom sobbing.

My heart broke.

I felt guilty for ever bringing her to this isolated piece of Africa.  What had we done?  What were we thinking?

She poured out her heart to me as she lay on her bed.

I listened.  We were alone.  We cried together.

She said, "Mom, when I look out my window, all I want to see is Grandpa's green Catalina (Pontiac) driving down that hill, and instead all I hear is people speaking a language that is not my own, and I'm surrounded by unfamiliar faces."  No cousins.  No relatives other than our immediate family.  No activities to look forward with other American playmates.  No ice skating.  No roller skating.  No gymnastics.  No Shawn.

What to do?

I had no way of bringing Shawn home for the weekend on such short notice,  no way of convincing my parents to come for a visit--no way, and no way of sending Nicol back to the US for a visit.

We were stuck.

"Stuck" in living out God's will for our lives.

It's one thing to know that God has called you to be a missionary.

It's another thing to live out your missionary role.

To perform the expectations others put on you to fulfill the role of a missionary.

To live out the life God has for you.

To feel like a missionary.

 It takes time.  It is a process.

We needed more time.

The will of God did not yet fit like a glove as I had been told in Bible college.

I didn't even know if I could hold out.  Some days I felt like I was going to lose my mind.

I felt like I was living on Mars totally inept for the call that was so evident on my husband's life.

I never felt called.  I know it goes against the grain and everything you might have heard about having to have a call on your life.

I went because I belonged with my husband, and I was sure of God's call on his life.

It was this simple:  If God called him, He also called me.

But as far as sensing a separate call from the Lord on my life to serve Him in Congo--no.  It wasn't there.

So, there we were.

I told Nicol to wait a moment.  I would be right back.

In our attic was a case of cokes. . . a very precious commodity.  A treaure hard to come by.

Cokes all the way from Kinshasa, hundreds of miles away, not available locally.  Saved for very special occasions.

This was a very special occasion.

Usually shared by two people, each shared bottle was sipped slowly by both.

But drastic situations call for drastic measures.

Down I came with not one coke, but two.

Nicol's eyes brightened.  We had made this case last for a long time.  She knew she was valued and loved.

She rose to the occasion.

We sat on the edge of the bed with feet dangling and even swinging as we sipped away.

Each one being solaced with her own bottle of Coke.

Life was good again.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Imagine with me. . . Christmas in Congo

Picture yourself as an average Congolese national waking up at our mission station of Nkara to Christmas morning.  this is what you would look around to:

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 little mission boutique lately, you may have been able to purchase a small lacy 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 2 more chairs used for guests who drop by to visit and chat.  The The coffee table may boast a doily 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 4 children will sleep in one bed.  The average-sized family has 8 to 10 children because so many die in childbirth or from malaria, typhoid, measles, pneumonia, or who knows what.  So your home may have 3 bedrooms with 4 or 5 kids in two of the bedrooms and a third "master bedroom" for the parents.

Your feet will not feel the comfort of rugs.  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 smokehouse, 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 surroundings, but you can make a big difference in the lives of these hard-working men and women of Laban and their precious families.  Each year, we offer the gift of a Dream Package, which includes a new piece of cloth for the mother, a new pair of shoes for the father, a dress or shirt and pants for each girl or boy, cokes for the family, and a feast consisting of dried fish, fresh beef, bread, rice, beans, saka saka (or close to our spinach) and a toy for the children.  Congolese parents are just like us.  They want to offer their children the benefits of a special day like Christmas, which include presents.  Your kindness will brighten up the dullness and flood their lives with holiday cheer and the love of Christ.

Proverbs 19:17 says that whoever gives to the poor actually lends to the Lord, and the Lord will repay that person.  After all, the Lord is no man's debtor.  Just earmark your check "Dream Package", and send it to P O Box 251, Taylor MI 48180.

Blessings and gratitude from us and from the staff of Laban Ministries International in Congo, Africa!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Total Awe

Christmas, 2012

What an unfathomable act of humility it was for Christ to become an embryo and nestle in the womb of
Mary, a woman He Himself created.

What must it have been like for Jesus to limit Himself to that seclusion for nine months?

"Who being in very nature Jesus did not consider His equality with God something to be grasped, but
made Himself of no reputation, taking upon Himself the form of a servant."

The Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah "had to be made like His brothers in every way in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people."

To you, Lord, "who earnestly remembered us in our low estate and imprinted us on Your heart, for your mercy and loving kindness which endure forever," we give you great praise!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

When I Fall. . .

In church this past Sunday, the pastor chose as his text Micah 7.

For the past several years I have become very interested in the minor prophets, minor because of their size, not their content. There are 14 of them in the Old Testament, and they are worth the read.

They mirror life in these tumultuous times.  They are contemporary though written hundreds of years ago.  They narrate human nature, which is the same, basically, world wide.

The men who wrote them were specially chosen of God to teach, warn, admonish, and even cry and beg for their people to return to God.   These brave souls often faced humiliation, rejection, suffering, and the risk of looking like fools.

Such is the case with Micah, which means, "Who is like the Lord?"  Micah lived during the days of kingships of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  Assyria invaded Samaria in 722-721 B. C., and Judah faced repeated threatenings from more than one Assyrian king.

Micah was a contemporary of the great major prophet, Isaiah; you know, the guy who got sawed in two by wicked, evil King Manasseh of Judah, the southern kingdom vs. Israel, the northern kingdom.  This mad man Manasseh left his stench and curse on Judah for years and years to come.  Manasseh's father, Hezekiah mentioned above had not yet begun to reign.

Micah faithfully warns anyone who will listen that the nation will be destroyed because of the wicked hearts of its leaders, including civic leaders, prophets, and priests, who were all guilty of not fearing God any more. This general malaise toward recognizing and dealing with sin in their lives had a trickle down affect on the general population, who followed suit.  Sluggishness and apathy towards the holiness of God reigned, therefore, in the population as well as in the leadership.  There was no fear of God, whatsoever.

One thread throughout all the prophets, both major and minor, was the shortcoming of the prophets and priests in withholding the truth of the consequences that would fall on them and the people as well if they did not turn from their sins and repent.  They failed to proclaim the doom to befall them and instead promised false hope and repeated declaration of peace.

The prophets and priests often proclaimed that these leaders preached "peace, peace, when there is no peace."

Another thread throughout these books of the Old Testament is that since God busies Himself with our every step, He sees and rewards the remnant who refuses to go along with the crowd.  To that remnant who remain faithful to Him, He promises His blessing.  To that remnant who follow Him, a better day is coming perhaps in their lifetime, but for sure in their death, as they will dwell with the Lord forever and He will reward them openly for their lives surrendered to Him instead of living for the pursuit of materialism, fame, compromise, or their own will.

As I sat in the church pew on Sunday, I listened intently as the pastor sited verses 7-9 out of Chapter 7.  And in this final portion of Micah is a great guideline for us when we fall.  It's a simple, uncomplicated (not necessarily easy or quickly embraced because of our weak flesh) prescription for rebound from sin, recovery from life's jabs, and hope in a mighty God who delivers us from ourselves.

The order of the points is not in order if that makes sense.  We will see a back and forth movement from verse to verse, but there is a very practical order.  Many times the Bible is like that.  It is not necessarily in chronological order.  That's why often one must dig into the text, think, pray, return to it, read it again, and wait for the Lord to shed light.

So we are looking at 3 powerful verses in Chapter 7.  Verses 7, 8, and 9.

Let's start in verse 8.

1.  "When I fall. . . "

Relief floods my soul at this statement.  Often put on pedestals, leaders are expected to live lives devoid of falling, devoid of slipping, devoid of sinning.  Expect it.

Micah is not positioning himself to be anything different from what he is. . . a sinner.  He is going to fall.

The fall may come as a result of sin but it doesn't have to.  The fall may be the result of a great blow:

loss of a job
family turmoil
or sin

BUT IT WILL COME.  WE ALL FALL for one reason or another.

What do we do when that happens?  Go to verse 7.

2.  "But as for me, I will look to the Lord."  Ahhh, there's my answer.  Relief again.  I will look to the Lord," who is

my refuge
my hiding place
my strong tower which I can run into and be safe
my paraclete (one who walks alongside of me)
my advocate (lawyer)
my intercessor (Jesus stands continually before the Lord pleading our cause)

to name a few

3.  "I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me."

Confessing to God what He already knows is essential.  It's obviously for us, not for Him.  Are we not humbled at naming our evil, our shortcomings, our anger, our jealously, our lack of forgiveness?  Does not the mention of these acts reveal who we really are and how much we need Him to forgive us and clear the air once again, restoring us to Him?

4.  "I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against Him."

I must agree with my sin.  It's my fault, nobody else's.  I must bear my consequences myself.  I can't blame anyone else.  I can't sling mud, not with God.  He knows all.

So whatever I have coming to me, I will embrace it.  I will take it.  I will bear it by the grace of God and not make someone else my scapegoat.

Neither will I blame God.  I will allow no bitterness to cling to me.  By the grace of God, I will allow it though it wash over me, to keep going.

Depending on the reason for the fall and the fall itself, this has to be a process.  It's not a flash in the pan.  It may take a while to get out of the fog of living in God's indignation.

Personally speaking, the death of a baby is one of the most unexpected blows a parent or grandparent can punched with.  Another is internal family issues that rip the heart right out of the body.

These can cause one to fall.

The looking to the Lord becomes a lifeline, a safety net, a secure hold from focusing on the horrible night of the soul in its loss or the nightmare of volatile emotional eruptions within the family instead of the One who wants to get us out of the pit.

What has caused you to fall?  Find respite in looking to the Lord again and again and again and again. He hears you though the clamor of trauma continues to resound.  Though He seems distant.  Though the storm seems to prevail.  He hears.  Keep watch.  Be patient.  God has His own timing.  His wheels grind slow but sure.

The indignation of the Lord may be hard to bear, but He, the Loving Parent that He is, always does the right thing, distributes in the exact proportion needed, and stops when He sees His purpose is fulfilled.  Carry on in His grace.  In all of your suffering, He stands beside you with abounding grace, enough to more than get you through.  Enough to keep you sane.  Enough to give you hope.

Verse 9 in the Amplified says that after He has pled my cause and executed judgment for me, "He will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold His righteous deliverance."

Now comes the last verse (7)

5.  "I shall arise when I sit in darkness.  The Lord shall be a light to me."

Here is grace in action.  Grace enables us to endure the darkness. It keeps us from losing our minds. Through grace we can arise from the darkness. . . eventually.  It lubricates our nerves enough to get up again and get going.  Grace is a balm.  It is the salve of the Holy Spirit that soothes the raw wounds that may have caused us to fall in the first place.  It accommodates us and makes a way for us to wade through whatever fog, grief,  or turmoil we might be stuck in one step at a time.

I love the verse in Revelation that says in the future there will be no sun or moon because we won't need them.  Jesus Himself will be our light.

Until then, Jesus will break through that dark night of the soul and shed light, His light.  That light consists of peace with ourselves, joy, hope, and the reality gripping our soul that though nothing has changed--that is, that baby we so miss will never come back here, the divorce has not been reversed, joblessness is still just that, the family is still broken and wounded, or scars from the sin are still felt--the Presence of Christ is so real that life is going to be livable.  We can breathe again.  We can function again.  We can laugh again.

The final part of verse 7 concludes, "I shall behold His righteous deliverance."


What relief.  Pure joy.


Praise you Jesus for deliverance.  We love you so.

Monday, November 26, 2012

January 24, 2013: SAVE THE DATE

""How can they hear without someone preaching to them?"

This verse is near and dear to many missionaries, whose mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world.  Though we as believers are all commanded to preach the Gospel, not everyone is commissioned by a church or an organization to go specifically to another part of the country other than their homeland to try to make Jesus famous.

Contrary to some well meaning individuals who have told me that they could never be a missionary and "beg" for money, I tell you, my husband and I have never considered fulfilling Christ's commission an act of "begging."

In fact, as outlined in Romans 10, God reveals His plan for the unevangelized, unreached souls to be evangelized and reached:

"How can they call on the one they have not believed in?

How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?

How can they hear without someone preaching to them?

And how can they preach unless they are sent?"

People are lost all over the world.  They don't know Jesus died for them.

They don't know they must believe in Him because they have never heard the Gospel.  Someone has to tell them it's by faith and not "the way that seems right to them."

Someone has to preach the Good News because God has ordained preaching as the means of getting the message across.

Finally, in order to tell people about Christ, the messenger must be sent.

My husband Jim and I have had the privilege of living among people in Congo for almost 34 years now.  His parents went to Africa in 1938.  Thus, we have deep roots there, 74 years' of roots.

Because we are also responsible for raising funds here in America, we live here part time and in Congo part time.

And every time we return to Africa this verse rings in our ears; in particular, the question, "How can they preach unless they are sent?"

In 1987, we began hosting a dinner each year to update our donors in a more in depth fashion about what we do there and where their money goes.

This annual benefit dinner has become a way of sending us off.

Our 27th annual send off dinner is just around the corner.

On Thursday, January 24, we will gather at Crystal Gardens on Fort Street in Southgate, MI to once again heighten awareness of the amazing feats the Lord is accomplishing in Congo, Africa.

A lovely family style meal including pork tenderloin, ham in pineapple sauce, and vegetable lasagna, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, rolls, pasta, and ice cream will be served,

Our son, Jack Smith, will render his passionate voice in several musical selections.

Our daughter, Shawn Lantz, will be the featured speaker.  In addition to her first book, Congo Vignettes, she has written two Bible studies, including Living with Unmet Desires:  Exposing the Many Faces of Jealousy and Encountering the Healing Power of Forgiveness.

A brand new DVD is being prepared which will show snipits of the Women's Literacy School, evangelism, and Radio Glory from our summer, 2012 trip.

The dinner is underwritten by generous sponsors.

Your only obligation is to call and save your seat for the evening, 313 292 5445.

Help us fill a table of 10.

Come celebrate Jesus with us!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Rescue of Mama Ibo

"I stuttered in those days.

Didn't start talking until I was four.

I stumbled through life.

It was hard, monotonous, routine, predictable.

Walked in a fog of ignorance and despair.

Day after day after day, same old, same old.

Eventually I married .  Lost my first baby at 5 months.

Second baby died at 3 months.

Our third baby died as well.

Then my husband died in 2003.  He died one day while standing up.  Collapsed.  The end.

I was an angry woman.

Praying was such a bore.  I always fell asleep.

I decided to enter the Women's Lit Center at Nkara.  Life changed.

The way I saw my professors pray in school gave me great happiness.  They cared about me.

Before, when I ate, I never gave thanks to God, but now before I take a bite I pray.

My life came back to me.  I am more than alive.  I am transformed.

Now I must worship God.  I don't fall asleep anymore.

After attending the school for 3 years, I find myself reaching out to God.  I pray.  I read God's Word.

I completed my classes at the literacy center.  It took me three years.

One day while attending classes, a young man broke into my home.  He stole everything.

Even my prized solar radio that I listened to Radio glory with.  It was no more.

My connection with the outside world.  My escape from isolation in the bush.  Christian music. 

The daily Word of God--now silenced.  The radio was my gift from LMI when I graduated.

All that I learned at school, I have and keep on sharing with my relatives and friends in my village.

After my husband died, my house fell to the ground because there was no one to take care of it.

So now I am in the process of building another one.  I will use money from my crops to do this.

I, myself, get the grass for my roof from the forest.  I pay for the sticks.  A young man is covering the sticks with mud.

The village of Nkara laughed at me when I started school.

Whether I have a lot of problems or a good day, I am a happy woman!"

Note:  Mama Ibo is a tremendous blessing to the Women's Literacy School.  She graduated in 2008.  She is now on staff at our school and instructs women in knitting and needlepoint.  A woman of beautiful countenance.  I love her and thank God for her.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Her name is Kinkufi

She finished in 2008.

The fact that Kinkufi completed three years in our literacy school in Africa is of itself an incredible feat.

In Congo, women are the work horse.  Often chosen by their future husband according to the size of their calves, they sign contracts agreeing to bear x number of children (7-9).

There is no dating in our neck of the woods, which is known as the bush of Congo.  So when a man spots a favorable prospective "wife," he approaches her father, who dictates the requirements of her dowry.

Some more stringent dowries include a $20 piece of cloth for the mother, out of which she can make a 3 piece skirt, top, and wrap around her waist which doubles as a shawl for the cold and a bunting wrap around in which to carry her baby.  The mother also may ask for a pretty scarf for her head, which she will magically wind, tie, and fold to ornament her head, earrings and a necklace.  The father often asks for new shoes, a new suit, a cow for the family or a couple of goats, and a case of coke or beer plus money.  Of course, it could take years to pay this off, and if anything were to happen to his wife in the meantime, the debt continues to hang over his head.

Lesser dowries may require cloth for the mother of the bride, a shirt and shoes for the father, a case of coke or beer, and some money.

For his bride, the prospective husband may be asked to buy pots and pans, dishes, new cloth, and jewelry.

Barbaric?  Primitive?  Slavery?  Yes, yes, and yes.

Choosing a woman like you choose a horse, ox, or other work animal is barbaric.  Making her sign a contract to produce 7-9 children to accord her worth is primitive.  Dumping her with the responsibility of planting and harvesting a huge garden and walking to the nearest water source, which could be a mile away, and lugging the family's water home for bathing, cooking, and washing is slavery.

And that is precisely why the greatest eye-opener, life-giving gift we can give to both men and women is the gift of reading, studying, and being taught the eternal, priceless, life-transforming Word of God.

Listen to Kinkufi's own words:

"My life is so different now. I used to be very angry.  If someone came to me before, even if it was a small problem to present to me, I would lash out at them.

I used to belong to a group of women who delighted in bragging about themselves, lying, and especially gossiping about someone who was not in their presence.

Today I refuse to be a part of that group anymore.  My husband is in mechanics' school.  I was led to Christ by Marie, (director of our Women's Literacy School), who was also her neighbor.  As she watched her chaotic life, Marie told her, 'You need to learn the Word of God and get it inside of you. You will notice that changes will take place.  The way you are living now is not helping you.'

So I began attending classes, and I learned beautiful things.  I was taught the Word of God and also learned how to share the Word in a group of ladies.  I am giving God glory because of the peace and joy that I now have in my heart.  I learned so much at the ladies' school.

I did know how to read before I came to school and am a little better educated than most but did not know Jesus when I started.

I now listen to what my husband has to say.  I didn't know how to manage money, but the professors in the school taught me how to do that plus how to put order in my home.  I now know how to wash dishes, make beds, sweep floors, and organize my clothes before washing them.

And now I can make my own clothes and do needlework to make my house pretty!  Though I know how to make clothes, I am asking you for permission to attend another year of sewing classes so that I can learn more, as I have trouble cutting the material out in a pattern.

Therefore, I am thanking God and you for the idea of opening a school for women, and I pray you will keep remembering us in this way in Congo, so we can get ahead in our culture."

Okay, so God is using the school to deliver women out of the darkness of ignorance.  It is changing their way of thinking.  Scripture is offering them the choice between heaven and hell.  It is giving them  hope, courage, and the thrill of knowing Christ Himself.

What about the men?

It's a slow process.  BUT, some men who have been taught the Word of God; in fact, some of these men work with us in Laban Ministries, now go to the gardens with their wives.  They help them carry the water or get water themselves instead of sending their wives.  They actually hug their wives in public and value them as never before.  They want to please them by buying something pretty for them when they go into Kkwit or Bulungu or Kinshasa.  They are reading the Bible together and praying together.  Their homes are less stressful.  They are actually beginning to enjoy each other's presence.

Did this come about by education alone?  Not at all!  And it sure didn't happen overnight.

However, it is HAPPENING, and we are all eternally grateful.

So join me in this Thanksgiving month to give praise and adoration to Jesus Christ, who is the lifter up of our heads, gives and always has given dignity to women, and cherishes us like no other, sings over us with song and shouts of deliverance, and has all of our tears recorded and kept in bottles, who listens so attentively our prayers go right into His ears, and who intercedes for us 24/7 before the Throne of God.

Thank you Jesus for loving us like no other ever could.

For lifting us from the pit and placing us on the Rock.

For valuing us and making life worth while, whether it's in the remote, impoverished, isolated bush of Africa or abundantly blessed, self-absorbed, entitlement mindset America.

Your Word and our souls are the only things we can take to heaven.  May we treasure your thoughts, genius, mind, plans, and redemption as spelled out in the Bible as much as the desolate, poverty-stricken but rich in faith women in Congo.

We love you God.  You are incomparable.  Thank you for loving our souls and bodies so much you did not even withhold Your only begotten Son to make us fit to dwell with you forever.

We treasure and adore You.  Everything we are or ever hope to be we owe to You, Ancient of Days!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

In the beginning. . . of Laban Ministries International

Failed to post this on October 20.

That was a very, very special day.

On October 20, 1938, Dr. Laban and his wife of just a few years, Marcella Knopp Smith, left from the New York harbor on the ship named Jean Jadot for the dark continent of Africa. He was an oral surgeon. She was a woman sold out to God from Shamokin, PA. They left not having a clue for the ride awaiting them!!

The trip

 took six weeks, traveling all the way to Antwerp and Brussels, Belgium to get authorization to serve in the Belgian Congo. Reboarding the Jean Jadot once again, they continued on to Africa.

Landing in the city of Matadi, they took the train up to the capital city of Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), then on to Kikwit to await arrival of their gear shipped on another boat. However, their truck and some equipment came with them. They gathered food and some other supplies and headed for Shambungu, down near the Angolan border and Kahemba, where the regional government center was located. It was now early 1939.

How incredible that they would leave a very successful dental practice in two locations, a gorgeous home in Grosse Pointe, MI, and 10,000 patients for the grasslands of Congo!

Shambungu, infested with mosquitos, already boasted the grave of a young husband, whose pregnant wife found herself back on a ship to America within just months of her arrival, not having even learned the language yet.

A lady by the name of Vera Rhomburger, spotted some land up out of the valley called Kajiji and felt it would be a better spot to form a mission station. So, the Millers, the Smiths, Miss Rhomburger, and the Zooks all made their way to Kajiji. The 3,000 feet above sea level Kajiji offered was much freer of mosquitos than Shambungu.

For the next 5 years, they would live at Kajiji, building a large church which seated at least 1,500, a clinic, a dental office, and the family home. A missionary told him, "Dr. Smith, this church will never be filled." It was filled from the very first day.

In December of 1939, Jim's older brother, Jack was born, and then in 1942, Jim came along. During this time the Belgian Government built roads for Dr. Smith because of his medical profession. He was valued by them! We know of no another oral surgeon in the Belgian Congo at that time.

People in and near Kajiji were receptive to the Gospel. The villages were open. Dr. Smith was not only a medical doctor, but also greatly involved in evangelism and the starting of churches. Other missionaries were also involved, but it was as if his heart were on fire to expose the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Dr. Smith's first two children, Herb and Phyllis, from his late wife, Ruby, were adjusting, especially Herb. Herb would have been 9 years old and Phyllis about 11.

Hunting antelope was a frequent venture. Otherwise, there was no meat. Besides, he loved to hunt, a great shot. He was an outdoors man, having owned a cabin on the Au Sable Rive in MI, and deer hunting with his buddies was an annual winter activity.

Marcella found Africa a strange thing. She still was not called there and had come because she was Laban's wife and surrendered to God's call on his life. She felt totally out of place, tried to fit in, but life was difficult for her in those early years. She found learning the language difficult, and she had no real desire to jump in and learn Kituba as Laban learned Kichok. However, before being able to speak Kichok, Laban almost gave up because of frustration of not being able to communicate. It almost did him in.

Her new jobs were to deal with her culture shock, set up their home, and register each basket of dirt the grade school students brought for building the mission homes until they could get access to the stone quarry. Soon, her first baby was on his way, which kept her occupied and delighted as well. Though the adjustments were hard, she stuck it out until Congo became. . . her own inheritance.

Because the Belgian officials wanted Dr. Smith closer to the territorial center of the Kwilu District of Congo, they asked him to relocate. In addition, there were disagreements among some of the other missionaries regarding how much the national workers should be paid. Dr. Smith was a relatively new Christian at the time, and he was very enthusiastic about getting the Word of God spread over a larger area. So, with all these factors in mind, they picked up and moved to a mission called Iwungu, about 200 miles to the north.

To be continued. . .

Like ·  · 
"Whatever happened to Holy, Holy, Holy?

It was no ordinary day in chapel at Detroit Bible College. Attending classes taught by some of the most amazing men of God was my daily portion.  I was a freshman at the age of 21, having graduated from medical secretarial school, where I studied lab technique, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, medical coding, and then worked as a medical transcriptionist for 2 years in a downtown hospital in Pontiac, MI. 

Less than a year before I had looked forward to a December wedding. However, we realized we were making a mistake, broke off the engagement, and returned all of our shower gifts.  Bible college had a sudden appeal, and so I sent an application to a nearby college and decided to live in the dorm. 

You can imagine how perplexing this news was to my parents, and the next year had its ups and downs as they tried to make sure I hadn't gone off the deep end and was not making a rash decision that would later cause regrets. 

In those days students paid their own way.  Yet to be were the days of runaway inflation and almost morgageable educational costs.  And in my case, I was able to pay for my first year's tuition and room and board.  Each day was full of wonder as the Bible was taught along with World History and music courses.  I was so in love with learning.

Though the speaker's name skips me, I remember hanging on to every word.  His text was Isaiah 6.

1  "In the ;year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and the skirts of His train filled the most holy part of the temple.

2  Above Him stood the seraphim; each had six wings:  with two each covered his own face, and with two each covered his feet, and with two each flew.

3  And one cried to another and said, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory."

I was awestruck with the power of these passage.  He then pointed out that God is to be the standard in our lives, not other people for comparison purposes.

As we gaze on Him, verse 5 can then take place.

5  "Then said I, Woe is me!  For I am undone and ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!"

As we make our way through these days of chaos, godlessness, no Bible in the classroom, no prayer in the schools, pornography at the push of a button, no standards on TV in programming as well as advertising, same sex marriage, and abortion abounding, I ask, whatever happened to holiness, that is, the acknowledgement of God's holiness.

All of this abandoning of the Holy One has not made Him unholy.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

And the older I become, the more aware of how sin sick my heart is.  

Could there be one more awakening in America before Jesus comes back in judgment the next time?

Revival must begin with me, for judgment begins with the household of God.

In reading this passage once again yesterday, a fresh awareness of the holiness of the Godhead swept over me, and I cry out with the angel and Isaiah:

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!"

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Be Still My Soul

The lyrics to this old hymn have been around since 1752 and still so applicable today.  Our daughter, Nicol Sponberg,  recorded it when she was in Selah.  Her haunting, ethereal voice permeates my inner being each time I hear her sing this beloved poem. The author is Katherine A. von Schlegel, about whom little is known.  What a bummer because undoubtedly she has a story to tell  like everyone else.

"Her words, joined with the haunting tune of Finlandia by Sibelius made this a classic hymn.  It comforted an entire nation [during World War II]."  Virgil J. Bachman

If you are familiar with the old hymns, you know that we don't continue to love them because they're old.  We cherish and return to them again and again because they remain true.  They are rich in theology.  They minister to the soul.  They give us an image of Christ, His character, His thoughts, His will, and His holiness.  They are a balm to our spirits and a salve to our wounds.

There are great, true stories behind them penned by real people who suffered loss of children or spouses, or heartache of financial devastation, crippling diseases, or circumstances so painful--even to the extent of being called insane--that enable their words to penetrate our hearts and minds.  If only their one-sided grief were penned, misery would abound.  We would all despair at the depth of their sorrowing,  but it is the unfeigned hope, their awe of a holy God, and their clarity and profound love of Him in response to their difficulties that comes bursting through the stanzas, which allow us to identify  with them and embrace for our very own the message God has given them to share with mankind.

Be Still My Soul has a very special place in my heart of my husband, Jim.  And here is why:

"After having flown over hundreds of miles of ocean with dawn beginning to break the African skies and waking up from an off and on sleep, I realized we were above the continent of Africa.  We had not been to this land for many years.  In my heart, I had no desire to go back.  Neither did Nancy, my wife, sitting beside me.  For me, Congo was the place that took my father's life at the age of 10.  My older brother, Jack, two and a half years my senior, longed to return.  He would have too, I believe, had he not been crushed to death by a rock fall in Arkansas at the age of 18.

God's call was strong and clear, and eventually we surrendered, packed up our family, and now we were almost there.

There was no turning back.

These were sanctified moments.

Thoughts of what awaited us flooded my mind. I knew no one would be at the airport to meet us.  We didn't know a single soul to contact ahead of time.  "We" consisted of Nancy, Shawn 10, Nicol 8, and Todd 5.  A bolt of fear swept over my soul.  What was I bringing my family to?  Nancy was expecting Jack, our fourth.  How well would she do delivering our son in the bush? How much had Congo changed in 11 years?  How would our other children adjust?  Was this really of God? The idea of actually going to Africa to live was terrifying, even weakening.

Then the Holy Spirit, the Great Comforter, swept up my thoughts and brought the truth of Be Still My Soul to my heart and mind as I sat there, contemplating what our new normal would be.

We landed.  The language came back to me well enough to communicate where we needed to go in the capital city of Kinshasa.  Two days after our arrival, a wonderful family took us into their home until we could get all of our papers together and were ready to go up country. God's grace was ours as we began living in a country so foreign to my wife and children and, yes, in some ways, even to me.

Allow me to share the depth and beauty of this timeless hymn.  Let it wash over you and draw you" to the Rock who is higher than I."

To the One who bids us come and rest awhile.

To the One who is whispers peace.

Who says, "Be still and know that I am God."

Be still, my soul! The Lord is on our side;
bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
leave to your God to order and provide;
in every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul! You best, your heavenly Friend
through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul! Your God will undertake
to guide the future as he has the past;
your hope, your confidence let nothing shake;
all now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul! The waves and winds still know
his voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul!  The hour is hastening on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul! When change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Christ's Sufferings - Get to or have to? Christ calls us to share in His sufferings. I believe they can come in the most remote and unlikely forms, often disguised and sometimes even missed until they have passed us by. But once revealed by the Holy Spirit for their true identity, our eyes open to see them as invitations to come and partake. Am I willing? God help me to be. A much better mindset which I often fail to embrace is that I actually get to share vs. have to share in these pride killers, these mortifiers of the flesh, these purifiers of the soul. A holy calling indeed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. Isaiah 30:15 It seems as though God is forever telling the Israelites to return to Him. Return from their idolatry. Return from their immorality. Return from their abandoning of Him. . . Return. Return. Return. This passage is yet another call for His people to come back, repent, relinquish and live. As with the Israelites, so with us. Return. . . This verse in as incredible promise for true success, and it's not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit, we are to press on and experience that success. In His Presence is fullness of joy. By His Mighty Right Hand. . . Be still and let me, and know that I am God. These are the actions required of us in our return. There is nothing so valuable in this life as to be quiet before the Lord. A shutting down of the external. A calming down. A cooling of our jets so to speak. A state of receiving instead of giving, except the total giving ourselves to the One Who is calling us. Come, He says. Sit. Be quiet. Fill your mind with Me. Let everything else go. And it is personally one of the greatest challenges for me. I am a doer. I like check lists. I succumb to time restraint. I have a hard time sitting still. But in the doing, in the checking off of lists, in the not sitting still, and in the succumbing of myself to time restraints, I forfeit the valuable quietness, that peace hovering confidence, and succumb to stress and frustration. . . and emptiness. I get all tangled up inside. I cannot think straight. I fall into a pit. I love these inviting verses that bid us come: "In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare a prayer. . . for You and watch and wait for You to speak to my heart." Ps 5:3 "I will thank You and confide in You forever, because You have . . . delivered me and kept me safe. I will wait on, hope in and expect in Your name. . ." Ps 52:9 . . . "For my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and CONFIDENCE in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be CONFIDENT until calamities and destructive storms are passed." Ps 57:1 Sitting quietly before God is exactly where I regain my spiritual equilibrium and confidence in the Lord. No where else. Sitting at the feet of Jesus stills the storms, quiets the soul, and strengthens the spirit to taste the Lord and see that He is good. It restores our souls, rekindles our love for Him, and returns the hope we so desperately need in our lives to keep operating. In quietness. Not in doing. Not in fixing. Not in rearranging. From that silence to use a very mediocre term, He rubs off on me. He becomes the preeminent One. He changes me from glory to glory, not my glory, of course, but His. He becomes my Reality. And though Colossians says He is my life, by nestling in the joy of His Presence, He in a larger, more palpable form shows His life to be in me. So I leave one of my favorite Psalms with you today. It is my prayer for you and for me: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty; neither do I exercise myself in matters too great or in things too wonderful for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my sou; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me ceased from fretting." Psalm 131:1,2

Friday, August 3, 2012

Reversing the Past We are all headed on a crash course in our natural state apart from our Redeemer, bound for hell. Conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity in the womb, as David says, our unreborn inclination is to follow suit. The bents in our lives handed down from our ancestors are real and can be potentially deadly, all the way back to Adam. In Christ there is an amazing opportunity to reverse our past. In fact, He is the only One who dan reverse our course. I was the first one in my family to accept Christ and have often wondered where in my background who was the person praying for me? My parents were both burned in their church as single young people and were afraid and reluctant to introduce me as a child or an adolescent to the organized church. I was one of the "none are righteous, all seek their own" sinners, not beginning to dream that God was seeking me out and would send a 12-year-old classmate to introduce me to Jesus Christ the summer after finishing sixth grade. Surrendering my lost soul to the Creator of the universe was the best decision He ever enabled me to make, "for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." I shudder to think where I would be today if I were still lost and undone, without hope and without God in this world. Instead, he has reversed my past, which was headed in the direction of Hell, reserved for the Devil and his angels, never for man. My heart, my all I give to Him again today, the Ancient of Days for pursuing this undeserving human being by lavishing His incomparable love on me through the sacrificial offering of His one and only Son. He will do the same for you. Just ask Him to. I stand in awe of you, Lord

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A testimony from Kinkufi, a former student at the Women's Lit Center My life is very different now. I used to be very angry. If someone came to me before I started this school, even if it was regarding a small problem to present to me, I would become very upset. I used to belong to a group of women who delighted in bragging about themselves, lying, and especially gossiping about someone who was not in their presence. But today I refuse to belong to that group. I found Christ here at the Women's Lit Center. I live near Mama Marie Aza, the directress of the school. She noticed how chaotic my life had become and said to me, "You need to learn the Word of God and get it inside of you. You will notice that changes will taker place. The way you are living now is not helping you. So I entered ecole des femmes or the school for women. I learned beautiful things. I was aught the Word of God and also learned how to share Scripture in a group of ladies. I am giving God glory because of the peace and joy I now have in my heart. I learned so much in the ladies' school. I did know how to read before I began school here and am more educated than most. My house fell to the ground after my husband died because there was no one to take care of it. So now I am in the process of building another one. The manioc I grew I will sell, and little by little I will get my house done. I myself get the grass for the roof from the forest, and I pay for the sticks. A young man is covering the sticks with mud. The villagers laughed at me when I started attending school. Whether I have a lot of problems or have a good day, today I am a happy woman.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Days in Congo - Missing Cash Last August when we left Nkara after 4 monthss to return to America, I had set aside $250 to give to Kiniaanga, who is in charge of our feeding program for the dorm students at Laban Bible Institute for the fall term. I tucked it away in my bedside table. The day came for our the departure, and we locked up our house and boarded the MAF plane on the airstrip near the mission. Then it hit me. The money was still tucked away. Nuts! The cash would have enabled him to get a little head start in purchasing supplies. It was only August, and the fall term didn't begin until October. Guess it will be there when we return next year, I thought. Return we did this April, and soon after arriving at Nkara, I opened the bedside table drawer to retrieve the money. It was no where to be found. So I searched my desk and chest of drawers. It was not to be found. I reassured myself that it had to be there, and that I was not suffering from dementia! So when it didn't show up anywhere in our bedroom, I asked the Lord to show me where in the world it could be. It was my firm belief that it was there. Cash just doesn't walk away, and there were no signs of forced entry into our upstairs bedroom. One day within that first week of our return, I sat in the big chair in the room to read, but a horrid odor was so strong in he vicinity of the chair I called Jim and told him I was sure there was a dead mouse underneath. We called Kinianga up and they lifted the big heavy chair only to find nothing but this year's acrue of sand and a few dead bugs. However, in lifting the chair, we all saw the hole in the flimsy covering on the bottom of the chgair. Kinianga reached his hand in to retrieve what he thought would be a dead mouse. Brave move on his part. . . Only to pull out a $100 bill!!! The money I left! The next time he pulled out the dead mouse. Ugh! Deciding we should thoroughly cleanse the chair, the men took it downstairs and outside in the sunshine. Before they applied soap and water and ironed it with the old coal iron we use to press our clothes, they kept searching for more money as I told them there was over $200 missing. To our amazement, the pulled out 3 more $50 bills! The money was found. Thank you Lord. Now, how do you suppose that money got from the table to the chair which was across the room on the opposite side of our bed???? It turns out that a family of little creatures resembling chipmunks made their home in our attic. I kept finding stripped palm nuts on the floors of our room and what used to be our boys' room when I began cleaning and realized they had left a trail, but I had no idea they took that money to use to make their nest. Money isn't like cotton or soft cloth. It isn't very pliable, so after leaving their marks on it and realizing it would not do, they left it in different parts of that chair. Incredible! Now I hate the smell of a dead anything, let alone a mouse. But if that terrible odor ad not come ffrom the chair on a day that I "happenned" to be sitting in it (of all the days we were gone) that money would in all likelihood never have been found. Your timing and ways continue to amaze me Lord!
Days in Congo Tonight is "Date Night at Ntshiangobo" The Congolese traditionally don't date. Usually, a man will see a particular woman in his village who is particular to his liking. If he exercises his good sense and has spiritual direction, he will inquire about her position in Christ and her character. She may be 10 or 15 years his junior, or she may be close in age. They promise themselvs to each other at the time. Then he asks her father if he can have her hand in marriage. In the time that lapses before the wedding date, he tries his best to fulfill the requirements as stated by his future father-in-law which may be as few as a case of coke, some sugar, and a pair of shoes for the father and maybe a blouse for the girl's mother to all of the above plus a goat, more clothes, such as a suit for the father of the bride, an outfit for the mother, pots and pans for the bride, dishes for the bride, and money on top of all of this for the bride's family. We call this a dowry. If the future bridegroom is employed, these items may be had in a relatively short period of time, say a year. If not, it may take several years to accumulate all the requested items. Sometimes the father of the bride will agree to partial payment in advance. In this case, the couple is permitted to marry before everything asked for is realized. In America, wives and husbands will pick out a night to go out to dinner and perhaps a movie, which is referred to as date night. That is not the case in the bush of Congo. Where would they go? Belatia's Bean Palace? Tonight (written on 5/30/12), at the village up the hill called Ntshiangobo (inch yian go bo) this is as close as it gets in our area to "date night." Pastor Kilasi, a graduate of LBI, also a professor at LBI, as well as our lab tech, has started a very good and rare program at his church. Two nights a month he calls married couples together to a conference on married lifel As pastor of this church, he is very interested in making couples aware of the importance of their marriage. The idea came to him last year after he and his wife with some other marrieds viewed the movie, "Fireproof" in our living room. The film sparked an incredible interest in the welfare of his own marriage and opened his mind to valuable insights into what consists of a good marriage and Who can deliver married couples who are in the pits. So, a few weeks ago he asked Jim and I if we would come to speak to his people at 4 p.m. and then follow that with the showing of "Fireproof". Quite frankly, I am so looking forward to the evening, praying that our words will be from God and that this movie will powerfully show its truth to this village way out in the bush, thousands of miles from the film's origin and heartfelt prayers that men and women would be impacted with power from this church in America that God is using to produce films with meaning, purity, and purpose.
Days in Congo - A Day of Prayer Landa na kulomba - Continue in prayer Today (written on 5/30/12) is a day of prayer at Nkara. We started at 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Pastor Kapem explained what prayer is: bringing everything before God, continuing in prayer, knowing whom you are approaching, believing that you will get what you are asking for--a strong faith that He has the ability to give whatever, that we need to pray and not give up, rather than faint. Perseverance in prayer. The importance of living in fellowship with God in order to see your prayers answered. God doesn't hear the prayers of the unsaved unless he is crying to be saved. If you come with doubts, it is like you are a man of two minds, like you are 2 people. If there is hatred in your heart for your brother, you cannot be in fellowship with the Father and He will not respond to your prayer. Good stuff. Then we proceeded in prayer. First, silent confession one by one of our sins. Then, Radio Glory because it just stopped working, and everyone misses it so. Some tears were shed. The lack of broadcastiing can be very discouraging and depressing in the villages who are without churches as well as those who have sluggish, or even almost dead churches. Prayers were offered up also for wisdom and clarity of expression in broadcasting because of the brevity of something being expressed and instantly being heard all over the Bandundu Region. We were all reminded of the seriousness and power of words. We then went to the property issues. Much prayer here. Evangelism as it was coming up in Masamanimba, a large town of of 30,000 to 50,000 people in an area of little Bible teaching or preaching. Money needed for fuel and food. Laban Bible Institute. More stringent admission requirements to keep "spies" out of the school and better screening techniques to prevent accepting people coming with wrong motives. Our library. Praying for funds for more books, such as commentaries, Scofield Bibles in French, and other needed resources to be available for our students and professors. Praise for allowing us to come across a new source in Kinshasa where books are sold at reasonable prices. Families of Laban Ministries in Congo. World wide economy. Congo is a rich country, but how does that help us nationals? We don't get any of it. Jim's and my health. Pastor Kapem remembered Jim's accident which occurred in 1989. He commented that our enemies celebrated by killing a goat, thinking we would never return. Praise for God's mercies and healing. Missionaries in general. Not many of them left in Congo these days. Vehicles. We need a newer truck on the mission. Graduation on June 23. Cannot get into our church building because the opposing party will cause an uproar, so we are praying for order and a good time at the Bible Institute, but that limits greatly our attendance options. Police. We have a ministry with the police in our area. Transformed lives from the threat they can be to the population and contrary living to what the Bible recommends. Our enemies. They are real. They have displayed evil behavior recently with violence and are causing havoc. We are commanded by God to pray for them. Hard to do. Women's Literacy School. Such a delight. Prayer for endurance for our women who are closing up their second year of training. One year to go. New roof needed for our home in Congo. Prayer for safety for the workers. Strength to wash, paint, and nail 300 pieces of aluminum at a pretty good height. People break up and go outside in groups under shade trees. Our hearts are encouraged as we on a united front have poured out our hearts at the foot of the Throne of God. Our Father is always at work. Our prayers go right into His ears. Amen.
Days in Congo The Grace & Blessing of God - Nothing more, nothing less We live in the bush of Congo, Africa. If you think times are hard in America, come spend a week with us. We'll give you a run for your money! From the cost of food to education (there is no free public education from kindergarten through 12th grade) to rediculously low wages to exams in high school costing twice as much for one exam than the family makes in a month to the disparity in advanced medical treatment to the infant mortality rate and one and on. . . Congo is now considered the poorest nation in the world. Our ministry here is multifaceted, a very small facet of which is a lab and dispensary. Recently we sent our head nurse and lab tech to Kinshasa to get meds and some new lab equipment and solutions. We now boast a method of testing sugar levels in the blood and urine. After our lab tech announced on Radio Glory that a fresh supply of meds was now available as well as the ability to detectt diabetes, new and more patients started frequenting our dispensary and lab. Mind you, we have no doctor here working with us, only 2 nurses,one of whom is an excellent midwife, plus Pastor Kilaasi, our lab tech, a graduate of LBI, and pastor of a local church down the road. So, what I am about to tell you is a declaration of the blessing of God on 3 people who love the Lord, not to mention those who come seeking help. Two women showed up one day with their husbands. They had already received treatment at two other locations, one of which always has doctors on campus. Both women were from the local village of Nkara, about 3 miles from our mission. They expressed great disappointment and anguish over not being able to bear children. In Congo, as in ancient Israel and other cultures, there is great reproach and shame if a woman cannot conceive and birth babies. Sadly, many times the wife is held responsible for this great calamity. The women were both examined and given blood tests, after which Kilasi prevented the results to Marvina, our head nurse and her assistant, Elise. Both women are godly, transparent, and honorable. After receiving the test results, Marvina and Elise collaborated and prescribed medication for the women. Shortly thereafter, after years of waking up to disappointment and "failure" at conceiving, spending money on exams and tests, the women returned to Marvina, Elise, and Kilasi with shining, smiling faces, to tell them of the great news that they now want to undergo prenatal treatment! They now each have a baby of their own and no longer suffer reproach. Joy unspeakable!!! Another couple came as well from a nearby village when they heard the great news. Marital problems and the stress of the inability to conceive were causing thoughts of divorce. Once again, the anxious wanna-be mom was tested and given a consultation from our nurses and Kilasi. She is now a MOTHER! All 3 women exclaimed to Marvina, "Glory to God! How can we repay you?, to which Marvina replied, "You don't owe us anything. Just give God the glory!" How is it that in the middle of nowhere--the bush of Congo, Africa--3 people were able to give hope and be a part of a wonderful miracle of life? There is no other answer except His Hand of blessing and grace. Thank you Jesus!
Days in Congo - A Day of Tears We are now in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), and sadly, because we live in the bush, no internet is available when I go back in a few days. But until then I am in Kinshasa with internet, at least much of the time. So I will attempt to post a series called "Days in Congo." For a year now, we have been involved in a court case with a denomination of the national "church" here in Congo, who forged papers in 1997, claiming the mission we have served on since l978 and formerly where Dr. Laban and Marcella Smith served from 1947 until his death in 1953 and then to which Marcella returned until 1978, is really theirs. All of our papers and documents regarding ownership are in order. Two lower tribunal audiences and one higher tribunal court attended by 3 judges have all ruled in our favor. Still no actions have been taken to formally recognize true ownership. Rumors are now circulating that some of the higher ups are being bribed to drag things out with gifts of cattle, goats, and money from our opposing side. Since the judges are late getting their stipend from the government, these "gifts" can be very welcome and enticing. Nkara is a beautiful valley surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped hill complete with a 7 acre lake, a church which seats 4,000 people, which we do not enter anymore, a state ssupported grade school, middle school, and high school run by this "church" group, Laban Bible Institute, and East Hill crowned with Radio glory. Three homes are present on the site near ours: a guest house we call the White House, Pastor Kapem's house, and the home of the national "school inspector." Just down a way from the Bible institute is our men's dorm, a mill that grinds manioc (the daily staple of manioc root) into flour, a small mud hut which ordinarily posed as a girls' dorm, and many cement block homes built by Laban Ministries for staff personnel, a new mud/brick dining hall being built for our students, plus the homes of teachers of the state-operated schools on the property. Once a center for ceremonial cannibalsim and child sacrifice, Nkara has always been controversial ground. In the late 1930's or possibly early 1940's, its true origin was disputed by the same and only village of Mpene that refused to welcome Laban and Marcella here in 1947. Years before they came here to preach the Gospel to the Bayangi tribe, 70 men from this same village committed suicide in the lake at the bottom of the hill in front of our home because the two original villages who originally owned this land threatened to defend their position. And, rather than fight these two villages, the men walked into the lake knowing they could not swim and died. In their eyes, these deaths secured ownership of Nkara-Ewa. It was a sacrifice they considered equivalent to possessing the land. So mistaken. Just days ago, a staff member by the name of Mupiya said, "The day before Dr. Smith died he stood and said, 'Nkara has been and always will be a place of jealousy. There will be many people who will want to take over.'" This has certainly proven true. Other groups have wanted this land as well, but so far God has enabled it to stay in the hands of the Smith family. What a stark contrastt Nkara is today compared to those days of darkness entrenched in demonism and witchcraft, resulting in child sacrifice and youbg men of royalty being offered up as an atonement for the sins of the people living in this area. Some 65 years after Dr. and Mrs. Smith opened the Word of God to te Bayangi Tribe, Laban Bible Institute has graduated hundreds of men who are now pastoring churches all over the Bandundu Province. On the same land, the denomination who has tried to steal the land out from under us is operating the state-funded school, supplying teachers who have a wife here and one in Kikwit, charging illegal taxes to anyone who grows gardens on the land, and have made an adulterer the chief of the district of churches in this locale that bear their denominational name. The Lord only knows what other evils are lurking. . . So, after a year of running back and forth to the town of Bulungu (45 miles from here), empty promises to settle the case and evict the thieves as well as all of their cohorts, many of whom are from this hateful village of Mpene, of having their side not show up for court dates, and telling our staff repeatedly that they are losers, that their jobs are ove, and that we are never coming back, long drawn-out repetivie presentations of our documents and no presentations of their "documents", our staff is fed up with the opposing party and concerned about our welfare. Every week day morning we meet with the staff to spend time studying God's Word together, to pray, and to discuss work projects, the day's work load, and upcomiing events, etc. Discussions ensued one day about the next court date, and some rumors going wild. As I was walking back to our home, Pastor Richard joined me. He is a graduate of LBI, a long-standing staff member, chief of the locaL district of pastors in the Iwungu area, where Jim's parents lived before coming to Nkara. Soft-spoken with a gentle demeanor, he said, "Madame, I see what is going on and today in chapel I was so distrubed by the way things are being handled that tears came out of my eyes for you and Mr. Jim." At his words,I myself was moved to tears, and we walked together a ways softly sobbing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Voice from the Past

The following letter was written by my father-in-law, Dr. Laban Herbert Smith on July 5, 1947. It was written from Iwungu, the second mission station they ministered at before being invited to come by Chief Kuma Kuma to come evangelize the region where we live. This letter was written by Laban 11 years after they arrived in Congo, and one year after returning from their first furlough which took place after their first term of 7 years. Towards the end, he begins to describe what is happening as he begins to make trips to our area, where they eventually moved to and experienced an incredible moving of the Holy Spirit.

"Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord." Zechariah 4:5

"Dear Flossie (who was greatly responsible for Laban's coming to Christ), Alice, Minnie,(sister of Marcella, Laban's wife) and all at Missionary Chapel:

Greetings in Jesus' precious name. . . I got to thinking of those orders I received just before leaving. . . WRITE. . . and checking up I find it is nearly six months, and lest I do as well or worse, I shall write.

I am sure Marcella has been keeping you all well informed. She is supposed to do most of the correspondence. We thank God upon every remembrance of you all and your labors, gifts, and love to us while on furlough. I shall not forget the last minute rush, yet only in answer to prayer, as we had been praying God thrust us out, and when the thrust came, we were not prepared for it only testified to our lack of faith. Suddenly the thrust and how all of you as one man in the fight helped us off with that last minute farewell, not knowing while we were all in the meeting, Marcella speaking in the East and I there (with you) little Gareth took his flights to world unknown above to be with Jesus where suffering and the sting of death is no more. (Gareth was Jim's baby brother, about 14 mos. of age when he died). Oh praise God for the blessed hope. Can it be long before we all hear the shout, the glorious return of our blessed Lord and Savior, and our gathering unto Him? I believe it cannot be long as we see the multitude evils of the day. The days of Noah are here as in the days before the flood and the world mad after this world's gain and swift to shed blood. Since our return we find the natives drinking more than when we left, more unrest, not satisfied to live with ordinary fare but would live in wontonness seeking the pleasures of this world.

Thank God we have the bright side to tell as well. God has been pouring out His Spirit in our midst and souls saved. Nearly every altar call there are those that answer and come forward saying they want to be saved and not go to the dibulu tiya. (Hell)

Listen, the drums are beating, the wailing and the chanting. This we heard only last night, and another passed into a Christless eternity. The laborers are few. We expect to be alone after January 1 unless the Lord sends other workers. The two girls will be leaving to hold down another station we opened, sending Hutchenson to occupy but he feels the Lord is now leading him to Kikwit to open a Bible school, therefore making it necessary to send the two girls to hold the fort. (These two women were both with the same board as the Smiths, and they left Iwungu to go to Kajiji, the first mission station Dr. Laban and Marcella worked at.

I returned from a recent village trip, and the Lord blessed in a most glorious way. I took the little generator set with me showing a few film strips and also colored pictures with the projector Dr. Thompson gave me to bring out here. The natives for the first time to look at such a machine setting off at a distance could push light through that string and cause pictures to be seen on a big white cloth and a Victrola to sing. They exclaimed, 'The wisdom of the white man!' Through those pictures and preaching the Word, over 400 at once stood to their feet with hands stretched heavenward, pleading forgiveness for their sins. They burned idols, brought all their medicines (concocted through witchcraft), confessing how they had killed--some as many as 8--others even more. Coming, arming her way to the front, an old lady cried, 'You see this little antelope horn? I used that with my medicines in it to give me power to throw babies in the river.' Another man came confessing he had killed his own father. In this village now over 400 believers come together to worship. Their offering for 5 weeks was 220 francs, enough to pay the teacher and start building the church and the evangelist's house. This is a self-supporting church at the start. This was in the village of Longo. (This village is 6 miles from our home, and these conversions were what earmarked the beginning of the Bayanzi great awakening from 1947 to 1953, when more than 10,000 responded to the Gospel of Jesus Christ). In the village of Nkara (about 3 miles from us) over 300 came to the Lord in like manner, confessing their killings which they seldom ever confess. I have some movies of these burning their idols and medicines. From this trip, over 1000 entered the Bible schools in the different villages, and 6 supporting churches sprung up.

Since being in Congo, I have not had such an experience.

All glory and praise be to God!"