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!"


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Conclusion of the Buffalo Story

The hunt had now been in session for more than 6 hours. Charlie fired a shot at the bull Cape buffalo and wounded him. So Charlie, Laban, Toma, the chief and his men followed his trail of blood until they came upon the herd: face to face!

The herd in front of them standing in the forest was a total surprise. They were expecting to see the wounded bull, but instead they stared into the faces of the whole herd of bulls and female Cape. What were they going to do? If they change, most certainly they would have to look for a tree and, very quickly if they could, would need to climb that tree. To everyone's surprise, without a lot of noise, the herd turned tail and ran back out into the plans. What a relieving stock! Thank the Lord that several were not killed, or wounded, or trampled. That was God protecting them all. Also, other buffalo were not killed or wounded, or trampled. That was God protecting them all. Also, other buffalo were not killed or wounded.

Charlie was a different hunter now: anxious, uneasy, on edge. He was also determined to find the buffalo.

The hunt for the bull began again. The young brothers were good at following the blood path. Now, even more, listening for the great surprise of the bull rising, closely searching the bushes with they eyes. Toma was at his best.

The trail was leading in a semicircle. The fluttering of a bird taking off from a branch or the scattering of a running forest rat swung everybody's head in the direction of their flying or running. Laban knew any moment could mean life or death. Could this be a moment before entering eternity: The blood spots were getting further and further apart. The quiet but determined steps continued.

Finally, Toma told Dad that the buffalo was heading out of the forest and into the plains. Following the blood trail had been going on for at least 2 hours. As the cape broke out of the woods and into the taller grass, Laban thought everyone should stop and take a rest. Everyone was hungry and tired. Being out of the forest and into the grasslands, the chief was very adamant about calling off the hunt. Somebody would get hurt and very possibly killed. "Imene. Beto vutuka. That's enough. Let's go back." he told Toma. "Let's return the way we came into the forest because we didn't meet up with him, so let us go back the same way we came to be safe."

But laban would not leave that buffalo because of the danger and threat he imposed on the nearby villagers. Looking at the chief, Laban once again offered him a ittle money to continue the hunt. He could not leave the wounded buffalo. The chief agreed, and he and a couple of his warriors went off, following the path of the buffalo through the tall grass, looking for more blood.

Time for a little break and to mentally size up the situation. Laban raised his belt-worn canteen to his mouth to drink some water. To his right was a tree that he could lean his savage 300 rifle against. It was a good gun that brought down antelope for meat, as there were no grocery stores nearby in the bush where they lived. He certainly would not use this gun on an elephant. A lot of hunters want to have a larger caliber, even for buffalo, but Laban was satisfied with the savage 300. He knew from his experience on the farm in New York where to lay the shot. While everyone else rested for a little bit, Charlie went down into a little lower depression of grassland by himself.

Charlie was a good distance to the left of Dad. Toma said that Charlie needed to stay with him and Laban. Dad asked him to come over with them and follow the trail with them as they followed the chief and his men. But Charlie was Charlie and wanted to do this on his own. Charlie's previous fear now became a blazaing of boldness which was foolishness. The chief was not too far ahead of the rest of the men off to the right. But Charlie was off to the left.

Separated now from the rest of the group, an explosion in the grass took place in front of him, as the wounded cape stood and charged Charlie. Charlie had no time to aim his gun.

He could only hold it in front of him with his left hand on the barrel and his right hand near the trigger.

As the buffalo charged, he bellowed in anger and rammed into Charlie's gun and Charlie, knocking Charlie into that little grassland depression. A God thing took place. Charlie lay near a bush tree, and when the cape came into gore him the first time, the buffalo hit the tree more than it hit Charlie. The buffalo then backed up like a male goat to charge him again. That's when he put his horn through Charlie's upper inner leg, puncturing the leg and coming out the other side.

The horn was actually protruding through his leg.

Once more, the buffalo backed up to get ready to do a lethal gore.

This all happened in a matter of seconds.

Laban sees what is happening.

Charlie no longer has his rifle; it's been knocked out of his hands.

Laban knew he had to act fast. No time to use the rifle now. Not only that, the rifle could very well put a shot into Charlie.

God gives him the presence of mind to reach for the pistol in his pocket, and he runs to where the attack of death is taking place.

With his pistol pulled, he races up to the buffalo who is now standing on his hind legs with an aim on Charlie's midsection.

While up in the air, the 45 goes off. The cape falls over. DEAD.

Charlie said, "I wondered when the shot would take place. It did. I saw the lights go out of the cape's eyes as he toppled over.

Another shot fired to make sure. The hunt was over. No one died. Death was not for today.

Charlie lay on the ground with a wounded leg. Dad stopped the bleeding with a piece of cloth, and they carried Charlie ll the way back to the car.

Once home, Dad sewed up Charlie's leg along with a missionary nurse.

Many tears were shed by Charlie's wife and daughter when they heard Dad's truck come rolling into the yard and realized Charlie had been injured. His two sisters, Martha and Mary, were crying with tears of thanks that their brother was still alive. And, as everybody looked into the back of the truck, they saw that the huge buffalo would provide lots of good steaks.

The pressure cooker was put to good use to can much of the meat, as refrigeration was not readily available in those days.

Charlie was visibly shaken. Women were crying. Everyone was praising God that no funeral or several funerals would need to be planned.

At the end of Charlie's term, he and his family returned to America and never came back to Africa, but his sisters stayed on and did a great work at the mission station of Kamiala. Laban and Marcella continued to be involved in their lives, giving them money to build a church there.

My mother, Marcella, made it a ruling in our home: Never another buffalo hunt again!!! Laban agreed. He never hunted the big 5 again.

The chief and his men personally heard the Gospel of Jesus christ, and that to Laban was The Great Hunt!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Jim's Buffalo Story - Part 3

Charlie, a fellow hunter with Dr. Smith and Toma, plus the local chief and his men were within 400 feet of the herd of buffalo, in particular, the big bull. Charlie had been warned not to shoot yet, but his fervor and adrenalin rush for bringing down the bull outweighed counsel from everyone else in the party. Charlie, his body shaking, took a shot anyway.

The shaking of his hands and his body and the distance of the shot impaired his accuracy, certainly changed the trajectory and aim of the bullet. Laban knew they needed to be within a hundred yards. The shot must count. This is the Cape buffalo, not Elsie the Cow! One shot, and only one shot, and you had to make that one shot count that must kill--not wound!

When the thought of missionaries or a missionary come across your mind, the Holy spirit may be calling you to pray for that missionary, who may be in a very dangerous situation--whether from an unseen cobra, mamba, or even a buffalo, not to mention the spiritual battles he or she might be up against. Or it may be a terrible automobile accident, a closed head injury, a serious brush with death.


If you think of a missionary, even a quick prayer needs to be sent to the Heavenly Father. It could help save the missionary's life, whether in Europe, South America, or South Africa.

Back to the story. The crack of the 30-06 rang across the Panzi plains! The shock of the bullet hitting the neck of the cape caused the bull to rear backwards like a billy goat on steroids, nearly a ton lifting itself into the still, hot tropical air of the African afternoon. Laban knew a new hunt had now commenced. It would be much more dangerous because of that one shot which did not kill. The bull began to search for the source of his wound; he started moving round. The shot had taken him in the neck, and it was not lethal, but his anger was! He became wild, began to snort in revenge. The rest of the herd knew from his bellowing that it was time for them to run. They bolted for the nearby forest. Gone.

The chief was so upset and afraid fro he knew the anger of the beast--how when angry enough they could even run right into the village, attack, and destroy huts! He wanted to call the hunt off. He said, "imene, beto landa yandi ve. Yandi me luala; yandi kele makasi." We're done. Let's not follow him anymore. He is injured; he is angry.

The chief's command is followed. His word is as good as done. His men obey, and they were ready to return to the car and then to home. However, Laban knew they could not do that, for out here in the plains, the young men would be hunting rats. Young women would be looking for fruit; new gardens would be put in, and women and young children would be taking the path to the local water source. The bull would be an imposing threat to anyone in the area. So Laban said, "No, we must get him."

Then, the wounded bull, not finding his enemy, also bolted toward the forest. Laban offered the chief a small sum of money to keep going. By our standards, it wasn't much at all, but to the chief it was buying power. Toma also strongly demanded that the chief continue the hunt. He also knew that children and women could be killed. The chief agreed to proceed.

Now there was a different kind of great excitement. Dad accepted the fact that Charlie shot too soon, realizing that the man was afraid, and not a hunter. Quickly, checking their guns again to make sure the chambers were full and the safety was on, they began to walk in a hurried fashion to where the buffalo had been shot an the herd had been grazing. Dad put his right hand to his side to be sure that his .45 pistol was in its holster and handy. The Belgian Government allowed him to have a pistol, which was the exception for missionaries, but because he was a doctor, they gave him permission to carry one. Seldom was it used, but it was good for a back up.

Off they went. Toma and the chief arrived first, locating the site where the cape had been shot. They viewed the blood fallen from the wound. It was not till later they saw that it had been shot in the neck. The chief and his hunters pursued the tracks and the trail of blood. The hunt began to get underway at about 8 that morning; it was now approximately 2 in the afternoon. The blotches of blood were not in a constant pattern, so the chief and the hunters had to split up a little bit an look in earnest for the trail.

Every time they found trickles, a hand would go up and Dad, Charlie, and Toma would follow about 20 feet behind. Toma insisted on walking in front of Dad, not only for the sake of their friendship and comradeship,, but he knew that if anything happened to Dad, his people would suffer a great loss. No doctor, no hospital at Kajiji that he had helped Laban build, and so much more. He felt responsible. He would take the charge of that bull if need be.

The hot sun continued to beat upon them, but their lives were now more in danger than ever. They walked, realizing that the big buffalo could be lying down in the grass, just waiting for them. They one who wounds so frequently is the one who is attacked. Animals often sense their attacker.

Senses are frighteningly alive. Any noise, any wind blowing the waist high grass could mean it rising to charge.

As they continued to follow, they saw that the buffalo was leading them into the forest. Remember that this is not jungle, but forest. There are trees, but not a lot of vines, bramble, or thickets. However, there are smaller bushes, that the buffalo could be hiding behind or under. Of octagonal shape, the buffalo had now entered on the far right lower side.

Tracking him with guns ready and the .45 back up pistol, thoughts of the family, the ministry, and their futures came to the mind, but immediately these thoughts were sent away because at any moment, they could encounter the waiting cape. Whispered prayers, and conscious trust in the Lord were braided with the thrill of the moment plus the needed steak for those waiting back home, some of whom had traveled hundreds of miles for this conference. "Let us get this buffalo, Lord. You know the need; may no one be maimed or killed, please."

The stillness was roaring in their ears, the shuffling of the leaves was deafening, and the bending and breaking of the small branches now and then were all realities with which they had to deal. Ears were tuned, realizing it will be a very loud attack by the cape.

The long end of the octagon began to turn to the left, and all of a sudden there in front of them staring them in the face, with stomping hooves, stood the rest of the herd that ran into the forest.

To be continued. Tomorrow the story ends.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Upcoming trip to Congo

Thoughts fill my mind these days of returning to Congo and the time we have remaining here in the States.

Thoughts, like when to go, how long to stay, how to juggle everything on the plate here, prepare for there, and pack in between, what to take, how much of it, what items are top priority. Just because we set up dates and route out a plan doesn't mean at all that it will actually happen that way. The Lord has the say so. He is the boss, and that's very fine with me.

Then there is the send off dinner on March 29, which points to the trip and is, in fact, a means to actually getting us off US soil and propelling us all the way to Congo. What will the crowd be like? How many will come? What effective ways can we notify people of our invitation to attend a very special evening in our eyes for free? How many phone calls will we need to make? As they peruse their options, will Laban take any residence in their hearts, in their schedules?

Torn feelings are also a reality. Leaving little 3 month-old Aliyah nags at me. Not seeing, touching, hugging, playing with, or discussing the wide age range issues and interests of all of our grands makes me sad. It is never easy for me to walk away from them, and I want them to know that. I want them to know they are of utmost importance in my life, in the life of their Nana Smith. Lord, please help me to convey this to them. You convey this to them.

Thoughts of evangelism at Masamanimba excite my soul. Another great opportunity to preach and teach the Word of God to souls hungering and thirsting spiritually make me want to jump on a plane today. Thoughts of going on the journey to this city are daunting. It is more than 200 AFRICAN miles away, which means a clipping speed of about 12 miles per hour. Getting stuck in sand or on rainy roads depending on the day tire my mind because I have been there before. Just getting there is very challenging. Preparation of food, packing of instruments, picking up the team at Iwungu, selecting students and staff out of a crew who are practically frothing at the mouth to be in on a crusade like this is not fun, and remembering each day as we close in on departure for that town to pray earnestly that God will go before us is absolutely necessary. We must include Him big time, else we bring down on ourselves a forfeiting of his protection, wisdom, and grace.

Two realities strike me now. They are realities I hopefully always come back to. They are my refuge and solace:

1. Unexplainable gratitude that we can even do what we do, see what we will see, and experience the blessing of God in a way that we don't necessarily see in America because the people in Congo are DESPERATE FOR GOD, and HE MEETS THEM WHERE THEY ARE. We in America are just as desperate for God, but we DON"T KNOW IT!!! So I get to be in on something absolutely amazing and breath taking spiritually and oftentimes physically.

2. Consistently passing by the throne of God all these thoughts and more that flash in my brain and spirit is the answer. They will not go unnoticed! For this the Lord returns peace. He garrisons my emotions and sensations of being overwhelmed like a sentinel, and I am reminded of a few verses that promise just that.

Isaiah 8:13, 14

"The Lord of hosts--regard Him as holy and honor His holy name by regarding Him as your only hope of safety, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread lest you offend Him by your fear of man and distrust of Him. And He shall be a sanctuary, a sacred and indestructible asylum to those who reverently fear and trust in Him. . . " Amp.

Then I remember one more reality. The absolute need for your prayers. Will you also join me in prayer for this undertaking? Jim and I so covet your prayers. They are power! They avail much! They are felt in Congo! They are a life line! They are priceless!

Thank you is just not enough, but it is all I can offer.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Part 2 of the Buffalo Story in the Belgian Congo, 1940

In case you missed Part 1, it is on the blog dated December 20, 2011

We ended with the chief, his hunters, Laban, Toma, and Charlie spotting the buffalo in the distance. With hearts pounding from excitement and downright fear, plus anticipation of the next move, Toma grabbed a light fist full of dry grass and threw it into the air to make sure that they were down wind. Being down wind was important because one of the five top killers in Africa is the cape buffalo, and you want your scent to go away from the buffalo instead of toward him. So, after checking the direction of the wind, they were satisfied that their position was down wind from the buffalo herd.

Immediately, upon spotting the herd, Dad, Toma, the chief, and his hunters were looking for the largest bull. They were all in the thrill of the cape buffalo moment. They spotted the largest male. All agreed that the one standing tall and strong was the leader of the herd among a total of about 20 to 25 buffalo.

Most in the group began to secrete a smelly sweat which would mount as the hours passed. It was the odor of life and death excitement excreting from their bodies as part of the rush they were experiencing.

The herd was grazing, except for the head bull, who frequently would lower and raise his head in between grazes, to survey his turf for other buffalo, men, or hunters, lions, and/or other predators.

I am sure that Laban's past experiences on the farm with bulls gave him an edge that Charlie did not have. This advantage is critical in the story. Charlie had no experience with bulls anywhere--America or Africa. Laban, Toma, and the chief knew that they must find the right approach and make sure they were down wind due to the fact that the buffalo could chase them for 2 miles or more than 2 miles at a speed of maybe 25 or 30 miles an hour, especially in his own defense as well as the defense of his herd and his harem. Hunters have been known to have been tracked down as far as 2 miles unbeknown to the hunter, gored, and trampled to death. The buffalo is a terrible foe, not to be underestimated in his speed, his ability to smell, his determination to clear his territory of any invaders, and his relentless revenge to any and all who intrude or menace him and his herd.

Dad and Toma looked for the mid point of down wind. They wanted to be in the middle. The young hunters were by this time totally excited because the "mundele" or white doctor was here with his guns, which meant they were going to eat well today with food enough for their families. The best part to the chief and his men were the innards, the head, the feet and any other beef parts they could get. Remember, there were also some hungry missionaries waiting. I am sure that Marcella, Laban's wife, knew some of the danger Laban could face. She was probably imagining every step Laban took and undoubtedly frequently prayed regarding this hunt, probably up to 2 hours' distance from her by this time. This is not hunting antelope. This is hunting cape buffalo.

One of the young hunters spotted a "mata", which is a fruit of the plains, reached down and grabbed it. An older hunter said, "Ah! this is not the time for that! Keep your eyes ahead." The herd was still grazing mostly and staying in one place.

Dad and Charlie were sizing up their guns, checking to see if the safety latch was on. Laban would be sure. Quietly, but quickly, they marched through the grass, crouching when needed, and drew a little closer They noted the easy wind blowing across the waist-high golden grass of the plains, waving in and out of the area. The first spotting took place at about half a mile. The chief knew how to approach, so they followed his lead as well as Toma's lead. Dad had learned that for the most part the tracking part of the hunt would be left to Toma. Tracking meant gluing their eyes on them and walking closer and closer, all the while fastening their eyes to the bull to make sure he was not agitated for any other reason.

Now, a quarter of a mile away from the buffalo, one has to be sure that way back when, when you first got out of the truck you took care of any urgency to use the bathroom, which in Congo would have been the tall grass! Too late now to tend to those details!

The buffalo were becoing larger and larger the closer they came to them. Even the chief was a little hesitant to keep going. Charlie was really getting anxious, even overanxious to get on with the hunt. The impending danger of this hunt was consuming him. And I am sure that Dad's mind was pressing in on him with the mounting thrill of confronting these beasts.

At a quarter of a mile, Charlie began to express that the time was getting right to take the first shot. Looking down on the herd, there were several little rises or knolls in the plains. Dad, Charlie, the chief, and his hunters were also in the plains, not secluded from the view of the buffalo, but crouching.

An eighth of a mile from the buffalo was a forest, not a jungle. The Panzi and the Kajiji area had many such forests. The forest was a mile in circumference. It was a good place to hide. This forest was an eighth of a mile from the buffalo, not the men--a forest to which they could run.

Charlie was ready to fire. But Dad said, "No, not yet." Everybody was dripping with excitement. Thoughts like, "What if we miss?" kept running through the mind, especially Charlie's. Dad knew that the danger in all of this heightened if a buffalo were wounded and not killed. Laban knew that a buffalo hunt had to be one shot. The first shot needs to bring that buffalo down, off its feet and, in fact DEAD. You don't hunt buffalo with even the thought of more than one shot. You must be close enough so that the first shot brings him down and kills him. But Charlie's fears were taking over. When they got up to within 600 feet, Charlie felt that this was close enough. Laban refused as well as Toma warned Charlie that 600 feet away was too far. Dad knew that you do not attempt to kill a bull from 600 feet away.

It is at points like this that hunters must be careful when they have someone with them who is unexperienced and does not realize how close you must be before firing that shot. Guns go off, and damage is done. Excitement can overrule the inexperienced hunter, resulting in even death.

When they got to 400 feet away, Charlie lost control of his reasoning abilities. He felt he was close enough. Even though Dad and Toma insisted on getting within 200 feet of the buffalo, Charlie refused to listen. This was enough for Charlie. He took his 30-6 gun and kneeling on the ground on one knee, he aimed at the big bull, and fired!

Oops! Dinner time. Be back soon!

Sunday, February 5, 2012


People often ask me what a typical day in Congo is like. Usually, they are referring to what kind of "typical day" I am having. Today I would like to tell you what a typical life in Congo is like for a woman living in the bush who has not had the advantage of learning to read, nor has she had the opportunity to attend our Women's Literacy Center.Her name is Ikwakanga, a woman about the age of 30, married for a decade with no children and now single because her husband walked out on her.

Her illiteracy is a big strike against her, but it's even worse than that. Ikwakanga is not only illiterate, she cannot even write or read her name! Not only that, she cannot distinguish an O from an E or an A from a Z. The worlds of discovery and escape through literature are unheard of to her. And, though she is a Christian, she has never read one word of the Bible. The Book we can turn to whenever for whatever reason--whether it be our despair and gloom to gain comfort, or assurance, seek the mind of Christ, as spelled out in Philippians, read God's Word so we can pray it over our children, regain our hope and perspective, or praise Him as the ancients did--is totally out of her reach. HOW CAN SHE EVEN BEGIN TO KNOW GOD???

A failed marriage in Congo due to infertility many times pushes a woman into prostitution. No one knows in Ikwakanga's situation who is the one with infertility issues until after the divorce if and when her husband remarries. She is assumed to be "to blame" and can be severely criticized for her physical state. If she doesn't choose to be a prostitute, how does she earn a living outside of selling the produce of her garden? How does she alone cut, burn, and dig up all the stumps to clear the plot of ground she has purchased in which to grow her crops? Who will protect her? Who will value her in anyway? Who will take care of her in her old age with no children or husband around?

The spiritual and emotional plight of Ikwakanga is even more severe. She resides in a daily cloud of shame, despair, darkness, and hopelessness. Ignorance is not bliss in her case. Ignorance makes alliances with superstition, and superstition and Congolese tradition scream to her that it is a sin that is behind her inability to conceive if in fact it can be proven that she cannot conceive. Ikwakanga has no recourse but to believe what she is told.

This woman eeks out an existence of living in a village of scorn, tending her gardens day by day the best she can, hauling her water from as far away as perhaps a mile. And all the while Ikwakanga is settling for so much less than God ever intended for her. Church on Sunday is the only place she finds spiritual nourishment. As she hears the pastor name off texts, she looks down at her empty lap, having no idea where to even look in Scripture if she did own a Bible. Life in many ways is a chore. It's a prison. It stinks.


One day Ikwakanga hears some great news! The women's Lit Center of Laban Ministries has chosen her village, the village of Mbila, as the location of their next reading school. Ikwakanga is offered the chance to attend reading and writing classes 3 days a week, beginning with the alphabet and counting.

In addition she can learn how to cook specialty items like donut holes and bread to sell. Hygiene, Christian Family Living, crocheting, knitting, sewing, and needlepoint are available. She will be given the opportunity to study 9 books of the Bible, including Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, Romans, Proverbs, I Corinthians, and I and II Timothy.

Now she can identify with the sufferings of Christ through Paul. She can experience the glory of deliverance. SHE CAN BEGIN TO KNOW GOD!

This is what the Women's Literacy Center is all about--Transformation, not only through the process of learning to read and write, but every woman who has entered the center has heard the Gospel repeatedly, and everyone of them now claims to know the Lord as her savior.

God has always elevated women. Psalm 3 says, "But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head."

This is what is happening to Ikwakanga and the 74 other women at Mbila. They entered shame filled creatures, and now their minds and bodies are being illuminated by the light of God's Word. It doesn't get any better than that!