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.