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.

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