The time has come for us to return to Congo. Tomorrow I give my testimony to my beloved Bible study group led by Mrs. Susie Swafford at Forest Hills Baptist Church. I'm sharing it with you because it also contains information about our upcoming send off dinner, departure and a very important goal to reach in Congo.
I am the product of the grace of God. If someone would have told me that I would end up on the mission field and love it when I was a young woman, I would have told them they were dreaming. No way! I would never do that.
Born in an unchurched family, my parents did not even know they were in need of a Savior for years. I was the first one to accept Christ. I don't know of a praying grandmother, aunt, uncle, grandfather, or cousin anywhere in our family line.
At the age of 12, I used to take the Bible I was given for attending Sunday School class with my girlfriends and try to make sense of it. Led to the Lord by a 12 year old friend the summer after I completed the 6th grade, I started attending a wonderful little Baptist church until I went to Bible College, where I met my husband.
Jim was and is a man of God, a man of the Word, and a man of faith. We served the Lord at a local church in Dearborn for more than a decade and then went into music evangelism, flying our little plane owned by 2 others besides us all over the country.
What I didn't tell you is that I married an MK. His parents went to Congo in 1938 when it was still a very dark continent. After 9 years in Africa, with no furlough, Laban was asked to come minister to the Bayanzi people, who were sacrificing their live babies on hot coals. The babies responded with terrifying shrieks, which were a necessary part of the rite in their eyes in order for their "gods" and spirits to hear and be aware of their sacrifice. The loud cries from the person being sacrificed would be rewarded with good gardens and power in their lives. Hence, they already knew that a blood sacrifice was required for the forgiveness of sins.
When they heard that there was a missionary somewhat nearby who was preaching that God had sacrificed His Son for the sins of mankind, it totally clicked, and they asked Dr. Smith to come and personally tell them how that could work for them.
What I hoped for was that God would overlook the fact that Jim was an MK and never require us to return to the land of his birth. I never wanted to be a missionary, had run from it all of my life, and was paralyzed with fear at the thought of ever living in Africa. Several years before, we had visited Jim's mom who by now had lost Laban to a fall on the mission station, and I remember standing around Laban's grave begging God to never send me there. Of course, this was a silent prayer. And I continued to run away from the thought of ever returning to that desolate bush location. After all, I was a city girl, a girl who loved malls and high heels, and lunches with my friends. And how could my children leave the grandparents they loved?
I wasn't the only one who did no want to go back. Jim dreaded the thought because Nkara claimed his father's life. So we decided a good substitute would be to send money to national pastors, some of whom he had grown up with.
Then everything changed. It happened on a cold, fall night in November of 1977. Our almost one hundred year old home burned to the ground in 20 minutes. We lost everything.
Jim found out about the fire in a phone booth in California talking to our sister-in-law. He said after they hung up, he fell to his knees, thanking God that he was returning to a pile of ashes of a burned out home rather than one or more funerals.
One year later, after traveling more than 50,000 miles to raise our needed support, and God granting that support, we boarded Pan Am and made our way to Rome and then on to what was known as Zaire, before that the Belgian Congo, and now called Democratic Republic of Congo.
I was expecting our youngest son, Jack.
Kicking and screaming inside.
But. . . God gave grace to obey.
I followed Jim all the way to Africa and cannot even begin to describe the gratitude I have to God for lavishing me with the needed grace to obey, though I felt anything but lavish at the time.
Today, we work with the descendants of those cannibals of yesteryear. They have gone from topless and almost naked savages, wearing only a G string and beads to being clothes and in their right minds. I use the word savage because we are all savages without God. I recoil when I hear people referring to the Congolese of the past as savages. The Bible calls us all bruit beasts apart from Christ. So I include myself in the savage group until I was reborn.
Laban and Marcella were a part of the great Bayanzi awakening from 1947-1953. More than 10,000 men and women came to Christ during those years.
We work with their sons, daughters, and grandsons and granddaughters. Many speak 5 languages, some more. They are artistic, intelligent, joyful people who cling to God so closely they feel and depend on His sustaining power everyday, sometimes hour by hour, even moment by moment. You know, the way it should be with all of us.
The first thing we did was o start a Bible college with a 3 year training program that includes 90 hours of study in the Word of God. The first graduation class took place in 1984 with 7 men completing their courses. Today, more than 700 have finished Laban Bible Institute, many of whom are pastoring more than 400 churches and involved in women's ministries in the largest populated province of Congo, Bandundu.
The heartbeat of our ministry is Bible training and evangelism. Jim has often said that if we ever put evangelism on the back burner instead of making it the heartbeat of Laban, we are done. This year alone thousands and thousands have made professions of faith. The goal is to get a graduate pastor from our school into those newly evangelized villages for ideal follow up.
Speaking of follow up, that's also done on our mission by Radio Glory, which boasts a 300' tower on East Hill in the middle of nowhere and broadcasts 7 days a week. All our broadcasters are nationals, graduates of LBI, and we have no idea how many have heard the Gospel and responded through the ministry of Radio Glory. Listeners have told us their marriages have been saved by hearing the Word of God on the air, depression has lessened in villages, fathers have dealt differently with their children, women and men have gotten right with God, and such amazing things have taken place because of this outreach since 2004.
And that's what this next trip to Congo is about. The tower is in desperate need of painting and tweaking. We leave for Congo on Feb 1, and 3 men will join us on Feb 22. Two of them will actually climb the tower, check it for lightning damage or other defects, and paint it. The other gentleman will install new equipment in the studio.
WE COVET YOUR PRAYERS.
There is no crane on our mission campus to assist the men in climbing the tower. No flying is allowed after 5 p.m. in Congo because dusk is beginning to set in, and there are no VOR's in Congo to give direction, just huts and rivers and trees.
We also have a wonderful Women's Literacy School. In the village of Mbila, about 45 minutes from us, women are learning to read, write, and study the Bible taught verse by verse. They have studied Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Ephesians, I and II Timothy, some Proverbs, some Psalms, Malachi, and Obadiah. Over half of the women have made professions of faith. One lady testified that the Word of God is at the front door of their house now. This means that the Bible has primary place in the life of her home.
The reading text is the Bible.
If you can read the Bible, you can read any book.
They love it.
This year we will have several women graduate from the school at Mbila.
God is no man's debtor. I am a rich lady with a rich life because of what God so graciously has allowed me to see Him do in a country I never would have chosen to live or work in or be a part of.
Please, please remember us in prayer.
Prayer is power. Much prayer, much power.