Monday, March 30, 2020
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly
and be glorified, just as it is with you...
2 Thessalonians 3:1 (NKJV)
Pray for All those Affected by the Coronavirus Crisis – I have an acquaintance who works with and consults for humanitarian organizations around the world. He has first-hand experience with these types of situations having worked in the Ebola-affected areas of the D.R. Congo in the past. He is very concerned about the spread and catastrophic potential of Covid 19 if it begins to take hold in developing nations. There is much to pray for concerning the world's most impoverished and thus vulnerable populations in the world. He sent the following summary of an email he received from a doctor in India. What this man shared relates to so many of the places and people we are privileged to work with around the world in places like India, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Mexico, Liberia, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, DR Congo, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. Pray for God’s mercy and protection.
“Social distancing is a privilege. It means you own a house in a place that it is large enough and has enough space between neighbors to actually practice it. Hand washing and hand-sanitizers are a privilege too. It means you have access to running water and have money to buy soap and other such luxuries. Stockpiling food is a privilege. It means you have enough money to plan beyond your next meal. It also means you have electricity and a refrigerator to keep perishable food. The irony in this situation is that this virus was spread around the world by those who could afford to travel beyond walking distance of where they live and work and it has the potential to kill millions among the world’s poorest who seldom travel beyond a few kilometers of where they live. All of us who are practicing social distancing and are ‘enduring’ imposed lockdowns need to appreciate how fortunate we are. Many in the world don’t have the financial means to do any of this.”
Myanmar – Pastor Kham has requested urgent prayers for a family he and the CLC-Myanmar serve. This family lives in the western part of Myanmar and attend a CLC-Myanmar congregation. They have tested positive by the government for Covid 19. This family of eleven has been admitted to the hospital for treatment and isolation. Pray for this family and the doctors and staff that are treating them. Pray also for Pastors Kham and Thang as they find ways to bring the Gospel to this family and those who are in need of God’s comfort and encouragement in the community.
Times of Need and Uncertainty – CLC Missionaries have heard from several of those we work with overseas concerning the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. For many, perhaps most, of our brothers and sisters overseas there is a daily struggle to provide for their families when there is no crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has only made things much worse. The economic struggles of the world, shortages of basic supplies, and inflation are only exaggerated in third-world and developing nations. Pray for the Lord’s mercy and provision. Pray that the Lord will use these times of uncertainly to lead many to find true comfort and encouragement in His sure and certain love and deliverance. Pray that the Lord would move the hearts of those who have so much to share with those who have so little. Pray that God’s great love and compassion will be reflected in the hearts of His children throughout the world that others may see these good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.
Pastoral Training, Worship, and Evangelism – Several Bible Institutes and Seminaries that we support have been temporarily closed. Evangelism efforts and worship services have also been severely curtailed. Internet access for streaming is not available to most. Pray that the Lord will bring a quick end to this pandemic so that training and evangelism can begin again soon! Pray that the Lord will provide opportunities for followers to proclaim the Good News in the midst of all of this uncertainty. Pray that our Savior's love, as demonstrated on the Cross and revealed in His Word, will keep all believers strong in the faith!
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”...“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,” Romans 8:31-32, 38
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
I’m not sure why, but I continue to be surprised in how the Lord so faithfully provides for the work of His Kingdom. I’m not much of a worrier but I do sometimes look at situations and wonder how all of this is going to work out and often find myself thinking that things just aren’t going to work. And then, the Lord shows me again that He is faithful and that He has a plan and I just need to follow along. I think this is so much more evident for me in the foreign mission fields because so much of what goes on over here is so far out of my control. At home, I know what to expect and, for the most part, how things are going to unfold. Here, I don’t speak the language, I don’t always know how things work or get done, and I find myself relying on others to make the plans. This puts me way outside of my comfort zone. And I am beginning to realize that this is a good place to be because it teaches me to trust the Lord instead of myself!
The Lord Provides Forgiveness, Salvation, and Eternal Life...
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
The Lord Faithfully Provides a Way to Manono in Tanganyika Province, DRC...
Not long before I was scheduled to depart for the DRC I received a text message from Pastor Yumba letting me know that the local airline for our flights from Lubumbashi to Tanganyika Province for the graduation/ordination service in Manono had canceled service to Manono.
Since this year’s rainy season had started early and was lasting longer than usual and due to record flooding between Lubumbashi and Manono, it didn’t seem as if driving was going to be possible. And there is no bus service operating now either.
But, it was the Lord’s will to get us to Manono. And so, He provided a man who was willing to make the 395-mile trip. Sounds like no big deal, right? Just get in the car and drive for seven hours or so. Well, that 395-mile trip took over thirty-seven (37+) hours on the worst muddy, water-soaked, flooded, destroyed, non-existent, “roads” I have ever seen in my life. And I have seen some bad roads traveling in several different countries for the past twenty-three years. The pictures below just don’t do justice to the “road” conditions I’m going to describe.
The man that the Lord provided, Ilunga Kanonga, was born and raised in Manono but now lives in Lubumbashi. Over the years he has traveled this route often. He is the owner of a transportation business with eight Toyota Land Cruisers and two large lorries (trucks). He employs twelve drivers and their assistants. Yumba said this was the only man he could find who was willing to drive us to Manono. He wouldn’t send us with one of his drivers, instead, he said he would only drive us himself. This man was a gift from the Lord. Not only was he extremely humble and dedicated to his task, but he was very well connected. He and his company drive for the World Health Organization (WHO) and he is known by, seemingly, everyone. Every village we went through someone came out to greet him. At every Army check-point we came to the soldiers simply smiled to greet him and waved us through. Even the toll-booths simply waved us through after seeing him. You have no idea what a big deal this is when you are a light-skinned visitor in a culture that is very accustomed to expecting and receiving a gift (bribe) in such situations. The Lord Provides!!!
Let me back up a bit before I go on. From 2016-2019, I tried (unsuccessfully) three different times to obtain a visa to visit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Apparently, this was because of the presidential elections taking place after President Joseph Kabila had agreed to step down after holding the position for several years. I even went to the DRC Embassy in Zambia and tried to apply there. With advice I found online and through a visa agency in the U.S., I took a trip to Washington, DC last Fall and was issued a visa in just two days. The Lord Provides!!!
So, last October I traveled to the DRC and was met by Missionary Evensen who was able to get a visa in Togo since he has a special non-resident, West Africa Stay card that will allow him to get visas in Africa much more easily. The Lord continues to provide! We spent a little over two weeks visiting and teaching and seeing everything that has been accomplished since the last CLC missionary visit in 2013 when Missionary Ude was able to visit for the last time.
Pastor Yumba Lumbala is the man who started the CCLC along with a couple of other pastors about twelve years ago. It has been their goal to start a Bible Training Institute to train more men to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s saving word. Missionary Ude had begun to assist these men with their planning. The Lord provided a portion of land. Building plans were drawn up and funding from the CLC Mission Development Fund had been approved. Even in the absence of regular yearly visits from CLC missionaries, the work had begun, and men have been trained even as the building plans stalled. About a year ago construction began on the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute and while it is still a long way away from completion, it is finished enough to begin classes in April! The Lord Provides!!!!!
Missionary Evensen and I were able to offer a pastoral training seminar at the new facility when we visited in October. At that time, Pastor Yumba asked if I could return to be on hand for the graduation/ordination services for the seven men who had successfully completed the three years of course work and who were currently a one-year practicum. I told him that I could return, but it would need to be before March 24th when my six-month DRC visa would expire. He said that would work well since the next cohort of fifteen new students were scheduled to begin classes in April.
Yumba also expressed a desire to have me visit the Tanganyika province where most of the graduating Bible Institute students were from since I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit there yet. Missionary Matt Ude had once planned a visit there but that visit was cut short for a variety of unavoidable circumstances. So, with Yumba’s blessing and encouragement, I scheduled another trip to the DRC before my visa expiration date. The Lord Provides!!!
Early in March, as I have since found out and experienced, is not the best time of year to visit the DRC. The months of February and March are typically the end of the rainy season. This means that forests and the jungle and hills and mountains are as beautiful and lush and green and dense as I have ever witnessed anywhere on this earth. 37+ hours of travel over the worst roads I have ever seen is anything but comfortable and fun, but the Lord compensated and blessed me with some of the most beautiful scenery, sunsets, and kind and helpful people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. The Lord Provides!!!!!
But traveling in early March after one of the wettest rainy seasons on record, also means that the roads are in the worst condition you will ever find. In some places the roads were non-existent. In other places, they were mud-pits, ponds, or simply washed away. There were several times as we ventured into a large muddy pit when I didn’t think there was any way we would make it to the other side. And yet, the Land Cruiser just kept on chugging along. We got stuck, really stuck, six different times. Twice we had to be pulled out by a large truck the other four times we spent hours digging and jacking and digging some more with the eager help of local villagers. In the end, the Lord provided, and we made it safely there and back. The Lord Provides!!!
The Lord Faithfully Provides a Way to Communicate the Truths of His Saving Word...
One of the challenges of working in the DRC is the fact that they were once a Belgium colony and so the official language is French. This is also true in other African nations where we are working like Togo, Benin, and Burundi. Thankfully, the Lord has provided Missionary Peter Evensen who is fluent in French to live and work in Togo and to conduct Online Theological Studies with a few French speakers in other African countries. The Lord Provides!!!
But the Lord has also provided a very capable local translator in the DRC that CLC missionaries have been working with for several years. His name is Jhon Monga. His secular employment is working as a translator for several large mining companies in the Lubumbashi area. Mining is the main industry in this part of the DRC. He has had the opportunity to hone his skills by doing this kind of work for several years. Because of the expectations of his work with the mining companies, he is very professional and prompt and takes his work seriously. He is truly a gift from the Lord. His secular work is not a regular hourly position but instead, he works by contract to translate documents and at meetings for high-ranking company executives. Apparently, because of his skills and professionalism, he is highly sought after. And yet, he eagerly agrees to schedule time away from his secular work to translate for us because he considers this his service to the Lord and His kingdom. The Lord Provides!!!
|Translator Jhon Monga|
The Lord Provides Nine Willing and Well-Trained Men to Proclaim His Saving Word...
In an area of the world where it is commonplace for charismatic individuals to use the name of our Savior, through smooth words and flattering speech, to build kingdoms for themselves, it is so encouraging to work with humble Christians who are dedicated to preaching the truth of God’s saving word for the purpose of calling sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! The Lord Provides!!!!!
Not that many years ago, it seemed as if our work in the DRC was coming to a close when a disagreement arose between some of the men we were working with. But the Lord Provided a peaceful and God-pleasing resolution to those issues. Some of the men we were working with are no longer with us, but the few that stuck around and remained dedicated to proclaiming God’s word for the right reasons...not for personal gain or prestige, have served the Lord faithfully. From the beginning, it had been their goal to train men to proclaim the truth of God’s word. Even when financial funding seemed unlikely and missionary visits became more and more sporadic and uncertain, these few men pushed forward with their plans to start the Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute. The Lord Provides!!!
|Pastor Yumba and his wife|
|CCLC Church and Pastor Yumba's Home in Katuba (Lubumbashi)|
And now, seven men have completed three years of classroom instruction and one year of practicum and have been ordained as pastors of the CCL-Congo. These men left their livelihood and families for seven months of each of those three years to attend classes at a temporary, make-shift facility. Many of them traveled the roads described above to do so. They received a small stipend through CLC Project Kinship sponsors to assist their families while they were away attending classes. But most of their needs were supplied by the work and farming they did during the five months when they were not at the school. The Lord Provides!!!
|Graduates and Instructors...Pastor Lubaba (L) Pastor Yumba (R)|
With the graduation and ordination of these men, the CCLC now has eleven trained and ordained pastors serving thirty-six congregations. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that there is still a need for more men to be trained. And so, we should not be surprised that The Lord Provides!!! The first week of April, fifteen men are scheduled to arrive in Lubumbashi to spend two weeks working on the new Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute building project to get things ready for the start of classes on April 15th. These two weeks or work are important for a couple of reasons. First of all, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done to get ready for the start of classes. Not only is there construction and cleaning to be done, but large plots of forest have been clear-cut for farming and gardens to provide food for the students while they are attending classes. It is up to the students to get the crops in the ground and to tend to the vegetable gardens to provide for themselves. There is no water well on the property yet, so this means daily trips down through the forest to the river to bring all the water needed for the crops, cooking, and bathing. While the students do not pay tuition and they receive a small stipend to send back to their families, they certainly will have plenty of sweat equity invested in their education by the time they complete their three years of classroom instruction with no promise or expectation of earthly gain upon completion. Who would commit to something like this? The Lord Provides!!!
|A new batch of bricks being fired at the Bible Institute Building Project|
|Garden Plot at Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute|
|Future garden plot|
|Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute|
|Front View...Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute|
|Holy Trinity Lutheran Bible Institute...latrines to the right|
|Next building phase...instructor accommodations and office|
|Next building phase...instructor accommodations and office|
|Termite Mound being used for brick materials|
And my God shall supply all your need
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
“The Lord upholds all who fall, And raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all His ways, Gracious in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them.”
The Lord Provides Forgiveness, Salvation, and Eternal Life...
We are just a few weeks away from Good Friday and Easter when we will remember with thankful hearts the sacrificial suffering of our Savior on the cross as He offered His perfect life as payment for the sins of the world on the cross. And we will gather together on Easter morning to rejoice in His resurrection knowing by faith that because He lives we shall live also. All of this would mean nothing if we had never heard this Good News and been led by the Holy Spirit to trust in His promises of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. It was our Lord and Savior who provided salvation. It was the Holy Spirit who provided us with these truths as He literally breathed God’s word into the writers of the Bible. And it was the Holy Spirit who provided us with the very faith that clings to these truths and trusts in every saving promise of God fulfilled in our Savior Jesus Christ. The Lord Provides!!!
Our Savior continues to provide for the salvation of sinners through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament! While in the DRC I had the privilege of administering the “washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” through the water and word of Baptism on two different occasions. I had the privilege of teaching four days of pastoral training classes in two different locations to twenty-eight men. And I had the opportunity to preach five times. What a privilege! The Lord Provides!!!
|Proclaiming the Truths of God's Saving Word|
|Pastoral Training Classes in Manono|
On our way back to Lubumbashi we were able to reach a newly formed CCLC congregation in an integrated-pygmy village for a short worship service. The Pygmy tribes have traditionally been very wary of outside influence. This village is referred to as integrated because they have been somewhat integrated into society and have inter-married. It was a short service because it was beginning to rain and they have no church building and their homes are very small and with no windows or electricity. We sang a couple of songs and I preached a short sermon. The hope and prayer is that they will be able to provide evangelism training for some of the young men in this congregation who will then be able to take the Gospel to non-integrated villages that are deeper into the forests and mostly unreached. The Lord Provides!!!
|Proclaiming the Gospel at an integrated Pygmy village|
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”
“For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?...So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Romans 10:13-15a, 17