To our Friends and Loved Ones
At the close of this year of our Lord, 2015
“Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me” (Psalm 66:16).
Challenge: Brussels Alert
This Christmas season struck the Mahars with a staggering impact as it coincided with the terrorist attack on Paris followed by an averted attempt upon Brussels where a number of our family members live and serve as missionaries. We are grateful toward our heavenly Father for averting the planned attack on Brussels, and for sparing lives there. We pray for the sorrowing of Paris, and that peace will continue.
Another challenge has been our health. For Frank some difficulties owing to his surgery, that took place this time last year, seem to have created some ongoing challenges, while for Joanne, a sinus surgery performed in June, unlike a previous one that healed within weeks, is this time in slow mode. Still, our rule is “No complaints allowed.” It’s perfectly normal for God to allow afflictions for our good. Soldiers of the cross must not have flabby muscles. The challenge is to “rejoice in the Lord always.”
A third challenge has been an enormous outlay of time spent on research and writing on the second book of Joanne’s ancient trilogy. Though it’s fiction, she has made every attempt to be as accurate as possible in the historical aspect, that covers some 300 years and includes the critical intertestamental period, when the Septuagint version of the Bible was translated into Greek, and the world was being prepared for Messiah. To make matters even more challenging is that the sources are limited and conflicting. Still, she’s plodding on and hopes to complete it in 2016.
Fairie-Ann Tyler daughter of Marcus Fritzel
A fourth challenge—or unexpected blessing—was connecting with the family of Marcus Fritzel—mentioned on page 100 of Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths—who served as a devoted missionary in those early years when great risks were taken. In the case of Marcus, it meant a lonely grave in Africa’s interior caused by malaria. Left behind were a wife and a little girl. The connection came through Tami Masih, the grand daughter of Marcus Fritzel, who contacted Joanne on behalf of her mother Fairie Ann Tyley—the daughter Marcus Fritzel—who has been trying to find her father’s gravesite for some time. Though that mystery remains unsolved, our fellowship with the family has been a highlight of the year.
Open Heart – to Congo’s Plight
The fifth challenge has been the giant step forward in the progress of the Open Heart effort in the vast country of Congo, that has involved an enormous outlay of energy, discipline, and total dependence upon God. Most of our family and friends are aware of the effort of Joanne’s brother Bud, to come to the aid of Christians who have barely survived the fires of persecution that struck the area that was opened to the Gospel by our parents, and where an ongoing rebellion has been ignored by the outside world.
This year we thought to share with you, our dear ones, some of the amazing break-throughs that have occurred this year in that land in spite of challenges that tested faith to the limit. With great joy and gratitude to our Savior, we share with you dear ones the astounding victories following the past summer’s efforts that we dare to believe will lead the way to a new awakening and thrust of the Gospel of our beloved Savior in that land.
At the same time we realize that most of the reports that were hurriedly recorded, in diary format, will seem meaningless without some background history.
Opening up the Congo
From the early 1800s—the era of David Livingstone and Stanley—who opened a path into central Africa for missionary endeavor—the challenges have been enormous. Both saw tragic misery that they attempted to alleviate.
Yet, though Stanley’s intentions in offering Congo to King Leopold of Belgium were noble, abuses occurred that were alas, disastrous. Still one must also realize that the Belgians provided benefits previously unheard of. These included employment, education, health-care etc. and opened the way for missionary endeavor, primarily Catholic but also Protestant.
Missionary Pioneers and Harsh Conditions
In modern accounts little is mentioned of the above, nor of the fearsome practices and manipulations of powerful witchdoctors, cannibalism, child sacrifices, the poison cup, chiseled teeth, abandonment of the elderly and many other cruel and fearsome practices that especially afflicted women. None tell of the frenzy of Satanic pressure that involved spells, demon possession; and the hopelessness and cruelty of a pagan society.
It was in the early 20th century that many missionary pioneers set out at the cost of enormous hardship and vulnerability, to take to Congo the knowledge of a Savior who came to the world to offer freedom from Satan’s oppression to all. Before leaving their homeland they were warned not to expect to return, yet, in spite of the graves that dotted the countryside, missionary activity blossomed even as late as our parents’ era (1930s -1950s). What the missionaries of that time did not know, however, is that they would have but thirty years to evangelize pagans, teach and train them, and then leave them to stand up against untold persecution. Joanne, a collector of missionary biographies, likes to compare the course of missions in China with that of Congo, alongside the “Acts of the Apostles” where amazing parallels stand out.
Springtime and Harvest
Bud with his father at Matende
At that early springtime of missionary activity in the Congo, the primary sending countries were Sweden, Britain, Canada and America. It was an era of rich harvest when many drank in the living water of God’s Word and began to mature in their faith. Because it was governed by Belgium at that time, missions serving there had chosen representatives who interacted with Belgian officials regarding legal matters. Our Dad, as one of the appointees, endeavored to maintain friendly interaction with the officials, primarily for the purpose of interceding for justice, temperance, and in getting permits of various sorts. Also it is to the credit of the Belgians that the village chief still held considerable authority and many of the Congolese rose to high positions of influence and comfort. It has been suggested by many wise people, that Congo needed a little more time to be fully ready for independence, but that, of course, did not happen as impatient rebels were at the door.
Rebelion and Confusion
Matende station is one of several that our parents founded. Alas, one of the leading rebels of the 60s era, Pierre Mulele, a native of the region, who had trained in guerrilla warfare in China, collected a following of youth—and even children—that he fired up with a strange concoction of leftist dogma, African magic, a few guns, bows and arrows, intoxicating hemp, and armed with machetes, and matches, he let them loose to kill, burn and destroy at random homes churches, schools, hospitals and just about anything anywhere. At that early stage of the rebellion, mission stations became a primary target and the atrocities committed were horrendous. Many of the native residents were forced to flee from their villages to the cities—primarily the capital of Kinshasa—which then exploded with overpopulation.
At this crucial time some missionaries were martyred or had narrow escapes, while others were forced to evacuate. Many went back and forth with repeated evacuations, but ultimately were appointed to different countries, while the national Congolese Christians bore the brunt of the impact.
A Greedy World
For the most part, the media has ignored or misinterpreted accounts. Nations sat silent while millions of innocent people were slaughtered. Why? Because there was too much to gain on the part of political leaders and profiteers.
Congo: Rich yet Poor
It must be understood that in the course of all this, the most severe danger zone shifted from the west to the east where Congo’s richest assets lay hidden in her soil. Besides jewels, copper and gold, its primary asset is colton, a product that is used in our computers, cell phones and other gadgets. Profiteers and smugglers from across the border have taken advantage to force women and children to mine the precious products at the cost of horrendous and unspeakable abuse. While Congo remains one of the richest country in the world, as far as assets are concerned, it is one of the poorest in the world because its wealth is smuggled out of the country. Eastern Congo certainly needs our prayers. However, we’ve been pleased to notice that God is at work there too with tender concern, while the Church is re-blooming, though still fragile.
Concern and Curiosity
For years Joanne’s brother, Bud, has sought to enter the Matende area but each time he tried, some unstable situation broke out that forbade his access. Meanwhile, since he was in contact with Christian workers in the capital, he was asked to be an observer for the first of Congo elections. Then in 2010 an opportunity—or rather unforeseen providence—opened its door and allowed him entrance.
To his great surprise he learned that the Chinese and the French had built a highway into the interior of Congo, and to top it off he discovered that Matende station was just a few kilometers from that main highway.
Soon after this he and his son-in-law, Olivier, made a special trip to Matende when they saw with their own eyes the unbelievable.
The home we once occupied was destroyed to the ground with hardly any evidence that it had ever existed, while the school and other buildings—including the church—were unrecognizable, though one third of the church survived…more or less.
Since then Bud has continued to make trips into the interior to assess the conditions of other mission stations where he found similar conditions, and especially a total lack of Bibles, which he took on as a special project. Then the most essential construction projects were initiated that included the church building itself.
Challenges to Face Head-On
This summer of 2015 Bud, along with two separate teams of volunteers, spent two months at Matende. Below is a list of some of the challenges that, with God’s favor, opened doors for unexpected victories. This year it entailed the re-building of the School or Training Center, and we will see how much more was accomplished than expected. Not surprising because “He is able to do far and above all we can ever ask or think.”
Delay of Visas
One problem was getting visas for the volunteers who hailed from Belgium, Germany and France, and who were experiencing complications because the regulations had changed. So, amidst frantic international communications involving connections with key people who had themselves connections to others of highest authority, the end result was that two visas arrived three days before departure and another one day before!
Transport of a Generator
Another last minute suspense was the generator that was too big for a suitcase and was awaiting the approval of the Brussels Airlines Humanitarian Program to give its permission to come separately and not in a suitace. It wasn’t until 10 PM of the night before the departure of the first team that the generator arrived at Bud’s home and was loaded in his van with the rest of the luggage that went on the plane.
200 Bibles for Waiting Hands
Two hundred Bibles had been ordered at the capital, but would they be available when they got there? In Congo, one must always expect surprises. They were indeed packed and ready for them to pick up and take into the interior. This alone would have made the trip worthwhile, and what a joy it was to give them to those who have never held one in their hands.
Arrival at Matende
They arrived safely at Matende where they are greeted with much rejoicing and singing, and where a sense of anticipation hangs in the air.
Cell phones problem
At Matende they set up a solar panel but somehow the cell phones refused to work. You can imagine that when one is in the vast interior with iffy roads, a fussy truck, darkness so thick you feel you could cut it with a knife, all sorts of dangers seem to be lurking… a cell phone is a most appreciated instrument. At one point collaborator David climbed a tree to try to catch some waves, only to be stung fifteen times by the critters occupying the tree that forced him to drop to the ground. Later they learned that a girl in the office of Vodacom convinced the engineer to adjust the transmitters.
Use of a Tractor
From the beginning of “Open Heart” the use of a tractor for agricultural purposes has been an on-going matter of prayer. This year a tractor is loaned to them just in time for tilling the soil before the rainy season
Truck Problems and Happy Surprises
While truck problems are ongoing, people along the way try to help and encourage them. At one occasion it seemed as if the truck was purring along, when all of a sudden the motor started to slow down and then suddenly halted just as they were arriving at a village called Banda Muntini. Since it was getting late they decided to spend the night there. To their surprise Christians from the village came out and insisted on giving them a warm welcome, and from their meager resources, they provided a room with mats on the ground to sleep on, and even shared what food they had which included mostly bananas and pineapples that that kept them fed for two days. Even the director of the school expressed thankfulness for having the opportunity to meet them. One can’t help but sense a touch of God’s providence in making “all things work together for good…” A mechanic from Kikwit came out to work on the truck but instisted on taking it back to Kikwit.
A Flat Tire, No Brakes, and Two Broken Axels
No sooner had the truck been fixed than it had to go out to rescue a trailer they’d purchased. With all the construction material needed to purchase, they ended up renting two trucks and soon found out that one had no breaks and the other had a flat tire—not uncommon considering the roads. Soon after there was a broken axel… that broke again… while time passed! Two weeks later they finally rolled into Matende at about 8;30 PM with all headlights piercing the darkness with blazing light. One couldn’t help but pray, “Oh may the light of our Lord Jesus shine into these villages and around the whole world.”
A doctor for the Medical Facility
For years prayers have been laid at the mercy seat for a Christian doctor, so one should not be surprised when the answer stands before you. It so happened that Bud encountered a doctor at nearby Kikwit while doing some errands. The doctor immediately showed interest in Matende’s Health Center. Could he be the answer to our prayers? The doctor by the name of Eleazar Kakesa—his first name meaning help of God—comes out to visit and the matter is settled. A doctor on site will particularly benefit children who are especially at risk.
Two of them have died in the month and more are being cared for. One of the problems is that mothers must work in the fields during the day-time hours while an older sister of perhaps 5 or 6 years must care for ones smaller than themselves. Another problem is the pigs that run free as they too are potential disease carriers. Thankfully, the new doctor expects to teach prevention and sanitation to the Matende area.
Top-notch Leaders and Helpers
Bud writes regarding David who led the young volunteers of the first group: “We thank God for the tremendous help that David gave during a whole month as he served and taught others many skills with a humble heart. Even more important the way he set an example of doing manual work as a service to the Lord. By the time David flew back to Belgium he’d given away every ounce of energy he had. All along he’d exercised enormous patience in dealing with intercultural matters, and he knew the names of all the 40 workers. Besides all that, he was a model coach and encourager.”
Bruno and his group flew into Kinshasa on a Saturday night and spent Sunday attending church and meeting key people. The following day they rented a jeep for the women while the men rode with the baggage in the back of the truck. He too combined in a humble way the practical and the spiritual. Each morning he led the devotions before explaining the activities planned for the day, and ending with a challenge in the style of Nehemiah—to get all hands involved. His contribution proved to be right on the mark.
Nelson—and his Mom
Bud writes: “Nelson is a Congolese presently living and working in Germany, who served with a willing heart in many useful ways such as doing errands for supplies, buying and bargaining in four local languages, and also exemplifying how one can be a most useful missionary mechanic. It wouldn’t take much to get him to settle permanently at Matende. His Mom is here from Kinshasa helping by directing the kitchen during the three-day seminar. She remembers our family when we were small.” Upon the departure of the last team Nelson drove everyone back to Kinshasa. Bud was privileged to sit next to him in front while the others were piled in the back with the luggage for 16 hours. At the end his mother said good-bye to him with teary eyes.
Roselie and Simon
Roselie, third from right, Simon, first on the left,
Roselie, third from the right, is Bud’s oldest daughter. As a missionary with “Young Life” in Belgium, Roselie is trained and experienced in organizing camps for young people. Her talents have been an asset in a setting such as Matende.
Simon, Bud’s grandson—first on the left—is a seminary student at Vaux-sur Seine in the Paris area. Congo has challenged and changed him in many ways, to the point that he’s considering future involvement.
The team as a whole
Though out of their comfort zones, each one of each team cooperated with the task at hand and willingly gave their testimonies in services. We’ll remember them with gratitude and in our prayers.
40 Brave national workers
In previous visits the local believers seemed apprehensive about building etc. This time forty of varrying ages made themselves available. This in itself is a milestone and cause for thanksgiving. Day after day they worked cheerfully in groups or together under the guidance of their leaders.
The Training Center and it’s First Training Seminar
A spirit of eager anticipation prevailed as Bruno initiated the First Training Seminar that was to begin Monday morning through Wednesday.
Following, as it did, the construction of the large, square school house or training center with offices in the middle, was a horrendous task, and now it was time to celebrate and to challenge further conquests. People began to arrive already Sunday evening when they prayed for God’s blessing, and as the meetings started and progressed a joyful spirit prevailed. God answered by pouring down “showers of blessing.” Finally, with teary eyes they separated and returned to their little huts. To God be the glory.
Brave Return of the Team to Europe
The truck took the team safely back to Kinshasa OK, though near the end some additional mechanical problems created some last challenges, causing the team to sit tight for fear of missing their plane. Oof! It was close! One thing is evident, and that is that they’ll never forget Congo..
Bud’s Summary of the two months: Far More Than Expected
We started out with one main project in mind — to rebuild the roof of the school, take off the asbestos ceiling and build doors and windows to prepare for the group arriving in August. But as we look back, we realize that God had plans for five other projects as well which all demanded time and finances: (1) repairs for the truck in Kikwit caused us to spend time in meeting people, discussing and learning, (2) meeting a young doctor who could come to Matende, (3) cleaning up and getting the Health Center into operation, (4) finally borrowing a tractor for Matende and (5) installation of water.
Prayer for America
In speaking with Bud recently by phone, he made the comment, “The American Church has abandoned Congo.” The statement struck like the blow of a hammer. In earlier days, while missionaries faced untold risks, churches stood as an army of prayer-warriors behind them. As Joanne’s Dad often said, when writing letters or upon returning to the homeland, ‘How good it is to ‘share the spoils of the battles’” (see 1 Samuel 30:24) meaning the sharing of spiritual victories won on foreign soil with those in the homeland who have been diligently backing them with prayer. We can’t help from wondering if perhaps a time will come when the American church might need Congo?
The Cry of a Newborn Baby
An exiting thing happened as the workers were banging away at fixing up the Health Center, when the cry of a newborn baby rose in that crude little building. One can’t help but smile at the picture that reminds us of a similar situation that took place when our Savior condescended to be born in an equally humble situation. Here lay the King of kings and Lord of lords, yet He humbled Himself to become like us, to live with us, and to offer His life as a ransom for creatures such as us. With that reminder we can’t help but burst out in singing: “Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King.” What a boost this is to our confidence as we face the challenges of 2016.
With our love and prayers to all our family in the Lord,
Frank and Joanne Mahar