CHRISTMAS 2012

Celebrating with THANKSGIVING

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift”  (2 Corinthians  9:15).

 

Since ancient times—and in all nations—gifts have accompanied joyful events (see Esther 9:22; Revelation 11:10), but the most fabulous and most joyful event of all history was announced long ago by an angel in the words, “…unto you is born this day a Savior…” (Luke 2:11). The event itself was the most extravagant gift of all times and it was given to “all people.”

 The year 2012—in spite of difficulties, challenges, disappointments and sorrow—has been a year of thanksgiving. Every day has brought reminders that a Sovereign God controls all.

Though technically retired, we often find ourselves super busy, Frank with maintenance, bookwork, friends, errands, etc., and Joanne in the writing of the second book in her ancient trilogy. She’d hoped to have it completed by now, but we felt that it needed still more research through books and lectures of university professors. Our aim is to be as historically and biblically accurate as possible. We are thankful, however, that BelkA of BABYLON—book one of the ancient trilogy—is now available in e-book format, which is much more affordable.

We’re also thankful for what God is doing in Congo, the country where Joanne lived as a child and still holds dear to her heart. Her brother Bud has been involved there for several years and this year has been one of good progress and cause for much gratitude to God. We thought you might be interested in the following condensed report.

We wish you all a joyful and blessed Christmas, followed by a very happy New Year.

Frank and Joanne Mahar

Thanksgiving in Congo

Through the

OPEN HEART PROJECT

THE STORY

Since the beginning of what has been called, “The rebellion,” or wars that followed Congo’s independence in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo—a large country about the size of Western Europe —has suffered the effects of wars and economic fall-out.

For safety reasons missions abandoned the interior which, until recently, has been inaccessible to outsiders. In 2006 my brother, Bud Kroeker, was invited to be an observer for Congo’s first elections, but was unable to reach the interior where we once lived  (see Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths volumes 1 and 2) because roads were still in disrepair.

In 2010, however, he learned that highways were being built by the Chinese and also the French, so he set out hoping to find out how the mission stations we knew as children were getting along. He was thrilled to discover that the new highway passed to within 7 kms of  Matende Station, the last station opened by our parents. He learned that in spite of massive devastation—and amidst the rubble—the CHURCH is still alive.

Matende marker from time when Abe Kroeker negotiated purchase of the land.

After much prayer, and consultations with others, it was decided to rebuild Matende, a mission station that includes a Church, a medical facility and a school.

Bandundu Province

The Matende area—that gives it’s name to Matende station—is about 35 square miles in size, and is part of Congo’s Bandundu province. It includes about 100 villages where the Kikongo language is spoken.

It, and the surrounding areas, were among the hardest hit in the early stages of the war because the leading rebel, Pierre Mulele,  was from the Matende area.

REBUILDING AFTER WAR — A DAUNTING TASK—WHERE TO BEGIN?

FOOD

A pastor and his family suffered famine while hiding in the forest during the rebellion.

Food is a daily concern. There is no powdered milk available for children. Much progress is presently being been made in the area of agriculture. Fish ponds have been built to provide much-needed protein to their diet.

ELECTRICITY AND WATER

There is no electricity or running water.  An old cistern has been cleaned out and is being used, but more are needed. Presently the rest of the water comes from a little steam 1 ½ miles down- hill from the mission, that is carried up-hill mostly on the heads of women and children.

HOMES

 The whole family sleeps in a small grass hut about 10 x 16 feet with one or two rooms. Sometimes they keep a wood fire going all night, so the smoke that exits through small openings between the grass sometimes gives the impression that the hut is on fire. Lung damage from cooking on inside fires is one of the main causes of death in the area. Their beds, made of palm-poles, are covered with a stiff mat, and if fortunate, a blanket. Besides the health risks, the huts are easily blown over by tropical storms. The plan is to build small homes of adobe bricks arranged in an attractive manner.

SCHOOLS

The schools are having a hard time because parents just don’t have the means to pay the fee for a semester which is only about one dollar—but even that is too much. To give an idea of the monetary values; a recent offering for the building project—made at great sacrifice—brought in 5000 Congolese francs or $5.00 US. Children were proud to give 100 francs or 10 cents.

Fixing school buildings is a real priority because an inspection by government authorities could cause them to be shut down. The rooms are 8 x 9 meters but one finds only a few dilapidated benches that fill one corner at the most. There are 80 to 90 grade school students.

A problem Bud discovered first hand was that all the little children were left to themselves all day while the mothers worked in the fields. Children ages four and give were taking care of on-year-olds, and all were just playing outside in the dust all day long. It was decided to get the first preschool going at Matende mission. Four teachers have been trained but funds available permit only the salaries of two.

THE MEDICAL CENTER

Because of the school’s emergency, parts of the medical facility are being used by the school. Fixing up an abandoned wing of the medical center has been a challenge. The floor has big holes in the concrete, the roof leaks, the doors are all gone and there are no steps up to the main door. For now just rudimentary changes will be made until funds are available for real repairs. The parents will be making benches out of palm-pole and classes will be held outdoors most of the time. This is just the beginning of an important step that will encourage the whole mission, keep the little children out of mischief, and lay the foundations for a Christian education.

THE CHURCH

When it rains… you get wet.

LET US RISE AND BUILD

The study of the book of Nehemiah has provided much encouragement to the Matende church. The women’s choir surprised Bud one Sunday morning by singing,  «Beto yonso telema na kutunga dibundu na Nzambi». (Literally translated: «We all are going to rise up to start building the house of God»). Alas, the house of God, in the sense of a a church building, is a project so large in scope that it must be put on hold.

BUILDING IN PROGRESS

A first building to renovate is one that will be be used primarily for training purposes. Each brick is a step forward.

Materials must be purchased fifty miles away, but how thankful one feels to be able to put them to good use.

5 A.M. 

Work begins early to get as much work done as possible before it gets hot. But in the afternoon one is encouraged to work hard before it gets dark.

THE ROOF

How good to see that old ten roof come off.

There’s still more to do but it’s time to celebrate because Bud’s visa is running out, so he must get back to Europe.

A FIRST THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION

The air rings with joyful chatter as preparations begin for a thanksgiving celebration. Most cannot believe what’s happening. When money is scarce people give what they have. The Bible says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” The Congolese are cheerful and generous givers.

Most important of all is giving thanksgiving to God for his help thus far. As for the rest of the buildings that need repair, one can only say, “Nothing is impossible with God.”

“God is good His mercies endure to all generation” (Ps. 100:5).

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