6-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting CHILDREN IN THE BIBLE

Part 6: The Widow’s Son

There’s a story of a little boy in the Bible who is not named. All we know is that his Mom was a widow—meaning that her husband had died.

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In that time, things were not going well because wicked Ahab had become king, and he and Queen Jezebel were greedy and mean while making the people disobey God and pray to idols.

There was also at that time a prophet of the true God, whose name was Elijah. A prophet is one who receives messages from God that he must tell either to one person or to a group of people. This time he had to tell it to King Ahab himself!

The King sighed as he looked at the prophet Elijah standing  before him wearing, as usual, a coat of animal skins and a wide belt around his waste. What a weird man, he thought to himself, and how I hate him because he always tells the truth. He and Queen Jezebel paid no attention to the truth and no one dared to tell them the exact truth because they were afraid to make them angry.

Elijah bravely told the prophecy,“I have been sent by God to inform you that there will be no rain for a very long time.’”

Ahab certainly wasn’t in a mood to hear this kind of a message. He set his lips hard and with glaring eyes he said, “So what you’re saying to me is that there will be a famine.” Both of them knew very well that a famine happens when there is not enough rain to grow food.

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Elijah nodded and hurried off, running as fast as he could to the countryside. There he came to a calm and beautiful little stream where the water was clean and cool. How good it felt to drink all he wanted, and to rest on the fresh, soft grass after running such a long ways. Then, he realized that he was getting hungry. Where was he going to find food? Just then he saw birds fluttering  over him who swooped closer and closer and then dropped delicious food into his hands. O how delicious it was and it was enough to fill his stomach.

Now he realized that God had led him to a safe and lovely little spot where he could stay away from the town where there would be little if any food and where a king and queen were seeking to kill him. So he settled down and made himself comfortable. He didn’t need to worry because he knew that God was caring for him.  Sure enough, the next day the birds were back with the most tasty ousels in their beaks, and they kept coming every day with food.

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Days, weeks, and months passed without a drop of rain. It got so bad that even the little brook stopped flowing with water and Elijah wondered what he should do. God told him to go to a place called Zarephath where a widow—meaning a woman whose husband had died—would help him.

So Elijah obeyed and went to Zarephath, no doubt wondering how he would recognize the widow. Well, he didn’t have to worry much longer because as he was nearing the city, he saw a poor woman gathering sticks and he thought, I wonder if she might be the widow, but should I bother her? She looks so weak and tired. Then he changed his mind and decided it wouldn’t hurt to at least ask. So he went to her and said politely, “I wonder if perhaps you might provide me with some food as I’m hungry and have none.”

The widow didn’t even dare to look up at him. “I’m sorry that you’re hungry, but I only have enough food for one more meal for my son and myself. I’ve come out here to gather sticks so that I can make a fire and cook one last meal. After that we’ll just have to wait to die.”

Elijah looked into her eyes and said, “Would you please give me just a little piece of bread first?”

The widow looked up at Elijah for a long moment, and in that minute she knew in her heart that he was a man of God— or a prophet. She also knew that God was testing her, to see if she would show kindness to a stranger. So she looked up at the prophet, nodded her head and said, “We’ll share what we have.”

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Gratefully Elijah followed her to her home where a room on the roof was offered to him. Then the widow went to her kitchen and made a nice little loaf of bread for him, and as she was about to close the empty jar, she noticed that some flour was left over. That’s strange, she thought, I felt my fingers scraping the bottom of the jar, and here I find enough for another loaf! So she made another loaf for her son and herself. The next day the same thing happened, and the next after that and on and on it went. It seemed like a joke, yet her jar always had just enough for another loaf. By then both she and Elijah understood that God was providing for all three of them.
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One day, however, the widow’s little son got very sick, and then suddenly, he died. His mother was so upset she just wanted to die herself, but when Elijah heard about it he went and picked up the little boy and brought him to his own room and laid him on his own bed. There he leaned over the child and prayed to God, asking Him to heal the boy who was all the family the widow had left. Then he noticed a flutter of the boy’s eye-lids that soon opened wide. The child now smiled and reached out his arms to the prophet who picked him up carried him downstairs to his Mom. “Oh thank you, thank you man of God, she said as tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy.

“Don’t thank me,” Elijah said, “Thank God.”

“Oh I do, I do,” she said.

“God has rewarded you for your faith and trust in Him, Elijah said. You proved it by helping me when you had so little.“

“Yes,”  the Mom said, as her son hugged Elijah, “God is so good.”

 

5-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting CHILDREN OF THE BIBLE

Part 5: David

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Compliments: Christian Image Source

Remember the story of Samuel and how he grew to be a great leader. He didn’t sit on a throne or wear a crown as most kings do, but he was a ruler and teacher for the people of God. He was also called a prophet because he was given special messages from God.

All was going well, but when he got old the people decided they wanted a real king like all the other nations around them. They wanted someone who could go to war and help them fight their enemies.

Samuel was sad about this because God was to be their king, and besides kings cost lots and lots of money, and sometimes they were not honorable and just in the way they lived or ruled. Samuel was worried, but God told him, “You might as well let the people have their way. They’ve made up their minds, and besides, through their mistakes they’ll learn some important lessons.”

So the people chose a handsome young man named Saul, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before he began to mess things up horribly by not obeying God. So God told Samuel to go to a family in Bethlehem and He would help him choose another king there. “This King, he said, will be ‘a man after my own heart,'” meaning he would love God, listen to Him, and also obey Him.

When Samuel reached the little town of Bethlehem a feast or party was going on at the home of a leader of the town called Jesse who was the father of seven sons. As they visited Samuel explained that God had sent him to anoint one of his sons as the future king.  So the sons were called together, and as each one passed before him, Samuel couldn’t help but notice good qualities in each one. For example, one might have been friendly, another handsome, another helpful and so on it went until Samuel had seen six of them. Strangely God kept silence and did not indicate in any way that one of them was to be anointed king. Samuel was confused and shook his friend. Are these all the sons you have?” he asked Saul.

“Well, the seventh is just a boy and  he’s out taking care of the sheep.”

“Would you please have him come in?” Samuel asked

Jesse  hunched his shoulders before sending out a servant to replace his youngest boy. When the boy David walked in Samuel knew without a doubt that this young man was the one God had chosen to be the next king, and so anointed him by pouring oil on his head. This meant that God had indeed chosen him to become king some day.

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Christian Image Source

When the feast was over David, most likely in a daze, went back to the sheep that had become his pets. He knew each one by name and when he called them they’d run to him to get their wooly heads petted or to receive a little treat. Some among them, alas, were sometimes quarrelsome. David would scold them and repeat again and again,  “Be kind one to another.” Sometimes one or more of them would wander off, so David would call them back to his side. “Stay close to me,” he’d say, “I don’t want to loose you.

He always had his eye out for predators like lions or bears or snakes. It had already happened a number of times and he’d managed to run them off or kill them. Once he even took a lamb out of the mouth of a lion.

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Christian Image Source

Whenever the sheep were afraid, or when they needed to calm down for the night, he’d call them to himself to gather around him. Then he’d sooth them with sweet melodies that he played on his harp and sometimes he’d add words to the music while they nuzzled close to him and fell into a deep sleep.  There was no reason for them to worry because Daniel was watching over them most diligently. It felt so good to be near him.

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Christian Image Source

As David was growing up his brothers were fighting in a war with a people called the Philistines, who do not love God, and quite often would try to hurt His people. So at one time when he was sent by his father Jesse to take food to his brothers, he saw that a big giant called Goliath was boasting and teasing God’s people to send contest with him or fight against him. Sadly, the Israelites were afraid of the mean giant.

David was angry when he heard the evil giant yelling awful threats and insults at God’s people while also mocking  their God. “This is just too much. Why doesn’t someone fight against him and eliminate him?” David asked the people around him.

The soldiers laughed at this young fellow who was probably by now a teenager, “Little fellow,” one said condescendingly, “can’t you see the size of his feet?  One kick and you’re out. ” Some of the soldiers, however, winked among themselves, when they heard him say that he’d be willing to try to eliminate him. Most thought it was a joke, but his brothers said, “Who do you think you are? Why don’t you get out of the way”

The other brother added, “Yea, go home and mind your own business.”

” But David was determined to try. So he was  brought before King Saul who laughed as he looked at the skinny young fellow who appeared as if he’d  hardly the strength to inflict the slightest injury on the massive giant almost twice his size. But there was no one else around willing to try, so he called upon a soldier nearby and ordered him to arm David.

David tried the helmet, the heavy shield and clumsy sword, and shook his head. “Just let me face him with my own favorite weapon that I use when guarding my sheep”

“Let him do whatever he wants?” the king ordered, while some of the men around snickered.  “It’ll be interesting for us to watch and see how long he’ll last.”

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Christian Image Source

As David walked down to the river between the two hills that separated the two armies, he picked up some stones, and while doing so he prayed to God as he’d always done when danger approached. Then, as he started climbing the hill, he began swinging his sling shot around and around, and as he neared Goliath he yelled, “You come to me with sword and spear, I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty…. “ and by then a stone was already flying through the air and that one stone struck Goliath smack on the forehead. In seconds Goliath lay flat on the ground. The battle was over.

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Christian Image Source

That evening there were big celebrations when the people praised David, but David cared little about that. He knew it was God who had helped him and had won the victory. None but his brothers knew that he was destined to replace King Saul as God’s chosen king who would also become the greatest king the Israelites ever had.

 

4-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting CHILDREN IN THE BIBLE

Part 4: Samuel

God’s people had lived happily in Egypt for long time and were happy. But sadly everything suddenly changed. A new Pharaoh—who was like a king—ruled the country and he did not like the people of God. God saw what was happening and decided they should leave Egypt. He called Moses to lead them to another land that would become their very own country. So soon after they started a long journey toward the promised land. Along the way they had all kinds of adventures, and sometimes they had to walk through hot areas called deserts where they couldn’t find water to drink or food to eat, but God did miracles, like making water come out of rocks, and He also dropped from heaven a food, called “manna,” that was like bread, to fill their tummies

2-Tab WildernLa Vista Church of Christ

Building the tabernacle – Public Domain – Compliments Vista Church of Christ

During the long journey God told Moses to build a tent-like-church called a tabernacle so that when they traveled they could pack it up and take it with them, and when they stopped they could put it up quickly. God also chose a man, called a high priest, to be their teacher. Much later when they reached the “Promised Land,” they set up the tabernacle at a place called Shiloh. At this time it had a high priest whose name was Eli.

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One day a woman named Hannah came to the tabernacle holding a little boy by the hand. When she saw Eli she came to him and said, “Do you remember me?”

Eli thought a while and finally he said, “Of course, You were the lady who came here about five years ago, and you knelt down all by yourself and prayed that God would give you a child to raise for Him, and you also promised that if God would answer your prayer, you would give your child back to Him so that he could serve in the tabernacle.”

Hannah smiled, “I’m glad you remembered, because God answered my prayer and now I must do what I promised Him. So here he is. I will miss him so very much, and he will miss his Mama, but I know that you’ll take good care of him and teach him carefully.”

Eli looked kindly at the Mama and the little boy. “I promise that I will do my very best. But what is his name?”

“His name is Samuel which means, “asked of the Lord.”

“Dear lady,” Eli said as tears came to his eyes, “How precious it is to see that God answered your prayer, and may He bless you for keeping your promise.”

The Mama looked at her little son whom she loved so very much, and almost changed her mind about leaving him, but in her heart she knew that a promise—especially one that is made to God—must always be kept. She bit her lip hard to keep from crying, hugged him one last time, and put his small hand into the strong hand of Eli. Then she turned around and left the tabernacle.

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Samuel teaching – Public Domain – Courtesy of Christian Image Source

Once she was all by herself and hidden by some trees she let out all the tears that she’d kept inside of her. Her husband came to her and took her into his arms and wiped away her tears. Bravely, they both started their journey home. As they walked they felt comforted little by little and soon they began to talk cheerfully about their precious son who would learn all about God while serving Him in the tabernacle.

Hanna knew deep down in her heart that Samuel would be happy with Eli, and that he would also make old Eli happy in return. She also knew, deep down in her heart, that he would grow up to be a great man of God and leader of His people.

 

3-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting Children in the Bible

Part 3: Moses

Joseph was happy to have his family close to him in Egypt, and as the years went by and the little children grew up and became Mommies and Daddies in their turn, the family got bigger and bigger and soon there were many grandpas and grandmas, and great-grandpas and great-grandmas and all of them made up one huge happy family.

In those years the Pharaohs and their families were changing too, and eventually a Pharaoh came along who did not know Joseph, and this Pharaoh was not pleased to see this big foreign family living in his land. So he began to make them his slaves by forcing them to work hard for him in the hot sun to make bricks of mud. When they didn’t work fast enough, the mean Pharaoh ordered the taskmasters or bosses to whip them so that they would get sick and die.

When the Pharaoh saw this, he thought of another mean trick: he would order all the people in his land to find and then throw all the Hebrew boy-babies into the big Nile River.

Yet, even as they worked so very hard and suffered horribly from the stinging lashes on their backs, this large Hebrew family kept growing and growing.

At this time there was one small Hebrew family —from among the much larger family—living in Egypt who loved and served God with all their hearts. The Dad was called Amram and the Mom’s name was Jochebed. They had a sweet daughter named Miriam, who was about twelve years old, and then a precious little baby boy was born. They were happy to have this boy baby, but knowing the horrible decree of Pharaoh, they were afraid for him. They tried to hide him as best they could, but his cries were becoming louder and louder. What should they do? The Mom had an idea. She would make a little basket for him that would not leak, and she would float the basket in the nearby river, hidden by the tall grasses called reeds. Miriam then offered to hide in the reeds near the basket and watch over her baby brother.

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Public Domain

So when the basket was ready the Mom took her smiling baby and put him in it, and then she and Miriam went to the river. There they placed the child among the tall rushes on the edge of the river, and Miriam laid down on her tummy to watch from a distance. After a while she saw a lovely lady come near the river, along with her maids or helpers, to take a bath. Miriam’s heart beat hard and fast and her body trembled as she recognized the lovely Princess who was the daughter of Pharaoh. Would she see the basket? Yes, indeed she did see the strange little basket floating among the reeds, and told her slave-girl to go and bring it to her. When the baby was taken out of the basket he began to cry. The Princess was sorry for the baby and took him in her arms and held him him close while she caressed and patted his back to soothe him. “This must be one of the Hebrew babies,” she said as she kissed the baby, “and I am going to save him and adopt him as my own little boy.”

Miriam then quietly approached and said, “Would you like me go get a Hebrew woman to care for your baby?”

The Princess looked at Miriam with a gentle smile, “Well hello little girl,” she said and with kindness in her eyes she added, “Indeed, I will need help to care for this baby.”

“I can get her right away,” Miriam blurted out.

“That would be just fine,” the Princess said.

So Miriam ran off and got her Mom. Soon after they both stood panting before the Princess who was now holding their precious baby.

The Princess looked at the woman and noticed the sweet and anxious face of the real Mom, so she gently put the baby in her arms. “Take care of him for me,” she said, “and I will pay you for your work.

The family no longer needed to worry about saving their little boy because now he was a Prince, the son of a Princess who named him “Moses.”

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He grew up in the palace and after many years had passed he helped his people to escape from Egypt so that they could go back to their own land of Canaan—the land God had promised to them.

 

2-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting Children in the Bible

Part 2: Joseph

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A young boy named Joseph, who lived in Canaan, was next to the youngest son of a man called Jacob who owned many sheep and goats. He had a younger brother called Benjamin and ten older brothers who took care of their Dad’s animals by protecting them from harm and by leading them to green pastures. They also grew gardens with wheat and other plants and vegetables that helped his family to have plenty of good food to eat.

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One day, Joseph’s father gave him a very special coat that had many colors in it. This made his brothers jealous because they could tell that their father liked Joseph more than them.  So they made fun of him and treated him unkindly.

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One night Joseph had a strange dream when he saw his brothers and himself picking up big sheaves or bunches of wheat from a field that they tied up and left in the sun to dry. They did this so that the tiny kernels of wheat could dry and fall on the ground so that they could be picked up and be used to make bread. Joseph dreamed that his brother’s sheaves had bowed down to his. When he told his brothers about this dream they became even more furious. Who does the little rascal think he is?” one of them asked while another threw up his hands and spat on the ground.

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Then Joseph dreamed again. This time he saw the moon and eleven stars bowing down to one star. How strange! he thought. When he told his brothers  about this dream they knew what the dream meant. They, of course, were the eleven stars that were bowing down to him. They would have liked to punch him in the nose, but they didn’t dare. Instead they began to talk behind his back and to make fun of him.

005 Jacob sends Joseph find brothersIt happened that the brothers had to move further and further away from where their tent-home was because the animals had eaten up all the good grass there. When they were gone some time their father Jacob began to worry about them and wondered if they were all right. When more days passed and no news came he decided he just had to do something because they would surely be needing food. So he called Joseph and told him to go look for his brothers and make sure they were well. He also gave Joseph lots of good  food to take along that his servants had prepared.

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So Joseph obeyed and after walking a long time he finally saw them  way off in the distance. Though he was hot and thirsty he ran to them as quickly as he could, but when he got closer he could tell  that something was very wrong. One was  saying in a mean voice, “Here comes the dreamer.” Another said, “What are we going to do with him?” A third said, “Let’s teach him a lesson.”  Now he began to be afraid, but he  had to give them the food he had brought, so he came to them, Then suddenly a bunch of them grabbed him and tore off his coat. Then they picked him up and threw him into a pit.

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Joseph got hurt from the fall, but he tried to be brave and not cry. It was dark and smelly in the pit and he was desperately afraid.  He scrammed and begged them to get him out but they just laughed and it sounded like they were getting ready to feast on the food he’d  brought. Meanwhile they talked and Joseph could hear one of them saying, “‘Let’s just kill him and be rid of him.” Another said, “No, it will make Father sad.”

About then the brothers  saw a caravan or a group of merchants who were ricing on camels. This gave them an idea. They knew that traders often sold people at the markets in Egypt, so they decided to sell him as a slave. They pulled Joseph up from the pit and tied him up like an animal. Then they tried to clean him up and make him look good. When the merchants came close they acted friendly by chatting with them for a while and them and one of them pointed to Joseph and said, “How much would you pay for the young fellow?  The traders looked carefully at Joseph who was now so scared that he was crying. But the brothers paid no attention.

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The traders looked at Joseph and then whispered together. One of them who was a father of a little boy said, “A sharp little fellow he is, but he’s so distressed, couldn’t we just go on?”

But another answered, “No, he’ll bring us lots of money. Let’s offer a good price for him.” To this most of the others agreed. So a bargain was made  Then they grabbed poor Joseph and drug him along, put him on a camel, and off they went.

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“Now what are we going to tell our father?” the brothers asked one another. They all looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders. Finally  one said, “Let’s  take one of our old goats and kill it and dip Joseph’s coat into it’s blood. Then we’ll tell father that surely a wild beast killed him.” The others agreed it was a good idea. So they did the ugly deed.

Later when they returned to their father and showed him Joseph’s coat that was now torn and bloody, and when the father saw it he thought exactly what they wanted him to think. He took the coat and held it to himself. His heart hurt so bad he just wanted to pull his hair out and scream, “No, no, no,” he said. “This just can’t be true. My dear son Joseph. I can’t believe this. How can I live without you?   Over and over he said things like that as he wept.

The brothers thought no one had seen what they’d done, but God sees everything. He knows everything about us.  He hears what we say and even knows what we think.

From then on father Jacob cried day after day and night after night. He also blamed himself for letting his precious Joesph go away all by himself. His brothers were old enough and strong enough to protect themselves, but Joseph was still a young fellow all by himself.

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Meanwhile Joseph got to Egypt where he was sold at a market, first to Potiphar, a rich man who liked him, but whose wife told lies about him. So he was put in dismal prison. He was sad but he knew that God had protected him and helped him before, so he kept praying for help to do what is right no matter what. In all this hard time God helped him one day at a time. The jailer saw that he was different from the other prisoners and was kind to him and made him his helper. Still many days he was sad and lonely for his father, and he grieved for his mother who had already died when his younger brother was born. It hurt too to know that his brothers would be so unkind to him. It wasn’t easy, but each day he thought upon the things his father had taught him about God, and that comforted him.

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After a while the great Pharaoh, who was like a king, had some dreams and it happened that he was able to tell the Pharaoh what his dreams meant, and what God wanted him to do. He was to store up lots of grain from wheat and other plants because after seven years there would be seven years with no rain and no fresh food for all the land.

012 Ruler in Egypt

The King was pleased with Joseph and made him a very important ruler in his kingdom. He was put in charge of making plans to store up food for the years when food would be hard to find.

One day Joseph’s family back home ran out of grain to make food because their fields didn’t get enough water. Their father heard that there was grain in Egypt so he sent his sons, except for the youngest Benjamin, to buy some there. Since Joseph was in charge of the food and grain they had to bow down to him and make their request. They didn’t recognize Joseph at first because he’d  grown up and was dressed like an important Egyptian ruler,  but Joseph recognized his brothers as soon as he saw them.

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At first he didn’t  tell them who he was but when his brothers—including Benjamin— returned another time he told them all how God had helped him to become a great ruler in Egypt. His brothers were sorry for what they’d done to him, and Joseph forgave them.

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Later he was able to help his family come to Egypt where they could live a long time, and where their family would grow to become an important nation. Joseph’s life shows us how God takes care of each one of us, even when bad things happen and we don’t understand why. He also wants us to be forgiving and kind when we could take revenge or be mean to those who have treated us unkindly.

Photos curtesy of: Free Bible images.org The Word in Pictures

Christmas Wishes

 To our dear ones—far and near,

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people”—Titus 2:11 ESV

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The Mahars are celebrating Christmas 2014 in a different way than usual. Instead of Christmas garlands on our front porch, and a Christmas tree in the window, we’ve reduced our decorating to a lighted manger scene on the front lawn. Initially this was not in our plans, but since Frank developed a health problem in July, which led to hospitalization that has culminated in last week’s surgery, he must presently avoid certain activities. Consequently, we’ve decided to celebrate Christmas simply, while placing our entire focus on the incarnation of our Savior that took place 2014 years ago. The words of an old hymn we’ve sung since childhood still ring clearly in our hearts this year, so we thought to let it accompany our Christmas wishes to you.

Refrain : Tell me the story of Jesus,

Write on my heart every word.

Tell me the story most precious,

Sweetest that ever was heard.

Tell how the angels in chorus,

Sang as they welcomed His birth.

“Glory to God in the highest!

Peace and good tidings to earth.”

Refrain

Fasting alone in the desert,

Tell of the days that are past.

How for our sins He was tempted,

Yet was triumphant at last.

Tell of the years of His labor,

Tell of the sorrow He bore.

He was despised and afflicted,

Homeless, rejected and poor.

Refrain

Tell of the cross where they nailed Him,

Writhing in anguish and pain.

Tell of the grave where they laid Him,

Tell how He liveth again.

Love in that story so tender,

Clearer than ever I see.

Stay, let me weep while you whisper,

Love paid the ransom for me.

 May your Christmas be bright and meaningful however you choose to celebrate it, and we pray you’ll be showered with blessings in the coming year.

Frank and Joanne Mahar

 P.S. For those who are wondering, Joanne’s book, Andreas of Alexandria, (book 2 in the ancient trilogy) is still in the making. Set as it is in the intertestamental period when God was preparing the World for Messiah’s coming, it has enhanced our understanding of the above. We look forward to sharing it with you.

1-The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting Children in the Bible

Part 1: Isaac

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A very long time ago there was a man who loved and obeyed God. His name was Abraham and his wife’s name was Sarah. Both were waiting for the child God had promised to them. Days had passed, then weeks, months and years… but no baby had come.

Again, God promised Abraham that he and Sarah would surely have a child and that his family would grow to become as many as the stars in the sky. Still they waited and waited.

Why did God make him wait so long? It was to see if Abraham truly believed that God would keep His promise, no matter what.

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They waited some more until they were very old, and then the promised baby came. With wonder and joy they named their little son Isaac. How happy they both were to hold him in their arms at last. Like parents today they got all excited when Isaac cooed and giggled, or when he got his first tooth, or took his first step. Each day they thanked God for their precious little son. When Isaac grew bigger and stronger he was eager to be with his Daddy and to help him in the fields or in taking care of their sheep and other animals. Each day the parents told Isaac about God who had been so good to them.

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One day, however, God asked Abraham to do something very, very hard. “I want you to sacrifice your son Isaac on an altar for me,” He said.

Abraham became very sad and distressed. He hurt so much that he just wanted to cry. Why he thought. How can I do such a thing? But as he thought some more, he knew he had to obey God no matter what, yes, even when he couldn’t understand why.

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So the very next morning Abraham prepared the wood they would need and he, Isaac and some helpers started to climb the mountain called Moriah.

As they were nearing the top, Abraham asked the servants to wait while he and Isaac went the rest of the way by themselves.

As they walked together Isaac looked up and asked, 010-abraham-isaac

“Father, we have the wood for the sacrifice on the altar, but where is the lamb?”

His Dad answered, “God will provide the lamb, my son.”

011-abraham-isaacUpon arriving at the place God had designated for the sacrifice Isaac helped his Dad to build the altar, and to lay the wood in place.

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Then Abraham took his son in his arms and laid him on the altar. With an aching heart he said, “My son,”you are the lamb. God has asked me to offer you as a sacrifice and I must obey. Abraham tied his son and lifted his knife. At that very instant the Angel of the Lord called out and said, “Abraham, Abraham. “Don’t hurt your son. I’m pleased because now I know that you really do trust and obey me.”

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Abraham looked around and saw a ram caught in a thorn bush. With a big sigh of relief he untied his son and soon they were in each other’s arms.

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Together they thanked God for providing the ram that was then sacrificed instead of Isaac. When this happened they may not have understood completely that God was preparing another amazing replacement sacrifice.

This time it would not be for Isaac but for each one of us. Why? Because we have offended God by our sin. What is sin? It’s, for example, every time we disobey God or our parents, hurt someone, steal, tell a lie or become jealous. In Isaac’s time sacrifices were made for sin. Now we don’t have to do that because meanwhile God gave his very own Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He was our replacement lamb.

What do we have to do? We need only to admit that we’re guilty and sorry for our sins. God then washes them all away. That’s when we realize that we truly belong to him. We then want more than anything to know all we can about Him, to obey Him and make Him happy by doing what pleases Him.

 

The Walls of Matende Church Rise…

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.—John Newton

A Series of reports on the Summer 2014 CongoTrip

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The following is a series of reports from my brother, Clement (Bud) Kroeker, regarding his efforts in Congo this summer of 2014, when he was accompanied by two assistants: David Torrini from Belgium and Nelson Kayamba, a Congolese, presently living in Germany.

Congo Trip N° 1

We arrived here in Kinshasa safely last night after a very comfortable flight on Brussels airlines. We praise God that all seven suitcases came through in good condition—including David’s guitar. We were thankful, when checking them in for departure in Brussels, that we were allowed a little extra weight and one free piece of luggage for humanitarian purposes.

 Initiation to Africa.

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We had told David that he needed an initiation into Africa on his first trip, and we didn’t have to wait long. Leaving the Kinshasa airport around 11 p.m.,  our driver was racing into the city when all of a sudden we heard a loud BOOM. Blowout on a tire! David quickly got out of the van to try to help jack up the flat tire, something so characteristic of him but not the thing to do in the city as it draws the attention of young people out on the streets, who are looking for trouble. Alas, the jack broke, and after trying several other things, our driver decided to abandon the vehicle. Another van finally came to pick us up and drive us to the St. Clement Center where we had reserved lodging. We found it, however, already dark and closed down for the night but managed to awaken someone who in turn found an individual who could check us into our rooms. So David got his initiation! Today we are out doing errands in the city. We so appreciate your prayers for safety and that we’ll be able to find the materials we will be needing.

Congo Trip N° 2 – July 11, 2014

Thursday night we finally arrived at Matende! Passing through Kikwit on our way, we stopped for dinner at the home of Nelson Kayamba’s sister. She is a very active Christian and mayor of Kinshasa for that section of the city. We enjoyed the meal after two days of travel with only bananas and other fruit available. There was a wonderful welcome at Matende when we arrived at 7 p.m. even though it was already dark. The children were singing and laughing along the road as the truck pulled in. We were very touched. Our stay in Kinshasa took longer than we had expected, but… we were happy for:

Friends we were able to talk with

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Dan Gring’s sister and husband who helped us find addresses for stores and places we needed to find and Osée, our truck driver from last year (who is a pastor with their mission), and Nelson’s family. How special it was for him to spend the five days with his mother. She then took a bus to Kikwit to meet us and be able to ride in the truck the last 50 miles to Matende, her home town where all her children grew up. David Dehan, the Belgian fellow who is an agricultural missionary, came to Kinshasa to meet with us and exchange news, ideas and information. It was good for David Torrini, my Belgian co-worker to have this visit right at the beginning of our trip.

The truck was waiting for us

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Saturday morning Osée and Nelson drove the truck to the Hostel where David and I were lodging in Kinshasa. Nelson decided to apply for a Congolese driver’s license, since he’s from Germany where he is a truck driver. So we knew there would be lots of errands on Monday. Passing inspection, paying Insurance, tax, getting the right documents…

We were able to find stores that sold the materials we needed

We needed to find paint, a special product for lining the inside of the cistern, boards less expensive than in Kikwit, and even pieces of corrugated tin for the rain gutters we hope to build at Matende. David saw men making them along the side of the road as we passed through the city Saturday. So we stopped and ordered some that we’ll pick up Monday.

Opportunity of immersion into the local culture

Saturday afternoon Eric Kumedisa invited us to his daughter’s wedding supper, and this was a wonderful occasion to see first hand the way another culture dresses, eats, talks, sings, preaches and celebrates a very special occasion. David fit in very well, and is totally at ease talking with people and making friends. His smile is contagious in any language, but since everyone spoke French with him, there were no linguistic barriers. During our time in Kinshasa the weather was actually cooler than normal, so we were spared a hot night, and though there were mosquitoes, we thankfully had mosquito nets. David has no problem trying new foods or tastes—and doesn’t mind going without a meal!

Finding a place to spend the night

We stopped half way along the road to Kikwit this time, and found a little hotel in a town. The truck doesn’t go much faster than 45 miles an hour, and the 700 kilometers is long when trying to go clear to Kikwit in one day. So this way we could get a rest before the second stretch of the voyage to Matende.

 Provision of needed cash

We found the Congolese Bank (BIAC) in Kinshasa, and they agreed that our Congo Open Heart Bank account had been opened in Paris back in May, and that some money had been transferred, but hadn’t yet arrived. This was disappointing. More time was wasted looking for bank machines that would take the Visa card in order to draw out cash. I think we tried four or five machines and took out a little at each one. This is the first trip that I didn’t bring much money in my pocket. Fortunately some had been transferred to Eric Kumedisa ahead of time for all the truck insurance, papers, lodging, etc. This bank has also opened a branch in Kikwit, so pray that things will work out there.

For the generosity of God’s people

We are so grateful for the gifts that have been coming in for this trip. From the U.S., from Belgian friends, and also four transfers were made to the Congo Open Heart bank account from Germany (in euros)! People who know Nelson wanted to contribute to the expenses of the trip. This is the first time we have seen this.

For God’s protection, provision, strength and wisdom

We are filled with joy and thankfulness to God for his protection along the road. He provides day after day in spite of our weaknesses and failures. Pray with us that He will supply us with the necessary strength and wisdom as we face the challenges ahead. 2 Corinthians 4:1; 6-7 reminds us:   “… since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart… For God, who said, Let light shine out of darkness,  made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Congo Trip N° 3, July 18, 2014

Saturday July 12

A very busy week is coming to a close. Already last Saturday work began on the cistern. David and Nelson worked with a team of twenty young men all day, with wheelbarrows of dirt that were dumped in piles around the foundations of the living quarters and the cistern. It appeared, the way David went about things, as if he was coaching a team of soccer players. In fact, as an incentive, he offered each of the fellows an entrance ticket to watch the final game of the World Cup on TV. (10 cents each) at a local business. The owner of the small TV, Blaise, charges an entry fee to stand inside his bamboo wall.

Sunday July 13

We enjoyed the Church worship service where I was  asked to bring the message. That afternoon we were given a long walk and tour around the agricultural farm and vegetable garden, which is growing nicely, and has more than doubled in size.

Monday July 14

A Trip to Kikwit

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While David stayed to oversee the work going on at Matende, Nelson drove me in the truck to Kikwit for the day to pay a visit to the bank and to buy supplies and materials for the construction work. Of course a load of passengers wanted to crowd into the back of the truck—just as in the days of our parents.  And at the entrance to the city of Kikwit we let them all get off, with their sacks of vegetables or seeds that they hoped to sell. Produce such as peppers are much in demand at the market place. Women selling at the market were crowding up around the truck to try to get the first sack handed down. 2010-03-21 Kinshasa Ngaliema 28 Describing the city of Kikwit is virtually impossible. One just has to feel the experience. It has grown so fast that there is no rhyme or reason to anything. People just set up their stands here and there on the edge of the streets where there’s barely room for vehicles to push their way through, and where youth driving motor scooters used as taxis force themselves through the center with absolutely no regard for rules or regulations. So where do pedestrians walk? In the streets between the cars and motor scooters. A few trucks like ours try  unsuccessfully to create a passage way by honking. Nelson suggested leaving the truck at the Church Missionary Guest House where he worked some 20 years ago. There, to our surprise, we found the road totally blocked by new construction going up. So we had to leave the truck and just continue our way on foot… walking down the middle of the street like everyone else!

The Bank

We managed to find the new Bank building and it was already filled with customers waiting in line. We found the director of the Bank way in the back where two plastic chairs were offered to us.  The money we transferred from Belgium on June 26 still has not arrived. We had to go outside to the new Bank machine in a little protected room to use our Visa card. Fortunately the machine accepted it. We needed over $1000 cash for all the purchases we would be making.

Purchasing necessities and meeting key people

We walk to a store where we can buy twenty sacks of cement; at another 100 sheets of corrugated tin; at another we found hardware. After that Nelson took me back to the Guest House while he went back and loaded up the materials. Most thoughtful of him.  How thankful I was that he could take charge of this business. In the meantime, I could talk with various people, such as a man who was in charge of the Health Centers for Mission Stations. He explained to me the procedures for getting nurses accredited by the state. We exchange phone numbers  and e-mail addresses.

Joyful return to Matende

I get a cell phone message that the truck is coming to get me. I try to go meet it, but it has to come part way up the street anyway. We then try to go around the block, and return to the main road, but a huge hole cuts off the passage, so the truck has to back up a block or two. The people from Matende who ride in the back, are picked up along the side of the road as we leave the city. We’re happy and relieved to be out in the country again, where we can breath fresh air. The last stretch of road is extremely bumpy, but as we arrive at Matende, a crowd of children are outside excitedly running in circle. We are amazed to see what David and the team have accomplished during the day. They’d taken off 96 old rusty strips of corrugated roof from the house where we sleep and eat, so tonight we sleep under the stars.

Five Construction Sites at Matende Going on at Once

1. The Cistern

DSCN3790Work continues on the cistern. Four boys work with David to fill in holes in the walls all the way to the bottom in order prevent any leaking, then clean and paint them.

2. Roof on the Guest House

At the same time, Michel and other carpenters work on the edge of the roof of our living quarters to get it ready for the rain gutters to be installed.  Then a team places the new corrugated tin roofing. The last must be put down by Thursday so that David can begin building the rain gutters.

3. Rain gutters

pastedGraphic_1By 5 p.m. David has finished half of the house. I am amazed at how he works, and can tell that he is a born teacher. I can hear him giving instructions and explaining in detail each thing, while also warning on matters of security. At the end of the day he goes along with the young men clear down to the river to swim and get refreshed after a long hard day in the heat. Fortunately the evenings are cooler and pleasant with a nice breeze.

4. Transporting water and repairing machines which Nelson takes care of.

It is wonderful to see all the activity. And we praise God for His protection and the health we have been given.  Our goal this trip was to be able to furnish water for Matende, to install adequate sanitation along with teaching the rules of hygiene, and especially to share God’s Word and express his love in action. Thank you for backing us with your prayers and thank you for your gifts which made the trip possible.

5. THE CHURCH

This big project we got involved in was not in our planning, but… (See photos below). The Church building, ruined in the 1960’s rebellion, was never rebuilt. A bamboo shack served up until two years ago when it fell into ruins. The Pastor decided to hold services in a building connected to the Health Center, a long room which was sitting empty. Well, one of the walls was ready to collapse, and the only remedy was to tear it down and build a new wall. So, while Nelson and David were here at Matende to give advice and show the men how to do their jobs, work was begun. Now the wall has been taken down and cleared away, block by block. Even. I was amazed to find a small iron rod inside the wall which had kept it from caving in all these years. A group of 12 boys who are apprentices in masonry are busy separating the blocks from each other, and breaking up the broken ones to make gravel. On Wednesday they began making new cement blocks for building the new wall. This building is quite a distance away from the other buildings, so I get tired out walking down there in the heat of the day. Too bad there isn’t a bicycle available, like the one that I used as a boy riding around these hills.

 Congo Trip N° 4 July 23, 2014

Greetings from Matende (and Kikwit, where I have to send this E-mail) !

Friday July 18

Matende Women

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The women of Matende gathered for a meeting this morning. Mrs. Kayamba, Nelson’s mother who came from Kinshasa, was the speaker. The fifteen women listened attentively. The women invited Erik and me to come join the group towards the end of the meeting. He talked about health problems and the importance of eating the healthy foods. I explained that change is hard, but comes gradually as we make the effort.

Last touch on the cistern:

Putting cement on the inside wall  of the cistern is now finished. Left over cement was spread on the top of the cistern to make it smooth.

Building blocks amid problems that only prayer can solve

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Production continues. The masons have already made 130 new cement blocks and in all we will need 400. Unfortunately the little iron bar in the mill broke. Nelson, our fix-it man found a sodering iron we had brought last summer in the truck container. At first he had no rods, but finally found two so that he could do the work. Later he had problems with getting enough current from the generator. Little problems here, where there are no stores, require thinking, trying to figure out a way to use what you have, and praying to solve each as it rises.

The guest house:

DSCN3398We began work on the south side of the roof, putting on new sheets of corrugated tin. David and his team continued working on the rain gutters in front, and the work is going well. I had to take time to un-block the toilet for the second time. This happens when more than a small piece of toilet paper is used.

 School building:

We spent time today visiting the school buildings, or what is left of them. Both the primary and secondary schools are just huts constructed inside the once standing walls of concrete. A big problem is that asbestos is still found in parts of the ceiling of the structure that is barely holding together. This is dangerous, especially since the folks at Matende don’t realize the health hazards when the pieces of asbestos fall, and this has been going on some twenty years now. So we suggested they build a scaffolding, since the ceiling is very high. It’s also very important that they get gloves and masks and bring down a piece at a time without letting it break into pieces. After a thorough examination of the school buildings, we encouraging the directors to see that the drains are cleaned out so that rain water can pass through. A very large cistern next to the school is filled with the branches of trees that grow all around it. The children, themselves have started to cut the branches. It seems that it is the kids who take care of all the maintenance around the school.

Saturday, 19 July

Working hard and in good spirits though attacked by critters: five foot snake, insects, bees and bats

We all worked a half day. Everyone is tired, but in very good spirits. Another mould for making cement blocks is broken, but Nelson got it fixed and soddered. The electrical currant coming from the generator is better this morning. We need to try to buy a new mould when we go to Kikwit the next time. David and I spent time discussing the best way to get the water from the rain gutters down into the cistern… Need to find some other pipes in Kikwit. Insects and other living creatures don’t bother us too much. I explained to David that if we leave them alone, they usually leave us alone. One man, however,  killed a long four or five foot snake down by the river where people wash and swim. There is a sort of bumble bee—a  longer type than mod that bores its hole into cliffs of earth. The wall of our kitchen, built of red earth-like clay is perfect for them and they go in and out of their little holes which look as if they’d been drilled just for them. Even when they occasionally fly over our heads while we eat, it doesn’t bother us. But yesterday when the men were working up on the roof, they bothered a nest of  large-sized bees; and got attacked as if by fighter planes. They managed to strike down the bees in the air with their hands or hit them on the ground with hammers. On the other hand, we’ve had a  problem with bats! They lodge inside the roofs and here again bothered the construction. We would like to be able to keep them away permanently, not so much because of their noise but because of what they drop on the floor. If anyone knows of a good strategy, please advise us as to how to get rid of them!

Sunday, July 20

Church service this morning begins at 9:30 with singing for about a half hour. The building where we took down the wall was very dark inside last week, but today, with only two rows of new cement blocks, it’s full of light. The « bay window » is lovely, overlooking a superb view of the countryside with not one single house in sight. Around the church we see blocks of cement drying in the sun, along with piles of gravel, and pieces of construction debris. David sings two songs while playing his guitar. The folks—who have no instruments—love this and listen attentively. He introduced the songs with a meditation from the Bible.  Some of the hymns they sing are old ones translated by our parents, sung without music or printed words, though somewhat changed to their local style over the years. I didn’t even recognize one that they were singing in Kikongo until the pastor shared his old hymn book with me and I saw written at the end of the song  “How Great Thou art.” Students from the Bible School in Kikwit were here to preside the Church service, and one student who finished his studies last year is now serving as Assistant Pastor. Israel Kibombi, the regular pastor, gave the announcements and led the prayer time. After the service we all lined up outside where little children and adults stretch out their hands enthusiastically. How precious it is to be united without distinction of race or age. Psalm 117: « Praise the Lord, all you nations; Extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, And the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. »

Congo Trip N° 5 – August 2, 2014

Since my last letter, the work continues at Matende. I made another trip to Kikwit to meet with Church leaders, and then this week David accompanied me on the trip to visit two other missions.

Wednesday, July 23 

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Back from Kikwit with boards and screws and also with memories of good discussion with church leaders including Dr Benza, the head of Mennonite Church at Kikwit. On the trip back it took us one hour to drive the last seven miles to Matende because of holes. We had two bananas for lunch. Cold soup in evening but also with a big bowl of rice and crispy Congo cane sugar with big slices of pineapple!

Friday, July 25

Worked on grinder today, Drain pipes finished tomorrow.

Saturday, July 26

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Normally we stop work at noon on Saturdays. But the men doing the building and roof work wanted to keep going until after 3 p.m. All of the rain troughs are finished and connected to the rain pipes. The wall going up in the Church is clear up past the windows. At noon we fed 40 men their lunch. Yesterday I tried to get the grinder functioning properly. The machine is the one we ordered from the U.S., and brought with us in our suitcase so that the women could grind their manioc four more easily than with pounding with sticks. Alas it proved to be slow and more trouble than what it was worth.  We’ll have to keep trying.

Sunday, July 27

Sunday evening, we find ourselves sitting out on side of the guest house in a breeze as it’s rather hot this afternoon. I preached in church this morning. This afternoon we again tried the grinder and found it extremely slow. Fufu needs to have very fine flour because they swallow it without chewing, but when we set the grinder on fine, it’s too  hard to crank. It can, however, be used for other things such as corn or peanuts and in various ways in the guest house. I tell my wife Char (Charlotte) that the women need to learn how to make corn bread. We eat her granola every morning for breakfast with the powdered milk we brought in our suitcase. There are no bakeries or ovens out here. As for David, he’s dreaming of a nice hot pizza or good old bread and butter.

Monday, July 28

A blistering hot day that continued through the evening, though much got accomplished. We can hope to finish tomorrow.  Nelson hauled more water, sand, stones. David connected the drain pipes. We will leave Wednesday for Iwungu-Nsamba—another mission station not far from here that Dad opened.

Tuesday, July 29

The end of a long day, and the end of the work on the house here with its new roof. The cistern is all cemented up and painted inside with a nice coat of epoxy. The rain gutters around the house are finished and pipes are connected to the cistern to capture rain water;

Best of all

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The new wall of cement blocks in the Church is completed We gave out 34 French Bibles to all the workers and men who are in charge at Matende.

Wednesday, July 30

Today we made the trip to the Mission Iwungu Nzamba, leaving Matende at 10 a.m. and arriving at 3 p.m. The roads are very bad. The buildings of the Mission are in poor condition, and there’s no electricity or running water. But we were given a wonderful reception, and we are happy to be here for the night.

Thursday, July 31

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Just finished the meeting at Iwungu. David has gone down to where there is the spring where the folks get their water.

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Iwungu Needs to be rebuilt.

When they get back we’ll leave for Idiofa, at 1 p.m. We arrive around 6:20 p.m. Only  30 kilometers but five hours of driving on bumpy roads, which are very tiring. There is no electricity or running water, no connection to internet all this week. I had hoped to be able to send some photos this week but it will have to wait until we return to Kinshasa next week. We stay here tonight. Thank you for your prayers. We know that God is at work and we praise Him for his strength each day and protection along the roads. I Timothy 2:1, 3 and 4: « I urge then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone… This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. »

Congo Trip N° 6 – August 6, 2014

Wednesday, August 6

Here we are in Kinshasa after two days of driving. The computer works here. All the emails since July 20 have stacked up. Finally I can send a few photos and write a few lines.  Sure is easier to type on the computer instead of the cell phone, especially in a bouncing truck. I was afraid the computer would not work because the battery was dead and the computer very hot.

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We are anxiously waiting for our dinner to arrive because we were too late to order here at the center. Nelson likes his cup of coffee in the morning so we stopped at a village market where a lady boiled some weak coffee for us and someone went tried to find some powdered milk and sugar. The only milk they sell here is in little packages enough for one cup of coffee like Nescafé.  Otherwise we haven’t had a meal for two days!

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Well, David is grateful for the experience this trip has provided and says he will never be the same. He is happy he could have a decent shower for once, though in fact, the shower doesn’t work and water in the bucket for that use is cold. This place is nice though, in that it is very clean and quiet.

Driving down from Kikwit we tried to contact David Dehan by cell phone without success, so we asked around if any knew how to find the farm where he lives and works, but no one knew. So we finally just came on into Kinshasa. There are other people we hope to meet tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, August 7

This day in Kinshasa is coming to an end. We had a hard time finding World Vision because they have moved and Marie-Claire Zaina, whom we were told to contact, was not there. We managed, however to set up a rendezvous with her at 9 AM tomorrow. From there we’ll head straight to the check in at Brussels Airlines still called SABENA by everyone here.

We were able to find UNICEF where we were well-received by Anne Cécile Vialle and another man who were both friendly. They have the programs, “Villages Assainis and Ecoles Assainies” with an office also in Kikwit. This may be a good contact for the future since they are actively promoting health education and prevention in the villages.

This morning I had a good talk with Nzusi Mukawa of ESCCHE (Community Health Evangelism) who also teaches at the School for Missionary Training. He seems to be a very fine man. Hope we can begin to work together in the days to come. So we will pack and be ready to leave here at 8 tomorrow morning, breakfast at 7:30. Erik will come by at 7 and we will meet Nelson in town. Tomorrow afternoon we head out to the airport and get our flight back to Belgium. Will be good to be home. Thanks for your prayers and gifts which helped make this trip possible.

Congo Trip N° 7  – August 15, 2014

Safely back in Belgium. These words describe our present situation, though empty of all sense of what we’ve experienced.  What  joy it is to be reunited with a loving wife, family and friends, to take a nice warm shower, fall asleep on the couch… though overshadowed by an enormous task to analyze, remember and evaluate what took place during 36 days in another world.

Now that normal Internet is available,  I can finally show you a few of the 1500 pictures that were taken, but which ones?  One feels that no words or pictures can adequately portray the feelings involved.

First, thank you for your prayers, help and concern. We experienced God’s protection, keeping and provision. Charlotte translated my hurried messages, reading between the lines and decyiphering misspelled words, often written from a bouncing truck or interrupted by intermittent air waves.

Life is different when nothing is certain and everything is late.

The pastor and friends at Matende, along with David, Nelson felt adequate in expressing thanks to God for what has taken place on that 400-mile trip ahead. We trust that our time spent there has contributed to making life on the mission station run more smoothly and comfortably. What has been accomplished hardly fits a neat list, and how does one report on the many hours of discussions and explanations needed for every step. In spite of all and besides the wall of the church building, a new roof on the visitor’s building along with the placement of large rain gutters all around connecting with four pipes to the rain water cistern that was completely cleaned, refurbished and painted, we can finally say that the goal of bringing water to Matende had been reached. We were only sorry that  we had to leave before the first heavy rainfall which will test all the connections. We pray that no adjustments will be needed and that when the cistern is full they will have about 13,000 gallons of water on reserve and no more rain water washing away the foundations.

A big step ahead at Matende has been realized through the teams of local carpenters and masons, apprentices, who got training and practical experience that permitted them to do most of the work themselves.  A supply of boards, sacks of cement and extra concrete blocks have been left for them to work with as well as sufficient paint to cover many inside and outside walls, a job we didn’t get to. Nor was there time to think about new tin for the church roof.

Our departure from Matende began August 5 at 9 am. The truck was loaded with 20 sacks of grain and 40 people in the back. David Torrini sat back there with them. With us up front we had a mother with a two-year old covered with skin sores. We were happy to give her a ride along with some cash to help with expenses at the hospital in Kikwit. We will try to get information of what followed.

The passengers got off with their sacks in Kikwit. I stopped at the bank where the cash machine was a great help. It was located in front of the bank and was guarded by a solder armed with a rifle and managed by a man who gave directions.  It so happened that this particular man was an enthusiastic friend and pastor of a church in Kikwit who had received training at Matende. He proceeded to tell everyone that came by about the history and ministry of the missionaries. He asked me to wait about a half hour because they had to fill the machine with cash from inside the bank. I sat in a plastic chair beside the soldier while waiting.

We inched our way across country on the two land highway N1, just two narrow lanes, is inching its way across the country. Going to Matende from Kinshasa Nelson drove the truck with no problem, though on the stretch of ten miles before Matende there were deep holes in the pavement that had to be avoided.  It appears that the Chinese construction workers had run out of tar at that point, so it now has big problems.

Leaving Kikwit just before noon, we were able to reach the town of Kenge—about two thirds of the trip—by night. We arrived at 8 pm, very late for Congo as the sun sets at 6. We had previously informed a pastor regarding our plans, but he had forgotten, so he sent some of the church members to lead us to a little hotel in that town. Nelson Kayamba and three men slept under the tarp next to the truck while David and I each had a hotel room, very rudimentary, with just a bed to sleep on covered with a sheet. The toilets were the typical African system, a slab of concrete with a small hole in the middle. The toilet room without light or air was full of cockroaches on all the walls. Thankfully there was some water in the truck that we could wash with.

We paid $10 each for the night and were on our way by 6 am but without breakfast. A little further down the road we reached a small market for passing vehicles where we asked a woman to boil some coffee for us while someone went to find some small packets of milk and sugar. Meanwhile we bought a few “beignets” or doughnuts hot off  the pan, but when we reached the big city of Kinshasa by mid-afternoon we had to wait until nearly 10 p.m. when someone finally brought the promised dinner to us.

So travel in Congo is not like driving down the freeway in the US or Europe. Fortunately there are girls along the sides of the road near the villages carrying bananas on their heads who are happy to sell some for 20 cents each, (200 francs) which at least keeps a stomach from being completely empty.

We will save other information for future letters as this one is sufficient to let you know we have safely reached the Brussels area. As usual we feel as though we left part of ourselves back in Congo. It just isn’t possible for one to make a trip like this without being shaken and changed.

Gratefully yours in Christ, Clement (Bud) Kroeker

An addendum from Bud’s sister Joanne (Kroeker) Mahar

The rebuilding of the Church at Matende has been a source of great concern and subject of many prayers. Now in these days especially I’d been studying the books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther when I learned that the walls of the Matende Church were being rebuilt my heart exploded with joy.

I thought to add a little background to the church as I, as a little girl, was a witness to the founding and growth of the Church there, and later, in the last years of my Dad’s life was interviewing my parents while also consulting Mom’s diaries in preparation for writing the two-volume set of Shiny Shoes on Dusty Paths. The story of the founding of Matende and the building of the Church from a mud and bamboo building that grew to become a “Chepelle-Ecole” or combination church and school to where a  larger, more permanent church built and dedicated just before our family left Matende.

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Village evangelism blended with negotiations with the chief of the Matende area for the establishing of a mission.

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 The  humble bamboo and mud Church

How we children loved to hear the Congolese sing with enthusiasm,” Yesu Zola Mono” (Jesus loves me). The concept of a God of love was so new and precious to them, especially since they feared their pagan gods and evil spirits who always needed to be appeased.

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The  “Chapelle-Ecole” Church-School

Then came the day when the little church got too small and children were needing to be taught. So Mary became the teachers and my older brothers studied along with their playmates.

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A New More Permanent Church

How exciting it was when the new church made of cement bricks was finally finished. The dedication took place on the same day as a baptism.

Days of Persecution

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Then came the horrible rebellion in the 60s and missionaries had to leave. The church was burnt almost to the ground. The remains of the church have been used until recent times.

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Finally the Best News of All—Walls of the Church are Being Built

” I read that news over and over before I could grasp the full impact. With gratitude and praise my husband and I share the joy of seeing our prayers become reality.

I too thank all who have prayed and shared in this project which means so much to me. Matende was my childhood home, the children were my brothers and sisters, and it was at Matende that I was born again into God’s family.

Hallelujah! (Praise to Yahweh the Eternel God.)

Please pray for grace, strength and provision for the completion of the Church.

 

Just THINK

Congo Open Heart News summer 2014

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Carrying water from River

Dear Friends,

Please take a minute to think about the things we do automatically every day:

Open a faucet for water, even hot water.
Flush the toilet.
Lift a glass of water to our lips without concern for the bacteria content. Push a button or a switch for light.
Turn on the TV or connect to Internet.
Buy a loaf of bread without thinking where the flour comes from.

These common activities and many other similar ones depend on two things we take for granted: water and electricity. As soon as our homes are built, they are connected to the networks that very rarely let us down.

WATER

Think about the thousands of people in the world, like our friends in the heart of Africa, who have to walk a mile every day, morning and evening, to go get water to cook and drink and, if a little is left over—to wash with. The women usually carry  five gallons of water on their heads, and the return trip from the river is up a steep hill.

Each time you lift a glass of water to your lips without worrying about the bacteria content, think of the thousands of children with bloated stomachs who are sick from parasites from the water they drink. The statistics tell us that and Nearly two million children in the world die of waterborne diseases each year and  thousands more die from infections each year.

Scientists say that that the Democratic Republic of Congo has 40% of the water of Africa, yet most of the people don’t have it.

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Grinding flour

Before cooking, mothers and girls have to grind the flour, hammering in a morter with what used to be the trunk of a small tree, until they have blisters on their hands.

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Finding and carrying wood

They’ve also had to go down the path to bring back a big bunch of branches and wood on their heads to make fire for cooking.

These problems are just as real in Congo’s big cities where water is polluted and wood very difficult to find. Much of their precious money is spent for charcoal produced where wood is becoming rare. Besides that, they have to cook with the smoke filling their huts and covering towns and villages with a cloud of pollution.

CONGO OPEN HEART is working on these problems as much as finances permit, not only encourage the people to move from the crowded, polluted cities to which they fled during the rebellion, and return to the country where their chances of retaining  good health are far better, and where they can model wholesome Christians living.

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Water cistern

On July 3, three of our members are again leaving Belgium and going to Congo for five weeks of work at Matende. This time especially, water is the priority. A permanent solution would be a well or pump and pipes from the river, both solutions very expensive. Even then, we must catch and conserve the rain water that comes down in great quantities seven or eight months of the year and keep it from eroding the foundations.

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Restoring buildings from this…

At Matende mission the team has recuperated two houses,

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… to this.

but the water cascades down from the corrugated tin roofs, washes away the sandy soil around the foundations and is not saved.

We plan to build wider rain troughs to catch the water and channel it to cisterns. Since the last trip one house has a completely new roof and the other needs all new tin sheets to replace the twisted and rusted ones. The concrete walls of the main big cistern we cleaned out are too porous and it does not hold water. It is necessary to plaster the walls with a material used for swimming pools. This cistern will hold 10,000 gallons.

FLOUR FOR COOKING

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Flour grinder needed

It is not possible to solve all the problems at once, but the women are begging us to get a grinder for flour. A big motor driven grinder is excluded because it would need fuel, maintenance, training and costs to operate. We have been looking for a grinder with a big wheel that they can turn by hand like we used in 1940 that could be purchased from Montgomery Ward then. Nothing similar could be found in Congo or elsewhere. Finally we found a humanitarian organization in the US that makes a hand grinder.

We haven’t seen it yet but are ordering a test model. We need to find an economical way to ship it to Congo so at least one grinder could be available for each of the four missions. We hope to have one here before the trip.

THIS TRIP

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Relieve excessive loads from women.

Tickets are in hand for the three of us to leave in July and return together to Belgium in August: David Torrini, Nelson Kayamba and Bud Kroeker. We were fortunate to get a humanitarian price by ordering in advance. Nelson is a truck driver in Germany and son of the first convert at Matende in 1945.

The budget still needs to be completed without knowing exactly how much material, boards, tin sheets, hardware and paint for the walls are needed. There will be the fuel costs for inland
driving of nearly 2000 miles. Fortunately the MAN army truck is
waiting for us in Kinshasa and missionary friends have purchased two new batteries. The diesel electric generator is on the truck. The budget will be nearly $15,000.

We are very thankful for all who have helped us with the ministry of Congo Open Heart. We need your prayers for strength, good communications with our African friends and meeting many unpredictable situations and expenses.

On this trip we hope to be able to spend a little more time with the two neighboring missions, Iwungu-Nsamba and Mangungu.

We will try to keep you informed of this new adventure in the coming weeks. Thank you for listening to us and helping. When you turn on the water, please pray for Congo.

Clement “Bud” Kroeker, CONGO OPEN HEART

Matende – Some Results

Training center now in use with tools, training through a woodworking class under the mango tree and beginning of computer training, New benches for school.

Agriculture for Health

Healthy food for hungry stomachs.

Healthy food for hungry stomachs.

Furniture for the Training Center

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From sawing log…

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…to table…

 

 

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to usefulness

The Mystery of Childhood

Highlighting CHILDREN IN THE BIBLE

Introduction

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Most of us would agree that we had no control over the circumstances that preceded or led to our birth. We had no choice with regard to our parents, our genes, the location of our birth, our race or our socio economic circumstances. These were determined before we were conceived and without any input of our own. Yet, our first impressions had enormous impact upon our lives.

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The Giver of Life

Were we wanted or were we an accident? Judging by the number of abortions on record, many would fall into the “accident” category. Is that important, or not? Is life cheap? If so, why are there ambulances or emergency wards?

The Bible says that God is the author of life. He made the earth and all that is in it. He gives the breath of life to all mankind. Each life is a gift from Him. We are made after His image, though marred by the consequences of sin. The Prophet Jeremiah stated the following words that he received from God, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer. 1:5); the Psalmist wrote, (Ps. 139:13-14) “… you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” What could be more awesome than life itself. Even the greatest scientists admit that the structure of the human body is meticulously designed, fitted and framed with bones and muscles, along with intricate parts such as eyes, ears, heart, brain, hands and feet, and above all the breath of life in a living soul capable of living forever.

A friend of mine is the result of a failed abortion. Her childhood has been marked by pain and a sense of being unwanted and resented, yet today she’s a medical nurse, a happily married wife, and a Mom with two strong young boys who—in their turn—are living miracles.

The Divine Orchestrator

Each life is known by God from before he or she was even born. God has a precise plan for each life and through His providences, He “works everything for our good.” It may not involve success as the world sees it, in fact God laughs at some of the best-laid schemes of men and women, and their view of success. Even in the secular world, one may rise like a bright star in the night, only to plunge and fade out.

Many of the Bible stories—such as David for example—are about people with below average potential or circumstances, but who achieve great success. Others, with every possible advantage, stumble and fall. Throughout the pages of God’s Word—and human history—we can trace the hand of the Divine Orchestrator of each life. His providences are mysterious and marvelous. Many of these may never be on the list of “the rich and famous,” but far better that that, have their lives recorded in God’s Book of Life.

The Children of the Bible

I hope you’ll enjoy the profiles of the children I have chosen in the Bible who reflect God’s special interest in childhood. They are like “sparrows” in his hand, or special objects of His care as He models them each one for His high purposes. Though the stories are intended for children, they reflect concepts important to all of us.

The biblical record does not give names for all the children mentioned, perhaps to  allow the incidents of their lives to stand out more prominently. The following is the list of children I have chosen to highlight in following posts:

Isaac

Joseph

Moses

Samuel

David

The Widow’s Son

The Captive Maid

Joash

Josiah

Daniel

John the Baptist

Jesus

Miscellaneous Children

A Ruler’s Daughter

Boy Who Shared His Lunch

Timothy