"LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known…"
Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV)
I would like to introduce you to two people who dared to ask the Lord to let them see these words of Habakkuk fulfilled in their own lives. Dr. Laban Smith was a successful oral surgeon living a life that our culture tells us is where true wealth lies. The problem was that despite the success, Laban was headed toward a Christ-less eternity.
After losing his wife to a brain tumor, he stumbled into a small chapel and came face-to-face with Jesus Christ. Having never heard the gospel before, Laban immediately knew that Jesus was who had been looking for. He surrendered his life to Him. The Lord soon brought Marcella Knopp into his life and the two were married. Three years into their marriage, Laban came to Marcella with the crazy idea that the Lord was asking them to sell the two dental practices and become missionaries to the Belgian Congo.
Marcella had her own ideas about serving the Lord, and I can assure you that living smack dab in the middle of the dark continent of Africa was not one of them. She reluctantly typed out a letter, requesting acceptance of a mission board and, five months later, she and Laban boarded the Jean Jadot oceanliner for a country they knew nothing about.
Marcella could not have known then what that decision would cost her personally. The Lord sent them among a people who were sacrificing their own children to try to find atonement for their sins, a people who lived continually under the fear and power of demonic forces. God allowed Laban and Marcella to witness His saving power to 10,000 Congolese who gave their fear to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and were totally transformed in a period of five years.
Marcella Smith buried her husband in the African soil at the height of their ministry together. Ultimately, after burying two of her three children, she laid her own life down in her adopted country of Congo.
In 1978, my parents left the United States to pick up where my grandparents, Laban and Marcella, had left off. I am thrilled to testify that the God who showed Himself to be so powerful in the lives of my father’s parents, is the same God who continues His awesome deeds in the Congo today.
Congo Vignettes is a collection of stories spanning seventy years, devotional in nature, which recounts the faithfulness of God to three generations of one family, including stories from my grandparents’, parents’, and siblings’ lives. My hope in writing down these stories, some stranger than fiction, is to bring hope to two continents. I have a people in Congo ever before me who continue Habakkuk’s cry to the Lord to show them His awesome deeds. They are desperate for Him and know it. I also have my own people from my native land that are desperate for Him and don’t know it. I am praying that Congo Vignettes will encourage its readers to dare to pray like my grandparents did so that we, too, can stand in awe of our powerful God, the famous One.
Congo Vignettes will be released nationwide tomorrow, July 22, 2008, by Word Books. You can obtain a copy at your local Christian bookstore, or you may order a copy through them if the book is not on the shelf. You can also order the book through my website, esengoministries.com, by clicking on the book link and following the instructions.
"But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts." Psalm 103:17-18 (NIV)