"So it is with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name."
John 16:22-23 (NIV)
One year after our arrival in the Congo in 1978, my parents started the first of three Bible colleges on our mission station of Nkara-Ewa. With the firm belief that the best possible help they could give the Congolese would be found in the individual's knowledge of the Word of God, Laban Bible Institute (named in honor of my father's father) was founded in a one-room mud block building. Seven eager Congolese men who had felt the Holy Spirit's call to learn the Scriptures in depth were the students that day in 1979. Through tremendous personal sacrifices, they stayed the three-year course of classes that would compete with any theological college curriculum in the United States, including Systematic Theology, hermenuetics (Biblical interpretation), Old and New Testament Survey, and in depth studies on Biblical texts in both the Old and New Testament.
My father wanted to do far more than just give these courageous men Scriptural knowledge. Believing that the men should ultimately be trained to disciple others in Christ, the men would go to villages surrounding our mission station to experience the practical side of what they were learning in the classroom. There is a tremendous hunger in Congo for the gospel, and right now, the door is wide open for evangelism.
A few months into their second year of school, my father took these seven men up on East hill, the hill that overlooks the lake where he had played as a young boy. The Bible school had really been the vision of Laban, my grandfather, who had not lived to see a formal school take shape during his years of ministry on that same station. The Bible school, as humble as its beginnings were, was now a reality. The same One who had given Laban the vision for a Bible school thirty years before, had given Laban's son the vision for a radio station to spread the gospel where these seven students could not go.
After walking forty-five minutes to the particular spot on East hill that the Lord had shown him, my father went down on his knees. The men followed his example. I have often imagined the scene that day from heaven's vantage point. Having looked down on that very hill from the MAF planes that would fly us in and out of the station, I know that my human eyes would hardly be able to make out the small group of men. I'm afraid they would get lost in the landscape. I imagine heaven is much farther away than the several thousand feet I have been above the ground.
That day my father and seven men asked the impossible of the King of heaven. They asked for the ability to reach every home in the Bandundu province (the size of the state of Texas) with the gospel. Eight men. Terrible roads. 420 miles away from a port. No village airstrip to land on even if an airplane could land there. And millions of Congolese who had never heard the good news that Jesus could be their hope out of their lives of despair. What is impossible with man is possible with God. I believe that that group's prayer, prayed according to the will of the One who could grant that request, thundered heaven that day.
The men walked down the hill. Nothing from heaven had been given as a sign, except the belief in the promises of a God who cannot lie. There was a calmness and a peace that the King had heard. It was now time to wait on Him with hope.
The Bible school continued to flourish. More and more students started to come from all over the province. Some walked 250 miles one way with the all-consuming hunger to know Jesus Christ so that their villages could be changed by the gospel. Families were required to sacrifice dearly as daddies and husbands left wives and children to acquire riches that could never be taken away from them. And always, heaven was petitioned humbly on their knees through countless all-night wrestlings with God in prayer that the vision of East hill become a reality.
In 1997, seventeen years into the faith of these godly students, Jack and Nita Westerbeek stood on East hill. Jack, a successful businessman, became part of the answer to the vision. As he raised his hands to heaven, he committed to giving monies to enable a radio station and tower to stand on that hill.
In 2004, the fulfillment of the vision stood in the form of a three hundred foot radio tower and small radio station. The tower has a small red beacon whose light continually blinks on and off. And with every blink, the King of heaven whose power and might allowed its structure to be there, deserves thunderous praise.
The story of all the obstacles that had to be overcome to get that 300 foot tower safely to Nkara-Ewa is in the book, Congo Vignettes. Ten hours a day, seven days a week, Radio Nkembo (Radio Glory) broadcasts light into the darkness of despair. The Congolese have called the radio their mama because of the comfort that the life-transforming gospel proclaims to them. Music that lifts up the Name of Jesus, Christian family living, Hygiene and Health, and the in depth study of the Word of God are heard by villages where Laban Bible Institute students cannot physically go.
I have been asked if I believe in miracles. Tell me, how can I not? It's just that I want my miracle instantaneously, not twenty-four years after I make my request.
But the King doesn't work according to anyone's time table but His own. He is perfect in all His ways. Did He hear that first day that my father and the students came to Him with the request? Absolutely. I believe His holy ears resounded with the thunder of those quiet prayers made in the most powerful stance imaginable--from their knees. Oh, do we realize what power we have when we come to our heavenly Father in the Name of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a request that lines up according to His will? He can't help Himself but to draw so near. But we have to realize that He has the ultimate and perfect right to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants to with the request.
Is it worth it today to again pray for that situation that seems completely impossible? Is it worth sobbing our hearts out to our Daddy about what does not change: about the wayward child that won't come home, the spouse who does not love us anymore, the womb which continues to be barren, the health issues that make us despair, and the reconciliation that will seem to never come, or the mountain of financial difficulties before us? I hear my Jesus reminding me of God's promise to me:
[OH, I know, I have been rash to talk out plainly this way to God!] I will [in my thinking] stand upon my post of observation and station myself on the tower or fortress, and will watch to see what He will say within me and what answer I will make [as His mouthpiece] to the perplexities of my complaint against Him.
And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day.
Habakkuk 2:1-3 (Amplified Bible)
Jesus, I want heaven to listen! But I must assume the stance of power--I must get on my knees. That is where the battle is fought and won. Not in my false bravery, not in my moments of terror, not in my good deeds. The battle is yours, but the victory is mine when I believe that You are not one minute too late with Your answer. Although I may have to wait, the fulfillment to what I have humbly asked, according to Your will, is going to come at the perfect time. Allow me to thunder heaven on my knees.