In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (John 1:1 NIV) The beginning of time. The beginning of all stories began with a word.
That Word was God and He, the Originator of Communication, found a way to weave Himself into all of our stories; the story of Adam and Eve, the story of Abraham and Isaac, the story of Mary and Joseph, and the story of Mary Lou and John (my parents.) It is all there, written down in God’s masterpiece called History. How fitting that it be called History for it is, after all, His Story.
Until recently, I had only heard bits and pieces of tales from my parents adventures as missionaries to a remote tribe in the Belgian Congo in the 1950’s, but then my sister dug into their story, their 500 pages of handwritten letters they had sent home, and uncovered the golden nugget that has been hidden from view all of these years. She worked hard, placing the communications in chronological order and deciding how best to string parts of them together. Along with interviewing my mother and incorporating some of my mother’s previous attempts at documenting her own life, my sister was able to compile and publish a well documented piece of His Story known as Mwasi Na Monganga- Wife of the Doctor. For me, it wasn’t until reading this book that suddenly the tales took on flesh and were connected into one beautiful, heart wrenching story of what 2 very human people in love could do when they put their all on the altar of sacrifice.
Shame on me . Being born into a missionary’s family, I should have known better, but as a teen, I tended to think of missionaries as nerds- the type of people who wore horn rimmed glasses with tape on the bridges, white, “buttoned up,” collared shirts and reused their tea bags for several days. I was young when my father died and I hadn’t lived in Africa, so I never really knew him. But now, after reading my mother’s memoirs, I know; he was no nerd and if he did ever reuse anything himself, it was so he could have more to give others.
My father loved music and had a collection of records that he brought with him to Congo that included many operas, Tales of Hoffman by Offenbach, being on of them. When I asked my sisters who lived in Africa as small girls if they found that amusing; a missionary family gathered around the crackly phonograph in the evening, listening while the sweeping music of the orchestra and full vibrato of a mezzo-soprano and soprano mixed with the sounds of the jungle. They both replied, “Of course not! It was all we had for entertainment!” Then they both launched into rousing renditions of one song in particular they enjoyed singing as children of missionaries, one of the songs from Tales of Hoffman; “Let’s get drunk!/ Let’s get drunk!/ Let’s hope that the drink / will keep us from thi-ing king!” I, for one, found that hilarious.
Not so hilarious is the story I attach to that song. In my mother’s memoirs, she told of a man, who in a fit of agony and drunkenness, grabbed his machete and ripped his belly from groin to ribs and was found lying in the red dirt by the side of the road. He was then taken to my father, the physician, who dusted off his bowels, performed a reanastomosis (rejoined what was salvageable of the man’s intestines,) and sutured the wound edges together after sprinkling in some penicillin powder. All of this was done without need for anesthesia, due to the man’s terribly intoxicated state. The man was in agony, not only because of his self-induced wound, but because his wife had miscarried for a third or fourth time, leaving him without children to care for him in his old age. The wine made from the palm trees helped numb his pain in more ways than one.
Along with helping alleviate the Africans’ physical agonies, my parents lived with the Congolese for 7 years to help alleviate their souls’ agonies. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost,” (Luke 19:10 NASB) was the message of hope they shared with the precious people they served. Introducing the people to the Great Physician was even more important than being their physician, and in order to do so, my father gladly sacrificed what could have been years of making a lucrative income practicing medicine in America, in order to bring the light, the good news of salvation to what was then still known as The Dark Continent.
God’s story is our story. He is the Author of every man’s everyday story and He used my parents to tell an epic tale with their everyday lives. Their story, their His Story, tells of everyday domestic trials of managing a home in the zamba (jungle) and it tells of major trials-escaping across the Ubangi River in a dug-out canoe during a time of political turmoil. Throughout my parent’s gripping story, I marvel at their willingness to be used by God in what ever way He saw fit, and that included an ending to my father’s life story that no human would have ever written.
Jesus said,”Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NASB) Following the example set by Jesus, my dad laid down his life for his dear friends, the Congolese people. His time there was spent completely pouring out himself for his friends, accomplishing more in one lifetime of service than most could do in many lifetimes and when his work was finished, God took him home at the age of 46, leaving my mother and we six children without a human father. Once again, God- The Word- wove His way into our lives when He promised to be a “Father for the fatherless and a protector of widows…” (Psalm 68:5 ESV)
My parent’s story, so beautifully lived has always affected me and how I live my life. As a “dearly loved” child (Ephesians 5:1 NIV) I have always wanted to imitate their lives as they imitated their Heavenly Father’s life here on earth. But now, as I read my mother’s memoirs, I hear my father begging me, with more urgency, as the Apostle Paul begged the believers in Ephesus, to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1 NASB)
“Yes, Daddy, I hear you more clearly since reading your story. I hear you calling to me across the years and I will do my best to follow in your footsteps. I’ll tell my children, family and friends your story which will then be woven into their story, their marvelous His Story that goes on being written throughout the ages.”
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfector of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” ( Hebrews 12:1 NASB)