Bill, Cassie and Ann with all their trunks
Bill has written about the door opening for us in Eastern Congo and Southern Sudan. He has written about his work having been completed in January. God has been showing us in many ways that it is time to fold our tents and move on as we seek to follow His will.
My work, too, in Kinshasa is nearing completion. When we first came to Zaire (Congo) my main work was homeschooling our four children, first on the back porch of our home on the banks of the Kwilu River in Vanga and later in our home in the capital city of Kinshasa. Those years have passed. Cassie, our youngest, graduated from high school in June and will return thereafter to the U.S. to attend Colby College in Maine. Joel will be a senior at Williams College in Massachusetts and Eli will be attending graduate school at the University of Maine. Jasmine is married with twins and planning to return to college in the fall as well. All four in college at the same time!
Another work I took on when we moved to Kinshasa eleven years ago was to help keep the doors open of the American school, founded in 1961 by American Baptist missionaries Jerry and Lee Weaver. Difficult times had fallen on The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK) when we moved to the capital from the interior. Two pillages, a prolonged civil war, riots, and rebellions had left their mark on the school with seriously diminished enrollment and neglected facilities. Students and faculty, due to insecurity and decisions of mission boards and government agencies alike, had departed.
Accreditation had lapsed, enrollment was at an all-time low, and there was talk of closing the school. I was determined to do everything possible to keep the school open and rebuild for the future. I assumed various roles as gaps appeared: teacher, college counselor, accreditation coordinator, and board president. Too much history and too many prayers had gone into the school to see it shut down. It was a labor of commitment and determination; but that process, too, has been completed. TASOK stayed open during those dark years of conflict, retained key staff, went through two successful accreditation cycles, and today has a student population of nearly 300 students (up from 40 when we arrived in town). It appears it is time also, for me to move on.
One of my greatest pleasures at the school has been to teach a course titled African Studies to the graduating seniors each year. We recently read Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart which gets its title from a poem by William Butler Yeats. The poem begins,
“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
Besides signs that our work has been completed, we have to laugh at other evidence that is time to go. We have lived in the hot and humid climate of Congo for 16 years and just in the last few months, everything we own it seems is ‘falling apart’. As each device, appliance, and electronic item in our house breaks, we look at each other, shake our heads, and affirm “It really is time to go”. Our physical things in Kinshasa are breaking down and we can smile. However there are times when things much more important such as hopes, dreams, and relationships can and do fall apart, and yet we must find the strength to endure. But Keats has it wrong. He says “the center cannot hold”. It can! We, as Christians, even though things may seemingly fall apart all around us, have the precious assurance that the center of our life, Christ, remains steadfast in all our trials. He is the center and the rock to which we must cling.
One of my favorite hymns, given to me as a gift from Clayton Rogers, a friend and gifted organist with whom I share a birthday, is “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” by Ira Stanphill.
“I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead.
Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.”
As we transition to a new phase of our lives (empty nesters) and prepare for new challenges in a new environment (Southern Sudan) we need to remember to focus on the tasks of the day rather than worry about the challenges and uncertainties of tomorrow. When things get difficult or our lives seem to be ‘falling apart’, we need to cling to the promises of God and hold the hand of Him who holds our tomorrows.
Isaiah 54:2 Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes.
With love and thanksgiving from Kinshasa,