MAF is privileged to partner with Laban Ministries International (LMI) and Jim and Nancy Smith in their mission: “to train nationals in the heart of Africa, to reach the hearts of Africa.” MAF has been serving them since 1978, when they first arrived in Democractic Republic of the Congo.
“MAF has always been there for us,” says Nancy Smith, who co-founded LMI. “MAF takes us places roads prohibit us from reaching. They flew Jim and some of our staff to Ilebo two years ago, a flight of 30-40 minutes, which took our men who preceded us five days because of bad roads and water crossings. MAF pilots put tireless hours into accommodating us and our gear. We always feel safe when we are in their hands because of the safety standards upheld by this organization.”
In the earlier days, MAF dropped mail, bringing encouragement from home. MAF wives helped them get food shipments from South Africa and oriented Nancy on life in general. “They were some of the first people I met as an expectant mother,” adds Nancy. “They became sources of hope and helped me realize that I could ‘stick it out.’”
Nancy recalls a particularly memorable flight:
One flight that stands out vividly in my mind is the flight that Gary VanWagner made in 1980 to open our airstrip [at Nkara]. A year and a half of clearing hundreds and hundreds of scrub trees, roots, leveling, packing (by running our old seven-ton truck over the airstrip repeatedly), and praying brought such anticipation and excitement and hope to the whole area. Over 4,000 people showed up for that day that concluded isolation and the feeling of being totally closed in… The opening initiated an option of escape for everyone living relatively close by, and for me with young children and a baby, it was tremendously reassuring that MAF would now be only minutes away should we need them. We killed a cow and celebrated the goodness of God and the partnership we could now have with MAF.
The ministry of LMI includes the Laban Bible Institute, the Women’s Literacy Center, and Radio Glory, which reaches millions of people daily with the Gospel message. Over 600,000 have come to know Christ since the work of LMI began in 1938 at the hands of Jim’s parents, Laban and Marcella Smith. Former students have gone on to start 300 churches throughout Congo; evangelism campaigns continue to reach more remote villages. Just last week, MAF flew Jim and Nancy and a team of eight Congolese to Masamanimba to conduct a week-long outreach there.
“Evangelism will probably always be the hub around which we include MAF in our outreach. Life can be very hard on the mission field anywhere, but in particular, Congo has its challenges. MAF provides a respite from some of the pressures, tedium, and hardships of travel in our area.”