On Friday's for the next several weeks, we are going to go on a journey with Robert and Margaret Fortenberry. This journey has taken us back to 1994 when they left the U.S. to travel as IMB Missionaries to Botswana Africa. The journey will continue to take us through key points in their time and ministry in Africa, and will conclude in a few weeks with their retirement and return to the states a couple of years ago.
We will follow them by remembering various newsletters they sent out through this journey. Today, we will read the 3rd installment. I know you will enjoy looking over their shoulder and remembering.
"As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country."
When we were home last year we were often asked what our life as missionaries is like. We always struggled to give a clear answer to that question because our experiences in Botswana vary so widely. There is always an interplay of the distinctly supernatural and the utterly mundane. And we never know which may be in the ascendancy on any given day. Most of the time, though, there is a rich mixture of both. Last week was a perfect example.
We had teams of our local believers going out to do follow-up visits with people who had made decisions for Christ while a volunteer team from FBC, Jackson, Ms. was here the previous two weeks. As our local teams went back to those who had made commitments they found a number who were truly ready to follow Christ with their lives. It was a joy to hear their stories of discussing the principles of discipleship with these new converts. A number of these spiritual babes have shown immediate and rapid growth. Some have been delivered from direct involvement in occult practices and oppression. Others have found freedom from immorality and other manifestations of a life devoid of the knowledge of Christ. It was great to see the Lord at work all week, and was followed by a particularly powerful service at Lobatse Baptist on Sunday.
While all of this was happening, we were in the process of working with the local immigration office to process our applications for work and residence papers for the next three years. The personnel in the office are friendly enough, but paperwork is the bane of my existence. I know it is necessary and I do it willingly, but I don’t like it. I am fully convinced that, if Hell has an antechamber, it is filled with government forms to be completed. We have worked for the past three months to gather the necessary documentation and take the necessary steps to prove our legitimacy as ministers of the Gospel. (By the way, that process has been made much more difficult by the influx of wolves in sheep’s clothing that have descended on Botswana in recent years owing to the strength of the economy here.) Then, once we had turned in our application papers, we had to request additional days as visitors in Botswana while we await the processing of our applications for our long-term permits.
So, while we were daily hearing glowing reports of God’s work in the lives of people who had recently been slaves of sin, we were also dealing with government workers who have their long and necessary lists of requirements for missionaries wanting to share God’s Word in Africa. In other words, we had a daily pull toward Heaven and daily reminders that we are not there yet. This, my friends, is missionary life in a nutshell.
As you pray for us, please ask the Lord to speed the processing of our applications for work and residence permits. We have been given 30 days to await an answer. We are asking the Lord to grant us favor in the sight of this government, with a positive response coming to us before this time frame is completed. Our desire it to be able to work and travel freely in Botswana, telling people of the new life to be found in Christ. Please pray, too, for the new believers here. They are many, and there are more all the time. Pray that we and our local co-workers will disciple them well and teach them how they, too, can be involved in evangelizing and discipling others.
In your own place, we pray that you will also be about that most eternal of enterprises, the making of disciples of our Lord Jesus. May God grant us strength for that work, until we stand before His throne.
In Christ, Robert Fortenberry