Missionaries dodged soldiers, snakes, and quicksand to bring children God’s Word

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By Mark Ellis

Rouster family in the 1980s
Rouster family in the 1980s

As a teenager, she felt called as a missionary after reading books about the five missionaries killed attempting to make contact with the Auca of eastern Ecuador.

But several unfortunate choices sidetracked her interest. “I made some poor decisions as a young adult,” admits Lorella Rouster, co-founder of Every Child Ministries. She married an unbeliever, but thankfully, husband John came to the Lord five years into their marriage.

For many years, John did not share Lorella’s interest in the mission field. “John loved farming; it was his life ambition – all he ever wanted to do.”

That changed one Palm Sunday morning while John was milking cows on their farm in Indiana. “Jesus came and stood beside him and said, ‘I want you to go to Africa and be missionaries.’”

Later, John sobbed during a car ride as he told Lorella about his dramatic encounter. “I had never seen him shed a tear before in his life – not even when his father died,” she says.

One of the first tests before they could answer the call was to sell their farm, which was heavily mortgaged, leaving them little room to negotiate. In their listing agreement, they specified there would be no bargaining on price.

“The farm sold in 10 days,” Lorella marvels. They took it as a confirmation from the Lord.

Lorella greets kids in DR Congo, 1982
Lorella greets kids in DR Congo, 1982

When they conveyed their plans to their three children – ranging from seven to 13-years-old – all reacted with excitement and enthusiasm, another small miracle.

In their first three years with AMG International in Zaire (now DR Congo), they lived in an established mission. But their next six years, they lived in a mud hut with no running water or electricity.

Near their hut in Garazim village in Bandandu province, Lorella learned to bake bread in a hollowed-out termite mound.

Black mamba with mouth open. The snake gets its name from the color of its mouth
Black mamba with mouth open. The snake gets its name from the color of its mouth

One night after John and Lorella went to bed, John was laying on his back with his hands folded on his chest. In the inky darkness, John felt something to his side brush his arm. He glanced to the right and was startled as he felt a large snake running over his arm. The snake apparently entered their bedroom through a broken window screen.

It was a black mamba, one of the most deadly creatures in sub-Saharan Africa. One bite from the six to nine-foot snake can cause death within seven hours. It is also the fastest snake in Africa, capable of moving at speeds of 11 kilometers per hour.

“Somehow he had the presence of mind to lay still,” Lorella recounts. After the snake went under the bed, John grabbed a shotgun he kept nearby and shot it dead.

On another occasion, Lorella was walking to another village to teach the Bible. She decided to try a different path than usual, hoping it might be faster. “I came up to a little stream that looked like it was a few inches deep,” she recalls. She expected to easily cross the shallow water, but when she stepped into the muddy bottom, she sank in to her shoulders.

Film image of woman struggling in quicksand
Film image of woman struggling in quicksand

“I was alone and I yelled and yelled and nobody came,” she says. Fearing the worst in what resembled quicksand, she noticed a clump of grass in front of her and tree roots behind her. “I pushed my foot against the grass and grabbed the roots and wiggled and wormed my way out,” she says.

She walked back to her village “covered with mud from one end to the other.”

One night Lorella walked out to their outhouse and in the dim light was not able to see a stream of driver ants running across the toilet seat. The carnivorous species can be an eighth of an inch long and even devour small animals.

“As I sat my bare behind on them they scattered. They were biting me all over, one of my most painful

Driver ant close-up, showing it's powerful mandibles (pincers) and stinging tail
Driver ant close-up, showing it’s powerful mandibles (pincers) and stinging tail

experiences.” She ran out of the outhouse screaming. As she ran, “the cook could see I was half-dressed.”

In the 1990s, John and Lorella stayed at a home in the capital city of Kinshasa, while their missionary friends were away. “On the radio we heard that soldiers were looting parts of the town and they had targeted our neighborhood for that evening,” she recalls. “There was no way to get out or go anywhere.”

They knelt down on the veranda and prayed for God’s protection. “Tears were dripping down my face because I knew anything could happen that night. But I also had a strange sense of peace.”

Mercifully, the soldiers never raided their home that night. The next day an African guard named Papa Makunza came to them with an amazing report. He had been guarding another house nearby and was astonished by an unusual sight:

“I saw angels on your gate last night,” he informed them. God answered their prayers for protection with a powerful angelic presence!

During the fighting, they got a knock in the middle of the night and were warned they must evacuate. John drove a breakneck speed to reach the last transport plane leaving for Brazzaville. At one point on the road their back window broke, shattering into little pieces. “Our first thought was that somebody was shooting at us,” but it was actually the impact of the rough road on their vehicle.

Despite the dangers, the most exciting thing for Lorella was seeing children and adults come to know Jesus. “We saw so many kids come to know the Lord,” she exults.

“More and more churches were asking for help with Christian education all the time,” Lorella notes. “It was also evident that the need was so broad that a mission was needed that was not limited to only one particular church group, and thus could be free to help all churches.”

Sunday School training, 1985
Sunday School training, 1985

In response, John and Lorella launched Every Child Ministries in 1985, a mission especially devoted to the needs of African children. Their first project was training Bible teachers to help local churches reach out to children and establish Sunday schools or other ministries for children and youth.

John and Lorella live in Indiana currently and John will not be returning to Africa due to health issues. Lorella, however, is planning three trips a year to DR Congo, Ghana, Uganda, Togo and Benin.

“I would still live there if I could,” she says. “I loved living in Africa. I know the Lord is doing a work in many hearts. Seeing kids eager faces look up at you and listen to God’s Word is so very satisfying in itself.”

How you can help:

Give to the work of Every Child Ministries here

Pray for DR Congo: Pray against the demonic forces and human sin that has brought suffering to the nation through tribalism, cruelty, greed, and corruption. Pray the government will rule with honesty, justice, and respectful concern for the interests of the governed. Pray for the raising up of Christian leaders of spiritual maturity and moral integrity for the church and positions throughout society. Pray that nominal Christians would find new life in Christ. Pray that believers would recognize their inheritance in Christ and confront the forces of darkness in the power of the Spirit. Pray for increased training of lay leadership in the churches. Pray that the seminaries may mature theologically and be able to stand firmly for the truth of the gospel in the face of doctrinal challenges. Pray for effective church-planting strategies to be implemented in rural villages. Pray that churches may rise to the challenge of living and preaching biblical morality in marriage and may give appropriate help to the victims of HIV/AIDS. (Operation World)

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