Unseen Potential in a Traffic Stop

How one MAF couple builds bridges in their neighborhood

 

The angry shouts of the men circling her car were drowned out by the frantic crying of baby Otis in the back seat. Their forceful gestures commanded her to open the door.

Nicole de Jongh rolled down the window a fraction of an inch to hear their words. “Get out of the car! Give us your papers!”

Papers?

Through the crack in the window, she tried to reason with them, explaining that she had no papers. Their voices escalated, along with a new, audacious demand: “Make your baby stop crying!”

Wyatt, her toddler, was crying too. The boys were hungry and exhausted from a strenuous morning of shopping in a still-unfamiliar environment. Nicole had taken a wrong road just blocks from her home in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and her last-minute U-turn had triggered the traffic stop.

Deeply shaken, she grabbed her cell phone and called the MAF program manager’s wife, Jocelyn Frey, for help. Then she started praying: “Lord, give me wisdom. And somehow, please bring good from this situation.”

Traffic jams, like this one in Kinshasa, DRC, and police stops present challenges and opportunities for MAF’s overseas missionaries. Photo by Mark and Kelly Hewes.

Paying Attention

One thing Nicole and her husband, Jonathan, had learned as MAF missionaries was that life isn’t just about the big stories. It’s about listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit in every moment, trusting in His unseen plan.

Long before their arrival in Kinshasa, they had been honing the art of listening.

“We’re not normally the kind of people that are like, ‘God said I need to do this,'” said Jonathan, an MAF pilot/mechanic.

But when God does speak, they pay attention. That’s how they ended up at MAF.

Jonathan grew up as a missionary kid in Belgium. He had no aspirations to follow in his parents’ steps—his sights were set on becoming a commercial pilot. But through a series of events, including the unlikely arrival of an unsealed and unstamped acceptance letter from Moody Aviation, God stoked Jonathan and Nicole’s passion for missions and directed them to MAF.

Since arriving in the DRC, Jonathan and Nicole have been part of a vital MAF ministry team that provides subsidized flights for Congolese churches, international missions groups, and others helping to share Christ’s love in remote parts of this vast African nation.

Another street scene in Kinshasa, DRC. Photo by Mark and Kelly Hewes.

Cookies and Cold Water

Nicole’s pulse raced as she waited for Jocelyn to show up. “God,” she prayed, “please soften the hearts of these men.”

When Jocelyn arrived, the authorities allowed Nicole to drive her boys home while Jocelyn headed to the police station to meet up with other MAF staff and sort things out.

The next day, seeing the incident as an opportunity to build relationships with neighborhood police, Nicole and a few other MAF staff women brought fresh-baked cookies and cold water to the police station. It was the last thing Nicole felt like doing. Yet a still, small voice nudged her on.

The surprised chief of police welcomed the women, and a friendly conversation followed.

A few days later, he knocked at the de Jonghs’ gate. Nicole and Jonathan invited him in for tea and cookies, and soon they were hearing about his life, his family, his health.

When they parted, he asked, “Will you come to my house sometime to meet my family?”

This was not a decision to be taken lightly. In Kinshasa, relationships with the authorities are often looked upon with suspicion. “Like Jesus and the tax collector,” explains Jonathan.

Nicole and Jonathan spent several months seeking the Lord about whether to accept the invitation. Gradually, a strong inner conviction settled in. It was the right thing to do.

On the appointed day, the chief met them at a gas station, hopped in their car, and they headed out.

“First, we’re going to my brother’s house. Then to my other brother’s house. Then to my house.” A pause. “Oh, and Jonathan, you will be speaking at each place.”

Jonathan had recently given a talk to MAF staff from 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray …” The Lord’s timing was not lost on him.

From house to house, Jonathan shared God’s Word. When they finally arrived at the chief’s house, the chief asked Jonathan to give a blessing. It was clear that internal fears and superstitions drove his request, so after Jonathan prayed, he spoke of Christ’s sacrifice. He explained the freedom everyone can have in Christ.

The de Jongh family, 2019.

Still Listening

After that day, Jonathan and Nicole continued to follow God’s lead in reaching out to the officers. Once, Nicole was prompted to buy a Snickers bar at the store to give to the chief on her way home. She had no idea how she would locate him. Suddenly, as she pulled through her last intersection, there he was, standing on the corner. With great joy he accepted her gift.

A small, insignificant moment? Maybe. But Nicole sees it as just one more example of how listening to God has proven fruitful since the traumatic traffic incident.

“The traffic stop was terribly painful, and I cried a lot of tears,” said Nicole. “But Romans 8:28 says God works all things out for good. Now, look at the outcome!”

Listening is what brought Nicole and Jonathan to MAF in the first place. And listening is what allows them to keep showing their neighbors rare glimpses of the heart of Christ … even in the most unexpected moments.

Thanks to your prayers and gifts, MAF missionaries like the de Jonghs can be a presence of His love in neighborhoods around the world.

 

 

 

Story ran in the January 2020 issue of FlightWatch. Read the entire issue here:

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