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By Eric Bohman
Baptist International Missions, Inc. (BIMI), recently had the privilege of celebrating
the 90th birthday of one of our most beloved missionaries, Martha Kunberger.
Martha has been with BIMI since its inception in 1960. She has served the Lord
in Congo, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Although she is a decade away from living a
century, she is still serving the Lord in missions today! Her smile and kind words
are always a blessing to everyone she meets.
In 1956 Martha boarded a ship for Africa. After 16 days on an ocean liner and
four days on a riverboat, she arrived in the small village of Kinchwa to begin her
life in missions. Her first challenge was language. She knew no French (the official
language) or Chiluba (the local dialect). She started language study by learning the
phrase “What is this?” in Chiluba and from there developed her own vocabulary.
Martha’s main job was teaching the missionary children of several missionary
families who lived together on a compound and wanted one school for their
children. Besides being the schoolteacher, she also served as the mission station’s
nurse. Even though she had no medical training, except for first-aid in college, God
gave her wisdom and a good dose of common sense. She handled a wide variety
of diseases and unusual situations from tending to severe burns and treating various
stomach disorders to getting parasites out of a witchdoctor’s foot! The witchdoctor was
so grateful, he even proposed marriage!
Through these years, God showed His great protection in her life. There were times when
poisonous vipers and even a leopard entered her small house, yet, they did not harm her.
Once a herd of elephants came into the compound to get water from the fifty-gallon water
barrels used for the school. In all these situations, Martha’s faith in God was undaunted as
she saw time and again His amazing protection.
Although life was at times very difficult and living conditions primitive, Martha grew to
love her work and people in the Congo. She looked forward to visiting in the homes of
the Africans, sharing the Gospel with the Congolese, and joining in their Chiluba singing
Just when life seemed to be going well, rebel attacks began in the Congo, and the
missionaries had to be evacuated. Through God’s grace and protection, Martha was able
to reach America in safety. Sadly, some missionaries lost their lives in the violent weeks
It soon became evident that Martha would not be able to return to the land she loved.
Her heart was saddened as she had planned to spend her life in the Congo, yet, she knew
that she must keep going for God. She began to pray that God would once again make
His direction clear for her life.
God did lead but to a different continent with another language. For 18 years she served
God faithfully in Nicaragua until a government uprising forced all foreigners to leave.
Not being dissuaded by this, she went to Guatemala, where she served four years before
this country too underwent a political uprising, and Martha was once again evacuated.
Nothing could cause Martha to lose her heart for missions, and God was not finished
with her yet. In 1985 she was asked to work at BIMI’s Home Office, where she still serves
today. Martha is working with a Spanish ministry and assisting in a Bible correspondence
program that has had over 800 students (most of whom are Spanish-speaking prisoners).
Just days before her former pastor and mentor, Dr. Lee Roberson, passed away, she visited
him in the hospital. Dr. Roberson, who at that time had great difficulty in recognizing
people, knew her immediately. “Martha!” he gasped, “Keep going; keep going!” And that
is just what she is doing.
When asked if she would do it all again, knowing all that she would face, Martha replied
without hesitation, “I would go back tomorrow if I could!” Happy birthday, Martha!
May God give you many more years in His service, and may God give us many more
missionaries just like you! W
Number 3, 2017