For years, Julie Mapatano, her husband Isaac, and their children dreamed of fleeing their war torn home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to come to the United States. Although the family's journey has not been without struggle or heartache, Julie has realized her dream and found more than physical liberation in the United States; she found her true identity in Christ, and the purpose for which she was created.
Julie's journey began in 1997, when she and her family fled Congo and sought refuge in Kenya. They spent three trying years in Kenya, praying for the acceptance of their application to enter the United States. "Coming to America was a dream that came true for my family. Many people applied, but they never got a chance to be selected, and many died from starvation as refugees in Kenya. So for us, it was a big miracle to be selected to come to the USA," Julie recalled.
The family immigrated to the U.S. in 2000 and made their home in Atlanta, Georgia. Julie landed a job within a local hospital, where she worked as a Patient Care Technician. Isaac was also employed at the hospital. As the family settled into their new surroundings, Isaac came across Andrew's Gospel Truth program on the radio. After sharing with Julie what he was learning, the teachings began to transform his family. Julie was particularly impressed by Andrew's series, Spirit, Soul & Body. Julie said the series helped her understand how God created people, and who she is in Christ. "I found that I am loved, and I have been forgiven—forever—not just for short time," shared Julie.
As Andrew's teaching broke down binding and legalistic doctrine for the couple, Isaac sensed the Lord leading him to move to Colorado to attend Charis Bible College. Eight years after arriving in the U.S., the Mapatano family relocated to Colorado Springs, where Isaac and Julie enrolled in classes at CBC.
In 2009, while the Mapatanos were enjoying their first-year studies at CBC, the family suffered a terrible loss—at the age of 47, Isaac passed away. The sudden loss left Julie with the awesome task of raising and providing for their six children (five daughters and one son) on her own. As Julie reflected on the family's unfortunate circumstances, she said, "The loss of Isaac did make life difficult, but it also improved my relationship with the Lord because I was [forced] to trust him more."
Rather than forego the opportunity to grow in the Lord, Julie continued to attend classes at CBC, and graduated in 2010. She went to school during the day, and she worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant by night. Although she was working, there were times when she had to trust the Lord to provide for her family. Julie said, "My life has changed a lot because of CBC, because I was able to remain in the Lord for a long time. Meditation in the Scriptures really helped me to become stronger in my faith."
All of Julie's time at CBC was impactful, but she credits one of Andrew's teachings for helping her through some the rougher moments. Julie read Andrew's little booklet, Self-Centeredness: The Source of All Grief, and she said it helped her shift her attention to what matters most. "The book helped me to focus on what God had been doing in my life and in the lives of those around me, instead of focusing on what people can do for me. I learned that my life is not just my own, but that I am here to serve and to be a testament to God’s goodness," said Julie.
The Lord has been faithful to provide for Julie and her family, and as Julie gleaned from her time at CBC, so too, did her children. They learned early on, to guard their confession and to trust the Lord. For example, Julie encouraged them to trust God for wisdom and favor in all areas of life, including in their school work. "God helped them in school," said Julie, "They were very smart, and earned full ride scholarships to very prestigious schools."
A Father's Call
Julie's entry into active ministry came during a phone call with her father. Shortly after Isaac passed away, Julie received a phone call from her dad, who serves as a headmaster of a school in the Congo. She could tell he was discouraged. The heaviness in his voice stemmed from having to turn orphans away from the school because they could not pay their tuition. These were orphans whose parents died in the war or from AIDS and other diseases. Immediately, Julie felt compassion well up in her heart. "Do not send them away," she said, "God will pay for them!"
As it turns out, Julie had just received her income tax refund from the previous year's earnings, and had asked God to direct her in donating the money in Isaac's memory. Julie saw this opportunity to sow into the Congolese children's lives as God's direction. "That year, my children and I were able to support more than two hundred kids, allowing them to stay in school," Julie said with excitement!
"After that my heart was really warm and happy because I realized that God still had a purpose for my life. God’s faithfulness is amazing! When you think you are done or useless, He has a better plan for our lives if we let Him," she said.
After Isaac passed away, Julie did not think she could ever dream, or think about anything except raising her family. But during her second year of Bible college, Andrew taught about dreams and visions. During one class session God spoke to Julie. "He said that when he created me, He knew me and also my husband and He brought visions and dreams to us as He pleased. He also told me that Plan B can be better than Plan A. From that day forward, God continued to show me that nothing is over until it’s over!
Since her dad's phone call, Julie and her family have continued supporting many orphan children in DR Congo, and in 2011, they had the privilege to visit with some of the children during a trip to Africa. Julie said, "It brought so much joy when we met them. After we met with them and saw the many other children who begged us to help them, I realized that God was not finished with me yet! These children need love and more importantly they need the foundation, which is the Word of God. That is why I founded, Redeeming Love Ministries of the DR Congo."
Redeeming Love serves the orphans in practical and spiritual ways including through the provision of basic necessities, food, medical care, school tuition, supplies and uniforms as well as solid Biblical teaching. To find out more about Julie and her family's amazing journey from the Congo, or to find out more about her expanding efforts to help the Congolese orphans, visit the Redeeming Love website. You can also check out her ministry's Facebook page.