Posted on March 5, 2024 Joy M. Stabell, IM DR Congo Alumna Called Home
Joy M. Stabell, IM DR Congo Alumna Called Home

Joy M. Stabell, IM DR Congo Alumna Called HomeJoy M. (Anderberg) Stabell, retired American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) missionary in the Democratic Republic of Congo, passed away on January 4, 2024, in her home in Lancaster, California, surrounded by her four living children. She was just five days short of her 95th birthday.

Joy was born on January 9, 1929, in Chicago, Illinois of Swedish and Norwegian parentage. When Joy was nine years old her parents sent her to Sweden to visit her father’s family. It was there, under the guidance of her grandparents and one of her aunts, that Joy came to the knowledge of Christ as her Savior and was firmly grounded in the basic principles of the Christian life. After a year there in Sweden, she returned to Chicago, where she rejoined Logan Baptist Church, a congregation she had begun attending before her trip. It was there, through the patient work of many Christian leaders and a fine pastor, that Joy’s faith and understanding of the Scriptures grew. She was baptized at the age of eleven and soon acquired a strong desire to become a missionary.

In time the Lord led Joy to Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she met Clifford (Cliff) Stabell, who had also developed a conviction that the Lord was calling him into overseas mission work. They were engaged in 1948 and married on May 20, 1950.

After finishing their studies at Northern in 1951, Joy and Cliff applied to the ABFMS and were advised to do further studies. They attended the University of Chicago from 1951 to 1953 and then went to Berkley Baptist Divinity School in Anaheim, California from 1953 to 1954. Appointed in March of 1954 as ABFMS missionaries with an assignment for what was then the Belgian Congo, they moved to Hartford Connecticut for courses in French and Missions before leaving for Belgium in 1955, now with two little boys in tow (Timothy Dwight (3yrs) and Erik Christian (1 yr). They spent a year in Brussels, studying French and Belgian colonial policy, alongside with several other ABFMS missionaries bound for Congo. in October of 1956, Joy and Cliff left Belgium to begin their work among the Basuku people at the ABFMS bush station of Moanza—about 250 kms (150 miles) southeast of the capital, Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). They served at Moanza from 1956 to 1972. During their time there, Joy worked as a French instructor, a Bible curriculum writer, and eventually served as consultant for the translation of the Gospel of Mark into the local Kisuku language. She directed home economics in the school, and cared for her growing family. Cliff traveled extensively in the area, inspecting the church-run primary schools and helping local churches and their pastors, including developing a stewardship program for the churches. Later he and Joy developed a rural development program called CORDE (Cooperatif Rural de Dévelopment).

While at Moanza, their daughter Judith Lee was born. She died in a tragic vehicle accident at 2 ½ years of age, while the family was driving back to Moanza after some vacation time in Leopoldville (September, 1959). Then on April 14, 1960, their second daughter, Linda Joy, came into the world. Two years later, Gary Clifford completed the family circle (born April 28, 1962). 2

After that lengthy time of service at Moanza, Joy and Cliff were assigned to the Pastoral School located to the north of Moanza, at the mission station of Kikongo. But just a few months after beginning that assignment, Cliff was asked to fill a pressing need for an assistant to the treasurer for the church community. That of course meant another move, this time to the capital city. While in Kinshasa Joy was an instructor in Christian Education. She wrote one of the Theological Education by Extension Study Books. She also helped with bookkeeping and secretarial work. In addition to his work as denominational treasurer, Cliff directed the purchasing services, and in 1978 he was assigned to Habitat for Humanity in Kinshasa with the responsibility of directing the construction of one hundred low-cost houses.

Cliff and Joy served in Kinshasa from 1973 to 1981, and then from 1982 to 1989 they finished out their career as missionaries back in Kikongo. They later described their years at the Pastoral training institute in Kikongo as the most fulfilling of their time in Congo. Joy was the director of the Women’s Section of the Pastoral Institute as well as teaching some courses in the Men’s Section. Joy also managed the interstation radio transmitter which was essential for communication with other mission stations and to meet emergency needs. Cliff taught and served as director of the Pastoral Institute.

After retiring from their thirty-three years of service in Congo, in late 1989 Joy and Cliff moved to Lancaster, California, in order to be close to Erik and his wife, Kris and their two children. Linda, too, was living in the area with her husband Bob and their two girls. Gary joined them soon after.

In early 1990 Cliff and Joy wrote in a newsletter; “If anything has been done, it was done on the basis of cooperation and mutual assistance blessed and sustained by the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit . . . Most particularly we pray and urge support for the Pastoral Institute whose students become catalysts for the fullness of life in Christ for their large rural and urban congregations.” This is the selfless love and commitment with which the Stabells served in the name of Christ.

Joy and Cliff became involved in the mission outreach of the First Baptist Church in Lancaster, and tutored immigrants in English literacy, using the methods of Frank Laubach, whom they had met many years earlier, prior to leaving for Congo. In 1995 Joy and Cliff returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for three months as volunteers working with CBZO.

Cliff had a serious bout of pneumonia in December, 2005, and went home from the hospital in hospice care, but then recovered and enjoyed the Lord’s gift of seven more years of life with Joy and the family before passing away on April 5, 2012. In Cliff’s absence, Linda and Gary, who were both still living in the Lancaster area, were able to move in and live with Joy, providing loving care for her in her declining years.

Joy is survived by her children: Timothy (Susan), Erik (Kristin), Linda (Bob) Quiggle, Gary, eight grandchildren, and eleven great grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Grace Chapel in Lancaster, CA, at 11:00 AM on Saturday, March 23rd. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Pastoral Institute at Kikongo through American Baptist International Ministries.