Thanks to Bob & Evon Peddycord and Anthony and Sylvia Beckmon for making this trip possible! Here is your fruit!
This event took place on a BUSH TRIP to Mankodi - a distant village. It took over 4 hours to get there and, of course, we knew it would take 4 to get back. So, we did not have a lot of time to spend with them this morning before we had to depart. We had a short Bible lesson in one of the class rooms of the school where we camped and held the meetings. The first thing I said was "did everyone here understand the Gospel from the movie last night?" All the hands went up, except for one. In the back of the room the oldest man in the room stood up. I asked him "if he understood the Gospel?" He shook his head, "no". I had not intended on teaching the Gospel again this morning, but this man clearly did not understand...and he was clearly interested. So, after a short review followed by a support message by Mario Genada about how Jesus Christ cast the demons out of the man in the book of Luke, an alter call was made. 6 more people responded. Not only did the old man who caused this impromptu message stand up, but his good friend sitting beside him also indicated his guilt and need for salvation.
George and Fred are 83 and 73 years old respectively. They both made professions of faith this morning. The average lifespan of a Zambian today is 39 years. Any time I see someone over that age choose Christ, I celebrate the fact that they have beat the devil out of a cheap victory. There is something special in seeing the old make this decision.
Here are 2 more guys you can pray for!
For a minute there, I thought we were lost... In fact, WE WERE LOST! We had traveled for about 2-1/2 hours when we started to notice that the road was beginning to narrow a bit more than usual. Where before, there were other tire markings and a definite roadway, now there were only little trails. We soon confirmed that these were not roadways or foot trails, but cattle trails. And, they were going on F O R E V E R!!! Riding with Zambians, I felt somewhat comfortable in knowing that they knew where we were. They had, in fact, been here before, albeit 2 years prior. But all that “went out the window” when they all started talking about on how they "had no idea where we were!"
The pathways continued to vanish and the trees began to crowd us - slowing our progress as we dodged limbs, stumps and general debris. Then, suddenly, we exited the forest and entered a huge area of flat land and grass. It turns out we were in a plains area that is completely under water during the rainy season. Thus, the reason we did not see a single person, house, dog, chicken...or anything resembling civilization for over 2 hours. We did see some cows and we were following their trails hoping they would eventually lead us to a road.
Zambia is not that large of a country. But I found some space where there are just no people to be found. Because it is under water during the rainy season, no one can live in that area for more than a few months…so they don’t bother. There were 8 of us - and suddenly the population of that area mushroomed to.....8. It was a bit unsettling, but knowing there were Zambians with me and that God was surely with us, I felt we would eventually find our way…and, so, I did not have that panicky “lost” feeling…I just had not idea where I was…or where I was going. I thought about the Israelites wandering in the desert. How they wandered for 40 years in a rather small area - perhaps, about the same size as the area we were lost in. Exaggeration? Maybe...but truly lost? Definitely!! It is a funny feeling...looking around at the beautiful scenery and realizing that no man sees these scenes on a regular basis. This land was about as beautiful as it gets – a shame no one can live there. Another shame that there were no roads or landmarks that would help us find our way out either.
Another hour passed and we finally came to a road. Instincts compelled us to turn right – which we did – and within 3 kilometers we found the preacher man who had been waiting to guide us to our final destination. He had been waiting for us for 5 hours. Smiling, he climbed into the cab and chuckled a bit as he listened to our pitiful story while he guided us the rest of the way.
It felt strange, but beautiful, peaceful and quiet at the same time. I’m thankful for the experience and for discovering how comforting the peace of God can be – when I really needed Him…. But, most of all, I am thankful for finding our way…. I am also thankful for what God did in that village once we got there – but, that’s another story…..
Play this song for a "REAL TREAT"!
Something that nearly every visitor that comes here discovers is the unique talent for song that Zambians seem to come by naturally. It is really uncanny. It is like they come out of the womb in 4 part harmony. From the very young to the very old - they sing like birds with precision harmony and without the aid of instruments - except for drums and occasionally a lucky one who might have come across a guitar. Every village is different with different sounds and voices, but ALL share a level of musical ability that stuns and surprises every visitor we have taken to these places. Last month we were visiting the village of Siamusambo. As we were setting up our campsite, there was music coming from within the church we were planning to camp next to. A guitar and a raspy voice singing in quiet but powerful melody stopped me in my tracks. I went inside and found Crossland dressed in a 3-piece suite playing a guitar and practicing some praise songs with 2 other gentlemen. The songs they were singing - I had never heard before and the voice, the sound, the pleasant nature of the music reminded me of Harry Belafonte' and others that sing in that style.
Since November of last year, we have been on the lookout for our next ministry destination. Leaving the orphanage meant leaving the people we had come to love and cherish. It meant leaving the villages and the people we ministered to on a regular basis. And it meant having to start over - foraging a new territory to find the places where God wanted us to begin a new work. The devil may have tried to tamper with our heads and our hearts. He may have thought our departure from the orphanage would discourage us to the point we would just pack up and go back home... but that has not been the case. He forgets that this is a life decision and we are in it for the long haul. Although there has been a disappointment, God has remained true to His promises to us and we are finding the path still clear and adequately provided for. Not being able to continue working with those villages and our friends at the orphanage has been a disappointment but God is revealing an alternative plan.
Since last November, we have worked closely with other missionaries offering whatever assistance we can and enjoying the diversity of different ministry methods, strategies and locations…from the dry plains to rock or sandy brush land to the lush river side villages that dot the sides of the Zambezi River.…it has all been a great experience. We continue to witness God’s Hand At Work her in Zambia – even in our own lives. The people are hungry for an answer to their questions regarding our maker, His creation, sin, Salvation and how to exist under the direction of the Holy Spirit as a new creature through Jesus Christ.....how to navigate through the uncertainty of culture, ancestor worship, Christianity, false teachings and a myriad of other challenges common in this area - and I suppose common to all of mankind. As we have "tried" to remain patient, we are still seeing lives change and the Gospel continue to go forth. – which brings me to the topic of this Blog.
As we have worked along side of some of God’s most gifted missionaries, my heart has been troubled with the uncertainty of our own personal ministry plans. For some reason, God brought us to Zambia – more specifically, now to Livingstone. It was He who dropped this house in our laps – a house perfect for bringing in teams to help us do God’s work…. and a perfect location to serve as a base for ministry outreach for those visiting mission teams. It is He who keeps providing our needs and the funds necessary to bear the cost of this property. My biggest concern has been – where are we going to begin and what kind of ministry will that be???? This question has been the source of some depressing moments and much consternation. It has also been the fuel to feed a growing sense of impatience – something God has been correcting in me for many years. In recent years, I HAVE become a VERY patient man, but the tendency is still in ME to fix things – something that has never been the best solution to my problems.
But this week, God decided to “let me off the hook” and give me something “I could sink my teeth into”. A good friend and long time missionary here in Zambia came to me with a request/offer. He has been working in some diverse areas for years and has relied on certain Zambians he has trained to grow into leadership and management roles as he has worked in various regions throughout Southern Zambia. As the trainees mature, they can be given the responsibility of managing the basic day-to-day needs of the ministry. One of those regions has become neglected. Not on purpose – no, the gentleman who was tasked with the responsibility of nurturing that specific area is no longer available – nor is he working in this area. So, with other “irons in the fire”, there is a void in the ability to cover all of these areas. I have been offered the opportunity to take over this mission field and operate in it as God sees fit. This is the answer I have been praying about.
Over the years, there have been about 40 churches planted in this area, but, with the recent decline in leadership less than half are still considered strong or active. Yesterday, along with a local Zambian, I took a survey trip to this new mission field - which is about 2-1/2 hours from our home - to meet the people the pastors and church leaders. We arrived at a centrally located church and were greeted by about 50 people including 14 pastors and other leaders. We had a short gathering where I introduced myself and took some questions from VERY interested folks. They were all very excited to know that this work will continue.
Following the short meeting and a group photo, we set out to about 7 of the other area churches to get a sense of the terrain and meet the people. It was a great first trip and I really look forward to getting started.
As this new work begins, it is clear that there is much to do. There are at least 40 congregations and pastors who need encouragement and training. One of the questions I was asked highlighted the need for per-school teacher training, children’s ministries and youth ministries – Karen has been praying about how she can envision herself…It is becoming all to clear now! Now that we have the capacity to host mission teams, and now that we have a dedicated mission field that covers a vast territory with needs for youth training, children’s ministries, many, many schools, adult men and women’s ministries, widows and orphans ministries – not to mention humanitarian needs…etc., we are inviting people/missionaries/mission teams to come help us meet this need. There is so much to do – it can be overwhelming. But, this is exactly how I envisioned our work here from the beginning and it is exactly why Come, Go With Us was created. Our invitation has always been - and still is - for you to come join us on the mission field and help fulfill the Great Commission. We will not cover the world, but we do plan to manage our small part. With this new responsibility, we can now see the faces of this mission field and look forward to developing relationships as we partner with them. And we want to share this opportunity with others …because, quite frankly, we will need your help!
Another question was: “when do you plan to begin?” I answered “yesterday” which brought a great response of appreciation. We have already just begun and we need you to help us reap this harvest.
Come, Go With Us!
Play Audio clip "incoming" as you read....
Often, I listen to music I have recorded from the Bush. This is one of my favorites. We were at a little church - it was very early in the morning. I was outside the church drinking tea and journaling when I started hearing a single drum from inside the church. I'm not sure why I started recording - I guess I was just fooling around with the camera??? Following the drum beat, I heard one of our translators start singing from inside the church. As the song went on, more and more people began to filter into the church and continued joining in on the singing. Later some children showed up and they joined in as well. By the time the song was over, the church was full of people ready to begin the service....This was the beginning of one of the sweetest days in the bush. The service was great...there were people who made confessions of faith...we baptized a few...and we left knowing God had been with us.
The song says "I'm set free in the blood of Jesus...I was tied to the chains of the devil...I'm set free in the blood of Jesus".
Every time I play this song, I am reminded of that day...I wish I could bottle it - and share the full flavor of that day with you.
Listen as the song progresses and the church fills with people.
It was at the end of a meeting at a small church in the Zambian bush. We had given an invitation for prayers and several people came forward. Near the end of the service a young girl said she did not know how to pray...and asked me to pray for her. She thought that the only way to communicate with God was through a pastor or a missionary. I told her that she could pray herself...to just speak to God like she was speaking to her best friend. At first she did not respond, but then she began to say one word...then another...and another. Then she mouthed a full sentence...and then another...till pretty soon the "floodgates opened"...and she began chattering so fast I could not keep up with her - neither could the interpreter. As tears streamed down her face she began to have this intense conversation with the one true God whom she had thought previously could only be reached through an intermediary. Not only did she begin to pray to the Father in earnest...she had a lot to say...a whole lot! It was an amazing sight to behold. What a joy it was to witness her discovery...that God was her new BFF.
One of the greatest joys in life is to witness God doing amazing things. And sometimes those experiences are permanently burned into our brains. This was one of those iconic moments - one that I will never forget. It was so special to see this girl learn that God is there for her - just like her best friend in a place where she may have nothing...or nobody...but she now knows she had a friend that is closer than a brother. What a joy!
Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
This is a letter I sent to our home church to ask for them to add these names to the weekly prayer list.
We went to the village of Mutunda. It is actually Mutunda Farm with about 60 - 100 people who live on and work on this 3000 acre farm. It is owned by Zambians. They live a bit better than most, but are all - still in poverty. They have a church that is sponsored by the owners of the farm, but like most churches, they lack good spiritual and discipleship training. We spent 2 days sharing the Gospel and teaching about the true life of a Christian. They were especially surprised to learn that there is a place they can go after death ... where they can spend much more time than they will here on earth. It was difficult to convey the concept of "eternity" to them. It amazed me to discover that they did not realize or understand what "eternity" really meant.…They have so much to learn - so much good news to discover.
We preached on salvation and after sundown, we shared the Gospel with them and showed the life story of Jesus Christ in movie form. Following the movie, we offered an opportunity to acce[t salvation through Jesus Christ. When the call went out, 36 hands went up. We took those 36 into the church [and only those 36...we sent the rest of them home] as a group and attempted to really drive home the idea of what true salvation really is. It is so easy here for folks to miss this. But, I believe these people are GETTING IT!. We will be going back next week to spend more time with them and continue to disciple them in their new found faith. They are so hungry for the truth.
I am saying all of this because I want to share our new brothers and sisters with you and to ask for you to PLEASE, pray for them. These are real people who need real love …they have real life needs to be free from the attacks and the influence of satan...and to understand the true meaning of Salvation...and living a "NEW" Christian life.
We have been collecting names of people who have been saved in other meetings, but I feel compelled to begin sharing them with you so we can pray together for these precious souls.
The mission field can be a very rewarding place - especially when you get to witness God's hand at work.
And sometimes...it is a place where God chooses to bless us in a very special way!
Last weekend we went to the village of Matunda. We had a great time sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We found success in our teaching and we witnessed many who made sincere professions of faith. While this was a blessing that insured the weekend to be a great success for the Kingdom...there was a little something extra in it for me. As soon as I got out of my vehicle, I started hearing little voices shouting "Mukuwa....Mukuwa...Mukuwa!" I looked up and 3 little children came running up to me and jumped up into my arms. All they could say was "Mukuwa...Mukuwa...Mukuwa". These children were from the Lozi tribe where the word "Mukuwa" means "White Man". We could not speak each others language, but I learned what Mukuwa means and they used that word a thousand times throughout the weekend to communicate a very special love for me. A love, by the way, that I DID NOT deserve! Any time I was outside the church, they would come running to me and climb all over me with the most tender love a child can muster. They laughed and laughed and laughed and continued repeating "Mukuwa...Mukuwa...Mukuwa" while they grabbed both of my legs...touched my face and my beard and the hair on my arms...and hugged me so tight as I tried to move about from place to place. Following the last service of the weekend we were asked to stand outside the church doorway as each person came by - singing an upbeat praise song shaking our hands in appreciation as they filed out the door. When the little girl in white came out, she stood right next to me wrapping both arms around my leg as I continued to shake the hands of the people as they came by.
From the minute I arrived until the minute I drove away, these children watched me - they hugged me and laughed with me - or they watched from a distance smiling at me from ear to ear. These children would just not let me alone...but was I complaining? No Way! I was smitten by these children. They reminded me so much of my grandchildren - the ones who are too far away to reach out and touch. How much I long to hold them and to feel their love returned to me. A man dreams of days when his children or his grandchildren come running up for that "Great Big Bear Hug" - the kind of hug and laughter that comes from an innocent child that is full of love and joy...and so eager to share it. It reminds me of the love we read about in the Bible - that childlike love that comes form innocence. The kind of love the Lord wants to share with us...and us with Him. The kind of love I found that day in the village of Matunda...from those 3 little children whose voices I can still hear today...calling out to me..."Mukuwa...Mukuwa...Mukuwa"!
..................... A love,by the way, that I DO NOT deserve!
Last May we went back to Chabalanda for a 2-day follow-up visit. The church that had been built immediately following our initial visit in July 2012 had already been torn down and replaced by a larger one. The congregation had grown to over 70 in regular Sunday attendance. Headman Edward Chabalanda remains committed to having a strong church for the people of his village. There are 4 other churches in that village, but only a handful of regular attenders. The Church of Chabalanda is on the move. Already, the second building has been outgrown.
The leadership is bonding nicely. The Church of Chabalanda is lead by 2 men: Stanley and Jacob. Stanley is very old, but a wise man who has been a long time pastor. Jacob is the "heir apparent" in training for the pastors role when Stanley steps down. All of the leaders who helped get this church started are committed to their future and are solid with headman Edward Chabalanda in hid dream to have a mature Bible believing church in his village. Edward has lead the way by supporting the ministries we are bringing to that area and has himself expressed his faith and followed last August in water baptism.
We spent 2 days discussing the future of the church and teaching lessons to the people. As is the case for many Zambians, there is confusion regarding the "right message". There is much to gain in the area of understanding that "works" will not get you to Heaven. The idea that "church" can only happen inside a building was the basis for a teaching session. We took them all outside and "had church" to demonstrate the idea that WE are the temple...not the building.
Edward Chabalanda's dream has become my dream - to raise up a church in the village of Chabalanda and to see the 1000+ residents become followers of Christ. He is committed to the task, but he needs our help. The church building is very fragile - it has grass walls and a plastic tarp for a roof. I would like to see the funds raised to help them build a good building with brick walls and a metal roof.
The village of Chabalanda is very large. It contains over 125 individual families. Astonishingly, there is no water supply there. All residents must travel to a neighboring village and stand in line behind people and cattle to get water. It is always a long journey and a longer wait. $5000 will go a long way towards building a proper structure and $10,000 will easily cover the costs for digging a well. All the right pieces are in order: The headman is supportive and the people have demonstrated the determination and longevity...they need our help to maintain that momentum. Helping them with their humanitarian needs can only enhance the spiritual growth that is taking place in Chabalanda - a growth that God is blessing and has a great chance to succeed.
To help start at this location:
I woke up one day and discovered God wanted me to quit what I was doing for me...and start doing something for Him.