South Africa & Zambia Here We Come

"Why do we get to do this?" It's a question Abby & I often ask ourselves. Tomorrow we fly to South Africa and then on July 5th we'll head from there to Zambia. We'll have the privilege of preaching and teaching men and women who are hungry to learn. Most importantly, we'll have the privilege of renewing old friendships and making new ones!

Our schedule for the coming few weeks looks like this (subject to change):

June 22-23: Travel to South Africa

June 24-July 4: Pretoria, South Africa - The Rise Missions Conference...Church planters, evangelists and missionaries from five Southern Africa nations (South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Malwai and Zambia) will gather under the headline: "No longer a mission field, but now a mission force!" Abby and I will each give a keynote address and we'll preach twice in local churches, as well.

July 5-13: Livingstone, Zambia - We'll be training a church planting team led by our friend, Pastor Imasiku of Victory Assemblies of God Church.

July 14-26: Mwandi, Zambia - We'll be training leaders from Sesheke and Mwandi, as well as training key youth leaders at The Rise Youth Missions Conference.

July 27-31: Mongu, Zambia - We'll be training leaders as the guest of Pastor Yuyi Collins Blessing.

August 1-9: Livingstone, Zambia - Pastor Imasiku has asked us to train leaders of a bush church outside Livingstone.

August 10-11: Travel home

As always, we appreciate your prayers and encouragment. We'll have access to email on and off throughout the trip, so please write. We get lonely for home sometimes!

And we'll be posting blog entries as often as we can, so check back regularly!




The Joy of Ministry Partnerships and Banana Pudding

Westminster Presbyterian Church Mission Presentation

Westminster Presbyterian Church Mission Presentation

One of the best things about being missionaries is the amazing ministry partnerships we're privileged to experience.

One of our ministry partners, Westminster Presbyterian in Burlington, NC, recently invited me (Doug) to preach and then, two weeks later, invited us to make a mission presentation at an awesome church supper. This congregation is led by our friend, the Rev. Powell Sykes, and is so loving, so supportive and so faithful to us that we always look forward to spending time with them. Thanks Westminster!

During the sermon, I mentioned my love for banana pudding and boy did that pay off at the church supper! There's just something about great banana pudding that makes any church supper special. The other desserts were awesome, too! And the entrees, as well! What a great night!

Following dinner, Abby & I shared stories about some of the students we've been privileged to teach, like John in Livingstone, Zambia, Olivia in Katima Mulilo, Nambia or John in Musokotwane, Zambia. Their hunger for biblically sound training and their desire to mature in Christ and share Jesus with others make it exhilirating to teach them. Abby and I often ask ourselves, "Why do we get to do this?"

The truth is, when we do it our ministry partners do it, too. Where we go our partners go. We're a team and we couldn't do it without the prayers, financial support, friendship, accountability and encouragment we receive. We are blessed!

As we prepare to leave for South Africa and Zambia on June 22, it's so encouraging to know that ministry partners like Westminster Presbyterian stand with us. Would you join them in praying for us as we travel and train?




Giving Birth to A New Grandson and A New Knee + Ministry Update!

April was supposed to be Rwanda/Ethiopia month as we explored new teaching opportunities in those countries. But, when Abby received a second opinion that she needed a total knee replacement (TKR), Rwanda/Ethiopia had to be postponed.

Prior to Abby's surgery on March 29th, we joyfully welcomed into the world our new grandson, Luke Stephen Slagle, born on March 10th to our daughter, Jen, and son-in-law, James, and new big brother, Isaac, not to mention Aunt Emily and Uncle Andrew!. What a beautiful boy Luke is, and what a great big brother is Isaac! We are so blessed with such wonderful children and grandchildren!

Isaac, Jen and Luke!

Isaac, Jen and Luke!

Less than three weeks later, Abby was having the TKR on her right knee. The surgery went very well and, in fact, her knee was healing beautifully. However, Abby had a setback ten days following surgery. The stress of surgery and the combination of anesthesia, steroids and painkillers turned her sleep patterns topsy-turvy, as sometimes happens we were told. A one week stay in the hospital later, Abby returned home and is slowly returning to full strength. Physical therapy is going great and at her six week check-up yesterday the surgeon released her to drive and to travel to Africa in June!

As Abby says, "The labor and delivery of my new knee went great, but the nightime feedings of the ice machines and pain meds almost did us both in!" All kidding aside, it made for a very tough month for Abby and me, and we are very grateful for the prayers, meals, texts, emails and phone calls we have received. We couldn't have gotten through the last six weeks without the help of such a great team and the mercy and strength of our Lord Jesus.

Recently on May 7th, our dear friend and colleague in Zambia, Percy Muleba, was ordained in the capitol city of Lusaka along with many of his Live School associates. We are rejoicing with the now Rev. Percy Muleba and his wife, Muyunda!

We are scheduled to fly to South Africa and Zambia on June 22nd. Please pray for us as we move toward that date. We want to be prepared with our curriculum and conference presentations as well as wise with Abby's full recovery while her physical therapy continues full force.



Getting Our Feet Wet!

L to R: Jan Swing, Sally Cartwright and Gabe Swing

L to R: Jan Swing, Sally Cartwright and Gabe Swing

Getting out of our comfort zone is always fun. For ten years we've been working in Zambia, and now a bit in South Africa and Namibia. Consequently, our recent trip to Long Island, Bahamas was very challenging and interesting.

We were invited to come by Gabe & Jan Swing of the Bahamas Youth Network (BYN) because they thought that our training might benefit the pastors and leaders on the island. We went to have a look-see, meet some key people and get our feet wet, both literally and figuratively!

It was great to get to know Gabe and Jan and we had the chance to talk with them about Long Island, BYN and their vision for ministry there. Gabe is an EPC pastor like me (Doug) and used to be the youth pastor at our own Lake Forest Church (LFC).

Morning Sun, Long Island, Bahamas

Morning Sun, Long Island, Bahamas

Long Island is a 45 minute flight southeast from Nassau. It's about 80 miles long and 3 miles wide, at its widest. It is a very beautiful place, as you might imagine, with rocky coastline areas, pristine beaches and lovely weather. Oh sure, there's the occasional scorpion or tarantula (LOL!), but there are also friendly people, fresh grouper and snapper, beautiful birds and a relaxed "Island Time" atmosphere.

Yellow-throated Warbler

Yellow-throated Warbler

Its geography brings some interesting social dynamics to the island. There's no central gathering place, for instance, and settlements (villages) run along the length of the island. Because of the distance from north to south, there are two high schools, despite the island's modest population of 3,500. Few islanders can afford cars, so walking and hitchhiking are common.

In 2015, hurricane Joaquin devastated the island, especially the southern end. Damage was considerable and recovery is ongoing. The island is economically challenged, to be sure, with some living in extreme poverty.

Pastor Craig Fox, Assemblies of God

Pastor Craig Fox, Assemblies of God

There are many churches up and down the island, including Anglican, Roman Catholic, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Church of God and several independents. The churches are all quite small, dividing up the several hundred Christians on the island who apparently make up only about 10% of the population. We worshiped in three churches, the Assemblies of God, St. Peter's Anglican and Beulah Union Baptist. We also visited an interdenominational Bible study at St. John's Baptist Church led by Pastor Dixon of Highway Church of God. We were warmly received wherever we visited.

Pastor Dixon, Highway Church of God

Pastor Dixon, Highway Church of God

We joined mission teams from SC and NC who came to do roofing and painting projects with BYN, and we even helped with the painting at BYN's Oasis Youth Center, just to get a feel for BYN's ministry. Some members of LFC and our friends, Daryl and Karen Poppen, came to work, as well. It was really great to see them!

One of the roofs we worked on was at Sally Cartwright's home (pictured above). She is a widowed grandmother who lost her daughter and two grandchildren in a boating accident a couple of years ago and is now raising her other grandchildren.

We also really enjoyed meeting Josh Linden, the young BYN missionary on Long Island. One of the highlights of our visit was attending the monthly BYN big group meeting that attracted about sixty youth from both high schools. We had a blast playing basketball and worshiping with them, and Josh gave a solid biblical message, as well. In addition to this monthly meeting, BYN has active small groups and a leadership development team, and sponsors an awesome summer camp, Camp Bahamas, in Nassau.

Sheneka Cartwright, St. Joseph's Anglican Church

Sheneka Cartwright, St. Joseph's Anglican Church

We had great conversations with pastors and leaders during our ten days on the island. Some were enthusiastic about the possibility of our coming back to train and some were less so. We believe our approach to training could be a real encouragement to the interdenominational efforts that have begun among several of the churches.

Please pray for Gabe, Jan, Josh and the churches of Long Island, and for us as we stay open to God's plan for possible future training there. Thanks!