Beyond Our Control

One of the cultural markers of the Western world, it seems to me, is the illusion that we are in control. Our political stability and wealth afford us this. Our water is safe, our lights turn on, there's food aplenty, our roads lead us wherever we want to go, Amazon delivers same-day to our door, our clinics are clean and doctors competent, etc.

When you’re working in the rural areas of southern Africa, all such illusions vanish. Water is scarce and sketchy, there is rarely electricity, food is hard to come by, roads are poorly maintained, Amazon is nowhere to be found, and clinics are rudimentary, at best.

This year, the four year drought is devastating Western Province, Zambia. Reports of one meal a day, at best, are widespread, people are going deeper into the bush to dig roots, and it's only going to get worse.

The hunger has been evident in the ever thinner bodies of our students, their whispered concerns, and in their troubled eyes.

And, yet, our students arrive daily and eagerly engage our training. No matter how much we train them, they always ask for more. It seems they hunger for more than food. They devour the Word of God and it's application in all areas of their lives, including, and perhaps especially, in their families.

This year, in Nangweshi, we listened as our students described in detail their tribal family traditions, and it was troubling, to say the least. In one tradition, a husband is free to kill a trouble-making wife at his discretion, provided he’s ready and able to pay her family a sufficient price when they come to claim her body. In another tradition, children are thrown food from the table as they scramble for it like dogs. Women and children are seen and treated as possessions of the husband and father because the husband paid for his wife with the “bride price.” The notion of mutually loving relationships where each family member has equal value is simply not part of their traditions.

Abby had been teaching extensively on God's original plan for the family in Genesis 1-2, the terrible consequences to family life because of our sinful rebellion in Genesis 3, God’s announcement of family restoration when the Messiah comes in the last verses of the Old Testament (Malachi 4:5-6), Jesus’ restoration of God’s original plan in the Gospels where he uses Genesis 1-2 as his benchmark for marriage, and Paul's call for mutuality and equality in marriage and in the church in 1 Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians. The discussion about tribal traditions had come in response to a small group question during her training.

As the discussion came to a close, one of our students put it like this: “Please don’t misunderstand us. These are our traditions. It's where we’ve come from. And, Jesus has already helped us to begin changing. But, what you’ve taught us about God’s radical plan for the family is now where we're going. We're not there yet, but we have left our traditions behind and are on our way."

We are under no illusions. We are not in control. But, the Lord is, and he is shaping and refining and transforming us, day by day, whether we live in the West or in southern Africa. And it is our privilege to be part of what the Lord is doing, whether here or there. We're so grateful that we, like our friends in Nangweshi, have left our “traditions” behind and are becoming more and more what Jesus wants us to be. We are not there yet, but we’re on our way. And we are hungry for more!

Please continue to pray for us, as we do for you. We've been with the Khwe (pronounced quay) twice this week. Known popularly as the Bushmen or San people, they prefer Khwe, the name of their language, which means, simply, “the people.” Tomorrow, we go for a third time to begin training a handful of English-speaking adults. Were taking this one step at a time. It’s a four hour round trip, so well only have 3-4 hours to train, but it’s a start. We'll tell you more in a future blog.

And, remember, where we go, you go!

After three weeks of traveling and training, we took a welcome break, including a renewing sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.

After three weeks of traveling and training, we took a welcome break, including a renewing sunset cruise on the Zambezi River.

Sunsets on the zambezi river are always memorable.

Sunsets on the zambezi river are always memorable.

We made our first two visits with the khwe this week in chetto, zambia.

We made our first two visits with the khwe this week in chetto, zambia.

In nangweshi, Edgar and his wife, memory, were a delightful couple, eagerly seeking to follow Jesus in their family life.

In nangweshi, Edgar and his wife, memory, were a delightful couple, eagerly seeking to follow Jesus in their family life.

“Some of the seed fell on good soil…” Matthew 13:8

The Kingdom of God is a messy, wasteful sort of business, if you ask me. Jesus, in Matthew 13, tells a parable where he describes the scattering of the good seed, the Message of God's Kingdom. And, if I read the parable correctly, most of the seed falls on bad soil. Only a small percentage of the seed roots itself in good soil, soil that produces a crop thirty, sixty or a hundredfold.

The secret to the Kingdom is that it doesn't require the Message always to take root, because the Message, by it’s very nature, multiplies. Multiplication, then. That’s the key.

I mention this because we had the opportunity during our training in Nangweshi, Zambia to hear so many stories of multiplication from our students. We were very, very encouraged. Here are a few…

Pastor Martin is actively sharing the Message with two witch doctors, one of whom has now released his wife and children to attend worship.

Pastor Sylvester has used our “Understanding the Bible” principles to instruct his congregation so that they have become resistant to the false teachings of the wandering, self-proclaimed prophets who are wreaking havoc in Zambia.

Pastor Patrick reports that he has become Kindom minded, and has stopped competing with other churches for members. Over the last year, he has counseled about twenty neighbors who had fallen away from Jesus and their churches. Once restored, he has gladly sent them back to their churches instead of keeping them for himself.

Pastor John has planted four new churches.

Pastor Sitali has used our “Discovering My S.H.A.P.E. for Ministry” training in his church, and they’ve begun connecting people to the ministry for which the Lord created them. A side benefit is that members have stopped seeking titles in the church, but have begun to focus on ministry

Pastor Titus has used our training in the “One Anothers" (love one another, forgive one another, build up one another, etc.) in his new role as District Supervisor of eleven churches.

As we left Nangweshi, we told our students to please continue to give us more grandchildren, to continue to pass the Message along to the next generation, and the next. After all, the Kingdom's nature is to multiply.

Please pray for us now that we're in Katima Mulilo, Namibia. Tomorrow, Abby is preaching at Believers Fellowship, our host church. Then, on Monday, we'll drive two hours to Chetto where we’ll meet the Bushmen pastors who are interested in our training. Pray that we will listen and discern well, and that we will connect just as the Lord intends. If it goes well, we'll return on Wednesday and Friday, as well.

And, remember, where we go, you go. We love you and appreciate you all!

What a great class we had in nangweshi. Cumulatively, we have given the core group 135+ hours of instruction over four phases. Our students have become our friends.

What a great class we had in nangweshi. Cumulatively, we have given the core group 135+ hours of instruction over four phases. Our students have become our friends.

Teaching under the tree is the best, especially when there’s a breeze.

Teaching under the tree is the best, especially when there’s a breeze.

This is what our driver called “a rural hardship.”

This is what our driver called “a rural hardship.”

On the road to Katima Mulilo, Namibia, the zambezi river appears in all its glory.

On the road to Katima Mulilo, Namibia, the zambezi river appears in all its glory.

Under A Tree Is the Best Place to Be!

The plan was simple. We'd leave Mongu, Zambia by 10am on Monday and get to Nangweshi, Zambia by 1pm, or 13 hrs as they say here. But, this is Africa, and one new tire, several stops to pick up items for our driver’s friends in Nangweshi, some loose lugnuts, a return to Mongu to have them tightened, a cold Coke and a few cookies later, we were finally on our way at 3pm (or 15 hrs)!

Well, it was worth it, to say the least. We drove into Nangweshi as a beautiful sunset unfolded, checked into our lovely lodge ($24/day for two rooms, meals included, with daily cleaning & turn-down service), and began teaching the next day. It’s been a truly fabulous week!

We're teaching Phase IV to students who have now become friends. We’ve spent, cumulatively, thirty-five days with them since 2017. This is our last round of training, and it's definitely a little bittersweet.

Abby's teaching on “The Christian Family,” and I’m focusing on “Church Planting.” As always, Percy Muleba has been doing a terrific job leading worship, translating, and directing us. The material has come together beautifully, and is challenging our students to the core.

Yesterday was Percy's forty-first birthday, and the class threw him a party in the afternoon. We had juice, crisps (potato chips), and biscuits (cookies), read a short Scripture, sang, and danced a lot. It was a blast! Happy birthday, Percy! We love you!

Please continue praying for us as we preach in different churches tomorrow, then resume training on Monday morning. Wednesday, we drive 3 hours to Katima Mulilo, Namibia where we'll teach Phase III to one group, Phase I to a new group, and meet with some Bushmen pastors in Chetto (2 hours drive) to discuss future training. It will be a full 2.5 weeks.

As always, we're so very grateful for your love and support. Where we go, you go with us!

We were disappointed when we were delayed leaving Mongu, but we sure enjoyed this beautiful sunset as we drove into nangweshi. Disappointment…His appointment!

We were disappointed when we were delayed leaving Mongu, but we sure enjoyed this beautiful sunset as we drove into nangweshi. Disappointment…His appointment!

Under a tree is the best place to train, especially during a heat wave. The shade is wonderful, and when the breezes come, as they did the last two days, it’s so refreshing.

Under a tree is the best place to train, especially during a heat wave. The shade is wonderful, and when the breezes come, as they did the last two days, it’s so refreshing.

WE'RE so proud to know such awesome zambian men! L to R: Percy, Martin, Sylvester, titus, and sitali, amazing pastors all!

WE'RE so proud to know such awesome zambian men! L to R: Percy, Martin, Sylvester, titus, and sitali, amazing pastors all!

The trees here are incredible, ESPECIALLY when mixed with the beautiful African light.

The trees here are incredible, ESPECIALLY when mixed with the beautiful African light.

A Future with Promise!

Sometimes things work out much better than you thought they would. When we arrived in Mongu, Zambia to discover that fifty students awaited us, we were concerned. Our strategy is to work with small groups, typically no more than fifteen or so. We believe that when it comes to discipleship training, small groups work best.

We quickly adapted to the situation, as I mentioned in my previous blog, and the week went very, very well.

On Sunday afternoon, we enjoyed a celebration service with our students, several of whom shared what they had learned during the week. We were pleasantly surprised at their grasp of the material, especially because we had covered so much so quickly.

Earlier in the week, on Thursday, we had enjoyed lunch with the leaders of New Vine who had invited us to Mongu, and cast vision with them for intensive training of a small group of selected students from multiple churches beginning next year. To our delight, they responded enthusiastically, and we agreed to begin intensive training over 2-3 years starting next April and August.

We so appreciate New Vine's vision and leadership, and look forward to working with them in 2020 and beyond.

Thanks, as always, for your prayers, encouragement, and financial support. Without you, we would not be here. With you, we are a great team. Where we go, you go.

Please continue praying as we begin training next in Nangweshi, Zambia, a bush village where we have trained three times before. We'll spend ten days there focusing on church planting (Doug), the Christian family (Abby), and biblical worship (Percy).

We enjoyed a great lunch with new vine leadership (L to R: Nama, Esther, jonathan, Patrick, Dan, and honorable who took the photo). we agreed to begin intensive training with their key leaders in 2020.

We enjoyed a great lunch with new vine leadership (L to R: Nama, Esther, jonathan, Patrick, Dan, and honorable who took the photo). we agreed to begin intensive training with their key leaders in 2020.

Sunday morning, abby taught at the vineyard church on the subject of “love on the frontline,” encouraging the congregation lovingly to share their faith on their frontline, the place where they spend most of their time, whether at home, work, school or…what’s your frontline?

Sunday morning, abby taught at the vineyard church on the subject of “love on the frontline,” encouraging the congregation lovingly to share their faith on their frontline, the place where they spend most of their time, whether at home, work, school or…what’s your frontline?

Mrs. Mundia, the mother of new vine founder, yuyi mundia, and the vineyard congregation listen raptly to abby's teaching.

Mrs. Mundia, the mother of new vine founder, yuyi mundia, and the vineyard congregation listen raptly to abby's teaching.

I saw this gnarled tree on the way to training one afternoon and hurried back during a break to photograph it at sunset.

I saw this gnarled tree on the way to training one afternoon and hurried back during a break to photograph it at sunset.