Dominican Republic

Abby & I will be training pastors and leaders in the DR from October 22 - November 5!

Abby & I will be training pastors and leaders in the DR from October 22 - November 5!

When Steve and Toby Hopper (GTN colleagues) asked Abby and me to consider joining them in the Dominican Republic as part of a training team, we were excited to say, "Yes!" The truth is, we'd been praying about this for a year, ever since they'd mentioned their work in the DR at our GTN annual training event in February of 2016.

Most people think of resort vacations when they think of the DR. We certainly did and it's a great place to vacation, for sure. Apparently the golf resorts are amazing, not to mention the fishing, diving, beaches and whale watching!

But the DR, according to steve and Toby, is also a place where pastors and leaders are hungry for sound biblical training. We've talked with a couple of other people this week who've been to the DR on mission trips and they've confirmed the hunger and need for training like ours.

While I'm sure we'll enjoy the beautiful surroundings, we're looking forward most to meeting and training about 200 key leaders in four locations over our two week trip. We'll be training in Rio San Juan (10/23-25), Cabrera (10/26-27), Barahona (10/30-11/1), and Azua (11/2-4).

Abby will be teaching the women Family Systems and I'll be teaching the men the Old Testament and Discipleship. We typically teach men and women together in Africa, so this will be a new experience for us. We're excited to have this opportunity!

Would you please pray for us, our team members Steve, Michael, Ann and Sandy, as well as our hosts, Mesa & Mary. Pray that the Holy Spirit will unite us as a team and empower us to teach the Word in a life-changing way! Thanks!

 

Hey, it's good to be back home again!

August 1-3: The trip to Livingstone had been hot and bumpy, making the eight hours seem much longer. Still, we were grateful that we'd be arriving soon to Fawlty towers, our old, comfortable and welcoming lodge. It would be good to see Miriam, Ernestine, Wilkin, Elisa , Joy, Timothy and other staff who are always so good to us.

Regrettably, as we drove into Livingstone, Abby came down with the stomach flu which was to sideline her for several days. She was really quite miserable and unable to join me in the scheduled training which made her pretty sad. I, also, was to get a milder case over the weekend, but I was able to teach in between rests.

Pastor Fred leads worship at Kingdom Impact Ministry.

Pastor Fred leads worship at Kingdom Impact Ministry.

August 4-6: Pastor Fred of Kingdom Impact Ministry welcomed Percy and me on Friday evening (see video above). Fred had worked with YWAM for some time, but in recent years has been planting a church for the "broken and confused." His worship center was donated to him by a night club owner who had became a Christian and Fred's congregation has many young people in it. We had a great time of worship and training with about 10 young Christians, focusing on the Gospel's power to deal with our guilt, shame and fear.

Saturday evening, Percy and I met with Fred's elders and the focus was on Christian leadership. We pushed them as we discussed how Jesus turned the traditional understanding of leadership as power upside-down. We used John 13:1-17 as a paradigm for Christian leadership, as Jesus takes the lowest position and washes the disciples feet. The elders were extremely open and responsive. It was a worthwhile session.

Sunday morning, Percy, Muyunda and I worshiped with Kingdom Impact Ministry and I preached on the nature and cost of discipleship. Again, we were well received. The congregation was lively and responsive. Interestingly, Pastor Fred is spearheading an effort to plant a large garden on a couple of acres on the church grounds to help make the church sustainable.

John Zulu, one of our amazing students, now leads an interdenominational prayer ministry.

John Zulu, one of our amazing students, now leads an interdenominational prayer ministry.

Sunday afternoon, Percy and I traveled to our old student, John Zulu's interdenominational prayer gathering. This group of 30-40 Christians from a number of Livingstone churches meets every Sunday afternoon from 2-8pm for teaching and prayer. John launched this ministry after our training last year and it's going really well!

John had asked me to teach the group what I had taught in my keynote at The Rise Missions Conference earlier this summer when I had taught on the nature of discipleship. John had been able to join us in South Africa and had heard my talk there. So, I did. According to Percy, they were still talking about what I taught for several days after the meeting. Apparently, I struck a chord and John was spot on when he asked me to address this topic. I am grateful.

August 7-9: Abby and I were on the mend and we were able to meet with Percy daily to discuss our plans to reach into Angola with our training next year. On Monday evening, we celebrated Percy's birthday with his wife, Muyunda, and daughters, Natasha, Thabo and Nsala. We had a wonderful evening together. On Tuesday evening, Percy joined us at The Old Farm House restaurant for a lovely dinner around a bonfire. On Wednesday, Abby and I enjoyed a late afternoon trip to Victoria Falls to see the sunset. Amazing, as always! Then, it was a final dinner with Percy before our Thursday morning departure.

August 10-11: Thankfully, our trip home was relatively uneventful and we arrived on schedule. Our dear friends, Robert and Cyndie Howard picked us up at the airport and we enjoyed a meal together. When we arrived home, our Lake Forest Church mission support team members Lisa Hunter and Virginia White had stocked our refrigerator for us which was great. In addition, Cyndie had given them some home grown tomatoes and cantaloupe for us. Delicious!

Please pray for Percy and his family and all our dear friends in South Africa and Zambia. And please pray for us as we sort our our trip and try to discern all the Lord wants us to learn form these seven weeks. And, as always, thanks to all of you who support our work. Your presence on our team makes all the difference! Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New and Old Friends!

Our Mongu students were great!

Our Mongu students were great!

It's amazing how the Lord connects Christians to one another. In 2014, we met Joanna Hatton, a member of Centre Presbyterian Church in Mooresville, NC, who grew up on the mission field in Zambia. She enthusiastically connected Percy and us to a friend of hers in Mongu, Zambia, Yuyi "Blessing" Collins Mundia, a young Vineyard pastor. Percy followed through and got to know Pastor Yuyi who asked us to come train his church leaders. So, from Nangweshi it was off to Mongu...

July 28: Percy had arranged with a fellow lodger in Nangweshi to drive us to Mongu. He suggested a two hour short-cut over dirt roads to Senanga from where we could jump on a good paved road for the last hour or so to Mongu. Sounded good to us , so we climbed in to his nice Ford Ranger extended cap pickup truck and off we went.

The short-cut from Nangweshi to Mongu included this ferry crossing.

The short-cut from Nangweshi to Mongu included this ferry crossing.

It was a beautiful drive, highlighted by a short ferry crossing. The vast plains that flood during the rainy season were dry and the vistas along the way were just beautiful. We arrived at our lodge in Mongu a bit dusty, but glad we had taken the short-cut. And, our lodge had flush toilets. What more could we want? LOL!

We ran into a small traffic jam on the road from Nangweshi to Mongu.

We ran into a small traffic jam on the road from Nangweshi to Mongu.

That afternoon, we met Yuyi's parents and several of his siblings, delightful people who warmly welcomed us to Mongu. Yuyi's mother looked stragely familiar when we met her and we were amazed to discover that her eldest daughter, Beatrice, was one of our "3 Weeks Intensive Training" students in Sesheke in 2014! Small world!

July 29-30: We spent Saturday training Pastor Yuyi's young leaders, about 15 or so in all, who were excited and responsive. Our class was joined by two of our former students, Live School graduates Bosco and Moses, who have been planting a new church in Mongu. This is Bosco's second church plant since he completed Live school. His first church, deep in the bush, is thriving and he's left it in the hands of capable elders while he launches this new church. Moses recently lost his wife to cancer and had joined Bosco for a couple of months to encourage him and get, as he put it, some refreshment after his wife's long and difficult battle.

Our classroom was at the partially finished Vineyard worship center.

Our classroom was at the partially finished Vineyard worship center.

Percy's wife, Muyunda, joined us on Saturday, as well, after a long drive from Mwandi. It was good to see her and fun to have her with us for the weekend.

On Sunday, Abby led Pastor Yuyi's Bible study before worship, then headed to Bosco's church to preach! I stayed and preached at the Vineyard church. Then, following a lovely lunch, I taught a final seminar. Abby had returned by then as had Bosco, Moses and several of their leaders. It was a great day.

Students worked together during break-out sessions.

Students worked together during break-out sessions.

July 31: We met for several hours with Bosco and Moses to discuss the future of training in Western Province, Zambia and our future plans for training in Angola. Percy and the local Inyambo Mission Center (IMC) board have asked Bosco to head up training efforts on the ground in Western Province while Percy (and we) turn our attention to Angola next year. With the help of three great experienced leaders, Pastors Yamba, Sikute and Lewis, we are confident in Bosco's leadership.

Moses is an Angolan refugee who is about to return to Angola this fall after a seventeen year absence. He was a student in our 2014 Sesheke class. During his wife's struggle with cancer, he had finally been able to connect with his family after all these years who thought he had been killed in the civil war. He will be one of our connectors in Angola as we look to the future there.

Four young and gifted Zambian leaders, Percy, Yuyi, Moses & Bosco

Four young and gifted Zambian leaders, Percy, Yuyi, Moses & Bosco

That evening, we had dinner with Pastor Yuyi and his wife, Mercy to hear more about their work and get to know them better. They're a lovely couple and their heart for mission and church planting was evident.

August 1: We traveled to Livingstone, a long, bumpy and exhausting eight hour drive using three different cabs. We arrived at our beloved Fawlty Towers ready for a good night's sleep and a day or two of rest. Sadly, as we drove in to Livingstone, Abby came down with stomach flu.

Please pray for Pastor Yuyi and his family and the Vineyard churches in the Mongus area, and for Bosco and Moses as they plant their new church!

"More than we can ask or imagine" Ephesians 3:20

Our Nangweshi, Zambia students!

Our Nangweshi, Zambia students!

July 24: Pastor Moses Yamba, Percy and we traveled from Sesheke to Nangweshi, a trip of about 3.5 hours, the last hour over a very rough gravel and sand road. The vehicle was extremely cramped so we arrived tired to our very spartan lodge. Spartan, but clean, and staffed by two lovely women who would, along with two women from the ECZ church, give us four star service in our one star accommodation. At $6/night who could complain? Small rooms with strips of loose linoleum over the concrete floors. Concrete outhouses. Concrete bath houses with tables and basins. An outdoor kitchen using an open fire with an outdoor washing and separate laundry area. A solar panel for our single bulb at night. Nangweshi has yet to be electrified, although the poles are in the ground. No one knows when it will happen.

Our lodge in Nangweshi

Our lodge in Nangweshi

We rested until late afternoon when host-pastors Titus and Martin arrived to welcome us. What great guys! After our visit, we sat down to a fresh bream, nshima, gravy and greens dinner. The fish was fantastic, having been caught that day from the nearby Zambezi River, and we fell asleep wondering what the morning's training would bring.

Sunrise in Nangweshi

Sunrise in Nangweshi

July 25-27: Expectations are funny things. Set them too high and you'll likely be disappointed. Set them too low and the shock might jolt you. For two years, Pastor Yamba had told us that Nangweshi was hungry for the Word. He had finally convinced us to come.

We had asked for fifteen students from at least three churches. Pastor Titus had assured us there would be more. There were. We had definitely set our expectations too low!

our students were focused and attentive, to say the least.

our students were focused and attentive, to say the least.

The first morning we arrived to about 15-20 students. By the time we began praise and worship, we were at about 35. As the training began, our class stood at 56. Seven churches were represented and all the students were hungry and attentive and delightful!

Abby enjoyed teaching on Day 2.

Abby enjoyed teaching on Day 2.

The second day our numbers had grown to 75 students. Breakout sessions into small groups definitely took some organizing. LOL!

After an afternoon rest, we returned to the church to visit with the students, many of whom had traveled for the class and were eating at the church, although staying with families in the village. Pastor Titus, Percy and I then walked to town about 3/4 mile away to xerox the portion of our training manual we were using so folks could get a copy. I couldn't believe there was a xerox machine in this bush village, but, sure enough, a very professional young woman copied our manual on a small multi-function printer to the rumble of a small Honda generator. Nothing to it!

As we walked back to the church, Percy ran into an old high school friend he hadn't seen since graduation. They had a joyous reunion. How cool is that? Then, when we returned to the church, we found Abby giving simple bracelets to the kids, making new friends and then dancing with the women. In other words, doing what Abby does so well!

By day three, our numbers had grown to 100! Pastor Titus urged us to stay longer. He said if we stayed that 200 would come, maybe more. Can you imagine? Sadly, we told him we had to leave because we had training scheduled in Mongu. Next time?

A small group works during a breakout session.

A small group works during a breakout session.

We met some amazing people in Nangweshi. Chameya Ngomba, a sixty year old brother, had bicycled over rough gravel and dirt roads 148 kilometers (92 miles!) to come to the training. What a dear man! Elder Regan sat on the front row every day deeply engaged, and has been talking regularly with Percy by phone ever since the training.

Chameya Ngomba rode his bike 92 miles over rough dirt roads to attend our training!

Chameya Ngomba rode his bike 92 miles over rough dirt roads to attend our training!

But it was Pastor Martin Ilukena''s story that broke our hearts, that touched us so deeply. After day two, while Abby was dancing with the women, Pastor Martin told Percy and me that just two miles from Nangweshi, in the 1990's, the United Nations had built an Angolan refugee camp housing 27,000 Angolans fleeing the communist insurgency. It was all new buildings with running water and generators for electricity. (What a contrast to Nangweshi, a bush village of only 2600 people.) Swimming across crocodile infested rivers, the refugees had arrived war torn, many missing limbs or eyes, in deep shock, starving, and separated from their families, many of whom had died in the war or in river crossing.

Pastors Titus and Martin organized the training. Pastor Martin's story broke our hearts.

Pastors Titus and Martin organized the training. Pastor Martin's story broke our hearts.

With tears in his eyes, Pastor Martin told us how he had become a chaplain to the refugees from 2000 to 2008. During this time, while he ministered to these broken, confused and wounded people, he himself became terribly wounded. All nine of his siblings died during those years, six by natural causes and three brothers to murder by one man who confessed to Martin his crime. He told how he had surrendered his AK-47 to the police once he knew the man's identity because he was afraid he'd kill him. How desperately in prayer he'd asked for the strength not to seek vengeance. (Sadly, the man was never prosecuted.) Today, his mother and he are the only surviving family members.

He went on to tell us that, somehow, ministering to the desperate refugees during his time of deep grief had helped him. And then he emphasized that Abby's teaching that day on the "Wounded Pastor" had made him realize for the first time that the deep burdens and terrible memories he'd been carrying all these years were shared, in some way, by other pastors. That he was not alone in his woundedness. And that Jesus, the Wounded Healer Abby had taught about, had ministered to him and touched him deeply that day.

"You have no idea what today has meant to me," he said. "It has touched me deeply. It has changed me." I called Abby over from the dancing and he then told her how much her teaching had meant to him. It was, to say the very least, a truly sacred moment. One we will never forget. One we could never forget.

July 28: After tender goodbyes, we departed for Mongu via a shortcut.

Please pray for Nangweshi, for Pastors Titus and Martin, and for us as we process what God has done, is doing and will do in Zambia. And next year, in Angola!