July 18-21: We were excited to return to the Lilonga congregation of the Evangelical Church in Zambia (ECZ), located in the bush about 10 miles north of Sesheke where I (Doug) had preached last year. New elders had been chosen and leaders were hungry for training, according to Pastor Moses Yamba, our colleague and friend.
The training went fantastic. We were warmly welcomed each morning by folks hungry for God's Word. We'd remembered beautiful acapella singing at Lilonga and our memories were accurate!
As Abby taught them "Family & Church Systems," we drew a picture map of our family when we were children. There was so much laughter and joy as they drew, but also some poignant stories shared as we encouraged one another that God was with us even in the difficult times we had as children. They really dug into the Word as I taught them "Understanding the Bible," and focused on the structure, story and themes of the Bible and how faithfully to interpret it. The "Wounded Healer" Abby taught focused us on Jesus, the real Wounded Healer. The students worked really well in small groups to study Scripture.
One of our students there, a young single Mom of three, Helena, lost her hut to a freak fire sweeping through the bush in the middle of the last day of training. Despite this, they all still wanted to finish the training. So Pastor Yamba and some others from the class and I went and comforted Helena. They then left her in the care of some of the village "mothers." The church immediately began making a plan to rebuild her hut and replace her belongings.
When we returned, we spent some time praying for Helena and her children, and then finished the final 2 hours of training. Sad for the tragedy, we are glad no one was hurt, and are still praying for Helena in her loss. We are amazed and grateful for the ways these sisters and brothers taught us about community, sharing and generosity which arose out of folks with so few material possessions. We remain humbled.
As we drove away the last afternoon, several of the woman ran behind our car and sang over us, joyfully waving goodbye. We were deeply touched, to say the least.
As I reflect, I'm reminded of Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing."
July 22: Percy joined us in Sesheke and we had a much-needed rest day.
July 23: We worshiped and I preached at the Katimo ECZ, a new church plant. Pastor Yamba accompanied us. Worship was fantastic, the music joyful and passionate. There were about 75 in attendance, including 26 children! We had a great time.
The congregation's development is being hampered by the rent they're paying the school in which they meet, about $10/month. You read that right. A gentleman has generously given them a plot of land which is amazing, and they're praying about alternatives. We told them about a South African ministry that donates tents to new congregations. Pastor Yamba is going to follow up with that.
July 24: We traveled with Percy Muleba and Pastor Yamba about 3.5 hours from Sesheke to Nangweshi, a bush village of about 2600 people still awaiting electricity. We looked forward to training the 15 key leaders we expected to find there.
Please pray for Helena and her children, for the church in Lilonga as they reach out to neighbors with the Gospel, and for us that the Lord continue to order our steps.