Today ends Saturday, May 21, 2011, and we’re all still here. Wasn’t today the day that the rapture was supposed to happen? Just kidding. I guess another self-proclaimed prophet has just proven himself false. Oh well.
Let me start this update by explaining the different groups and individuals involved in this outreach. Glen Megill is the founder of Rock of Africa, which is the relief ministry of The World Bible Society and has been working in Africa for the past 11 years. After a year of leading teams to various parts of Africa, he met Pastor Chris Mkandawire in Zambia and has been working with him ever since. This years focus of their outreach was geared toward men, so Pete McKenzie from Influencers and John White from Firefighters For Christ were asked to speak along with Glen and Pastor Chris. They also wanted to unite, rather than divide, the many local churches in the area, so all the other pastors were invited to participate. They had a pastor’s conference yesterday as we were training with the local firefighters.
Today was the main event for Rock of Africa and the Influencer’s men’s conference. It followed a night of significant rain, but this morning the skies were blue, with very pleasant weather but the soccer field that it was held at absorbed the water very well. When we arrived, a couple of large tents had already been set up but the stage and sound system was still a work in progress. Unfortunately, it was being set up in the wrong place and had to be moved right as the event was scheduled to start. Time schedules here are a bit slower than Haiti, so even though it started over an hour late, it was still considered ‘on time’. We had about 500 in attendance, which was less than hoped for, but the messages were well received. John was asked to exercise his gifting, as evangelist, and delivered a gospel message. About 30 came forward to receive Christ. Pete’s message was for men to come forward making a statement of their decision to be a man of God. Many came forward to be anointed by their local pastors.
There is a definite need here for men to take a leadership role in the church and within their family. Every pastor involved in this work group is saying the same story; that men fade into the background as all the work in the church is done by women. The kids here are similar to those in Haiti, in that they seem starved for attention. As I sat on the grass today to listen to our speakers, many young boys gathered around me, a complete stranger, grabbing my hand to hold, or positioning themselves beside me so I’d put my arm around them. Many of the young boys that showed up to play soccer ended up listening to John and Pete instead. One 12-year old boy, George, who worked his way under my left arm responded to John’s message to come forward and receive Christ. A couple of his buddies followed. George also received an FFC New Testament and referral to a local church for discipleship. So whether the attendance was large or small, lives were changed for eternity.
Tomorrow we attend Pastor Chris’s church in the morning and head off to Zimbabwe in the afternoon for a quick visit to Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River. Tuesday we train with Hwange Firefighters, and Thursday with firefighters in Harare. Keep those meetings in prayer.
Leland Davis, who has two small children, knew how to teach these children the "Father Abraham" song.
I apologize for sending so few updates, but let me share some of my frustrations. First off the physical aspect. This past year I’ve experienced significant hearing loss (I’ll spare you the details) that results in me missing out on half of the conversation in group environments. Second, the language barrier. Although the official language of both Zambia and Zimbabwe is English, there are 73 different tribal languages in Zambia, and 12 in Zimbabwe…and the primary spoken language for most is their tribal language. This results in some very strong accents; sometimes its hard to tell if English is even being spoken. And lastly, the technical aspect. South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all use different power outlets (Leland was the only one smart enough to bring a universal power adapter), our cell phones don’t work (again, Leland was prepared and rented a phone that works here), and Internet access is extremely limited.
Additionally, (as if I haven’t complained enough already) I’m just not much of a traveler. I’m very content on my days off to stay at home and hangout in the backyard or go on a short bike ride with my daughter. But God in His wisdom thought it better to nudge me out of my comfort zone and prompt me to go on this trip to Africa.
Men at the Zambia Crusade
Yesterday was Sunday and I led devotions. I wanted to comment on my interaction with the kids the day before at the men’s conference. As the music started I was at the far end of the soccer field, when for reasons unknown, young boys from several directions approached me (curious, I guess). We tried to converse, but since I couldn’t hear very well, they eventually ended up talking directly into my good ear as if whispering to me. They ended up imitating my every move; sitting down, clapping their hands to the music, bowing their heads in prayer, and eventually following me toward the stage. Someone had mentioned I was like the Pied Piper with this group of young boys following me to the stage to hear John and Pete speak. I had to tell them I’m not really the ‘kid type’. There are others I’ve taken trips with like Ryan Penrod, Brian Price, and Danny Caldwell that ooze personality and are ‘kid magnets’. Typically, my strengths on trips like these tend to be planning, organizing, and more task oriented stuff. These weren’t needed on this trip since Rock of Africa has organized it and we’re just along for the ride. God clearly demonstrated that “when we are weak, He is strong” and “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord”. It also reminded of something I heard many years ago, “God’s not as interested in our abilities as much as He is interested in our availability”. Make yourself available and let God use you in spite of our weaknesses.
Following breakfast, we went to Livingstone Presbyterian Church and experienced some very lively worship. It’s sad to say, but by comparison, most U.S. churches are flat out dull and boring when it comes to worship. Pastor Chris gave a very eloquent and dynamic message. I wish I had a CD. It would be a good one for FFC to pass out. This church is in good hands.
We then made a speed visit to Victoria Falls while on our way to Zimbabwe. The water level in the Zambezi River was very high and the rising mist from the falls cascaded down on the trailhead creating a torrential downpour at every scenic view site. We rented rain ponchos but got soaked anyways. Although we never got a full view of it due to the heavy mist, you could hear the power of this creation of God deemed one of “The Seven Wonders of the World”.
After leaving Zambia, we crossed the Zambezi, into Zimbabwe. I’d like to say we saw some zebras on the way, but that came later. We did see some hippos, impalas, elephants, warthogs, and monkeys on the way to a safari dinner place called, The Boma. They serve safari-type meats you won’t find anywhere in the U.S. The warthog was especially tender and tasty, but the Mopani Worm is a once-only experience for me. They also have dinner entertainment with dancers and drums, similar to a Hawaiian Luau, but with a safari theme.
Monday morning Thad Montgomery, from The Influencers, led devotions. This was the first day everyone attended our 0630 tradition. He read from Mark 2:1-12 which talks about four buddies carrying their paralytic friend to the home where Jesus was teaching and lowering him through the roof (because it was so crowded) in order for him to be healed. He used this story to talk about community, love, and faith. He asked some thought provoking questions about the men who carried out this task and later related some personal, and emotional experiences.
After breakfast most of us left early and drove to the Gwayi River Farm, a Rock of Africa project, where they were going to provide a hot lunch to the community. I believe this is a monthly activity for them. This area is very poor and it’s rare to serve meat with their meals, so a hot meal with meat is a real treat. While lunch was being prepared, we drove to the village center and visited a medical clinic. Sadly, we learned that 80% of this village population is HIV positive. Because of the stigma associated with HIV, they call it T.B. Type II, but its epidemic and just as deadly. Almost all the posters taped to the walls inside this clinic related to STD’s (sexually transmitted diseases) and their prevention. Leland assessed the clinic’s needs for possible assistance and provided the nurses with instruction on taking blood glucose readings.
We returned to ‘The Farm’, but lunch was still a ways off and teachers were leading their kids single-file onto the property and sitting them down in rows. About 150 kids ages 5-13 showed up, along with about 50 adults. The other half of our team still hadn’t arrived, so John took the opportunity to talk to the kids about Jesus. His gifting is definitely evangelism, and his heart is especially toward little kids, so he was really in his element. After he explained what it was to have a relationship with God, and followed up with an invitation to ask Jesus into their hearts. Everyone stood up.
Lunch still wasn’t ready, so Leland followed up with a talk to the kids about proper hygiene. He also used information gathered at the clinic and spoke to the parents about STD prevention and Biblical directives related to marriage and family. He chose his words carefully and did a great job speaking over the kids’ heads, but in a clear manner toward the adults. He lightened it up at the end with several children’s worship songs finishing with good old “Father Abraham”. He finished, and everyone was eventually fed.
We ended this day with Glen leading our team on a walk down the highway to see seven acres of land that Rock of Africa is in the process of purchasing. We took the scenic tour back to our camp and viewed some more unusual animals: zebras, kudus, giraffes, and some of the others already mentioned. Africa is a wild place.
Tomorrow, the Influencers team is heading home and we’re off to Hwange to do some training with the fire brigade there. Then, either spending the night in Hwange, or heading toward Harare where we will do some more training on Thursday. It’s about a 10-11 hour drive from Hwange to Harare on a highway hopping with Hyenas. (O.K., its late and I’m tired) I’m not sure how they plan on stuffing seven bodies and all our gear in a small SUV. I’m sure I’ll find out tomorrow…or rather, later on this morning.
Thanks again for your support. More info as time and logistics allow.
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