Monday, January 30, 2012

1/30 - Lusaka Zambia Recap

Internet access has been limited and we have been busy and on the move so much the past few days that I haven’t been able to post…my apologies.

Let’s see…the last post had us arriving safely in Lusaka, Zambia via buses and taxis. After one day running around Lusaka to take care of the mundane, but never dull in a developing nation, tasks of exchanging money, buying water, and arranging for our laundry, the day was over and we ate some really good food at the hotel restaurant, made plans for the next few days, updated the blog, and finally went to bed.

The schedule that Pastor Ibrahim had laid out for us took us on several city buses (cramped is a huge under-statement) and a couple of taxis to an area outside of Lusaka where Pastor Ibrahim has focused his evangelism efforts. The village where he is working is called Sonadi. I suppose you could consider it a suburb of Lusaka but not in the good sense like in the U.S. This is not the kind of place where those, with some financial means, long to get away from the hectic city life. This is a community of the very poor. They live in shelters put together with whatever sticks, mud, thatch, and broken or cast off construction materials they can get a hold of. There are no real streets or roads, just muddy paths that lead from house to house and from shop to shop. Most of the shops we saw were selling small amounts of grains, home grown vegetables and greens, and dried spice leaves. Pastor Ibrahim travels to this community each week for evangelism. He is working to start a congregation for the people here. There are no other churches working here and that is why he chose this particular area to work. There is really no chance of starting a congregation that will ever be able to support the ministry since the people are so impoverished. What a wonderful example of Going into all the world. This is not just a little pet project for Pastor Ibrahim either. He is not really supported by a larger congregation either. He simply came to Zambia at the request of a friend to spread the Gospel in Zambia. He lives in a spare bedroom of a friend who has a wife and family of three children to support as well. He draws no salary and lives meal to meal as his host is able to provide. It is quite humbling to work with a man like this. He is such gentle and kind man full of love for others and has compassion that is evident in all he does. Just one quick example of his compassion and selfless service…as we were working out way through the community (more on this later) we took a quick turn down a path that led to man who was extremely dirty and un-kempt. His hair was matted down and I am sure he didn’t own a toothbrush. He was seated on a broken piece of concrete pipe with a metal sheers in one hand and a piece of twisted and bent corrugated steel sheeting (like you see on a roof of a barn or shed) across his lap. His crippled legs were sticking out to one side. His eyes and face showed the confusion of one who does not have the full use of his metal capacities. The appearance of such an individual brings two completely different emotions. One the one hand such a sight tells you that this is one person you might want to steer clear of because he no doubt, is full of disease, lice, and other such things that no one wants to be in contact with. The smell too, I am sure, would be repulsive as it was apparent that bathing was not a priority nor probably possible for him on a regular basis. On the other hand, the compassion that grips the hearts when you see an individual like this is overwhelming and the heart yearns to do something, anything, to help him. Pastor Ibrahim ran across this man on one of his first visits. He resisted the urge to steer clear and stay “safe.” Instead, moved with Christ-like compassion, he walked down to this man and began to visit. He found a man who has “a gentle and kind heart” with a crippled body and a simple mind. He has no one to care for him but there are many who treat him very un-kindly. He makes a small living by collecting and selling scrap metals. He lives with two other men in a small, mud-waddle-thatched roof, house that is no bigger than most storage rooms in a modern U.S. home. There was no door on the house, just a dirty, raggedy sheet that covered the entrance. Pastor Ibrahim spends time visiting with this man each week as they discuss the heavenly home that our Savior has prepared for him where there will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more cruel words, no more hunger, and no more suffering. And then he gives him a small amount of money to buy food. As Pastor Ibrahim handed him a small amount of Kwacha (about $2USD of Kwacha) I asked Ibrahim where he gets the money to help this man. He responded (with not even a hint of pride) that he fasts one day each week so that this man can eat. “Humbling”…seems like too small of a word or concept to describe the moment. Ashamed is maybe a better way to describe the emotion that I felt then and am feeling again now as I remember the experience with tears welling up as I type. The one statement that echoes through my mind over and over while I am on these trips, experiencing the joys and the sorrows of such work is this… “we can and should be doing so much more…we must do more!

Let me describe as best I can with mere words, the evangelism work that Ibrahim is doing Sonadi. He travels (probably 1 hour or more by crowed bus) to this village (slum) each week. While on the way he stops off a hospice house for Aids patients to share God’s word with whoever they allow him to speak with. They have many restrictions he tells us. We stopped on our way to Sonadi, but were unable to see any patients because of the restriction on that particular day. Ibrahim did not seem surprised but was disappointed as he explained that many there do not have long to live and they need to hear the Gospel. After his stop at the hospice he precedes another 5 kilometers or so down the road until he arrives at the path that leads the short way to Sonadi. When in the village he has a number of homes where he is known and they are eager to be taught God’s word. He comes with a short ½ hour Bible study prepared to share. But he also goes to house by house, shop by shop, and asks if he could spend a short amount of time visiting with them about God’s word. The day we were with him we were welcomed into six different homes where Pastor Ude and I took turns sharing a simple Bible message of God’s Law (to bring us to repentance) and His Gospel (to reveal our Savior from sin and death.) We concluded our message with the encouragement to look for Pastor Ibrahim each week and to attend the Bible studies he conducts each Sunday morning at 10:00 am. We were also welcomed into a few homes of families who were already familiar with Ibrahim and you could see their love and appreciation for this humble man of God. Ibrahim also likes to go to the football/soccer field where the children play to see if he can strike up a Bible study with some of the young people. The day we were there it was beginning to rain and so we were unable to stay outside on the fields to talk with the kids. Ibrahim was disappointed. It was a long, hot, and exhausting day, but still so invigorating to spreading the Gospel in such a way. One of the men we spoke with outside his shop was very thankful to hear us. He told us that at one time he had thought of being in the ministry but had fell away and had done many sinful things. He said that he had tried to go back to church that he was just too bad. You could tell that the burden of sin was heavy on this man. It was a joy to share with him the even greater joy of sins forgiven in Jesus name. I am hopeful that he will stay in contact with Ibrahim and more importantly continue to rejoice in the peace of God through faith in our Savior!

Our last day in Lusaka was spent in a seminar with the Pastor Ibrahim and the men he has begun to instruct in the Lusaka area. There were nine men in attendance (this included Pastors Yumba and Amos from the Kitwe, near the Congo border, who traveled with us to meet Pastor Ibrahim and discuss the work in Zambia). The day began with prayer and singing. Pastor Ude and I went through most of the CLC Statement of Faith Purpose to assist Ibrahim in laying a solid foundation of doctrinal unity upon which to build the CLC-Zambia. I also discussed the goals and limitations of the work that the CLC Board of Missions is able to pursue in foreign fields. Pastor Ibrahim, who has been with the CLC-Tanzania for many years already understands that our work overseas is focused on the training of faithful pastors to spread the Good News. But it was important in the African culture for the men to hear it from someone who is “in charge.” Of course, a few hours of teaching is not enough to dig as deeply into the word as necessary for us to establish fellowship, but as I stressed repeatedly, it is a necessary beginning as we work together to lay the cornerstone of a solid foundation by which we will be able to serve the Lord in a God pleasing way. The men were all very receptive to the Word and had only questions but no disagreements or challenges to what was taught. All in all, the day went well and I trust that, according to God’s will, the men there are well on their way. Pastor Ibrahim is a dedicated and faithful preacher and teacher of God’s word. His organizational skills will serve well. Just this morning, as we chatted over breakfast, Ibrahim was telling me about the outline for a teaching syllabus that he will email to me soon that will layout the teaching schedule for the next two years. Then he commented that it is very important to have a working and organized teaching syllabus in place before he begins the regular pastoral training classes so that time and effort is not wasted. It was music to my OCD years when I heard him speak of the need for organization and efficiency! This man is a gift to the people of Zambia as he works to prepare faithful preachers of the Word! Thank you Lord!

With our time running short in Lusaka, we concluded the seminar around 3:30 with a devotion as the women (who prepared an incredible meal) joined us for worship. Pastor Ude and I were both given the opportunity to speak. I thanked the Lord for this opportunity and for the men and women who are so eager and willing to hear and learn and be trained so that they can faithfully serve the Lord in whatever capacity the Lord grants to each of them individually and as whole. I am eager to see what the Lord unfolds in Zambia over the next few years. It appears that the Lord has opened another door of opportunity for the spread of the truth of His saving word!

We departed Lusaka with a rented car and driver as we headed for the Zambia/Zimbabwe border.

This trip took us to the city of Livingstone near the famous Victoria Falls. We were told that the trip (by car) would take around 5 hours. I had looked it up on Google maps and had my doubts. My doubts were confirmed when the 5 hour mark came and went and we still had 200kms to go. We were told we would arrive around 9:30 pm. We didn’t arrive until after midnight. We searched around for a hotel and were able to find a descent (not nice) hotel for the night. We checked in and after a quick, cold shower, went immediately to sleep. The next morning we inquired about the distance to Victoria Falls from where we were at. After we discovered that the road we would take to Zimbabwe was only a few kilometers from the viewing site we decided that it would be worth a couple of hours to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And it was definitely worth the extra time! This is the rainy season and so the waters were high and rushing. We spent about two hours hiking around on the various trails that give you some spectacular views of the widest (over a mile wide) water fall in the worlds. We saw the spot where Dr. David Livingstone first spotted the falls. Words and pictures will never be able to describe what the Lord blessed us to see. If you are interested….just Google Victoria Falls and you will find far more than I could ever describe. We only spent two hours…I wish I had about two weeks to explore this area just for fun…maybe someday! I found the picture below on the internet since none of the pictures we were able to take can really capture the falls. Incredible. It was a great experience seeing this incredible place, especially when we really had no idea we would get the opportunity. Usually I like to research a place before I go there. This time it will be fun going home and researching Victoria Falls with the kids after I have already been there. This seems to happen to me a lot. Take a peek at these website if you want to learn more about Victoria Falls.

After our time at the falls we the two kms across the bridge over the Zambezi river that forms the falls and divides Zambia and Zimbabwe. From the bridge you get another breath-taking view of the falls. We got through immigration and customs with no trouble at all, negotiated a taxi to the bus stop just outside of Livingstone, Zimbabwe and found a bus to Bulawayo for $20/each which we found out about half way through the trip was $5 higher than the locals were paying. We (and the locals) comically refer to this as the Muzungu (white-man) tax. The bus ride wasn’t bad at all but it was long and loud. They don’t seem to know how to turn down the music in Africa. We arrived in Bulawayo around 9:00 pm where we found a taxi driver to take us to the hotel that had been reserved for us. There was one taxi driver who seemed somewhat overbearing and pushy but he was apparently the only one who knew where this hotel was at. So, I reluctantly went with him…wrong decision. He took us to a hotel that was 10 kms away by the same name when our hotel was really less than a few blocks from where the bus dropped us off. I even gave him the address but he was convinced that I had the wrong address. Well, as it turns out, there are two hotels owned by the same company. The one outside of town is a restored mansion/castle that only has nine rooms and they rent for $110/single to nearly $200 a night. The other hotel owned by the same company is a modest by perfectly fine hotel in the city centre that rents for much less. After some inquiry, the receptionist at the hotel where the taxi driver dropped us off, realized that we must have been looking for the other hotel, graciously gave us a ride back into the down town in her own car as she was going that direction anyway. We checked in, found a nearby restaurant (Chicken Inn…like KFC) where were had a meal and then headed off for another much needed night of rest.

Today we met Pastor Apostle Liberty Atawa for the first time. He is now making preparations for our short time here in Bulawayo. We will meet with him that the other pastors he is working with this afternoon and tomorrow. We only have a couple of days here so we stressed the importance of making good use of our time. We leave on Wednesday morning.

I was able to talk to Beth a little bit the other day. She said a couple of the kids are having a hard time with me being gone again for so long. I miss them all a lot too. Please keep her and them in your prayers.

Thanks again for your prayers!

In Christ,
Pastor O.

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