I have now been back in the United States for about a week after my three weeks in Africa. I want to thank all of you who prayed for my time there. I am convinced that God blessed this trip, and one of the means he used to do so was your prayers.
As a way of wrapping up my trip, I wanted to share a few things that God taught me through this trip. Some of these are things God reminded me of, while others were new. I’ve listed them in no particular order:
- There is great strategic value in providing theological training for those who are native to a culture. As with any short-term mission project, there is a limited amount that can be accomplished. But I believe that one thing that can be accomplished effectively is providing theological training to those who are serving in their native culture. The men and women I had the privilege of teaching will go to various parts of Zambia, Angola, and perhaps even other places in Africa with the gospel. They will be far more effective that I as a white American could ever hope to be because they are already cultural insiders. As some of you know, when I began to sense God leading me to a ministry of teaching, preaching, writing, research, etc. I always had the desire to play a part in training people in parts of the world where theological education is difficult to acquire. It was so kind of God to allow me to at last see that desire begin to be fulfilled.
- The kingdom of God often advances in small, sometimes even unnoticed, steps. We naturally gravitate towards the large steps, or the big displays of sudden growth such as outbreaks of revival. And there is no question we should pray for that. But as we wait for those large explosions of kingdom growth, we must remain faithful in what God has called us to, knowing that we often do not fully recognize what God is doing in our midst.
- The health of the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia is strong. From what I am told, some observers even claim that the Reformed Baptist movement in Zambia is perhaps the healthiest in the world. I am in no position to make that assessment, but I can say that there are a number of strong, healthy Reformed Baptist churches that continue to birth new churches.
- Determining the best use of my time, energy, gifts and abilities is becoming increasingly difficult. I believe that my time in Zambia will prove very strategic. At the same time, I also believe that the writing projects that I basically put on hold to go will prove helpful to the body of Christ. It is this very collision between “on the field” ministry and “in the study” ministry that I continue to experience. I recognize that the answer is not to simply choose one and neglect the other. But the challenge comes in knowing which opportunities to accept and which ones to say no.
- It is not good for a man to be alone. The hardest part of the three weeks was the extended time away from Kate and my boys. This was the longest time that I have been away from them in our 14+ years of marriage, and I hope that this is a mark that will never be exceeded. I was grateful for the fellowship I had with other missionaries and their families while there in Zambia, but it is simply no replacement for my own wife and sons.
While this is far from a comprehensive list of what God taught me, it does capture several of the most important things. May God use this trip to further the advance of the gospel in parts of the world that I myself will never see. To him be the glory for any fruit that is borne.