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.
Although I am teaching just two more days before leaving, I wanted to introduce you to the students I have been teaching here at the Theological College of Central Africa (TCCA – affectionately called “Teeka”). Here is a picture I took this morning:
|From Left to Right: Me, Jose Lausu Leonardo, Donald Munachoonga, Charity Kombe, Terence Kombe, David Matolokoshi, Mercy Rukundo
Let me tell you a little bit about each of them so you can be praying for them:
- Jose Lausu Leonardo: Jose is my only student not from Zambia; he is instead from Angola. He has already been actively involved in ministry there, helping to train people to take the gospel into the school system and reaching out into remote villages that have yet to be reached with the Gospel. He is single, but praying for God to give him a helper suitable for him.
- Donald Munachoonga: Donald is married but as of yet has no children. He asks good questions and makes perceptive comments in class.
- Terence & Charity Kombe: This married couple has a four-year old daughter. They are preparing for full time ministry, but are not sure where. Terence is also a very good athlete.
- David Matolokoshi: David is a single man who is also preparing for full-time ministry, though he was actively serving in his church before coming to TCCA. He is very thoughtful and asks good questions that make me think.
- Mercy Rukundo: Although she is rather quiet in class, she is an excellent student. Her husband Paul is a second year student here at TCCA as well. They have a son named Shalom.
All of these students are in their first year here at TCCA. The class I am teaching is part of their core curriculum. It has been such a joy to introduce them afresh to the person of Jesus Christ as he is revealed in each of the Gospels. I think the greatest joy I experience as a professor/teacher is helping students to see or understand something for the first time, and observe the joy of discovering something new. I have had that privilege several times thus far.
Their final exam is on Thursday, and I know they would appreciate your prayers for them. Pray that God will use what they are learning to build a foundation for a lifetime of faithful love for and service to Christ. They will be taking the gospel to places that most of us will never see, and it has been a privilege to play a small part in equipping them for that task.
Friday afternoon I leave for the United States, and arrive late Saturday afternoon in Denver. Please pray for smooth travels and no delays as I am eager to see my family. Thanks so much for all of you who have prayed for me and my students during this trip.
This past Sunday I had the privilege of preaching at Ndola Baptist Church:
From what I am told, the church has a long and proud history in Zambia. Men raised up in this church have gone many places to start new works of God both in Zambia and beyond. Because they are currently renovating the sanctuary, they are meeting in a tent on the property.
I was asked to preach 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 in continuation of their series through the book. I must confess to being hesitant to preach such a text, since without knowing the Zambian culture very well I was not sure how to make specific application. But the Lord was gracious, and his people seemed to genuinely be helped by hearing from God’s Word about the necessity of settling our disputes within the body of Christ. Sometimes that will mean that we allow ourselves to be wronged rather than tarnish the reputation of Christ. But we follow a Savior who allowed himself to be wronged so that God might be glorified through the redemption of his people. If we are to be like our Master, there will be times when we will allow ourselves to be wronged rather than bring shame on the name of Christ.
What an encouragement to see God keep the promise of Isaiah 55:10-11
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Today I leave for the country of Zambia, where I will be teaching a three week course at the Theological College of Central Africa. So for the next three weeks or so I will be periodically posting on various aspects of my trip. In the meantime, I would greatly appreciate your prayers. Here are some specific things you can be praying about:
- My love for Christ and his people to grow deeper as I serve Him in Zambia. Pray that God would use this time to renew my heart to see the gospel go the ends of the earth.
- My wife and two sons as they spend time with her family in Colorado while I am gone. Pray that God would bless them with rich fellowship together.
- My health. Pray that God would enable me to overcome the jet lag quickly (I begin teaching the day after I arrive) and sustain my health during my stay.
- My students. Pray that God would help them connect what they are learning in the classroom with their own relationship to God and those whom they lead.
Be sure to check back frequently for updates. Thanks so much for your prayers!