Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Marks Missions Trip Log - Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday, April 22

It's a little before 6pm on Wednesday, April 22nd. Still traveling....did I say that we are still traveling? We have either been on a plane, a bus, a car, or in a airport for 49 hours since leaving Mt. Carmel. Still have another hour to go before we arrive at Luanshya where the Encounter Zambia team is located, our lodge is, and central headquarters for ministry. Over the past 3 hours we have traveled on a simple paved road and have observed nothing but village after village, cow upon cow, and people carrying 5 gallon buckets off water on their heads. We have seen some people with bikes and several girls carrying bananas on their heads. Complete poverty. It's hard to imagine where all the people are living as you pass the villages and see how small the huts or buildings are. We've seen brick huts, stick huts, huts with tar, huts with straw, and simple wood canopies. The pastors that are coming to our conference are riding on bikes from about a 60+-mile diameter from where our conference will be held. As we drive on the road, many of the people congregate by the road in order to socialize, or sell goods of some sort. Leonard, the Encounter Zambia leader, is a remarkable man. He has a Bible college education as well as a CPA degree from London. So he is definitely one of the privileged few in Zambia but God is using him to minister to a nation as a leader amongst leaders. I'm looking forward to getting to know him better. The team is sleep deprived and everyone is fatigued. My prayer is that once we get settled down in a little while, that we will get a good night's rest and wake up tomorrow with a spiritual freshness from our good God that supersedes the physical renewal we desperately need.

8:53pm. We arrived at Luanshya around 7pm and are staying at Farokan Lodge. It is gated with barbed-wire and is somewhat rustic. We have unloaded everything, have our supplies organized and have already killed a spider about the size of a baseball on our bedroom wall :) Here's a first: I'm sleeping in a bug net tonight on my bed, so that is going to be a new experience. Looking forward to taking a shower and having a full night's sleep. We had a snack tonight served by some people running the lodge. After that time, Leonard shared with the team about opening our heart, seeing what God wants us to see, and forget about ourselves and worship Him. He encouraged us with the fact that Zambians are friendly, they like to shake hands twice (two different grips back-to-back), and feel free to ask questions. Leonard believes God is going to move in a mysterious way in these days and he used the illustration of the Red Sea of how as they waited patiently on the Lord, they saw the salvation of Him who is worthy. Leonard also told us to take the time to share the Gospel and really spend time investing in people's lives through relationship. Be flexible, adaptable, and have a sense of humor. He also testified that Ardy has outlived his life by investing what God has taught him in Leonard and the Zambian people here. We were encouraged to take time to pray with people, listen to people, and talk with them....hear their story, tell His story. The only hope for Zambia is the Word of God and many of the pastors that are coming will have to stop and repair their bikes several times due to accidents they will have on the road. With all of this in mind, let's let God run His program while we are here.

Thursday, April 23

Luanshya, Zambia

Wow! What a day and its only day one! First of all, jet lag is over, God gave us a full night's rest last night (first time sleeping in a bug net by the way), and has given us a vision today for the world that we did not have when we got out of bed this morning. Today we have seen massive amounts of poverty and darkness. On our way to visit a missionary medical clinic, we passed by hundreds of little villages where people are living in huts and stick homes. In the more populated intersections, there were little strip malls you might say, compiled of cinder block buildings and stick huts that made up a general store, a barber shop, a small market or grocery store, and usually a bar. Though these places were "called" these things, they could not have looked more unlike one of our American versions of the above. If it were not so real, one would almost laugh in America that this building or that hut was called a barbershop or grocery store.

The medical clinic was a great blessing as we visited with a Zambian pastor that leads a mission society as well as runs the clinic. The clinic services baby deliveries and other medical issues. We are literally talking about an old cinder block "u" shaped building that was very small and looked pitiful. In America, it would have looked abandoned. We were able to pass out tracts there, visit with some children and mothers, and gain valuable insight from the pastor as to the spiritual needs of the church.
From there we visited a small market which consisted of a half table of dried anchovies, worms, and some other things that were not identifiable by me...several of the team members ate the dried worms....I passed:)

In the afternoon we visited the federal immigration office for the area, the team sang to them, and we explained our purposes for being here. They asked for a copy of our passports and visas, but let us know that we were among friends.

The highlight of the day was visiting the Encounter Zambia headquarters where we were able to meet the Zambia Encounter team, hear them sing, teach them, and spend some time getting to know their story and share ours. This opportunity allowed me the privilege of talking one-on-one with Leonard, Mabin, and Barry....3 pastors/ministry workers who lead the ministry here. It was amazing to hear how they lack so many resources that I take for granted. There was one shelf about 2 feet long that made up their Bible study library. Literally, they have about 20 books at the most that they use to train the team members and pastors who attend their bible institute. Leonard told me that just to have those things was a big deal and blessing. I could not help but think that back home in my office I have about 1000 books and I'm just one person vs. an entire bible institute. I was impressed during this time greatly that the Zambian team, leadership, and pastors need study bibles....something where they can have a commentary, bible study guides, and the bible all in one so they can rightly understand and divide the Truth. I got on the phone with the Zambian Bible Institute and found out that they print Life Application Study Bibles for $18.00. This is key because these Bibles are printed in Zambia and that is a rare thing and saves thousands of dollars on shipping should we buy books in the states and ship them to Zambia. So I asked Leonard how many study bibles they could use and he told me 50 (some for the Zambian team, leadership, and really committed pastors). So I'm praying for $1,000 + to get these study bibles for them. Here's my prayer: "Lord, I believe you placed this particular need on my heart, and it is a real need that would be a major component in equipping people here. So I'm believing you for the money, even before we leave Zambia." I let Valerie know through a short voice text to get the word out and we will see how God supplies.

God also gave me an incredible time with Leonard and Barry. Leonard, who directs Encounter Zambia, shared with me how for the past couple of months, he and team members prayed at 5am in the morning for the supplying of funds needed to have more than 50 pastors at the conference because of the great need. Both of us had eyes full of tears as he shared the burden God was giving him here as they prayed for more, and as I shared how God provided over $9,000 through Mt. Carmel, MCCA, and supporters to make a potential 300 pastors be able to come to the conference. It was a holy "awe of God" moment. He also showed me a picture of Garrett's class making breakfast to sell at MCCA to raise money for the pastors that I had emailed him.

Hearing the African team sing was beautiful and incredible. It just spoke to my heart even though I couldn't understand what they were singing since they sang the songs in their native language.
Talking with Barry was a special time as well. He is 36 just like me and has pastored for 14 years. He trains at the Bible institute, pastors a church, and helps with the Encounter team. He shared with me the struggles the church here is having and the complications that the pastors face. They are very poor, the prosperity Gospel has become predominant with some, there is strife within the church, and a major lack of Biblical education and ability to rightly divide the Word.

I'm praying that God gives me exactly what I need for the pastor's conference as I try to understand the culture here and what I can best do to serve, make the most impact, and do what God wants me to do while I'm here.

So ministry day one....God is preparing for the impossible! "O God help me to be on board with you...I so desperately want to be used by You for the masterpiece You are weaving together."

Last God of the Impossible thing for today.... God has already answered the prayer for the study bibles I prayed for yesterday through His gracious hand working in and through people's hearts at Mt. Carmel. Praise the Lord!!!! Praise the Lord!!!! Praise the Lord!!!! So, I'm believing God for enough Life Application Study Bibles to see all 250 pastors receive one. A study bible is unheard of in Zambia. To own a regular simple bible with no concordance is a huge blessing in and of itself. Most pastors did not even have bibles two years ago. So, to receive study bibles that contain theological notes, dictionaries, concordances, and study tools would be the equivalent of a Bible college education for these guys. Because they have no access to any tools whatsoever in interpreting the Scripture, many of the pastors preach passages out of context and incorrectly. Leonard has a mobile Bible training institute that is so faithful and wonderful. But you can only get to so many villages, train so many pastors, and when you train them, you can only train on a few topics at a time. But what if you had study interpretation notes on every page of the Bible! So we are now praying for $4,500 to purchase study bibles for every pastor and give them to the men at the pastor's conference on Monday or Tuesday. Mt. Carmel and friends through Aaron Weakley, Valerie, and others have raised $1,800.00 in just a few hours. Tonight, after sharing what God had put on my heart with the team, another $1,300 came in. So we are trusting God for another $1,400. Imagine 250 pastors, having study bibles, learning more of the Scriptures correctly, and then teaching what they learn to their people. Transforming a nation!!!!! We've only been ministering for 2 days and God is already doing abundantly beyond all we can ask or think through the prayers of His people. What a mighty God we serve!!!!

Today I was so blessed by Leonard. He is the director of Encounter Zambia and what a servant of the Lord He is to his people. He knows the Word, is properly trained, and is just an outstanding pastor, director, and leader. It is amazing how God raises up gifted men of grace and uses them for His glory in such a needy broken world. The Lord does not use methods...He uses people who are surrendered to Him. This is His sovereign and glorious design so that the power is of Him and not of us...mere claypot vessels who are in constant need. With this in mind, on the first day we arrived, Leonard what sharing with me how he and his leadership team needed encouragement to keep on keeping on. It's amazing...whether you are in Africa, America, or around the world, in Gospel ministry, there are times where you want to give up. God knows this and therefore the Apostle Paul knew it...so he stated in 2 Cor 4:1... "Therefore we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not." This passage has encouraged me so much to have hope, to keep drawing from the Lord by faith, so that I can overcome in what He has called me to do. I shared this verse with Leonard and God used it to refresh His spirit. What I thought was a mere few minute conversation about this verse, turned into a meaningful refreshment for Leonard that caused him to go home last night and share the verse with his wife and be replenished in the Lord together. When he came in this morning and told me this, my heart rejoiced, and his heart rejoiced that God would be so faithful to keep giving us the Living Water and Bread from heaven that we so desperately need to keep on keeping on with His energy. The joy of the Lord will be our strength.

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