Let the Little Children Come
Have you ever been mobbed because you had a bag of candy? Up until yesterday, I would have answered "no" to that question....up until yesterday:) We went out to the outskirts of town to sing and share the Gospel to the older folks at a local nursing home (that has lost all government funding because there is no money to give). Encounter Zambia ministers here some and came out last week and cleaned everyone's room. While the USA team was singing to the residents, I noticed over the wall behind me a bunch of little faces staring over to see what we were doing.
In Zambia, any residence or business in the town has a security wall around the perimeter of the yard with either barbwire or pieces of broken glass bottles sticking out of the top of the wall. These children were looking over the wall, all up next to the broken glass, because they were desperate to hear and see what we were doing. A man came by with a stick and hit some of them to make them get down. But a few minutes later, I saw little black faces with big white eyes peering back over the wall looking at us. So when our ministry time was over with the senior adults were talking to, we decided to go outside the gate and give some candy to the kids that were gathering from all over the vicinity because they had heard us.
Behind that gate must have been 80 children or more ready to get a treat. So we made them all line up, then as quickly as you can, you give them one piece of candy and send them away, give a piece to the next person, and keep doing that until you get to the end of the line and realize the line has started all over again. Not with new kids, but the same kids doubling back through hoping you will not notice them from the first round:)
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me." The disciples would have run these little ones off because they would have been a bother to the "more important stuff" going on. But what these little children did not know, was that they were important to Almighty God who desired to be their Abba Father, and because of this Truth, they were vitally important to us. So, without hesitation, let the little children come and eat of the Bread of Life!
Training the Next Generation
On Wednesday we had an incredible youth conference. Close to 200 teens and their youth leaders were present. At least 25 teens said that they had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior during the messages we preached through out the day and many youth leaders were trained as to how they could better lead their youth ministries. At the closing we gave a Bible to every youth leader in their native language. This was a big deal! Some people had Bibles and many people did not. At the closing of the conference, we had a small mob of about 50 to 60 more who wanted to get Bibles and that situation got a little interesting. I've never seen people get that excited and charged up to receive a copy of God's Word. My prayer is that these youth leaders will continue to invest the Treasure of the Word of God that will last forever in the lives of a new generation of Zambians. And we pray that through this Living Word, they would flee impurity, make wise choices, live life to the fullest, and grow in knowing the one and only Jesus Christ.
Unheard Of Work Ethic
The work ethic of the Zambian Encounter team amazes me. I do not believe I have ever seen such consistent, habitual, and daily servant's hearts like I see in these young men and women. It's just who they are. Let me give you a few examples:
As I was painting a house on the Encounter farm earlier this week, every time I would go to move my paint pan, and ERM Zambia team member would immediately be there to move my paint pan so I would not have to reach very far to re-dip my roller. They did this while painting at the same time themselves. Anytime they see you working, they immediately stop what they are doing to help or to take over so you do not have to do the chore.
Today I was picking up some garbage and a team member looked at me and said, "No Pastor Mark, I will get that." I've been watching these late teen and 20 somethings for days, observing their diligence and joyful attitudes in all that they do, and I found myself filling up with joy just doing things with them. The day I helped paint the house, I walked away from the project thinking to myself, "That's the most fun I've ever had painting in my life."
Today, after the youth conference, I saw a Zambian ERM team member picking up some garbage, so I went over to help. It was the first time in my life that I was truly full of joy picking up trash. As I was putting bottles and used papers in a plastic bag I thought, "It's an honor to pick up trash with this team member." Then we got all of it up, they refused to let me take the bag to where it needed to go. A few minutes later there were some big tables that needed to be moved. I helped one of the guy Zambian ERM team members move the table and all of a sudden, a girl team member came over and said, "Pastor Mark, no, I will get it." I told her no, but she insisted. It is not my custom or belief that ladies should be doing that kind of work when there are men around out of respect for the women present. But, off she went with my end of the table. Jesus said, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." Jesus knew that it was far greater to lay oneself down for the good of others than it was to live selfishly for yourself. Joy really is: Jesus first, others second, yourself last. It is more blessed to give than to receive. No one can ever change this, and no one ever will.
Two Pastor Marks – Oh No
Did you know there is a Pastor Mark in Zambia? There is:) By looking at the picture, do you think you can tell which one he is?:)
Pastor Mark was just one of over 200 pastors that joined us for a special two-day conference where we had the great privilege of encouraging these pastors in the Word of God, teaching them, and helping them to be better equipped to impact their nation for the Lord Jesus Christ. As of today we have heard many reports that pastors had thought about quitting the ministry, but after the conference they want to continue on. Many more have stated that their "fire" has been rekindled, strongholds demolished, and encouragement brought. These men can't wait to come back in two weeks and get their Life Application Study Bibles in order to better train their people and themselves, and yesterday we found out that Encounter Zambia gained 25 church invites through this conference to come and minister revival meetings in the days ahead! Incredible!