Grace for the Nations: Some Reflections on Our Trip to Zambia

From June 9-22, three men and eight women from Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, MS, and one woman from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS, served the Lord with gladness in the country of Zambia. Jet lag is beginning to wear off, though I’m still going to bed and waking up a lot earlier than I did before the trip (Zambia is seven hours ahead of MS, so 8:00 p.m. here is 3:00 a.m. there). Before I forget more of what I saw and experienced, I offer these reflections for those who prayed for us, and continue to pray for Bennett and Bonnie Ndelemeti, and the ministry of the Centre for Christian Missions (CCM) in Kitwe, Zambia. Certainly each team member would have his or her own perspective and thoughts about what they saw and experienced, but hopefully mine are broad enough to reflect the team as a whole.

  1. Our team served CCM in a variety of ways. CCM consists of an Academy (preschool-7th grade), a Bible college, and a seminary, as well as a number of missionaries that it supports on the African continent. I taught the book of Galatians to 17 students at the Bible college. The rest of our team taught God’s word, music, art, and played with the students at the Academy, and mentored the students and staff of CCM. We all participated in evangelism and outreach in the neighborhoods surrounding CCM, and shared testimony of God’s work in our lives to the people of CCM and to churches in the community. One thing that stood out about this trip was how each person was able to use the particular gifts and talents God has given them, whether teaching, encouragement, creative arts, service, etc. – and each of us was stretched in areas outside of our relative strengths.
  2. The Lord graced us with sweet unity as a team. Every mission trip I’ve been on has been a bonding experience, as you share life together in a way so unlike life back home. This trip was no exception, as the twelve of us shared a small dorm building with six rooms, two bathrooms, one sink, and one shower with intermittent hot water the first few days. We traveled for 48 hours there, and nearly the same amount of time back again, as well as another 16 hours last Saturday from Kitwe to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls. When people who don’t really know each other that well (even though they’ve been fellow members of the same church for many years perhaps) spend so much time together, so close together, you might expect there to be friction, short tempers, and hurt feelings. But the Lord was so very gracious to us, and unless something happened that I didn’t see or wasn’t told about, not once was there a relational difficulty that had to be dealt with. The Lord granted us the graces of self denial, patience, love, and a servant spirit. We delighted in one another, laughed with one another, encouraged one another, and helped one another. We came to know one another on levels that only trips like this can foster, and Lord willing these relationships will only continue to grow.
  3. The people of Zambia are hungry for the word of God. We saw this in the churches on the two Lord’s days we were there, in the Academy with the children, with the Bible college students, and in the community as we went out to share the gospel on the streets and in the marketplace. Perhaps the people were attracted to us only because we were a group of white Americans handing something out (the gospel of John), but I doubt it. There was an openness to hearing the gospel, a desire to know God’s word, a willingness to hear us sing and speak of the grace of Jesus Christ. Our outreach in the marketplace (something that is nearly impossible to do in the States, with anti-solicitation laws in place) felt like that of the apostle Paul in Athens or another city in Asia Minor, as we opened our mouths in the public square to a receptive audience. To be sure, there were many in the marketplace and on the streets who had no interest, but the Lord’s word was sown in many hearts, and we pray that follow up visits by the Bible college students will bear much fruit. We were convicted of our lack of evangelistic zeal and boldness, and challenged to testify of Christ’s love more faithfully and publicly.
  4. The Bible college students were my primary ministry during the week we spent in Kitwe. It was such a privilege to open up the book of Galatians over a 15 hour period (three hours a day). They were familiar with it to some degree, but we were able to go deeper into the text than they had gone before. We were also able to frolic in the gospel of free grace, justification through faith alone in Christ alone. Legalism, nominalism, and prosperity teaching abounds in Zambia, even as it does here in the States. I saw God work in the hearts of the Bible college students (not 18-23 year olds, as here; their ages ranged from early 20s through mid 50s, and many were already involved in church ministry in some way), growing them in their knowledge of the gospel, enabling them to rest even more soundly in Jesus Christ alone, and equipping them for ministries both present and future. We spent time not only studying God’s word, but praying and singing together, fellowshipping around meals and in small groups, and playing football (soccer) and Ultimate Frisbee together. Through modern technology I hope to continue to be able to encourage and be encouraged by these men and women who have a passion to spread the gospel around Zambia and the whole continent of Africa.
  5. CCM, through the leadership of Bennett and Bonnie Ndelemeti, has a huge passion for seeing the Zambians engage in missions beyond the borders of Zambia. So they are training not only pastors but missionaries, and supporting missionaries. As Europe and America grow darker, and dark Africa is enlightened more and more with the gospel, who knows but that some of these missionaries might not travel to our shores one day with the message of hope and truth? If you’re looking for a ministry to support in Africa, check out CCM. They have big plans, and need the Lord’s people to give generously to see those plans come to fruition.
  6. The joy and gentleness of the Zambia Christians are so palpable as they worship the Lord in song. Experiencing worship with this very different culture was a highlight of the trip. Though we could not understand the words, we could see their delight in the Lord. In spite of the material poverty of many, there is a richness of spiritual enjoyment and experience that runs far deeper. I will not soon forget the smiles that overcame the faces of these brothers and sisters as they began to sing and pray. As a pastor, I look out over many an unaffected face Sunday after Sunday, and wonder if there is any spiritual life present, any understanding of the words we sing. There was no doubt these Zambia believers believed and loved the words that came out of their mouths, as simple as they sometimes were. I hope that my joy in worship continues to be affected by their joy.
  7. We came to Zambia to be workers for their joy (II Corinthians 1:24), and I believe the Lord granted us that request. But even more were the Zambians workers for our joy, through their love for one another and us, their deep faith in the Lord, their love for the Bible, their hunger to see the lost saved. We came to be a blessing, knowing all the while that we would receive a blessing. The grace of God for the nations came to Zambians and Americans this past week. We saw the glory of God, not only in the splendor of His creation at Victoria Falls and the animals of Chobe National Park, but most of all in the people of God in Zambia. Jesus is building His church among the nations, and it spurs me on to greater diligence and zeal in the work of evangelism and discipleship in my own local context, greater holiness, greater knowledge of the Bible, and a greater passion for the work of missions around the world.

Hopefully I will be able to post some pictures soon, but for now may these words paint a picture for you. If you supported our team financially and with prayer, we thank you and thank God for you. May He continue to use us all to bring the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles!

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