Thursday, May 31, 2007

Great quote...

To be a Christian does not mean that we are to change the world, but rather that we must live as witnesses to the world that God has changed. We should not be surprised, therefore, if the way we live makes the change visible.– Stanley Hauerwas

My letter to the parents of our church...

Changing of the guard...
I thought it would be interesting for those not involved in our church to read this letter I sent to the parents and students in the youth ministries... Only 2 weeks and I am done at Northlake... Please be praying for the transition! Thanks!

Last October on the way back from Zambia, I had an overnight stop in London and so I decided to make the most of it. I went to the London Bridge, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Tower Bridge. I also made my way to the famous Buckingham Palace where I saw the Guard. You know the guard who stands there forever and doesn’t move. I watched him closely and I saw his eyes blink. But, other than the blinking of the eyes, he was pretty still. It was very impressive to watch him do nothing for a long time. Well, my timing wasn’t right to watch the daily changing of the guard, which bummed me out big time.

It reminds me a bit of the church. The timing of the change in a church is often very difficult to watch because most of the time a guy goes out before another comes in, thus it means search parties and long interviews and bringing an unknown guy who requires lots of time for relationships to build. This last year has been different. It is proof that God answers prayer (God, if you really want me to go to Africa, please bring in someone who can continue what you have allowed me to begin here), it requires walking in faith (O.K., God I will email Steve right now at 12:00 am and ask about an internship at Northlake not knowing that this is the morning he proposes his new budge for the fall) and it denotes that things can be different than they always have been (pastors and elders working together to bring on an intern and allow for a great relationship to grow between both the church, the students and the parents over a year).

It is rare to see a good changing of guard both in England and in the church, but hopefully this change will be a little different. It doesn’t mean the leaving of relationships will be easy, as I am going to miss the friendships with this church and the students immensely, and it doesn’t mean that Blake won’t have a few learning curves to jump over and work through, but it does mean that God has shown clearly to be in this move. So as Blake comes in and I move out, may we all celebrate God in his love for the church that he cares enough to answer prayer and may we join in the change instead of watching as spectators. May we be the change, bearing much fruit and reaching Whatcom and the world for Christ. Thank you for your support and friendship over the year… Please keep us in your prayers and check our blog every once in awhile – !

God bless,


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Jesus Must Have Meant Something Else - A blog thought found online...

Jesus Must Have Meant Something Else
May 9th, 2007 479 words

Jesus must have been intending something deeper when he said that the poor will inherit the Kingdom of God. He didn’t actually mean that. He must have been meaning something else when he said it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get into heaven. He must have been using hyperbolic language when he said the poor will be blessed. He must have meant something else when he told the rich guy to sell everything. He of course meant to make sure his investments were in order; RRSP’s were caught up so his retirement was taken care of, his children’s college fund was generous and he had his cars and house paid off first, got a few extra gadgets for himself, take a few homeless guys out for Big Macs and then give away certain blocks of money every month, and then write the church in his will at the end of it all.

Jesus must have meant something else when he said that he came to serve all. He must have meant something deeper than the mundane action of washing feet. He must have meant sharing with people their need for salvation. I’m sure that when Jesus said the least will be the greatest he was saying that about us when we get to some other world and not right now. Or maybe if we say enough false humbling things about ourselves we will have convinced everyone around us that we “aren’t perfect” and that is what God meant when he said that last shall be first. I’m sure when Jesus said to be like a child; he didn’t mean be irresponsible, irrational, impatient, curious, chaotic and undependable. He must have meant to be cute, cuddly and innocent.

I’m sure when Jesus picked the outcasts of society to be his disciples he was thinking “I hope my followers do the opposite by believing and practicing that outstanding citizens, tithers, straight A students and athletes are the best disciples.” I bet when Jesus said that we didn’t clothe him when he was naked because we didn’t clothe the least of these, he was making sure we would drop our clothes off at the Goodwill when we were done with them. When Jesus honored the women who gave everything she had he was trying to give a lesson that we need to sponsor a child and tithe 10%.

Jesus was certainly a confusing fellow. He says so many things that are so hard to understand. I’m glad there are people around that can explain all the confusing things he says. Who would have thought that when he said to be the one that serves he meant to be an usher and run the nursery?

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Monday, May 28, 2007

A moment of honesty...

I was sitting here tonight, planning and thinking about my upcoming week, contemplating on how this is my last official meeting with my students, how I am going to really miss them, and realizing more and more how hard it is going to be to say goodbye to friends and family. I keep thinking about the weddings I will miss, difficult situations that I wish I could be there for, and students lives that I wish I could see through. It is becoming more real and more apparent that it is going to be difficult.

I am thankful for the hope of Heaven and the reality that there is more to life than just now. How desperate and difficult it must be for those who do not have this same hope, that this life is all we have... I am encouraged by how Abraham must have felt when God said, in Genesis 12:1 "The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you." Jesus himself writes these encouraging words in Matthew 19:29 "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life." And though we leave our friends and family, we know we can claim the verses of Deut. 31:8 "The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."

Though we leave, God will not leave... We bank on these verses and yet are honest with ourselves and you that these are not easy days. Thanks for your prayers...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

An update...

We just wanted to send you a quick update of some recent happenings from our Bellingham home...

The day after we sent out our last email saying that we had sold our house, the deal fell through. Since then, we have decided to try to rent with a 2 year lease and today it looks like it is finalized with a couple moving from Seattle to be professors at Western. They are a great couple and we are just very thankful...

As you can imagine, we are experiencing busy days now that we have missionary to-do’s along with home schooling and my full time job. After a date night last week, we looked at each other across the table, weary, and a bit overwhelmed, and we realized, we need more full-time preparation to do all that we need to do. We prayed, we talked with my pastor and my elder, we looked at the money that had come in and we have as a church decided that my last day at Northlake will be June 15 instead of July 15. This is good for everyone involved. It allows Blake (my replacement) to get an earlier jump on the summer as he will be starting on June 1st. It allows me to focus more on Africa with the studying and reading and overall preparation that I need to do. And, it is great for the students as they start the summer and their new year to have their new youth pastor in full time.

Lastly, we have reached 100% in both our projected outgoing funds and we are nearing 100% of our monthly support. This is such an amazing thing that we are just in AWE. We thank you, and we thank our Lord for confirming to us his calling for us to go to Africa.

Thank you again!
Steve (and Steph)

Friday, May 25, 2007

100 days and counting...

Wow. I can't believe we are only 100 days from arriving in Zambia... That isn't very long...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Prayer E-Letter #5

May 16, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,
So last Sunday we were on the way home from San Juan Island (I preached at a little church called Islands Community Church). On the ferry, I set Mommy free to do some reading while Kamryn, Bradyn and Julia let everyone on the ferry know that they were there. During a hand washing break, I said to Bradyn, “Let’s go search for Mommy, and the first person who finds her, wins.” She thought for a moment and then asked, “What do they win?” I said, “A big hug and kiss from Daddy.” And she responded, “Hummphh.” Well, she didn’t actually say that, but her anti-climatic, “I want something better than that like a treat or something” face said that. I said, “Brady, there are so many kids in the world who would want nothing more than a hug and a kiss from their daddy as the ultimate prize.” Again, I emphasized, “There is nothing else that some kids would rather have than to have a mommy and daddy to hug them.” That didn’t seem to work much wonder in her, but it sure did for me. As I reflected on that insight, I thought of the million orphan kids in Zambia, the orphanages that we will be working with, and the kids without families with whom my family will soon be spending time with. And, it gave me a lesson, on Mother’s Day of all days, which I hope I will not soon forget.

This morning I was talking to a friend who lost his wife a few years ago. I asked him how Mother’s Day was for him and his family. He admitted that it was tough on him and he confided how he regrets not having spent more time celebrating these special occasions. After he talked a bit more, I shared with him this conversation with Bradyn and then I said, “I’ll bet you would give anything to just have one more chance to celebrate with your wife.” He shook his head and the silence spoke volumes. These two conversations come in the middle of a four week series on thankfulness that I have been teaching to the high school and college students at Northlake. What powerful reminders to continue to grow in gratitude and revel in the daily gifts of God. I am learning that thanksgiving is one of those commands of God that really is for our own good. Thanksgiving is the antidote for worry, the opposite of greed, the secret of contentment and the answer for pride.

Later this evening, I was adding in a few more names of people who wanted to be on our Africa mailing list, and as I typed I grew increasingly grateful by the amount of people who have committed to pray for us and/or financially support us. As I am both teaching on thankfulness and learning to be thankful, I am enjoying the many opportunities that I get to write “thank you” to friends and family for loving us to Africa and for committing to partner with us in Africa. There is something extremely humbling and freeing about saying “thank you” and it feels wonderful to have people behind us.

We have much to be thankful for:
We have now reached 100% of our outgoing support and we are at 81% of our monthly support. Isn’t that amazing? Thank you! (If you do want to partner with us monthly, please go to and click on “Become a financial partner” button…)

We sold our house! Our neighbors who were renting their house are buying ours. We will be closing and moving out on July 29. (important prayer note: They pulled out so we haven't sold our house... Aughh!)

I am baptizing our neighbors, Jerrad and Kelli Krause this Sunday. It is a neat story of how Kamryn invited their son Travis to AWANA and then over the next few months, the entire family started attending church. I have been meeting weekly with Jerrad, and Stephanie has been meeting with Kelli. They have become good friends and we will really miss them.

We celebrated our 9th anniversary with a little getaway in Seattle.

Again, thank you for your support! We would love to hear from you!!!

The Allen Family

Perspective from the field

Below is a letter from Elise Whitfield who is in Zambia with Action International. Though her experiences may be different from ours, it is neat for us to read what they are doing, especially from the mommy side of things, and it is encouraging to see how God might us in the ministry. Please note that you can see the other blogs of our teammates on the sidebar to the bottom right...

Hello Family and Friends!

We pray that each of you are healthy and are enjoying the new spring weather. The weather here in Zambia is slowly changing also! It is getting cooler every couple weeks and we love the breezes and more fall-like weather. Many Zambians have brought out their coats while we are still in short-sleeves. Well we are trying to update and keep in touch weekly instead of monthly. I have loved hearing all the news from all of you so thank you for keeping us in the loop! We miss and love you all.
For many of you this might come as a shock or either you will get a good laugh out of it……I started a cooking class with my Bible study ladies! The last two Wednesdays there were 10 of us and I taught the ladies how to make biscuits and banana bread from scratch. Many of you know my cooking abilities and yes God can perform miracles! I am learning to cook from scratch and loving it. (I made pizza for dinner last night and it turned out great and was fun to make!) The ladies and I are feeling more comfortable and getting to know each other better in the last 4 weeks! It has been a blessing to me to make new friends and has also been stretching for me to come up with my own Bible studies. God is so good and He has been teaching me a lot about my self, things I need to lie at His feet and my need for Him in every area of my life. Pretty basic concepts, but it has been more evident to me of how much I try to do things my own before giving them to God. Rather, I initially need to give it to God and not even attempt to figure it out!!!

Every Tuesday we go to Kanyama and visit the Emmanuel Family Home (orphanage). Last Tuesday we had a wonderful visit and the girls especially love hugging and kissing on the babies. Emma and Macie keep asking me, “When are we going to bring a baby home?” Not a week goes by without that question being asked. The tender concern in their voices for a little one-month-old baby boy called Blessing is so sweet and touching. We sit on the floor with the toddlers and sing, play toys, and color. The kids fight over who gets to sit on my lap and Payton gets very jealous as he watches all this competition! The house mothers love our company and extra hands to

help feed the three little babies, who usually are awake and hungry all at the same time. It has been a blessing to all of us to literally be the helping hands in a very practical way.
Home schooling Macie and Emma has also been another blessing in disguise. I am spending so much time with them one-on-one and we have really been having a lot of fun together. I can honestly say I was dreading the transition from private school to home schooling but God has given me many mothers here on our team that have encouraged me and help me in our transition. We have a great schedule and Payton is doing better and becoming less of a “disturbance” during our school time. Thank you to all who have been praying for us in this area and for all those who have gave me such great advice and encouragement before we got on the field!

I am hoping by e-mailing weekly that you all can practically hear and see the things we are doing and feel more connected to us. So imagine with me a very white and very buff Football player running down the field, sweating, panting and yelling along side a whole team of skinny Zambians. Also imagine his very loud, white family standing on the field cheering for Him and the team. You can image that we might stand out just a little bit!

This is a picture of our Sunday afternoons, out here at the farm. Trying to engage in our new culture has been uncomfortable at times but always rewarding. I have been invited by my house helper, Maureen to a wedding shower this Saturday afternoon. In Zambia such parties are called Kitchen Parties. I am looking forward to the cultural experience and time with Maureen. Last weekend we attended out first Zambian wedding. Our accountant that has worked for ACTION for several years got married and invited the whole team. We were asked not to bring kids so Maureen brought her kids to our house and they all played together. The wedding was very western, but the dancing was one of the major differences. At the reception the bridesmaids and groomsmen danced down the aisle by themselves. When the cake was presented, the bridesmaids held each layer as they danced down the aisle once more. Each family also did a group dance, where all members of the families participated. It was a joyful time and a very neat African experience. We all had a good laugh imaging our families dancing down the aisle and carrying the cake!!!

We are also excited that we have found a church and a new group of believers to be a part of. Evangel Baptist Church is the name of the church that we have been attending regularly this last month or so. I am planning on joining the choir next in June and will participate in the weekly practices.

We have been welcomed so graciously and we are excited to soon join a small group. Luke has connected with Pastor Grave who just returned home from a year in the states and we are hoping to have his family for dinner sometime soon. We are excited to see where God can use us within this church and all that He is going to teach us through this body!
We also have a trip planned next week to visit our fellow ACTION team members who live in Malawi. The Burns have lived in a small town called Ntcheu for 18months and are the only family out there. They have started a new ACTION ministry there and are looking for new families to join them. We have always been open to where God would lead us once we got here, so we are taking a 2 week trip to visit them and see the ministry opportunities there.

It is a more remote area in the mountains and about 2 hours from Lake Malawi. We will be taking some time to visit the lake and enjoy the beach with the Burns also. We are looking forward to this visit and to see if andhow God can use us in Malawi. We are not sure how available e-mail will be but we will update you as soon as we return home. We are leaving Monday May 21st and will return Monday June 4th and Luke and I will have our cell phones if you would like to keep in touch that way. Please keep us in your prayers for our patience during the 10hour car ride! Our fellow missionary and friend Shannon Storey is also joining us so that will be fun and good for her to see possible opportunities for ministry.

Thank you all for all your love, support and prayers. We think of you all often and remember you in our prayers. Please continue to keep in touch we love hearing from you. God bless and keep you!

Love The Whitfield’s,
Luke, Elise,
Macie, Emma and Payton

James 1:27 “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress ad refusing to let the world

corrupt you.”

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Good Memories...

A picture of BBQ with our Northlake college group at our house...

An insightful article in to Africa and America - Worth the read!

Experiencing Life at the Margins
An African bishop tells North American Christians the most helpful gospel-thing they can do.

If you want to ask the Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye what's new in his ministry, allow some extra time. As assistant bishop of Kampala in the Church of Uganda, Zac oversees churches that are enjoying tremendous growth and confronting pressing needs. He and his wife, Theodora, counsel Ugandans who have suffered the trauma of war, advise startup businesses throughout Africa, and nurture Christian student movements and evangelistic efforts. His contributions to spiritual and cultural renewal in Africa alone would make him a valuable respondent to our big question: How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?

But Zac, a protégé of evangelical leader John Stott, also has cultivated deep relationships with Christians in the West, beginning with theological studies at Wheaton and Edinburgh. As a senior adviser to Geneva Global—another product of Stott's far-flung network of students and friends—Zac is creating international partnerships that model the candid challenge he offers to American Christians in this interview.

Related articles and links

As a longtime friend and partner of North American Christians, what have you noticed about us?

One of the gravest threats to the North American church is the deception of power—the deception of being at the center. Those at the center tend to think, "The future belongs to us. We are the shapers of tomorrow. The process of gospel transmission, the process of mission—all of it is on our terms, because we are powerful, because we are established. We have a track record of success, after all."

Yet recently the Lord led me to an amazing passage, the encounter between Jesus and Nathaniel in John 1. Nathaniel has decided Jesus is a non-entity. Jesus comes from Nazareth, after all.

Nathaniel's skepticism comes from being in power, being at the center. Those at the center decide that anyone not with us is—not against us—[but] just irrelevant. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" It doesn't warrant our time. But the Messiah is from Nazareth.

Surprise, Nathaniel!

What's the problem with being at the center?

God very often is working most powerfully far from the center. Jesus is crucified outside Jerusalem—outside—with the very cynical sign over his head, "The King of the Jews." Surprise—he is the King of the Jews. "We had hoped … " say the disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus, but he did not fulfill our criteria. In Acts, we read that the cross-cultural missionary thrust did not begin in Jerusalem. It began in Antioch, on the periphery, the margins. But Jerusalem is not ready for Antioch! In fact, even when they go to Antioch, it's just to check on what's happening.

I have come to the conclusion that the powerful, those at the center, must begin to realize that the future shape of things does not belong to them. The future shape of things is on the periphery. The future shape of things is not in Jerusalem, but outside. It is Nazareth. It is Antioch.

If you really want to understand the future of Christianity, go and see what is happening in Asia, Africa, Latin America. It's the periphery—but that's where the action is.

But many American churches are already deeply involved in missions overseas.

Of course. Yet it's so difficult to get American Christians, even those who profess to love missions and their brothers and sisters on the periphery, to actually come and see what is happening where we are. This is especially true of those in the positions of greatest power in the church. I have asked a friend, a pastor of a large church that gives half of its money to missions, to come and spend time on the fringes. But he won't. He wants to spend his study leave in Oxford, in Australia. How can American pastors be leaders if they haven't seen what God is doing elsewhere? Every search process for a senior pastor should ask, "Do you have experience in marginal places, economically deprived places, places with HIV/AIDS? Have you gone to be among them?"

What could equip us to be more countercultural, living in a nation that is very much at the center of power?

We need to begin to read the Bible differently. Americans have been preoccupied with the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission: "Go and make." I call them go-and-make missionaries. These are the go-and-fix-it people. The go-and-make people are those who act like it's all in our power, and all we have to do is "finish the task." They love that passage! But when read from the center of power, that passage simply reinforces the illusion that it's about us, that we are in charge.

I would like to suggest a new favorite passage, the Great Invitation. It's what we find if we read from the beginning of the Gospels rather than the end. Jesus says, "Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men." Not "Go and make," but "I will make you." It's all about Jesus. And do you know the last words of Jesus to Peter, in John 21? "Follow me." The last words of Simon Peter's encounter are the same as the first words.

Can we begin to read those passages that trouble us, that don't reinforce our cultural centeredness? Let's go back to Matthew 25 and read it in the church in America, over and over. Who are Jesus' brothers? The weak, the hungry, the immigrant workers, the economic outcasts. Let's read the passage of this woman who pours ointment over Jesus. Let's ask, who is mostly in the company of Jesus? Not bishops and pastors! The bishops and pastors are the ones who suggest he's a lunatic! Who enjoys his company? The ordinary folk, so ordinary that their characterization is simply this: "sinners." Can we begin to point to those passages?

Yet this ability to read different passages, to read the Bible differently, won't happen until people are displaced from their comfort zones. I thank the Lord for deep friendships he has given to me beyond my comfort zone, beyond my culture, beyond my language. Until that happens, we will all be tribal, all of us.

Many of us want those relationships beyond our own tribe, but how does that happen?

It is very simple. Come and be with us, with no agenda other than to be with us. One friend of mine by the name of Mark, a pastor of a large church, amazed me when he came to visit. He came for three weeks, and he said, "All I want is to come and be with you." At first, I didn't believe him.

"Zac," he said, "wherever you go, I want to go. I'm not asking what I can do—I just want to come and be with you." So he came. We went to an HIV/AIDS clinic, and they asked us to pray. I had introduced him as Rev. Dr. So-and-So—I couldn't just be praying and have him be standing there. So I said, "Mark, you start there, laying hands on all these AIDS patients, and I'll start here." I didn't ask him for permission—I just told him to do it, because that's what you do. And he did.

We went to northern Uganda, where the civil war is causing such suffering. And Mark didn't ask, "Is it safe for me?" That amazed me. If it was safe for me, then it would be safe for him. He was not unaware of his power, as a mzungu, and that people would think he has a lot of money.

He asked me, "What should I say? What would be appropriate?"

"Just bring greetings," I said.

And I tell you what. He did just that. He was so humble. Of course, there are leaders who come to Africa, who go to Asia, and they come away the same. In fact, they come away worse, with a greater sense of how they are going to change the whole world! But we lose our legitimacy as Christian leaders in an affluent country like [the U.S.] if we can't use that affluence in order to experience the situation of those on the margins. "God so loved the world"—how dare we say we identify with him in that love if we don't go there, if we don't choose the margins?

What part does racism play in all this?

You never discover how racist you are until you have the opportunity to be a racist. The genocide in Rwanda was a very challenging experience for me. I came to Washington in 1995, and some friends were asking, "What do we do in Rwanda?" They were saying, "What do we do with these Hutus, who are such killers?" As if the Hutus were created killers! "Actually," I said, "I am Hutu." I share an ethnic identity with them, as does most of southwest Uganda.

And until I got to Rwanda, I didn't realize how sympathetic I had been to the Hutu cause. Then it hit me. And I began the journey of being freed from that—freed from that history of sympathy for a cause that was just Hutu. Until the opportunity is given to you to face your own racism, you'll function under its power, under its spell. The only way to lose it is to go.

What do Americans need to understand about the main challenge facing Africa?

Africa's crisis is not poverty; it is not AIDS. Africa's crisis is confidence. What decades of colonialism and missionary enterprise eroded among us is confidence. So a "national leader" from the United States comes—he may have a good-sized congregation, but he knows nothing about Africa!—and we defer to him. We don't even tell him everything we are thinking, out of respect. We Africans must constantly repent of that sense of inferiority.

With its tremendous growth, how is African Christianity countercultural?

With all the growth of the African church, we are still facing the prospect of being a religious minority. It may be that in fifty years' time, Africa will be predominantly Muslim. One hundred years ago, Europe and America decided to take over Africa. They marshaled economic power, manpower; they transported their culture, education, and religion. Now sub-Saharan Africa is culturally Western. And Muslims today are applying the same energies to sub-Saharan Africa.

In Uganda, they are succeeding. Muslims are buying property in Uganda; they are sending their brightest young people to law school. They have established amazing charitable organizations. The mosque in Kampala will be opened soon by Libya's President Qaddafi. It occupies the most central place in the city.

The temptation will be to try to apply power, to try to overcome the incursion of Islam. But that's not the way of the Cross. That's not the way it happens. Remember when Jesus and his disciples were passing through the village in Samaria? For many Christians, the Muslims are like Samaritans—a minority that has left our faith and holds to a different faith. When the Samaritans were not hospitable to Jesus, the disciples said, "Just call fire down and blow these guys up!" Yet it's the Samaritans who listen to the woman who met Jesus at the well. Later in Acts, the same apostles go to the Samaritans.

The situation in America and Africa is not so different. Recently, an American evangelical leader said to me, "In a few years' time, it's going to be very difficult for anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus in America." But I said to him, actually, no, it is very difficult now. If you are truly a disciple of Jesus, it is very difficult. The same is true in Africa. When I speak in some countries where Islam is powerful, they shout me down. The Bible says, "When somebody strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek"—but they ask me, "What happens when there are no more cheeks to turn?"

Whether in Africa or America, the Cross is not an easy place to be—it is the symbol of our faith, but we do not love the Cross. "Come down from the Cross" is the cry not just of the Jewish leaders; it's the cry even of us Christians. We want Christ to come down from the Cross. We don't like the Cross.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A great article on Lusaka...

This was written in the World Magazine. This is a great article for understanding what we are heading into...

Gardening and garbage
Rapid and unplanned growth means a basic problem for cities like Lusaka: Who will take out the trash?

LUSAKA WAS A HUMBLE TOWN when it became Zambia's capital in 1935. Three decades later one colonial observer said it looked like it had been "dumped in the middle of the African bush." That was right before inde­pendence from Great Britain in 1964; even then, Lusaka was a backwater compared to other African capitals like Nairobi.

Today the city named for a local village headman is the size of Detroit, but the original city plan has changed little. The city center still has the same north ­south design with two roundabouts built along Cairo Road, the main street. The once­ gleaming buildings just look older and more tired, while dirt and rush-hour traffic clog the once-calm street grid. Lusaka was a "Garden City" in its early days, named for the British colonial design that favored open green spaces. Now, residents joke, it's the Garbage City.

The reason for its decline is the same as for many African capitals today: a massive spike in population without matching growth in roads, schools, hous­ing, or hospitals. Zambians from towns and villages flock to Lusaka to work, viewing it as the nation's New York-the big, bustling city. A city built for a few hundred thousand has now swelled to between 1 million and 2 million. That means almost three-quarters live in slums called "shanty compounds," warrens of small cinder-block shacks topped with tin-sheet roofing.

Most Westerners can take for granted the mundane: city sanitation, trash pick-ups, and street sweeping. But underdeveloped cities like Lusaka often cannot, and the stakes climb as the garbage piles do. Badly disposed garbage poses health hazards and even affects local politics: In Lusaka, residents complain about overflowing street vendors who block and further add to dirty roads. Clearing them off, how­ever, is a tough sell when they vend to survive and are often important political party supporters.

For all their hopes of finding jobs upon arrival, most Lusaka residents end up selling things to survive. In the vast, open-air Soweto Market in the city center ­built by flummoxed authorities to curb street vending-marketable items could be anything from secondhand sweat­shirts to corn on the cob. Traditional healers, now tech-savvy, tote cell phones to ply their trade, and regularly run classified ads that promise cures for impotence, joblessness, and unrequited love.

The irrepressible street vendors roam between cars stopped at traffic lights, hawking beach towels, Scrabble boards, and boxes of red grapes-anything they can hold in two hands. Street children as young as 4 tap on car windows for money, often in sight of the Cairo Road billboard that warns motorists not to give to beggars. If they glean any change, older, hardened boys calledpondo, or "savages," often steal it away.
Only in such a burdened city, then, could trash and how to get rid of it become a local absorption. Once-clean streets are now littered, and the shanty compounds are infamous for creating monuments of trash.

Water sanitation in the shanty compounds is a headache complicated by the garbage problem. Shanty com­pounds turn muddy during the hot rainy season, and in some, shallow well water mixes with human waste from pit latrines and brings yearly outbreaks of cholera. With the rains come equally predictable health warnings to boil drinking water, though careful residents do so year-round.

On the trash front, at least, Michael Kabungo seems tired of the "Garbage City" taunt. It's easy to see why: He directs the Waste Management Unit at Lusaka's City Council. In other words, he has to collect the trash.

Kabungo acknowledges that the much­-pilloried city council rarely collected garbage for years, particularly when the municipal tax system unraveled in the early 1990s: That was when a once­ socialist Zambia switched to a market economy. Residents often resorted to digging pits in their yards and burning their refuse. Now, he says, his unit­ funded by grants from the Danish government-is doing a better job.

Just four years old, Kabungo's unit has created a franchise system in which pri­vate firms collect garbage for the city in 12 Waste Management Districts (called WMDs for short, obviously). Where once the city collected less than 15 percent of Lusaka's garbage, it now collects about 45 percent. Lusaka, said Kabungo, is "much, much cleaner than it used to be."

If the collection figure still sounds low, it's partly because Lusaka has a few other quirks. Some collection fees for shanty compounds are as low as $2 a month for each household, but some residents still cannot -or will not -pay for the service. In some shanty compounds, Lusaka residents have taken to burning the rubbish inside their Dumpster-like communal bins-less garbage means fewer pick-ups to pay for.

Poor countries often fight to prevent locals from stealing or vandalizing public property, and Zambia is no different. On Lusaka's streets, thieves stole the portable garbage cans Kabungo's unit trotted out. Kabungo has to come up with concrete bins with metal liners that open only with a key, but for now, those are still in the design phase.

If garbage collection in Lusaka is at least on the road to improvement, the city's wealthier side is prospering more. A hugely popular strip mall called Manda Hill opened seven years ago on the Great East Road, a major highway that runs almost 400 miles from Lusaka to Malawi. There's Game, a Wal-Mart-like South African chain; an Irish pub; and a Subway, the only American fast -food chain in the country. The spot draws well-to-do locals, expatri­ates, and ever-present Western aid workers who come ostensibly to solve Africa's woes, along with dazed tourists who unwind after roughing it through the continent. Up the road, a new movie theater offers $2.50 matinees on the latest Hollywood and Bollywood flicks, and an always ­packed internet cafe charges about 4 cents a minute to use its high-speed internet.

Wealthy Lusaka residents-who would be middle-class by American stan­dards-live in peaceful suburbs east of downtown in homes bordered by razor­wire-topped walls to deter burglars. Water tanks in yards compensate for the city's fickle supply, and these residents usually hire maids and gardeners who commute in from shanty compounds.

Aid from Denmark has helped jump­start Lusaka's garbage collection, but changing local attitudes will take longer. Most residents have gone so long without paying for trash collection-even through taxes-that doing so is a new concept. Litterbugs may toss their trash on the roadside but believe it is the city's fault alone that streets are dirty.

Kabungo says a public awareness "Keep Lusaka Clean" campaign is helping. In other small ways, he said, the practical wins out: More crowding means some residents no longer have room to burn trash in their yards and will pay for trash collection instead.

Much of Lusaka looks as it did at independence and keeps its small-town feel. But multiplying shanties along with flourishing strip malls show the city has a more checkered story. New policies may help uncollected garbage to slowly dwindle, but with a rapidly increasing population and without a city plan, Lusaka may be a long way from return­ing to its original garden state. ~

By Priya Abraham, WORLD Magazine, March 24-31, 2007 p. 61-21

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Loving like Jesus

1 John 4:9 - By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.

I was studying this for my sermon this weekend and this verse hit me in a new, fresh way. As we learn and experience the Love of God, we are sent to live out that Love to others. God's love is manifested by his son for the purpose that we live his love through us to the world. We are his agents of love, that instead of of living through our pride, inadequacies, insecurities, prejudices, laziness and favoritism, we would exhibit Jesus Christ who is humble, adequate to love every person wholly, secure in my relationship with Christ, lovers of all races , hard working and loving everyone equally. We are his flesh, his bones, his face, his hands, his smile to a world that is void of love. We are called to love, unconditionally and continually...

Just a thought to encourage you today...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

119 days left until Zambia...

Or 2835 hours if anyone is counting:)

Crossroads Bible Church Men's conference

I had a chance to speak at the Crossroads men conference. I shared about "How I got to Zambia" through scripture and experience. It was great being back at a retreat I had been to since I was in high school, and connected with many old friends and made some new ones. I played softball (feeling really sore right now) and had some great conversations. I hung around late into the night and arrived home at 2:00am after making a late night stop at 7-11 slurpee stop with good friends, Jayson, Matt and Rob.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

You have to listen to this sermon..

Doug & Margaret Nichols have served in missions for nearly 40 years of which 20 years were in the Philippines. They presently reside in Seattle, Washington, where Doug serves as Founder and International Director Emeritus with Action International Ministries. He is the Facilitator of Children in Crisis, Leadership Development, and Pastoral Leadership Development with a special focus of evangelism, discipleship, and development to the urban poor and underprivileged children.

In case you didn't catch it, he founded the ministry that Stephanie and I are going with to Zambia.

If there is anyone who deserves to speak about the poor, Doug is uniquely qualified. He founded ACTION ministries primarily to reach the needy, the neglected and the nobodies throughout the world. He is an amazing speaker with some amazing stories. He is challenging and inspiring. This message he gave at our church, Northlake Community Church, was full of tears, laughter and practical things we can do to change the world. I can't recommend it enough.

And as an added bonus, he gives a nice little insight about the ministry my family will be doing in Africa training pastors and you hear my voice reading the scripture and praying... Definitely worth your while to listen to this great message from a truly great in grace man.

Here is the link!

(Here is the sermon a day blog link... We are focusing on the Christians responsibility to the poor and needy this week!)