Monday, March 30, 2009

Welcome Tyler!

Welcome Tyler!! We have our first intern of the year arrive today! Tyler Dingman, a former youth student of mine in both middle school and high school, is now nearly a graduate from university and has grown into a man!!! He was pretty beat after 30 hours of travel, but went to my class, replaced a projector bulb, made a good first impression on the pastors, ate dinner and now he is sleeping soundly!!!!

Please pray for Tyler as he settles in to Zambia!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Something has to give

You know life is full these days when the blog worthy material is just sitting in line waiting to be written but the copywriter can't seem to catch a break, let alone a breath to write it. But, it is 12:15 am and I can't sleep so perhaps if I don't put you to sleep, at least maybe I can put me to sleep. Normally, I try to blog in themes, like Pastors or Job or life or something like that, and I think I will attempt to do that this morning.

But, my mind is raw, like a video playing over and over again, as images and conversations and realities that are my reality, at least through my window. And so I think organization will have to wait yet another day. I spent the good part of the morning worrying about life and money. It seems every day there is another email or blog or website that is lamenting about the recession and depression. I have never been in a place where I am this dependent upon people to survive, I mean, in a such a direct way. If people don't give, I don't get.

But during this worry session, I realized, that in reality, we all receive from the Lord. Though we may have jobs that seem secure, we are never really secure. We may think we are secure but we are all like me, dependent, not on people, but upon God who sends the rain and provides the food, who cares for his children and provides their daily bread.

It is hard to justify feeling this worry as you live with people who pray, literally, for their daily bread. I see little kids begging for money or mothers selling bananas alongside a polluted highway or a young man desperate for some steady work and I just break inside. If I am honest, no, I am being honest, I don't want to be that dependent for my daily bread. I have no clue what it is like to pray for my daily bread. And, I don't really want to find out.

I just cringe as I think back on the money I have wasted in my life. I cringe when I think of the ignorance that exists in America about the suffering in the world.. And most of all, I cringe that I will ever have to be one. I cringe because I want to love the poor but I don't want to be the poor. And my reasons for not wanting to be poor are perhaps the same reasons that are keeping me from really trusting God with my whole life. This is the hardest thing about Africa. It works on you and works on you and breaks you until you cry mercy. I can't live here and remain the same. What does it mean? I don't know, but something has to give.

And, it is this struggle that reveals deep within me something that brings great concern, that is, perhaps, money is keeping me from even understanding what it means to be a Christ follower. As Matthew 6:24 says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money." If I am serving God and God alone, than money will have no influence on me. If I trust God and God alone, it will not lead me to worry, it will not tempt me to earn more, it will not control how I live and lead my ambitions. But if I have put my faith in money, than when money fails, my life will fail. I know that in this time of recession many Christians are being put in situations where they too are facing poverty and I assume they are feeling the same things that I am.

And for us, I have to pose the question, "Do we love God more than money?" Are we more broken by our sin than by our bank account? Are we more anxious about our stocks portfolio than our fruit of the spirit? Do we fear financial poverty more than spiritual poverty?"

Because it seems to me that times like these reveal the true motives behind the surface and we best be studying our hearts and making decisions to prepare ourselves for eternity rather than this earth. How foolish it is for those who gain the world and yet forfeit their souls, especially Christians. How many Christians say they are Christians and yet are really just servants and lovers of money. They don't serve God at all. So, I speak to me and I speak to thee that we not waste this time of recession for a rare and necessary glimpse into our souls. Do we really trust and follow God, even in difficult times? May this wake up call be to us a gift from God.

Jas 1:9-12 - When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Family Ministry...

We went to the orphanage again last Saturday... It is so fun to see the family interacting in different ways...Megan, another ACTION team member also went with us. She was the one who told us about this orphanage. Here is a video of our time and a cute picture that I wanted to share.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lots of kids

If three's a crowd, what do you call a dinner with 13 kids? And would you believe, only two families. Yes our friends from Kitwe, the Walkers, joined us for dinner. You may remember a blog about the Walkers when Kamryn and I stayed with them when we got our CAT scan for her concussion. Well, the situation was under much better circumstances this time. We enjoyed a great dinner and fun conversation. So great to hear about what other people are doing in Zambia. They run a street kid ministry in Kitwe. Good times...

Monday, March 23, 2009

A visit to another world

I spent Sunday morning at a church in the Garden Compound on Sunday. One of the pastors I work with is Pastor Peter Zulu. If you have read this blog for any time, you will recognize this name. Pastor Zulu is a good friend and I got to know he and wife pretty well last year. I am so thankful our relationship has continued in the Action Bible Institute. Our goal is each month to go to one of the churches of our students and observe and participate with them in worship. We don't preach, but rather just come to be a part of the church. It is difficult to just blend in when you are the only Mzungu, but, you know, you make do. It was really great being there, and I did bring a video camera to help document my journey into this other world. It seemed so weird to me today that something that is so other-worldly is so normal to them.

I mean, I wish I could have videotaped my 10 minute walk through the compound to get to his church. I would have videotaped had I not been watched by most of the Zambians the whole walk down the muddy, garbage lined streets. How do I communicate this other world? It is like nothing you have ever seen. Mud streets, street markets and garbage every where. Zambians dressed up heading to church in their Sunday bests and others selling tomatoes, fixing shoes or cutting hair. I even went by one makeshift movie theater. I didn't go by one kid who didn't stare at me and say Mzungu. But, I noticed the adults didn't really give me the time of day, unless, they wanted to shake my head and ask for money. I was the only white person I saw all morning.

But, I loved it. It was raw and real and beautiful. I was rejuvenated and encouraged and grateful.

So, here was my visit to Pillar of Truth Church...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Technology + weddings = Really cool.

Early this morning, at 4:00am, my wife and I got up early to go to a wedding in Issaquah, Washington. We didn't dress up or do really much of anything except much of anything in preparation for this wedding. We just got out of bed, turned on the computer, powered up Skype and watched an amazing wedding of Nathan and Tami Fenno. Thank you Ben Darr for your technological servanthood... Though it wasn't quite as good as being there, it was almost as good... I remarked to my wife as we went back to bed, that 10 years ago when we were married, the technology wasn't there to be able to do that sort of thing. How the time changes... So, in case you missed the wedding because you were in Africa or something crazy like that and didn't have internet, or just in case you wanted to see what we saw, here it is!!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Family Ministry

So, I know I write a lot about my ministry, and I have also shown some pictures of Steph's ministry, but God has been gracious to give us a place as a family that we can invest in. There is an orphanage in Chelston that we went to last week that has 9 kids. It was so great. There is a husband and wife who run it and there were kids from all ages, from babies to 9 years old. I am so thankful for this wide age range so all the kids can feel apart of it. The previous orphanage last year was great, too. But it is nice having the same age kids and younger and we look forward to helping out this couple who recently lost their funding. I was so proud of my kids just jumping in. We are going to invite them to our house for Easter. We will keep you updated!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Afternoon at the Movies

It has been a bit of different week last week because of holidays. On March 9 it was International Women's Day so we had no class. And then on March 12 it was Youth Day. So, we decided to just break from the normal mode of teaching and watch a video together, the Gospel of John. Have you seen it? There have been some biblical movies that have been, well, let's just say, not very good. But, this was great. Really great. It brought the Bible alive, it gave insights into culture and was well, it was a bit emotional as well. I was really moved by many parts of the movie and it helped interpret some of the stories of the book of John that I hadn't really thought of before. Tracey's wife made some great popcorn, and we busted out the softies (sodas!) and it was a great afternoon of watching the movie and then some great discussion afterwards. I think we all walked away encouraged and enlighted... We hit the books this week as we working our way through Ephesians 5!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

UPDATE - Our Guards

Well, I just wanted to thank you for comments and prayers. Just wanted to update you on how things turned out. Mwape found a new place to live and seems to be doing better. His new place is a bit smaller (not sure how it could smaller than what he had before) but he is being thankful and he is amazing me with his attitude.

Miriam's brother was miraculously healed and brought to sanity and lucity long enough to have conversation and learn how far gone he really was. He was brought really low through the whole thing and he has been thoroughly humbled. He has had a very difficult past and yet this last chance as it were proved to really humble him. Miriam asked me if I would go speak with him about God. I said I would but then later thought that is might be better to have one of my pastors go. So I called Pastor Peter Zulu and he went the next day to meet with him. Her brother repented of his sins and committed to follow the Lord. He is going to be meeting with Peter every Friday and go to his church. This is such a big miracle that Miriam still can't believe actually happened... "If you could only know him before..."

So, thanks for joining us in the prayers and it is amazing how God uses all these different connections here in Zambia to bring life eternal to a lost sinner. Speaking of saving the lost, if you want to hear a short amazing sermon, you have to listen to my buddy Jayson Turner's last sermon at Crossroads Bible Church as they leave to go and plant a new church in Downtown Bellevue. Poignant, powerful and precise... You can find that sermon HERE!

Well, thanks again for joining us here in Zambia... We sure need you!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Do you have some time to change the world?

I was meeting with a couple of pastors on during my small group where we are discussing the book Spiritual Leadership. I teach three days a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday for an hour and half. In addition to this, I meet with a small group of pastors every Wednesday as well. After the small group was over, I asked the pastors how the ministry was going. The pastors, Pastor Jere and Pastor Pihri shared how much they were being impacted by Action Bible Institute. It is not uncommon for Zambian to be generally flattering, especially when they want something and often this includes pastors. We have learned to take it all with a grain of salt. But, these two pastors are seasoned and experienced pastors who have planted and pastored church in Lusaka for many, many years. They are not the flattering kind, so it took me back a bit. So I asked them a question that could have been seen as fishing for compliments. But, they wasted no time sharing their appreciation for our school, as if they were just waiting for an opportunity to answer.

Pastor Jere spoke up and said, “I attended a 3 year theology a number of years ago and I have learned more in this four month with you than I learned in all three years there.” I was a bit astounded by that comment and I said, “Why? How is our school different?” He said, “What I learn here I can immediately teach to my people. You help us train our people. You help us disciple our church. Other schools just teach us, but you train us to train others.” This is significant to hear because in Africa, when you get knowledge, you hold onto it. Knowledge is power, literally, and it positions you to have an advantage over others. Whether in churches, the medical field or many other fields, knowledge is not freely shared in a mentoring way. But, we have made this one of our key distinctives, in that we train pastors so they can train others.

So, Pastor Jere then went on to explain how this idea of training others was true in his life. The past three months, he was taught the first module of a Veritas College inductive bible study material. He was taught it by Tracy Singelton and then he was taught how to facilitate this class. He is now leading a small group of 10 pastors and leaders through this study every Saturday. In addition, he shared a practical example about a lesson I taught on the previous Friday.

One of the ways I approach my teaching is that I try to teach them how to do an inductive bible study of the passage, helping them understand how to study the passage. And then I try to explain what the passage means theologically, or at least explain the contrasting views that others have in regards to the passage of scripture. The last and most important step is to help them think through the passage in light of their own culture. I ask a lot of questions about this step because I want to learn more about their culture, but it also challenges them to really think through the culture and how these principles may change how they may need to live. So, this last Friday, I was speaking on Ephes. 4:27-28 - He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. In this Africa culture they have a saying, “You eat where you work” which means that you are free to take anything you need or want at the place you work . This reflects a culture where stealing is justified and looked over in such ways that even Christians steal.

So, knowing this cultural issue, I talked through the verse, explained it theologically and then dove into the cultural aspect of this verse. It got really quiet. But, I didn’t know the impact of that teaching until Wednesday when Pastor Jere and Pastor Phiri shared how he used this lesson in a Bible study earlier in the week where they confronted the cultural norms with the Word of God. They described how as the Word convicted these people, they began crying and laughing (I think in just disbelief) in response to how they had lived in such sin. They had never really seen that verse before. This is just one small example of how God is practically using Action Bible Institute to help disciple pastors to disciple their church.

Pastor Phiri also shared with me how he appreciated our church. He spoke of the emphasis on humility and servant leadership. He had never known a school that focuses so much on how to the way to effective leadership is through servant humility. He shared how the churches in Africa are focused on power and authority and being the “the big man.” He shared an example of how he is planting a church right now and he is meeting with a small leadership team. He is training this team in these same principles of what being a leader of church means and how to model the example of Jesus Christ that we are focusing on as Bible School.

And there are more stories. Pastor Peter Zulu was sharing with me how he had a dream one night where he was listening to a pastor at a conference teach from a verse and he took it out of context. Pastor Zulu, in his dream, began challenging this man, showing him he took the verse out of the context from which it was originally intended. This is one of our biggest teaching principles and where we spend a lot of time emphasizing the importance of interpreting a passage in the context for which it was intended. Like many churches and cults in America, this is also a problem in Africa as well and not only are they learning this principle which we interweave through many classes, I guess they also dream about it as well. And, Pastor Joseph Zulu was sharing how he was using the teachings from our Bible Institute in his religion class that he teaches at private school for adults. In his class are Muslims who argue with him about his views on Jesus and yet he continues on. He shared how one student even said, “Are you a pastor? Where do you pastor? I want to come to your church because I have never heard anyone teach the Bible like you are doing in this class.” That is encouraging to hear about that. I’ll never forget the day when I first heard the Word of God taught in a way that was biblical and cultural. It is exciting to see this excitement and newness being reproduced.

I am at this time mostly focused on teaching in Action Bible Institute. But, we also have pastors involved in a one year program where they are going through the Navigators 2:7 course. They have three books that build on each other, and the pastors are currently on book two. They meet every Thursday to study and learn together. But they are also now teaching book one to people in their churches. So, they meet twice a week , Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Action missionary Graham Melville to on Tuesday, get help in how to teach the courses and then on Thursday to go through book two. Each pastor and leader in the class has classes up and running with around 90 people who are now going through the 2:7 class in a variety of different churches. They are thrilled by what they have learned and the response they are receiving from leading this class.

So, needless to say, I am extremely humbled to be a part of this ministry where we get to invest in pastors that are investing in leaders who are bent on reaching their community with the glorious name of Jesus. And in this conversation, what was highlighted during this conversation were three distinctions that we are about at ACTION Zambia

1. To teach Pastors to be disciple makers of their leaders and their churches.

2. To lead their churches by serving in humility

3. To teach the context of the Word of God so that pastor lives and teaches a biblical Christianity and not a cultural Christianity, which is teaching them the centrality of God and the gospel in every part of their lives.

We believe God has called us to fulfill our calling by having a philosophy of ministry that is:

Church-based—focused on building up existing local churches, not planting new ones.

Vision-cultivating—helping churches be self-sustaining & fulfill their own vision, not ours.

Investment-minded—committed to long-term relationships, not short-term, Western “fixes”

Team-oriented—serving as a community of believers, not lone rangers in ministry

Gospel-focused—wholistic in activities, but always rooted in the centrality of the Gospel.

If local churches are likened to a tree, where the roots represent grounding in sound doctrine, the trunk represents godly, trained leadership, and the branches represent fruitful God-centered ministries, AZ ‘s purpose is to promote the cultivation of healthy trees, “root to fruit.”

The Pastoral Leadership Development team of AZ exists to strengthen leaders in local churches, equipping them for the work of ministry in the areas of discipleship & evangelism, leadership, and theological education. PLD focuses on the roots & the trunk of the tree, but always with branches and fruit in mind.

I share all of this for two reasons. It is exciting what God is doing in Zambia. And second, we cannot do this ministry all by ourselves . We need people who will be partner with us as we teach a generation of pastors. We as missionaries have raised money to be able to come and minister in Zambia. But, there is no one to support these pastors during these short but important and formative years.

The goal of our ministry is sustainability, not dependence. We want to help Zambians help themselves with solutions and programs that they initiate and maintain. We need some people to come alongside us to sponsor these workers while they are trained and equipped. It is seldom possible for these pastors and leaders to adequately support their families while going to school, working, and pastoring. So, we are starting a sponsorship program for the 27 students that will provide them with tuition-free training, transportation and food for their families so they are able to focus on the study of God’s word. We are looking for those who could sponsor an Action Bible Institute for three years at $55 a month. We are also looking for those who could sponsor those in our discipleship school for one year at $45 a month. (For more information on how we break down the costs, please see attached forms.) As of now, we have 6 students that are covered, and we are looking for 21 more. Could that be you?

What will you get in response for your donation?

We will send twice a year updates about the student you choose to support and you will also receive pictures of the families and communities who are being impacted by the student you are supporting.

You will also have a private website blog set up just for you to see videos and pictures and messages from your sponsored student sharing how this training is impacting their lives and ministries. For an example, go to this site:

This could be a perfect Sunday School project or some families could go in together… We would appreciate any sacrifice you could make. Thanks for partnering with us!

Email me if you want more information at allens(at)aliveinafrica(dot)com

Family Ministry

So, I know I write a lot about my ministry, and I have also shown some pictures of Steph's ministry, but God has been gracious to give us a place as a family that we can invest in. There is an orphanage in Chelstone that we went to last week. It was so great.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Workers - Enduring through the Good, the Hard and the Ugly

It has been an up and down week here. I tried to write about it a few days ago, and it has only gotten harder since then. It is interesting having just shared a bit about the fun pizza party with our workers. We talked a bit about being family and how they care for us and they have our back. Well, this week we see how the reverse can be true as well

The Good:
A couple of weeks ago, ZESCO, the local power company, came and put up some new electricity poles on our street and in the process of doing that, they totally sheared a tree on the corner. It wouldn't have been a big deal except that there are a couple of ladies who have a tomato stand on that corner. We have exchanged waves and pleasentries over the past year. I felt so bad for her that she lost all her shade and rain cover in one day. So, I was talking to Daka (the one who is going to construction school in the mornings) and asked if it was possible to give her some shade and coverage back. Well, he went down and analyzed the situation, and came back excited. I gave him a little money, 100,000 kwacha ($20) to buy the wood, cover material and plastic to cover the top of the roof and transport to get the materials here and he went to town, literally. He came back with all the materials and started work the next day. He finished it in a day and to say that the tomato ladies were pumped would be an understatement. But, since it is true that it is more blessed to give than to receive, Daka was flying high when he finished and it was really cool to work together to bless someone.

The Hard
We were on our way to church, and we were running a bit late. But, as we drove down the street, we saw our worker, Mirriam, walking down the road. Apparently, her brother was sick in the hospital. They thought he might have malaria, but after church we went back and found out it was something to do with the liver but it also affected his brain. When he was awake, he was really violent and it took five of them to hold him down. I share that because the whole family had been up all weekend. Not only that, but they had brought him to this hospital because they hoped to figure out what was wrong. But, they had been in the hospital for 3 days and now they were stressing about how they were going to afford it. They were exhausted and heartbroken. We told Mirriam as we were leaving that we were family and that we were going to help them as best as we could. This is following of the heels of Mirriam's daughter being very sick from Malaria and requiring injections for three days straight to keep her healthy. It has been a hard week for their family.

The Ugly
Mwape is our day guard. He is the nicest guy in the world, the hardest worker and an amazing gentlemen. (Again, he deserves his own post which I will do later.) Well, he came to work last Friday, and began to share about what happened the day before. He lives on a plot of land that he rents from a landlord. The property is pretty big, maybe a half an acre (his house is very small and doesn't have electricity). The last three years he has farmed the land for maize, pumkin leaves and other vegetables to help sustain and suplement his family of six. Well, the beginning of the year, he again asked permission to farm the land and the landlord said yes. So, he spent around $100 dollars and spent a month and half tilling and farming the land. I drove by one day and it was beautiful. So a few months ago, the landlord told Mwape that he wanted to clear the land by April, which was no problem, because it would be ready to harvest in April. Well, this past Thursday, March 12, the landlord came in an slashed the entire field of corn, pumpkin leaves and much more (I don't think this picture taken on my phone does the damage justice, but hopefully you get an idea of how big the plot was.) It is hard to convey just how heartbroken he looked and how angry I was after hearing of this ugly, senseless, heartless act by this landlord. All Mwape, his wife and his family could do was cry watching all this hard work and money go to senseless waste. And then to make matters worse, the landlord told Mwape that he needed to leave the house the next day. Now, often on stories like this, you also want to hear the other side. What did Mwape do to make this happy, and you have to know Mwape to understand that there was no real other side. It was ugly. So, talking with Mwape, I assured him that we would help make up for the loss. We gave him some money to help pay for the first month deposit of his new place, gave him some money for a moving truck and then told him to take Monday off if he needed to. He moved on Sunday. I prayed for him and tried to encourage him as best I could. I shared with him the verse from Romans 12:19 (NIV)
Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. As a Christian, I tried to help him see God's hand in this and how God can turn bad into good and the verse from Romans should be an encouragement to him. On the way out, he wanted the verse again. So, I went in and printed it out and gave it to him. I thought he wanted it for himself, but, as he was leaving he said he was going to leave it on the door for the landlord. I thought that was pretty good.

So, our hearts are heavy and we would love your prayers for our friends during these difficult times.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Not afraid to brag just a bit more...

I just wanted to show you a quick picture of my wife leading her first song at International Baptist Church. I have to be honest when I say that I was as proud of my wife as I have ever been doing her choir leading thing. I know that to her technical ears, there could have been some improvement, but I was pumped. It was so cool to see her leading this Zambian choir of young people and I thought it sounded great. It is cool to look at the picture now and how I wish I could introduce you to these young people.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Pizza Party! Pizza Party!

Last week we hosted a party for our workers and their families on "Buy One Get One Free Pizza Tuesday" at the Pizza Inn!!!! It was a good time but too short. We'll have to do it again on Sunday so we can spend more time with them. We ate pizza, jumped on the trampoline and watched the fellas play football. Sometimes we get questions about having workers here in Zambia.

Well, first we so appreciate the workers. They are like family to us. They know everything about us... everything. And it is so good (and hard) because you have to filter life through their eyes and it makes you reassess everything that you once thought was normal.

Second, they help us understand culture, they teach us language and help us learn about Zambia. They have our backs in so many ways.

Third, it is custom to have workers and though we could survive without them (maybe:), they really do free us up to do ministry and stay somewhat sane. It is crazy to think that we (you) support their families fully. We have two full time workers, Mirriam Zimba, widow with two young kids and Lewis Mwape who is married and has four kids and two nieces they care for. We also are supporting John Daka until June. He was one of our workers last year, and we are keeping him until he finishes school to be a builder. They all love the Lord and faithfully attend church. I have a longer blog that I want to write about Mwape sometime... It is written in my mind, but just needs to make it to the blog. Thank you for your support so we can support them...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Singing a new song

I just wanted to brag, er, share a bit about my wife. I am so thankful that she has an opportunity to use her music gifts here in Zambia. She is helping lead a choir at our church, International Baptist Church, with a youth choir of students high school and up. And then tonight she led worship at the Baptist Mission Bible study. I am really proud of her and so thankful for how the Lord has given her a place where she can serve in Zambia in a way that she loves and fits into her crazy busy family and home school schedule.


I just wanted to brag, er, share a bit about my wife. I am so thankful that she has an opportunity to use her music gifts here in Zambia. She is helping lead a choir at our church, International Baptist Church, with a youth choir of students high school and up. And then tonight she led worship at the Baptist Mission Bible study. I am really proud of her and so thankful for how the Lord has given her a place where she can serve in Zambia in a way that she loves and fits into her crazy busy family and home school schedule.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Book Review: How People Change

My buddy Pete recommended this book to me. I am glad he did. People and change has got to be one of the best selling genres of books. It seems though that most books are the self-help books giving 5 or 7 or 9 ways to help become a better leader, husband, friend, businessman or Christian. But, this book was different in that it didn't leave the responsibility for change to me, but showed how people do and can change by their understanding of Christ, the Holy Spirit and the process itself. The book uses four word pictures, Heat, Thorns, Cross and Fruit (click on picture to see the process better) to help walk people through the process of life change. The Heat are life's trials and pain and suffering and temptations that inevitably touches every life. The Thorns are the person's ungodly response to the situation. It includes behavior, the heart driving the behavior and the consequences that result. The Cross focuses on the presence of God in the midst of difficult situations to enable right perspective, unlimited potential and unbridled power to change for good and not bad (note: not necessarily change the situation, but change your attitude and the way your process the situation). And lastly, the Fruit, the person's godly response to the situation resulting from God's power at work in the heart to bring about grace-influenced change and the harvest of good consquences that come from it.

There were many great things I took from this book, ideas and concepts that were profound. And yet, it is pretty obvious that often the most profound ideas are the most simple. The one that stuck with me the most is that in every situation, every hard time, in every struggle and temptation, that my potential is Christ. What a great line. My potential in any and every situation is Christ. Christ in me is my hope of glory. And as Christ in his love and power and joy and peace and kindness and trust works in and through me, my hope for victory is secure. My confidence in overcoming are rooted in His works done and His work to be done.

I really appreciated the idea that change does come through heat. The book of James says that trials are to be considered joy because they test our faith and develop perseverance so that we can become mature and perfect. Trials make us dependent on God. Trials make us become the people we have always wanted to be. So, I knew all this, but what I didn't really put two and two together was that trials are the mechanism for producing fruit to the glory of God. Just like nature uses heat to produce fruit in trees, God uses heat to lead us towards fruit that glorifies Him. John 15:8 says, By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. I often wonder how to bear fruit for God so I can glorify him when the answer is right there is my every day battles. Fruit comes through Christ to Christ for Christ.

One of the other things that I really appreciated was how the heart is the center of all Fruit producing. Tedd Tripp wrote the book "Shepherding the Child's Heart" and his brother co-wrote this book. Both deal extensively with the heart and how out of the heart everything flows. The Shepherding book deals mostly with child rearing and this books deals mostly with adult rearing. But, it really is the same biblical, simple, brilliant concept that change comes not at the behavior level, but at the heart level. And the only way that the Heart will produce the change unto fruit is if the redemption of Christ has changed the whole person, starting at the roots, the heart.

So, saying all that, it is worth reading for sure. But, I would say this, that the book is thick and full of application and if I were to read it again, (I will read it again) I will do it in the context of community. And I would encourage you if you want a good book to read and discuss and be honest and truthful about life and struggles in community, this is the book. It is deep theology but it is also deeply applicationally (I made that word up) oriented. I wished during the read that I had someone who knew me to help me answer some of these questions.

So there it is... Enjoy the book and change. Thanks Pete.

Next month: The Reason For God by Tim Keller. Any takers on that journey with me?

Monday, March 02, 2009

Keeping it real...

My day.

Well, it is pretty easy to get into a routine, even here in Zambia. I do my study. I speak to the pastors and I live in Africa. Normal, you know. But, today was one of those days where Africa decided to shake me up a bit and restore the awe to a place where it should be.

It started out with its beautiful sunny warm skies, the bird were chirping and life was good. (Did I mention that it is warm here?) I did some study for my class and then took off to get some insurance on my new used car, which took an hour. This was a very nice office, professionals, computers and what you would expect from an insurance place. But, then I went to get the license plates.
It is a bit different here where you don't just to go to the DMV, but you have to go to one place to get the registration and then another place to pay the road excise tax and then another place for the road worthy certificate and then another place to buy the license plates. Well, I had the other stuff done, and I just needed the road plates. You have to go down to Lumumba road. It is across from Micmar someone told me. So I drove down there and I had seen guys on the side of road that had license plates. I wasn't exactly sure where they would be though. I asked a guy who had his window down in a car next to me. He said, "Follow me." So I followed right past the Micmar where I should have been and down a road that I knew wasn't Lumumba. So, I just kept on driving and started over again. So, I found this on the side of the road. Apparently, there are agents who sell licence plates on the side of road. (You can see why in this picture where it may be a bit confusing.) You give them the number you want and then they run across the street to the number place, and it takes just 10 minutes (it took an hour and some.) So, I am sitting in the hot car and watching life, which is just so crazy different, go by. Ladies carrying peanuts and boys carrying muffins and cars and trucks and chaos. And then I was like I need to get out and talk to the licence plate guy. So, I did. And I asked him about where he was from (Mongu-a village) and what grade he finished in school (4th grade... he is 23 years old), his church (it is called Love Foundation Church) and how this whole licence plate thing works (or doesn't work). It was more than a bit humbling and enjoyable to get to know this guy, Elvin. He introduced me to his pastor who he co-runs this licence plate sign company thing. I talked to another guy, Patrick who was just hanging out. He had no job. He wanted a job, but just moved here last year from the north when his father got laid off. And now he just looks for jobs. It is really hard to find work here. He only had a 9th grade education. I asked him if he went to church and he said no. I did my best through broken enligh to share a bit about Jesus. I was thankful for the opportunity because most of my work is with believers. It encouraged me.

I eventually did get my licence plates - ABR 8195, in case you were wondering. Made it home and after a quick lunch, I was off again to my pastor class. The class was great. I got just a little bit passionate and they all had a good laugh at my expense. We were talking a bit about the culture of Zambia and the struggles for leaving behind cultural things when they become Christians. Whether it was typical stuff like alcohol or sex, or different stuff like animism, witchdoctors and ancestral worship, it reinforced that being a Christian is (and should be) a major life change. I busted out Logos again and I had him them oohing and awwing...

On the way home, I stopped and bought some water. On the way out, I spotted a young boy beggar. He actually spotted me probably a long time before... As I entered my car, this skinny boy in a ratty shirt and hole filled shorts with no shoes said, "I'm hungry." I asked him if he went to school. He said he couldn't afford it. A man selling fruit walked up and said, "O.K., pick one." He smiled and said, "No." I said, "You are hungry." He said, "I want bread." I said, "O.K." So I walked in and bought him a loaf of bread for K4000 kwacha (about 90 cents). I told him, "Get in school. Don't beg for the rest of your life." It wasn't maybe as rough as it sounded. He could tell I cared for him. I saw another begger, a bit older, coming my way, so I said bye and moved on. Reflecting on that conversation, it is really hard to know what to do. This kid was probably Kamryn's age, maybe older. It sounds so noble, "Go to school" and yet I have know idea what his life is like. Even though school is cheap relatively, it eliminates most from it ever being a consideration. I know their are worse places in the world where there are more beggars and it is a more desperate situation, but this still rocks my world just a bit. It is so different than in the states and it is hard to accept.

I got home to my young kids who were happy, healthy and ready for dinner. But before dinner, a teammate, Megan, stopped by. She had been down a village down south where we are helping build a bridge. The chieftiness gave her a turkey, 3 pumpkins and some corn as a thank you for the work Action Zambia has been doing (along with the three people who are here visiting from the states). And well, she gave us the turkey. So, right now there is a white wild turkey somewhere in our back yard and I can hear him (or her) gobbling right now.

It is our life. Thanks for sharing the journey.