Friday, May 21, 2010

Don't take my word for it...

We were sorry to see our friend, Pete Williamson, head back to the states. He gave it all this past two weeks and our pastors here were very appreciative as were we missionaries. Our director asked Pete to pen some of his three experiences over the past year on paper. The result was this beauty below. I asked for permission to share with you his "zamflections" and he graciously agreed.

Zamflections (or What I've Learned from My Visits to Zambia)

Pete williamson
- pastor | Oikos Fellowship | Bellingham, WA USA

Up until about three years ago, Zambia was not among the number of African
countries that I was aware of. That all changed when my friend Steve and his
family felt a call to leave our town and the ministry that he was a part of
there to go to this unknown country as a missionary with ACTION Zambia.
Truth be told, I was not only ignorant but also fairly indifferent to this
continent. Not that I didn't have a heart for missions; my wife and I had
spent the first couple years of our marriage living in Japan while teaching
English at a Christian school for Japanese kids. It's just that I wasn't
interested. If anything, I wanted to return to Japan - not just for the
people and the culture, but also the food.

Anyway, Steve had promised from the beginning that he intended for me to
come over at some point to teach pastors and church planters among whom AZ
was working. That promise became realized this last year when I made the
first of what would be three trips in a 13-month period to this country. Now
I can't get this place and especially these people out of my head or heart.
In fact, I would even go so far as to say I really need Zambia.

I need Zambia for what it teaches me about the power of God working through
the preaching of His gospel. It is a humbling thing to speak before a group
of pastors and church planters only to realize that many, if not most have
not only been pastoring for many years but have planted at least one or two
other churches. Even more remarkable, is that they've done so without the
training and resources (including Bibles!) that I have so easily taken for
granted. The parable of the talents has taken on new meaning for me here,
because I see men and women who have had scarcely a single talent but have
through God's grace more than doubled it through tireless faithfulness. I
have great hope for the work of the gospel in Zambia because of the
character of God's workers that I've found here. They are eager to learn as
much as they can - far more than I've seen anywhere else - and they have a
wonderfully uncomplicated reverence for the Word of God as authoritative and
true. If that sounds like a subtle indictment against the American church, I
apologize. I meant it to be stronger.

I need Zambia for the perspective it gives me as an American pastor and
citizen. These words of John keep coming back to me: you say, I am rich, I
have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. This verse, if anything, captures exactly
the state of American (and Western) Christianity. I promise you, until you
come here you will never understand how rich you and I are. We have no
vocabulary for the poverty and suffering that are a part of the day-to-day
life of most Zambians (except for politicians and far too many pastors). We
are indeed rich, but in reality we are incredibly poor because we do not ask
why we have been so blessed with all that we've been given. God does not
give us all that we have to spend on ourselves, but to share with those who
have nothing. Even Zambians - most of whom live on less than $2/day -
understand this and because of this they are far richer than us. What's
more, Zambia has shown me how much our prosperity has become a substitute
for relationships. There is nothing in the world like walking through one of
the many compounds surrounding Lusaka. And let me tell you it is one thing
to see poverty like this in the pages of a National Geographic, but quite
another to actually walk in it. And yet, what is so striking to me is how
much the people who live here seem to be content and even joyful in spite of
circumstances that would ruin most if not all Americans. I believe a big
part of that is due to the fact that they know something that we don't -
family and friends are far more important than any other possession and,
equipped with those relationships, any suffering is made bearable. This high
view of relationships also makes the friendships that I have now with a
number of pastors and even churches all the more precious.

I am very encouraged by the work I have seen being done here by ACTION
Zambia. I especially love their focus on befriending and equipping Zambians
for the work of the gospel. In another year and a half, the first class of
15 pastors will graduate from the PLD (pastoral leadership development)
training and already they are putting into play the things that they've
learned with great enthusiasm. I am also very thankful for the missionaries
whom God has called here. Each brings their own unique abilities and
personalities to the team, but all are united in their love of God and the
Zambian people. It may not be all that long before the fruit of AZ's work
will be such a harvest that it will be time to move on to new ground, of
which there is still plenty out there. In the meantime, please join me in
continuing to support AZ with prayers and support. Better yet, go and see
for yourselves what the Lord is doing here and the servants He is working
through to accomplish His purposes. You may just find me there.

1 comment:

Dana said...

steve- this is so powerful. i have known that you guys were experiencing this is probably processing this ever since first arriving in Zambia. living in the states i know all this with my mind- how rich we are and yet we have so little b/c of our lack of need i guess. i was just in india and got to experience it firsthand. something i was really wanting. went to a church there and God spoke to me so clearly about some changes that mark and i need to make so we can REALLY follow Jesus well in a country like America where we do have so much. i think our hearts and walk with the lord suffers.... there is a guy named sean groves- he has a blog talking about living with less so they can give more. besides praying faithfully- giving of our american time and money is something we can invest in practically =). loved your thots and may link them to my blog if you don't mind. take care you guys and thanks for being so faithful!!! you have blessed mark and i tons!