Monday, June 28, 2010

True Worshippers

I visited a church this past Sunday morning of two pastors in my program.  Bonaventure Mumbi and Ben Mumbi, father and son, share the pastoring at the True Worshippers Church in Kanyama.  I brought the Short Term team from Vacaville, California who is here working the Ciyanjano chalets with me. (You can meet them via video, here!) One of the pictures is Ted praying with Ben.  I appreciated their hearts for this church and the pastors and it was fun to share church with Americans. It is SUCH a different world. I had a chance to preach and that made my week!  

 

 It was a great morning in many respects. I try to get to a pastor’s church that I teach at least once a month and I had never been there before. In addition, it was fun to see Ben, particularly, in action. He is so quiet in class, but during the service, he was leading worship and organizing everything and admonishing his church. I was talking to one of the church members after the service and a guy named Paul who had grown up with Ben was telling me how much his preaching had improved since he has been coming to our Pastor’s class.  He explained how he is preaching within the context and explaining the passages.  So, that was encouraging to hear.    And lastly, during some worship, it was particularly moving to see Bonaventure, who is probably 60+ years old kneeling down to pray. He is Godly man and a treasure to have in class. 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gospel taking root...

"He is going to hell!" I sat in my wicker chair, dumfounded by my two
Zambian friends. A missionary with our team had been creating a 12 week
basic discipleship course crafted for Zambians, using cultural illustrations
and simple verses to help them understand the gospel.

The first lesson started off with the following illustration: A Christian
man got on a mini-bus (the form of transportation here in Lusaka) and forgot
to pay the driver and the driver forgets to collect the money. Midway
through the bus ride, the Christian man remembers that he did not pay the
driver but decides not to say anything. He gets off the bus and then gets
hit by a car and immediately dies. My friend then asks the question in the
study, "Will this man go to Heaven or Hell?" My friend shared with me
after explaining this story, "I have never met a Zambian who didn't say
hell. They just don't understand the gospel." I found this too difficult to
believe, so I decided to try it out during a weekly bible study with a
couple Zambian friends. I had been spending months with them going through
the scriptures and was fairly confident they would say Heaven.

I would prove him wrong.

But, sure enough, both of them confidently said, "Hell!"

"Hell?!?" I exclaimed, "Why does he go to Hell?"

They responded in unison "Because he sinned."

I was so stunned I didn't know how to answer.

I know that even in America there are denominations that would agree with my
Zambian friends assessment of salvation, that you can lose your blood-paid
salvation. They are members of churches that would ignore the ingenious
interwoven tension between predestination and perseverance. But, at least
most are educated enough to make that decision. But, in Africa, the problem
goes much deeper. There are pastors across denominational lines that seek
to control their congregations with a legalistic and joyless religion that
keeps people obeying out of fear rather than love.

These pastors either out of lack of education or a quest for power heap
burdens on their people and do not lift a finger to help them out. So, their
eternal destiny lies in the power of one badly timed decision.
After recovering from my shock, I had them open the bible to Ephesians and
read the first 15 verses. After a conversation explaining the importance of
predestination and sealing, the young lady's smile seemed to beg the
question, "Is this just too good to be true? "

After sharing about how grace motivates obedience because of God's lavishing
love, it was as if saw a physical burden lifted from her shoulders. Her
smile said it all.

That next week I posed the same question during a talk on the gospel at a
preaching conference with about 50 pastors. More than half responded that
that same young man was going to hell while a smaller minority raised their
hand believing that somehow this man would still go to heaven. I looked at
one of the majority pastors and said, "Are you married?" He replied, "Yes, I
am." "Do you ever sin against your wife?" He smiled and said, "Yes, I have
sinned against my wife." In spite of the translation transition, the
pastors saw where I was going and they began laughing and speaking rapidly
in Nyanga, their native tongue. "Well, I asked slowly, "Are you still
married?" He didn't even need to finish the sentence because he knew why
I was asking the question. I continued, "But you sinned against her. How
can you still be married?" I then asked about my adopted daughter. "If my
adopted Zambian daughter, the one I chose, the one I love, were to sin
against me, is she still my daughter?" I led them through some very basic
verses about the gospel how God chose us, adopted us and sealed us and in
just a few minutes, a very major doctrine became clear.

Of the minority that did raise their hand that this man was going to Heaven,
five were in our ACTION Pastor's College and a few others had gone through
our 1 year discipleship course. I was delighted to see they understood, and
that the teaching was paying off. It doesn't take much to bring a freedom to
serve by faith. It doesn't take much, just some time letting the Bible
transform a culture so that the Word can expose the lies and reveal the
truth. Perhaps it just takes some blessed feet to bring the good news to
these Christians so they can be born again for the first time.

That time of year again...

The sugar cane is ready for harvesting and for chewing... You should watch
people chew this cane to shreds. They rip off the out cover and chew the
sugar like there is no tomorrow...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's what for dinner

Just thought you would appreciate a bi-annual tradition here at the Allen's.
Before, during or after dinner, we each partake in our ritual of taking some
deworming medicine. Yeah, kinda gross, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
So far no major signs of worms.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Praying for the World (Cup)

My family has begun to attempt to pray for the World by praying for the teams in the morning who are playing that day. We prayed for Spain this morning. You have to imagine that God is hearing many requests that their team would win the World Cup, but I’m guessing he probably cares a whole lot more about the souls that are won by Christians and missionaries. So, as you root on the good ‘ole USA or whoever you like, why not spend a few minutes every day lifting up the countries that are playing… If you don’t know much about the countries, http://operationworld.24-7prayer.com/ is a great resource. You just click the continent and then select the country. If you don’t know what continent it is in, don’t tell anyone J and click on Wikipedia. Lastly, you could always just type in “Pray for North Korea” or whatever country and you are bound to get a bunch of resources. Perhaps you could just start small and pray for one… Start small and you’ll eventually cover them all! (I made that rhyme up on the spot, yeah, thanks a lot!) You still have a few more days at 3 games each, and then when they move to the quarterfinals and finals, keep praying… Who knows, it may end up being a habit. I am hoping that for our family! (and for the schedule of the rest of games, just type world cup schedule 2010 on google).

So, playing today is:

Portugal vs. Korea DPR

Chile vs. Switzerland

Spain vs. Honduras

And playing tomorrow:

Tuesday
22 June

Mexico vs. Uruguay

France vs. South Africa

Nigeria vs. Korea Republic

Greece vs. Argentina

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Thank You, Dr. John Piper

I wrote this letter as a thank you to John Piper. Most probably know that he is on an 8 month sabbatical. He has had a huge impact on my life in many ways. As I look back on my life and I see key time of growth or steps of faith I have taken, it was usually connected somehow to a sermon, book or quote by John Piper. And, so I thought I would include an open letter of thanks to this simple, humble, joyous pastor. Thanks, Dr. Piper, for being faithful to the Word to preach and exhort us to love Jesus fully. (And as an added encouragement, might I encourage you to write a letter or email to your pastor today. You never know how much it might encourage them and it will complete your joy!)

Dear Dr. John Piper,
I have wanted to write a letter to you for quite awhile now. I am not exactly sure why I felt such a burden until I read something you wrote about praise that you learned from C.S. Lewis. You wrote, “We praise what we enjoy because the delight is incomplete until it is expressed in praise. If we were not allowed to speak of what we value and celebrate what we love and praise what we admire, our joy would not be full.“

Praise is completed and satisfied by praise. The result is joy. And, so I took the liberty to assume that thankfulness is only completed by saying thank you. In so many ways you have impacted my life, and I have never had a way to complete it and bring that joy of gratitude unto fruition, until now. So, please, allow me a few minutes of your time so I can complete it…

What to say thank you for:

Your message at OneDay where you challenged so many to not waste their life, to live only for Christ, and to live for eternity was a catalyst in so many ways to alter my life. I credit that message as the beginning of the end for me, and I am only in the middle right now, living in Zambia, ministering to poor pastors at a Bible School and desperately trying to learn what it means to boast only in the cross in a poor and difficult place to live.

I remember reading “Don’t Waste your life” while vacationing one year. I later spoke at a camp where the message and the title accurately reflected my heart for me and these youth, “Don’t Waste your Life.”

I remember listening to a message you gave to youth pastors on how you prepare yourself to preach. You shared an acronym with verses that humbled you and gave you perspective on you and God. It was a beautiful picture of how to prepare to die in the pulpit.

I remember listening to your talk on the Supremacy of God and how you said, “Don’t just read your bibles and then go do what you really want to do. Swim in the Bible.”

I spoke at a marriage conference here in Zambia. I titled my message, “How being satisfied in your spouse glorifies God.” Your insights into how satisfaction in God keeps us from sin was revolutionary to me in how it applies to everything, including marriage.

I am continually challenged by your exhortation to pastors to write so that you can discern and cement what they are learning. I also love the challenge to write poetry because it slows us down and allows us to really absorb, reflect and glory in the beauty of God and those who we are writing for.

I have been encouraged by your urgency for missions, especially the statement “Go, send or disobey.”

I have been so encouraged by your courageous teaching on the Spirit. You have helped me understand what I long to believe, that the Holy Spirit is more than I have understood.

Thank you, brother John for passionately proclaiming the glories of Jesus with all your life. I just watched a few months ago the “Boasting only in the Cross” DVD with my Zambian pastors in my class. It was beautiful to watch their response.. Thank you for giving credibility, purpose and priority to preaching. I hope to give my life to further the messages you have boldly proclaimed.

My joy is now complete.
Steve Allen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Retreat and Advance

My 27 hour retreat out at Ciyanjano was an encouraging success.  I had hoped for some great conversations, good teaching and some refreshing of the souls of the pastors. It  was that and so much more .  The goal of this time was to help continue to prepare these pastors in all things, spiritual, life-skills and being leaders of their churches and communities.  The teaching that Rob Murphy brought to the group with his Zambian partner, Harrison have the potential to be truly life-changing.  The goal of Farming God's Way and Growing God's way is to help Zambians learn how to rise above the culture from poverty and dependence upon others unto a prosperity that helps others into independence, especially the church.  It was really insightful listening to the pastors share about how much this material was helping them.   Harrison and Rob shared much great truth about farming and how the cultural norms that Zambians have been using for centuries are actually preventing plentiful harvests and ongoing sustainability. 

As it now, most Zambian are kept dependant on seeds and fertilizer which actually works against the independence that they are seeking.  Anyway, having been with these guys for a year and a half, three days a week, I know them pretty well.  And so, it was fascinating watching how much both the teaching from the Word and the teaching about farming excited our pastors. They were very vocal and engaged and very enthusiastic.   There really were some innovative methods to this farming that came with some really good reasons, background and statistics to back up the method.  But, it is very different than what the rest of their fellow Zambians farmers are doing. Harrison shared of many examples of famers who were trying this method of being haggled and ridiculed by people in their villages only to have them come back after harvest to ask how they did it. It is also routine for farmers when their harvest is so much better and/or the only crop the survived the drought/flooding rains to produce to be accused of using witchcraft to get a good crop. The farming methods made sense that it gave them hope that they could be independent and have courage to be able to step out of the downward spiral of poverty that has been a part of their life for many generations.  It really does take more than just two weeks to help people out of the influences of their cultures.   I continue to see how pastors need time to learn and absorb.  It confirms that what  we are doing is both necessary and helpful.  Patson was sharing today with me how much he appreciated this teaching and the Bible School in general because he said, I have known and done some of the principles of farming before, but I never knew why I should and shouldn't do them.  A lot of things I am learning the why behind doing it."     At the end of our time, our pastors went out and planted some maize (corn).  It was exactly what I was hoping for, in that  the pastors could continue to be equipped in all things to be able to be all things to their community and their churches.  This kind of teaching usually takes 5 days, but Rob and Harrison condensed a lot into 27 hours. 

So the teachings were great.  But we also tried new things. They all roasted and ate their first hot dogs over the campfire!  And they loved the  S'mores.  It was so fun watching them roast their marshmallows and bite into the cracker bursting with chocolate marshmallow goodness.  Many ate Oatmeal for the  first time  as well and at their first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  

We also watched Brazil beat North Korea on TV for the world cup.  I never knew people could talk so much and so fast during a game, and all of it in Nyanga.  As one pastor said afterward, "It was really fun watching a game with all my friends. I never get to do that."  They were yelling and hooting and hollering all game long. They were like little kids

I shared with the pastors, "We really want to serve you.  You spend so much time serving others, we just wanted you to feel encouraged."    It really helped me understand the importance of continuing to bless and support them as they serve their brothers.  So, thank you for your prayers.  The only regret they all had was that it was so short.  They said they want to continue to do this on a regular basis. I think they are getting the vision for the importance of retreats and a conference center like Ciyanjano. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Better...

I haven't written much about something that has dominated my thoughts the
past week. Our dear friend John Chitambo and his wife lost their 21 year
old son Joshua to a yearlong kidney disorder. It has been an incredibly
difficult time for their family as you can imagine. It has been so hard to
watch the process, understanding God's sovereignty with a lack of medical
care here in Zambia and knowing that all things work for good, somehow. I
didn't really know Joshua; I may have met him once, but John who is a
student in our bible college and a national worker in our HIV ministry is a
dear friend

He died last Friday, and so we cancelled class to go spend time as a class
with John. It was a very special moment watching the 14 other pastors
hugging John as they arrived, ministering to the ladies inside the house and
spending time together with John. I was proud and incredibly grateful to be
among these brothers. I know John appreciated us being there, and it
continued to forge a tight bond together as a group. We are more than just a
bible school, but pastors who are learning to love each other despite
differences in personality, denomination and tribal nationalities.

On Sunday we had the funeral. We arrived a bit late (normally on time) and
the service started on time (normally late), so we were without a seat. That
was a until someone important showed up and moved his way through the
standing only crowd. We followed him all the way to front and found two
seats near the front of the church. It was a very powerful service and
emotional as well. The pastor who spoke was as moved as any speaker I have
ever seen shared. His sincerity was very powerful and his plea for people to
commit to walking with Jesus was very encouraging. The whole funeral
affected me deeply. I can understand why Ecclesiastes 7:2 says "It is
better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart." I
am nearing 40 years of age. It still shocks me. Am I living well? Am I more
than halfway done with my life? I am not immortal. What is my life speaking?
Am I ready to meet my maker? Death makes you reflect on the quality of life
and its preparation for eternity. It was a powerful service and then came
the viewing of the body, which was literally two feet from my seat. The
wailing was loud and long and deep. I lost it when I walked by John and saw
his tears. This man who is so joyful and positive and the life of any party
was broken. I went over to his seat and just buried my head in his
shoulders. I felt like I was the one being comforted. Death is so common
here and it affects everyone. It is difficult to think you are immortal
living in Zambia. Death is just a few steps away and is no respecter of
age, race or economic status

The gravesite was a difficult time, having to say goodbye, for real.
Watching the grave descend, watching the dirt be placed on the grave, and
the finality of it all brings with it a sense of reality that is painful and
sobering. One by one, people make their way down to put flowers on the
grave, starting with family and then relatives and the friends. Tim and
Andrea represented ACTION Zambia and then I went down to put flowers on the
grave as part of the pastors that were represented there.

As difficult as this time was for all, now the really difficult time begins.
Everyone gets on with life as they knew it and for John and Victoria, the
reality continues to become more real. So, please pray for John and Victoria
and the Chitambo family. Thanks for your prayers.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Safety is our 34th priority

Somehow, I don't think this scaffolding would pass the safety
standards in the states.

International Graduation

One of the students in the youth group that I co-teach on Sundays graduated
from high school last week. We were invited to the graduation ceremony and
it was a cool experience.

First of all, it was called the "American School" but it was definitely more
international than just American. There were 15 countries represented out of
the 34 that graduated. Check out some of these names of people who
graduated along with the student we know. Imagine trying to say this name
out loud during the graduation:

Adish Gopeshwar Dyal Chundunsing - Republic of Mauritius
Alfred Olurunfemi Babaniyi - Nigeria
Nahla Kaddoura - Zambia
Yashasvat Kashyap - India
Angelika Dineriger - Germany

It was also cool because Christi was the valedictorian and she sang a duet.
It was just an interesting dynamic, being at an American school in Zambia
with a majority of non-American students and parents. I was struck by how
nice the school was, the nicest I have seen in Zambia. Then I realized while
I was driving out that it was what you would call "normal" in the states.
Lastly, you gotta love the cake. Didn't know anyone did that in Zambia. That
was cool anywhere you have it.

Just another interesting first here in Zambia.

Love the Honesty, Part II

Saw this sign at the CREAMY INN ice cream store. I thought it was amusing
that instead of giving them some trumped number like green sprinkles or Pink
sprinkles, they just call it what it really is: Green Sugar or Pink Sugar.
It's sugar, people. Tastes the same, just more colorful!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Our "park"

One of the things we miss most as a family in the states is a park. We loved going to parks back home. Whether we are playing laying tag on the jungle gyms, hide and go seek or "I bet you can't" there is nothing like a good 'ole fun park. In Zambia, there is no park. Now, I know it is tough to feel sorry for me when our parks are filled with lions and giraffe and zebras. But, to be fair, they aren't exactly down the street. So, like the kids in the compounds remarkably do, they make do. In these poor areas, you won't find an x-box or barbies, but you will learn how many ways a rubber band, wire, broken wood and rocks can be used for fun, long-lasting entertainment. Well, when you are in Zambia, you do as the Zambians do. So, we have created our own park. Just down the street there is a round corner where there is a pile of white rocks, a pile of dirt, and a perfect corner to watch the girls ride their bikes and scooters from both directions. Julia loves the white rocks. I play this game where I try and throw rocks into the open top post. Kamryn likes to do the trapeze thing and cross the moat! Bradyn is a bit of a daredevil on the bike. Rhoda wants to dig to America. And then across the street, their are building some townhouses so they have some huge dirt piles that the kids get to play in. Who knew a dirt pile could brings such joy. King of the mountain, sliding, "I am the queen" game and much, much more. Lastly, there is a drainage thing across the street where jumping, sand castle building and sliding down the moat are the game for par. So, as you can see, who needs a park when you have dirt, rocks, and metal poles?








Just call me coach, at least one hour a week.

I have a buddy here, Todd Meyer, who is the head of the P.E. department at
the local Lusaka International Community School. Our girls go there during
the week for after school activities. Anyway, they had a need for a
basketball coach and he asked me to come and coach, once a week for one hour
at a time and he asked me if I would come and help out. I said yes and so
once a week, for an hour, I make the 3 minute trek up to the school and
coach a bunch of guys who have never played basketball. It has been a great
experience so far. This quarter is just about teaching them how to play
(i.e. dribble, shoot, pass) and the next quarter, after August, we will play
games on only three weekend in the fall. I have been looking for an
opportunity to get involved in the community a bit and it has been fun to
coach basketball again.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Remember

The church we have been attending over the past year and a half,
International Baptist, is pastored by Mishek Zulu who is also a teacher at
Twin Palms Baptist. The worship leader at our church, Richard Daka, is also
a student at this seminary. Anyway, there are connections and this week I
spent four mornings over there speaking during the chapels at Spiritual
Emphasis week. My theme for the week was: REMEMBER - Learning to live what
we already know. I thought rather than summarize, I would try blogging
through what I taught at a later time. It was really a great week. I love
when I get a chance to preach and to be able to teach through a theme to
these students was honestly one of the most fun things I could do with my
time. Needless to say, it has been a good week. Today, the last day, they
were kind to give me a little gift to say thanks. Thought I would share a
few pictures as I don't normally take pictures of myself while speaking, but
one of the missionaries was kind enough to share a few pictures of me in
action. While this missionary, Franklin Kilpatrick, was burning the CD for
me, I was able to hear a bit about his story. He has been a missionary for
40 years. It made my morning hearing his stories and getting some good life
insight... Check out www.africastories.org for some insight into his
life... Anyway, a good week!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

*sigh*

This is an actual banner that I saw at a mall near our house.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Learning about/to Worship

Last week, we had another pastor from the states visiting. Matt Grimsley is
the brother of one of our missionaries here, Kerri Roberts. Matt and his
wife April had planned to come and visit family and see Zambia but we also
roped them in to teach for a couple of sessions at our Pastor's College.
Matt is a worship pastor at a church in Tennessee. What a blessing he was to
not only teach worship in the church but also lead worship for our guys. I
can't quite describe how much he blessed me by his teachings, worship and
encouragement. The pastors and I have been very encouraged by those who
have been helping with teaching over the past four weeks. It has been a
blessing, but I am really looking forward to getting back into it. I start
this week off with Biblical Theology!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Pastors teaching Pastors

2 Timothy 2:2 - And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

I have written many times on my blog about how the thing that drives us over here in Zambia is our passion and commitment to train leaders who train leaders who train leaders.  In essence, we want to work ourselves out of a job.  We are not about buildings and programs. We are about building people.  And the pastors here that we work with get it. The other day I was talking to one of our pastors involved in ACTION Pastor's College who was speaking of his future plans. He said that after he starts his own Bible College using the material and training that he has received, "you won't be needed anymore!"  What a great compliment and encouragement to us.  May it be so! 

Well, last Friday we took a big, experimental, step towards this transition. All the Fridays in May I put on a three hour morning conference at a church in a local compound to teach pastors how to preach. I have taught a lot of conferences here in Zambia, but the difference with this one was my desire to get "our" pastors teaching other pastors in their local compounds. So I asked five pastors, Patson, Martin, Alfred, Peter and Joseph,  who live in the same general area to help me teach the pastors in their compound how to preach.  The plan was for me to spend the first hour teaching the structures and skills of preaching and then for the next two hours to have our pastors preach.  This not only gave them the opportunity to encourage these pastors and leaders with timely words and experienced truth, but also it enabled them to show how to preach what I just taught.  Week after week, my pastors preached their hearts out and they connected with the church leaders in  a way that touched the heart and the head.  The experiment was an overwhelming success, even more than I could have imagined.  Pastors were encouraged and moved to tears by the powerful, culturally relevant teaching from their friends.  They were able to see how a simple, helpful sermon structure that is culturally crafted for Zambian pastors actually works.  They were given hope that preaching can be a joy again and maybe even fun.

Over the course of the month, I grew increasingly delighted as my pastors were the ones reviewing the sermon structure each week to the leaders, explaining principles, answering questions, sharing about Bible Reading Plan and how important daily bible reading is, and even passing out the certificates of achievment during the graduation ceremony!  It was as if I wasn't even there, and it made my month.  During the last hour on the last class, one of our pastors shared about a class that he would be starting for any pastor who wanted to learn how to study and interpret the Bible.  

So, I am encouraged.  Encouraged to see Zambian pastors who understand the plights and difficulties and sufferings of life in Zambia encouraging their fellow  Zambian pastors in a way only they can do. Encouraged that our huge investment in a small number of pastors is beginning to pay off. Encouraged that they are getting it that the training they are receiving is just a means to an end to train others.  Encouraged they they understand deeply the responsibility that they have before God to train up the next generation and equip their own generation.  Indeed, it is just the beginning, but I am encouraged.  Now, may I encourage you to keep praying for us so that we may equip and train these pastors in a way that prepares them to help train the next generation of pastors in Zambia.