Friday, December 02, 2011

Our 1000th Blog!!! Reflections on four years of ministry with ACTION Zambia

Four years of memories in just under 8 minutes...  God is faithful!!!

Four years ago, our family embarked on the adventure of a lifetime; to be missionaries in Africa!!! We shared our story with churches and friends, we raised support, and we were sent out with prayers, blessings, sympathetic looks and envious smiles.  We arrived on African soil, eager and ready to change the world.  We had ideas and vision on how we could save Africa. The world had never seen such amazing missionaries.  We proposed many ideas to our director Tim Hilty. We wanted to do a child sponsor ministry. We wanted to bring short term teams in. We wanted interns. And a funny thing happened on the way to saving the world, our director said “No.”  No to the child sponsor ministry. No to short term teams. No to everything, it felt.  I fumed for a while. I felt stifled, held back and restrained. Do they know who I am?  A few months later, I began to understand.  And four years later, I really understand.

How grateful I am to Tim and his wisdom to make us settle in, and learn and listen and wait.  I have seen other missionaries over the past few years who were not as fortunate to have such a wise leader.  They are burned out, over-committed, and done, (figuratively and sometimes, literally). I have learned that for God to really change lives in Africa, it will take time, lots of time, and patience, lots of patience, and a relentless refusal to remain unmoved from the purposes and goals of the mission.

I liken it to planting a tree.  There is not much to write about while a tree grows from a seed to seedling to a plant to baby tree to a tree to fruit bearing tree. And yet, ACTION Zambia has committed to taking whatever time was necessary to intentionally shrink the ministry so they could dig down deep, long and far enough so that we could have lasting change.  AZ may not be able to do everything, but what we are going to do, we are going to do well.   There’s a reason Jesus took three years with a small group of disciples. (He did have his 70 and 120 and multitude which we also had, but the majority of his time was spent with the 12.)  There is much to do and undo when it comes to working the word of God into and out of a culture. A lot of money and time were sacrificed for fifteen poor, mostly uneducated, struggling pastors here in Zambia.  Was it worth it? Could we have done more? Should we have done more?  There is so much need and opportunity.  Change the world, Steve. Don’t waste your time on these guys. Think big

Well, another funny thing happened on the way to changing the world.  We were changed.  Because we could focus on just a few guys, we really got to know them, the needs they had, the things they suffered, their churches and friends and problems and burdens. We were there when their kids died, when they were robbed and sick and hurting. We celebrated when they got a plot for their church or put another brick on their building.  We visited their churches and their homes. We got to know their kids.  They rubbed off on us in many ways and helped refine us.  As their teachers, we learned how to learn.  We laughed and cried and prayed and ministered together. And it was those “wasted” moments, that earned trust, that opened doors, that helped us learn best how to love them and teach them.  And we did teach.  Because we knew them, we knew how to teach.  We got beneath the soil and removed the weeds and put down a new layer of fertilizer. The word took root. And is taking root.  And now they are ready to give away what they have learned, as they have already done. They are ready to unite as a network of pastors that have crossed denominational lines. They trust and love each other and pray for each other. They are ready to teach and lead and go, confidently against the grain of their culture and society.  A lasting ministry that makes lasting changes couldn’t have lasted without intentional, small, unhurried, wasted hours teaching and loving them. 

So, though I leave ACTION Zambia and return back “home”to pastor, I am changed. I covet this experience for all pastors. My ministry back home will be different because of my ministry here.  So, thank you ACTION Zambia, Tim, Tracy and teammates, for teaching me how to teach well.  Thanks for enduring me and refining me and sending me back to the States with lasting memories and enduring lessons. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Our 999th post - Graduation and Baptism and Safaring and Goodbyes

We had a very busy weekend... Thought I would shove it all into one worthy of your time post.  We had a great final lunch with our two faithful workers and friends for the past four years. We shared stories of the girls and laughed a lot and even cried a little. We are/were so blessed to have a two great workers who really cared about us, were honest and faithful to the end... Thank you Lord for Mwape and Mirriam!
We enjoyed a family dinner after graduation.

Graduation was a looong day but a great day.  The graduation was dry inside but what a torrential downpour we had leading up to it. We all got soaked.

The first part of the graduation was combined with Twin Palms Baptist Seminary.  It was a service of much pomp and formality and it added a real, official feeling to the graduation of our 15 guys.

A picture with my buddy Patson.
After the first ceremony, we had our own reception which included lunch, and a 1.5 hour program which included handing out diplomas, sharing about each student, watching a video, and sharing about the program. We gave away four awards, including faithful pastor award to Manuel Simuyemba and faithful disicipler to Anderson Jere.   In this picture below, Tracy is sharing some really kind words about me and Stephanie.

We gave the wives a degree; a PHT (putting honey through) to thank them for their faithful support.

It was special to give half of the pastors a diploma and to share a bit about them. 
I got one last group picture with the pastors in their snazzy graduation robes.  I actually did this whole process, of getting the design, finding a tailor, buying the robe material, getting the money and guess what, nothing went wrong. They were done on time, for the agreed price, exactly how we agreed.  This was a serious and first ever TINA (this is NOT africa) for me.
The next day was another busy day for the Allen Family.  Stephanie led worship, I preached, we were sent out with prayer by the elders and friends at the church and Kamryn and Bradyn were baptized by me and the pastor Chris Henderson in the pouring rain. Whew... A great morning.

Monday was Chaminuka Safari Lodge with the pastors and their wives as a way of celebrating the last three years. We had a great time, mostly because they had such a great time. Another TINA, the bus that picked them up was on time, didn't break down and well, amazing.  It really was amazing seeing elephants, giraffe, pythons, buffalo and much more.  For many of them it was the first time ever seeing wild animals, riding in a boat, or even eating at a restaurant type setting.  So many smiles and lots of laughter was all the evidence we needed that they were having a great, great time.  And, to top it off, one of the pastors said, "This was the best day of my life."  What a blessing to be a part of something like that.
  It was emotional saying goodbye the pastors... Lots of hugs and almost tears which  is saying a lot for guys:)  It seemed surreal to say goodbye. I have seen them at least three days a week for the past three years.  Thank you Lord for this life changing experience... 
The last post for the blog will be on December 3, the day we leave Zambia. It will be a video recap of the past four years. If you have 7 minutes and 33 seconds, come back this Saturday... Thanks again for your many prayers and support this work in Zambia... 

Zikomo Kwambili! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Graduation Day!

We started our ACTION Pastors College three years ago with a hope and a vision to spend a lot of time with a few in number.  We report today that the plan of Jesus set up so many years ago still works today. May God be glorified as we graduate 15 students today... Enjoy this look back in video of our pastor and the memories that were created.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A great day...

I had a great day with Jay, my father in law as we visited with our pastors
for breakfast and in their places of ministry. Jay and Carol joined us at
class with my family to celebrate our last day of class. And then the
pastors tried on their new gowns... I am sure today will go down as one of
my favorite days in Zambia... To God be the glory!