Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Heroes

I think I have blogged about this before, but one of the cool things about living in Zambia is meeting really cool people who are giving their lives away for the love of God. Eric and Holly Nelson came by a few days ago. God worked it out so they will be staying in our house after we leave in December. It is a perfect house for them and it thrills us that we met them and that it worked out they could stay in this cool house. They are spending their lives loving disabled Zambians, and have three adopted Brazilian disabled children of their own. Amazing, normal, cool people. Check out their work! It was cool that after they left, Bradyn that night said, "When I get older I want to do what they are doing." Another by-product of meeting cool people is our girls getting front row seats into meeting cool people as well.

Steve Allen

ACTION Zambia

www.aliveinafrica.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

I saved a life this week... And it probably won't matter. (It didn't)

I wrote this blog many weeks ago, but I never posted it. Unfortunately, I was right.

I don’t write these kinds of blogs very often, but I really need to give you a sobering look at HIV/AIDS in Africa. This is probably going to hurt a bit, but I think if you can hang in there long enough, you might be able to save a life as well.

Last Sunday, I was picking up the ACTION missionaries Paul and Patrick from a church in a compound near my house. When I arrived, I asked the pastor how his niece was doing. His mother was carrying this little girl and when I approached her to pray for the baby, I was shocked by the size of her face. On Friday night, the baby began crying, and as they later discovered, had sores all over the inside of her mouth and then her face began to swell. When I sore on Sunday, she hadn’t eaten anything in a day and a half. She has been to two clinics. I stood there, by my car, in this dirty, crowded compound, with this desperate mother and whimpering child, gawked at by all the Zambians, wondering why I should do. I spoke first to the pastor, saying, “Why don’t you call me in the morning and if she is still bad, I can take her to a private hospital.” But, I thought, she might not be alive in the morning. I have witnessed too many babies dying of such preventable causes that I just couldn’t leave her but, honestly, I also didn’t want to give up my Sunday afternoon nap. (Just being honest.) After praying for this sister-in-law of the pastor, she walked towards the house of the pastor. I was very conflicted. What do I do? I got in the car, and began driving out of the compound, but said, “I can’t not take her to the hospital.” And so I got the o.k. from my guests and pulled over by the house. I saw my pastor friend and told him what I was thinking. The mother with the child and the wife of the pastor came along with the pastor and we all headed out the hospital, over bumps, through gullies, alongside little raggedy shops, kids yelling out and waving, with this dying little 2 year old dying in my car.

We made it to the hospital and I left them waiting for a consultation. An hour later the baby was admitted to the hospital for what would become a four night stay. The baby had HIV. They found that out after the second day when I had to convince the pastor to have the baby tested. With medicine and ARV’s, the baby could have a chance, unlike the sister before him, who had died around the same age.

If the mother had been tested any time in the past few years, and had taken ARV’s drugs, this baby could have been born without HIV. If the baby had been taking ARV’s from the beginning, it could have been saved this traumatic event. But, what is even more maddening, is that, the baby will probably not live, because they will probably not either be faithful to take the ARV’s or will refuse to, out of fear of stigma and mistreatment of people in the community or some other obstacle that happens so often.

I am not kidding. The fear of HIV/AIDS runs so deep that people will choose to live in ignorance and denial rather than receive a free test, free counseling, free medicine and free follow-ups for the rest of their lives.

Please pray for Zambians and African in general.

Update: After four days in the hospital, and a healthy and medicine month, they stopped their medicines because they couldn’t afford the “review” price. If there is one thing you can't do with HIV medicine is miss even a day. I was in the states at the time. They finally got the money to go and switched to a free government clinic. A few weeks later, the baby got sick one Friday afternoon, went to the clinic for a blood draw and then died that night. That was three days ago. I didn't go to the funeral. I am not sure why. Maybe I am still to angry. It conflicted with my own family schedule. I am still wrestling with all of that. I should have gone. It was the right thing to do culturally. Anyway, we move on... Will the mother finally get tested and get on ARV’S? It remains to be seen. Such is the life we live here... Pray for us, too... I apologize if this was a little too raw. Sometimes, reality can’t be ignored anymore.

One more thing, my title was a bit of an exaggeration. It did matter. She got another couple months with her only daughter. She learned that the cause of the death is HIV related (whether she will admit that is another situation altogether) and hopefully as a result she will get tested, thus allowing her to live a healthier life and allow for another child. Maybe I didn't save the life of this baby, but perhaps I will allow a life to live if there is another baby.

So how do you play out in all of this? Could you pray? Check out our HIV/AIDS ministry that I am more and more sold on as a significant way to help fight this war against AIDS in Africa. Lastly, do a little inventory of your own life. Is there anything you are too afraid of checking into that you would rather (literally) die than deal with?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Every move they make

Four out of five Allen girls helped lead worship this morning at our
church. It was a lot of fun for them and us and the church. It was the
first time the church had ever had children help lead the worship with fun
dance moves (thank you Deanna and all the great Northlake memories) and we
hope it won't be the last. It was a bit of an Allen show this morning as I
also preached. It was a family service so I had a lot of fun trying to make
a sermon applicable for adults and kids. A good morning for all...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Beauty of (our) Adoption

My day up north

I spent the day with Peter Zulu today. But before I get into this adventure of mine, I wanted to just walk you through the day. I think I am compelled to do this because what is just another day for me is seriously crazy. And I have to force myself to look at my life with your eyes so I can see the things that are just crazy. Like the above picture for example. This truck that has bags of cement decides to just unload his truck (or it broke down) right in the middle of this already insane intersection. And what can you do? Nothing is the answer.

So then I am driving to Peter Zulu's house. Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.

The bridge is finished... They are hoping to put rails on it for protection, but I was just blown away by how great this was for the community. They community knows the church built this bridge. And no matter what religion or non religion they are, every satanist, witchdoctor and Christian is thankful for the church for this gift to the community. It seems to me to be what Jesus had in mind when he wanted us to be a light to the community, so that God would get the glory for all good works. So great!

Do you see the little girl posing there?

On the way to the church, we had to stop because they were working on the road... Hmm...

We just went around:) Through trees, over bush and well, around.

You wouldn't see this coming at you on I-5!

Here is the plot of land the Headman gave to the church. They are meeting here, and praying for a church building and a community school to be built. The closest school is a long, long, long ways away!

The church is small but their faith is big. Such a cool story about how he got connected to this remote village. He met one of the guys in his
community because of his daughter going to school. From there, after Peter
was a part of our Church Planting conference with our two ACTION
missionaries, Paul Goodner and Patrick O'Conner, Peter was able to see this area as
a potential church plant. So, he has been up there four times, and a church is begun.


Showing me the well which they draw water from... This guy lost his pen in his pocket when it fell into the well:)

Here Peter is preaching to the church, using my Iphone bible:)

Amazingly beautiful and amazingly rural.

Met these guys on the way out, passing out Mosquito blankets!

A great day... The most eye opening part was, no one in this church, has a bible. Not a one. The trainee pastor has to borrow from someone. The other had it burned in a fire... Can you imagine not having a Bible? Would it make any difference in your life if you didn't? My first priority... Get this church Bibles! Please pray for this church plant, that God would flourish in this rural place! Thanks so much!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Inspired

I met this guy while I was in Orlando at a conference... Thought you might be as fascinated and inspired by him as I am... Check out this 100 life goals list.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Remember - Learing to Live what you already know - Chapter 4

The fourth chapter...

I remember listening to a sermon series called “Pause” by Andy Stanley, a pastor in Georgia, a few years ago. Actually, I only listened to one sermon, but I have never forgotten the title, “Pause.” During the one sermon I did listen to, the speaker discussed temptation. In this presentation, the solution to all temptation was this idea of pausing (long enough to consider God), considering the consequences of temptation, and considering the power of God’s word in that situation. Pause. Slow down. Consider. Reflect.

Pause. I am not sure that word has ever made it into my vocabulary. I remember my progress reports through my elementary school years commenting that I was a “good student, but need[ed] to slow down;” “delight to have in class but need[ed] to slow down doing [my] work;” “hard worker but ha[d] a tendency to hurry through all work. Need[ed] to slow down.” Not much has changed over the years. I drive fast. I walk fast. I live in a hurry. My kids slow me down a bit, but instead of welcoming that change, I tend to respond in impatient leanings. I have seen this tendency to hurry in my spiritual life, too. If only I could pause, slow down, consider before rushing into an anger burst, slow down long enough to consider God before I launch into a lack of faith in God’s sovereignty in my situation. Too often, my hurry is just a lack of faith expressed in independence and selfishness. I want to do what I want to do. Hurry is just the face. So, by pausing, I could see both God in His splendor and as the delight to my soul. I must pause long enough to remember God in my situations. I am convinced that remembering will save me/us from so much sin. And, unfortunately, I am not alone. Let’s see what God was trying to accomplish in the Old Testament.

The Israelites had made it through forty years in the wilderness, and they were standing on the edge of the promised land. Year after year, they had sacrificed animals, banished goats, fasted and feasted, all with the intention of remembering God. The generation of doubters died, except for Joshua and Caleb, and Moses recounted all the laws to the new generation in the book of Deuteronomy. The word “remember” is used 14 times in this book. Remember that you were slaves. Remember God. Remember and do not fear. Remember. He exhorts them to remember. In Deuteronomy 32:45 “. . . when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.” Take to heart truly means, allow your remembering to affect your life.

Remember. It is your life.

And when Joshua took over the leadership of the Israelites, the first thing he said was, (you’ll never guess) 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, ‘The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’”

They unanimously said that they would remember. They would follow God’s laws. They would be different. And they did, I guess. They marched into the land. They trusted God. They destroyed the enemies, at least most of them. At the end of Joshua’s life, he exhorted them to serve the Lord as he and his house would do. Choose you this day whom you will serve, and they chose God. At least that generation did.

It didn’t take but a generation for these children to forget God. Consider these indicting words:

Judges 2:11–14

“11And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals.

12And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger.

13They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.

14So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.”

That doesn’t sound like remembering.

They forgot. They got plundered by neighboring tribes. They cried out to God who gave them a judge to deliver them. They remembered temporarily until the judge died. And then they forgot God and followed the other gods of the land. More than once it is said of this generation, “They did what was right in their own eyes.” So much for the Passover feast and the Day of Atonement and countless other festivals. So much for the Law of life and following after God. So much for remembering God.

It doesn’t get much clearer than Judges 8: 34: And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side.

Brutal. Ouch. Done.

The Israelites ended up blaming God. They say they needed a king, like everyone else. They did not realize that God was and is their King. If they would have just remembered Him, they would have been blessed. God would have cared for them. They would have it made. But, God is gracious. He gave them a king. But, Saul, the first king, did not remember God. He bowed into the pressure of the people, made excuses for his disobedience and eventually lost his life. David remembered God. David was a man after God’s own heart. In the Psalms, you will find David remembering God’s beautiful law. Psalm 103 captures his heart to remember.

“1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. . .”

Psalm 143:5–6

“5I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. 6I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah.”

But, he too, forgot long enough to kill another man and commit adultery.

Solomon, the third king, had it all, but he forgot God amidst money, women, and power. His words from Ecclesiastes summarize his sad epitath: Ecclesiastes 12:1–2 “1Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” The kingdom unraveled soon thereafter and this led to a shattered nation of forgetters. The twelve nations were split. The north, Israel, made up of ten nations, had nineteen kings over the next generations and none of them pleased God. In the south, Judah, made up of two nations, had twenty kings and only eight remembered God.

The prophets painted the picture of their lack of remembering during these times of rebellion and the consequences therein.

Listen to Isaiah:

Isaiah 17:10–11

“10For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, 11though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.”

Jeremiah 2:1–6

“1The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

2‘Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem,’ thus says the Lord, ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.

3Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.’

4Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel.

5Thus says the Lord: ‘What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?

6They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’’”

Jeremiah 2:32

“32Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.

Ezekiel 16:43

“43Because you have not remembered the days of your youth, but have enraged me with all these things, therefore, behold, I have returned your deeds upon your head, declares the Lord God. Have you not committed lewdness in addition to all your abominations?”

Micah 6:3–8

“3‘O my people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Answer me!

4For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

5O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab devised, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.’

6‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’

8He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Prophet after prophet, spoke for God, pled with the people of God to remember, but they refused. They plugged their ears and just plain forgot. Spiritual amnesia to their peril.

Even the prophets sometimes forgot God and his love for the nation. We see this clearest in the life of Jonah. When God called him to Ninevah to preach the gospel to this corrupt nation, he went the other way. It took a few days in the fish for him to come around.

Jonah 2:7

“7When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.”

Because the Israelites forgot, God scattered the northern tribe to Assyria and allowed the southern tribe to be captured by Bablyon. The northern tribe were forever scattered but He remembered his covenant with Judah and after seventy years of bondage, they came back to the promised land in three waves. Things were not looking too good at the end of the Old Testament, but God was not through, yet. He gave two hints as to how he was going to solve this problem of forgetfulness.

The first is found in a prophecy and promise in the book of Malachi, that 400 years later, there would be a forerunner, a prophet, who would help people remember the words of Moses. God was initiating the process to help his people remember by bringing someone to prepare the way for Jesus.

Malachi 4:4–6

“4‘Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. 5Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 6And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.’”

Second, a promise from Ezekiel 36:24–28.

“24I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. 28You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.”

God is going to do a special work to help us remember, but I will discuss more (a lot more) on this later.

Let me just say this: it is clear that had the Israelites paused a bit more to remember God, as He commanded, they would have saved themselves a lot of heartache. God commanded and pled with the Israelites from day one to remember Him. And what we see written throughout the 39 books of the Old Testament is what happens when a people forget their Maker.

There is hope; the words from the prophets indicate as much, but something has to change.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not (all) about us...


So, are you tired of hearing all this yapping about us? Well, check out what God is doing with the rest of the AZ team in our quarterly AZ lowdown newsletter. Check out it here! (O.K. the first article is about us, but just skip me and check out the rest:)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why not us?

About six years ago, Kamryn, Stephanie and I took a group of high schoolers to Mexico to expose them to the third world, build a few houses and teach them about missions. It was my fourth trip with the same ministry so I was, you know, totally in my element as a leader helping THE STUDENTS get a heart for the world. Who would have known that week was going to change our lives forever? The fourth night there, we heard from a speaker named Brandon Buser. I had heard his father speak three times, but it was the first time I had ever heard from Brandon. A spittin' image of his pop, and he was preparing to follow in the footsteps of his parents and be a missionary in Papua New Guinea. I remember that night like it was yesterday: "Why not me? Why shouldn't I give away my life to be missionary?" I wrestled with all the fears of what a missionary life would be. I surrendered that night, and lo and behold, my wife, too, was also surrendering during that week as well. God used this week to greatly to challenge us, and Brandon was a catalyst to get us to surrender our hearts, to be willing to go, and well, it was indeed go, that God had in mind. We have been in Africa for almost four years now, and our lives, are, well, changed forever. So grateful we said yes to God's great adventure for us... And, I am pretty sure that Brandon is glad he listened, too... He had been living a pretty comfy life as businessman, as he tells it, but he just couldn't get his mind off of the thousands of tribes who would die never hearing the gospel. He left it all, and well, I think this video will show it better than I can tell it. A review of his first three years in Biem and now they are looking at going back at this link... (They have disabled the embedding option, but please go check it out... It is worth 6 minutes of your life, for sure...) Thank you Lord for the Busers, all of 'em...

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A day with the pastors at Ciyanjano

I normally meet with four pastors for breakfast on Thursday morning, but we
decided to spend the day praying instead out at Ciyanjano. What a great day
it was. We started the day by checking out the ciyagayo at the campsite.
which is basically a mill for corn to grind it into mealie which is the
Zambian's staple food. We just finally got this all finished and it is a
HUGE success. Not only is it a great income generating project to help us on
the way to making our campground self sufficient, but it also is a huge
blessing to the neighboring community. I watched one young girl carry a
half of bag of mealie on her head down the hill to her house. I am not sure
I could have lifted it by myself let alone put it on my head:) There wasn't
a mill within a mile before. Then we spend some time praying, sharing,
reading the Bible, and about 3 hours of alone time, doing much of the same.
We came back together at the end to reflect on what God was saying to us and
praying for each one individually. I can see why Jesus set the example for
getting away with God because my soul is refreshed and encouraged and
knitted together with my brothers. On the way home we stopped by Peter
Zulu's church to see the newly built bridge. Pretty amazing this pieced
together bridge of railroad ties and damaged truck doors. This is such a
big deal I can't even tell you for this community and the fact that it is a
church/community school that did it is a tremendous gospel witness. While
inspecting the bridge, I was so close to these children that you see in the
pictures. Ringworm, runny noses, dirty... The poorest of the poor. I
rejoiced and I sighed. Such poverty. Will any of these be alive in two
years I wondered driving home... They loved me, wanting to shake my hands,
hold my hand. I often wish my friends and family could just have one day
with me in these places.
A great, humbling, refreshing, sobering day...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Suffering and song

There is a lot of suffering over here in Zambia... I am hoping to write a bit about some of it that I have been experiencing through different people over the next few days. But, I know there is a lot of suffering in the states as well... Cancer, death, pain... The list is endless.

I am not sure who is reading this blog, but I wanted to repost a blog from a friend who has been battling cancer for the past four years. He recently posted a blog comprised of a music playlist of songs that have helped him during these difficult days. Perhaps it will encourage you in your struggles or you can send the link to a friend... Press on, friends...

802.heaven: Playlist: "There are a few songs that really, constantly touch me, and this is that list. I will probably add to it from time to time, but you can cons..."

Rememberbooking!


Stephanie is getting a weekend away this coming weekend to work on Jo-Jo's baby book and Rhoda's life book. It is a well-deserved weekend for my hard working wife to reflect a bit on the past and bring that past into the present with a book for each to have for the future. Especially with Rhoda, this life book will be valuable to help her in the future to be able to know something of her past... Considering she came to us with no history of birth, parents, or anything about her life, it is significant for us to help her as best as we can... So, if you think about it, please pray for Stephanie this weekend. It is a monumental task to think about and yet, so important... Thanks!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A daddy/daughter morning

There aren't a whole lot of things to do around Lusaka for kids, so we have
to just make do... But today, we got a little help from a place called
Fringilla, a restaurant/kids play area just about 40 minutes north of
town... It was a pretty sweet morning, actually. I love the trampoline
pictures: 5 trampolines for 5 kids! Anyway, just thought I'd post a few
pictures of the fam in action.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Date Night

Nothing like coffee, quiet, and dinner with friends to refresh the spirit of
a husband and wife... Thanks Taj Pamodzi hotel!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

"Tyler"ing it all together...

So in case you missed my previous blog... Tyler is taking a huge faith of a leap! I wanted to share an email from my teammate, Kelly and Tricia Huckaby, who are directors of our Ciyanjano camp and conference center and the importance of having Tyler out, ASAP!

From Ciyanjano Centre


Greetings from sunny Lusaka, Zambia. My name is Kelly Huckaby and I'm a missionary with ACTION Zambia and the director of Camp Ciyanjano, our camping, conference, and retreat ministry to churches in the slums of Lusaka. Our purpose here is to provide spaces for local churches to hold youth camps, leadership conferences, trainings, and refreshing retreats for pastors and others in full time ministry. Besides providing affordable facilities for these groups that would otherwise not be able to afford camp, we also partner with local ministries to do evangelistic outreach to children. This is an awesome ministry and has a huge potential to build up and encourage local churches to reach out to their members and their communities for Christ. On top of these activities we we have a huge amount of development happening to make Camp Ciyanjano more suitable for larger groups for longer camps. If you've ever owned an old house or a large piece of property you know how much maintenance, upkeep, and work it takes to keep your investment from falling into ruins. Add the climate, termites, and rats we have here in Lusaka, we work hard to keep up with the basics. That's why we need Tyler. We need his knowledge and experience, his energy and excitement to help us manage a number of new building projects and to maintain, repair and beautify this ministry center. Please. Send. Tyler. We can't do it ourselves!

Thank You,

Kelly & Tricia Huckaby

Directors of Camp Ciyanjano

Friday, May 06, 2011

Remember - Learing to Live what you already know - Chapter 3

Continuing the slow trek through this ebook:) This chapter looks in depth at the Israelites and their struggles, despite God's help, of remembering...

Do you remember what it was like to be in the great depression in the 1930’s? Do you remember the desperation and poverty that gripped America? Do you remember how Vietnam divided America? Do you remember the World Wars, where those who stayed back were asked to sacrifice for the war? I don’t; I wasn’t alive then. It would be my guess that the people reading this book are a couple of generations removed from those difficult times in the life of America. Every generation born since those time periods are less and less affected by the events. I know my generation does not appreciate the sacrifice of the people for the sake of freedom. Imagine if the president required that, each year, the citizens of America eat only beans and rice to remember what is was like when our country was suffering depression. Or, if for one weekend each year, we had to sell and give at least 30% of what we own to the government to remember the sacrifice of the first two world wars. What if the congress enacted that one month out of the year, people would have to wait for hours in the gas stations to understand the desperation of trying to get fuel. Though America has instituted a few holidays here and there to remember the price of those who have gone before us, for most of the generations to follow, it has become just another day to shop or go to the beach. America has not helped us remember very well. Imagine if our government was God’s government and our culture was our religion, would America require that we remember better? If so, you get a better idea what God was going after when he instituted his plan to remember.

Let’s get back to our walk through remembering. God remembers first. Then, He commands us to remember Him, forever. He gave us the word “remember” in and as His name so we could not and would not forget. God remembered His covenant to His people and through the miracle of the ten plagues, the passing over, and the parting of the Red Sea, the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of slavery. God remembered and now He commands the same. In fact, after delivering the Israelites from Egypt, through the mouth of Moses, in Exodus 13:3 – the Israelites are commanded to “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place.”

The command is clear: remember. Do not forget. Put it in your heart and mind. Remember this day.

But, then God goes a step further. He gives them an experiential way to remember. Actually, He gives them two ways to remember.

“No leavened bread shall be eaten.”

Moses explains on why the leavened bread. In Exodus 13:6-10, he writes, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the Lord. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the Lord has brought you out of Egypt. You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year.”

The command to remember comes with a tangible, experiential sign of bread to remind the Israelites and their children that the Law of the Lord is to be in their mouth and the memory of deliverance is to be in their heart. Why leaven? The verse in Deuteronomy 16:3 helps clarify: “Do not eat it with bread made with yeast, but for seven days eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, because you left Egypt in haste—so that all the days of your life you may remember the time of your departure from Egypt.”

The Israelites did not have time for the leaven to rise; they left Egypt in a hurry. The tasteless, flat bread, eaten for a week, would be and is a continual reminder of God’s deliverance from slavery.

That was the first way to remember, annually, for seven days. The other act that the Israelites needed to do was to set apart all that first opened the womb. It was commanded for a reason, so that the son would ask why and they would learn once again to remember their deliverance from the land of Egypt.

Here is the full verse:

Exodus 13:14-16 - And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. For when Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of animals. Therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all the males that first open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’ It shall be as a mark on your hand or frontlets between your eyes, for by a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

God instituted two reminders of his deliverance through eating unleavened bread and giving to God the firstborn. He instituted annual reminders so that generation after generation would remember that God acted on behalf of his people.

Why would God command His people to remember their deliverance from Egypt?

When, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses gave the law to the new generation of Israelites, the sons and daughters of those who died wandering in the desert, he repeated to them time and again that they are to remember that they were slaves in Egypt. By remembering their slavery, not only do they appreciate God and his power, but remembering changes, motivates and guides them in their life. If God loved us enough to remember us, has the power to deliver us, and has the faithfulness to guide and care for us then, than He will love us, deliver and care for us through all of life.

And in case they forget, every year they would have an opportunity to remember for a whole week how God delivered them, year after year, generation after generation. They could not forget despite how many years went by. Whenever a father and a mother celebrated a birth of their first child, they would remember God’s deliverance from slavery. The Israelites were free, not because of anything they did, but because God wanted them to be free and bought them their freedom.

It was imperative for the Israelites to remember this freedom from slavery because it would have ramifications for all of their lives. I want to give you a few verses from Moses reminding in the book of Deuteronomy. Look how Moses gives reasons for remembering.

Deuteronomy 7:18 – “But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.”

By remembering what God did to Egypt and Pharaoh, it will help the Israelites not be afraid in whatever they will face. God brought a million people out of slavery, through a parted river and decimated the greatest power in the world; compared to that, the rest of life is easy. There is nothing to fear, except God.

Deuteronomy 15:15 – “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you. That is why I give you this command today.”

What was the command?

Deuteronomy 15:12-14 – 12“If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him.”

The command was given to help them remember. By caring for a slave, they will be remembering how God cared for the Israelites when they were slaves. Their obedience would be a foreshadowing of grace-filled obedience.

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 – 17“You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, 18but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.”

In Egypt, their entire lives were about justice perversion. They were slaves. They had no rights. Do not pervert justice because you have endured justice perversion and I saved you from justice perversion. The reminder of slavery is a reason why they are being commanded to not deprive the alien, fatherless or widow. They were once aliens without any rights. Do unto them as you remember what you wished you would have had and now are enjoying.

Deuteronomy 24:19-22 – 19“When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over them again. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 21When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not strip it afterward. It shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. 22You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this.”

Again, another command to remember the poor. When they harvest the grapes, they were instructed to leave some for the poor to glean. Why? Because they were once poor in Egypt.

In Exodus 20, God says, “Remember the Sabbath day.” It all ties together a few books later when Moses commands the people in Deuteronomy 5:15 – “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”

They are to remember the Sabbath day because in Egypt, they never had a day to worship God. Remember to take a Sabbath so you will remember that you never had a Sabbath day. You never had the freedom to worship.

Why does it seem that all these commands tie into their success at remembering this bondage breaking time in the life of their people? I am not sure it was as much about the command as it was about the heart behind the command. I think it was God’s attempt to give them (and us) an insight into grace. The whole law is summed up in one command: Love your God and Love your neighbor as yourself. If we just give grapes away, we miss the point. The point is, remember who you were, remember your God who saved you and it will change how you treat other people.

Would we change if America decided to help us remember the difficult yesteryears with mandated fasting and purging? I seriously doubt it. Government can change behavior, but it cannot change the heart. And that is, what I believe, God was after all along. But, laws don’t change hearts. Grace does. Love does. When we remember.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Faith of Leap

O.K, so I "borrowed" that title from this book I am reading, but it sure fits this picture well. A year and some change ago, a former youth student, Tyler Dingman, during his internship here in Africa, took the plunge and well, survived. And yet as scary as that was, the next leap of faith he will be taking, just might be a bit scarier. Tyler has listened/prayed/sought counsel and has determined that it is God's will for his life for him to come back to Africa and serve with ACTION Zambia. An amazing leap of faith for this young and mature man who wants to follow God wherever it may lead him... He will be serving in many roles over here in Zambia, but most importantly and strategically will be as the maintenance director at our Ciyanjano campground. We are on the verge of completing all the building and preparation for this camp to be up and functional. The water is finally hooked up and we are going to be building a bath house, and a few other construction items very soon. (We are in an experimental stage right now and with just a few of the camps that have been going on, we have seen great results and we are so excited for the potential of this place for children and adults.)

We are racing towards a significant date in the history of Ciyanjano...
ACTION Zambia is planning a celebration for the grand opening of Camp Ciyanjano.The founding couple for ACTION Zambia, Glenn and Liese Ripley, who had the vision to purchase this plot of land and sacrificed so much for this ministry, are coming back to dedicate this property and celebrate the future here in Zambia. Glenn will come from Friday 5 August through Sunday 14 August and the celebration will be held on Friday 12 August and Saturday 13 August. A pastors conference will likely be held at the front of Glenn's visit, with Glenn as a keynote speaker. Details are still in the works. There is much planning that needs to be done for this event, but we believe that the event is momentous for us as a team and for the ministry. We want to dedicate all of our endeavors to the Lord.

So, this is where Tyler comes in... WE NEED TYLER IN ZAMBIA... Kelly and Tricia Huckaby, the directors of the campground, just moved out to the Ciyanjano property and the amount of work they have to do to keep the place going is massive. They need help! Tyler needs help. We need your help!!

And it is my prayer and goal that he would be in Zambia by July 15.

He is ready to go.

All he needs is a bit of kwacha (money) and he needs it soon.

Oh, man, he is sooooo close. He has raised all the one time money he needs. He just needs 33.5 more people to commit to $50 dollars a month for two years or 67 at $25 a month... Seriously. That is all. PLEASE, could you consider joining my brother's team? Can you be one of the the mighty 67??? And if just being a part of his team weren't enough, he has promised an amazing photo of an Africa picture of your choice from his incredible photography gallery website.

So, you in? Here is the website for all the safe and secure giving details...

(and just to make it clear, you can give less than $25 or more than $50 dollars... just trying to make it clear how close we are!)

Thanks so much for helping us out!!! Can't wait to see how God answers this prayer!