Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Quarterly Newsletter

Greetings friends,

I was driving with a fellow missionary through a poor, dirty, crowded compound last week, and I said, “Do you ever wish your friends could you see you right now?” I wish this a lot, because I have seen the most desolate, difficult places on a weekly basis and I can’t share it with you. I am friends with the poorest of the poor. I have witnessed over the past four years some of the most amazing feats of courage, patience, and love through the pastors I work with and get the privilege to teach. I wish you were here to go with me tomorrow to this rural area called “15 miles” where one of my pastors is planting a church. I am purchasing 20 Bibles for this church that doesn’t have a single Bible. Not a one. I get to take them their first Bible. Amazing! I have the privilege of watching another pastor see God provide money for his school to be completed. I am there through his struggle so I also get to witness the joy of completion. I saw a bridge completed this last month. I bought some beans from another pastor who learned how to farm through our one day retreat and is now providing a bit for his family through this harvest. I heard a pastor preach through a passage in Romans this last week in our class. My heart was encouraged by his ability to practically apply what he learned in our preaching class. I am going to be speaking at two conferences in the next few months. These are good days.

It is hard not be a bit reflective as I contemplate that in five months we will be boarding the plane to leave Zambia and return to America to plant a church.

I am sure some are wondering why we would leave such a fruitful ministry here in Zambia? It is not like our kids are dying to get back. Just this morning, Bradyn said, “I don’t want to leave Zambia.” But they all understand, as do Stephanie and I, that our lives are not ours to live as we desire. We are servants of our good master. We have learned and are learning that His will is indeed good, pleasing and perfect. And so we sense that the same voice we followed to Zambia is now calling us back home for a work that he has specially used this time to prepare us for. And so, we go.

But where are we going? We are not sure. Our theme verse is from Hebrews 11:8-10 (which we altered for our purposes!)

Hebrews 11:8-10 - 8By faith Abraham the Allen Family obeyed when they was were called to go out to a place... And they went out, not knowing where they was were going.

What we think we know is that God wants us to plant a church with a few key values:

· A multi-ethnic church, a church of every nation to reach all the nations,

· A mission church where ministry to the poor and hurting is a natural part of what we do and who we are

· A multiplying church, where the church planted will have as its goal to continue to reproduce other churches to reach the lost and seeking.

· A multi-generational church, where the church disciples parents to disciple their families through worship services and shared outreach, and people of all ages worship together.

· A c’Munity (gotta keep the m’s going) where families don’t have to leave life to go to church but church (fellowship/sharing faith/worship God/sharing life) happens all week long.

WE also believe and hope that Steve will continue training and teaching pastors, whether at home or overseas.

We wish we could share with you all that God has done over the past four years in a letter how God has engrained these value in our hearts through experiences and divine teaching times. As for where, we have no idea right now. (Though we have really enjoyed what it is like to have sun for most of the yearJ) We have been praying to God, and we have honestly sensed from God that we are to be at peace with his gracious uncertainty. And so we are at peace. And as un-American as that is, to not know where you are going, we believe that when we get there we will know. And maybe, hopefully, even before.

We have purchased our tickets to return home on December 15, 2011. Our missionary support with ACTION International will continue for three months until March 31, 2012. We hope and trust that you will continue your support through our transition home.

Until then, we have five short precious months to live it up here in Zambia. Later this summer, I will be heading to a pastor’s rural church to preach on fear and show the Jesus film as they do HIV teaching/testing. My good friend Matt Canlis from Scotland was here to teach at our bible school in July. He did an amazing job. In August, our founder and the visionary for ACTION Zambia will be back from the states to dedicate our Camp Ciyanjano at the grand opening and I will be able to preach with him at a conference. In September, my good friend Jeff Bucknam will be here to teach at our school and preach at a conference and church. We have short term teams visiting, a new missionary/former student arriving sometime in the next few months, and lots of awesomeness teaching Romans and spending time with my pastors.

You know I wish you could be with us here, but, in reality you have been. Everything we have been able to do is through your support and prayers. So, thank you for being with us, every step of the way. And these letters and blogs are just a small way to show you how! So, thank you from the bottom of our hearts...

Would you be willing to partner with us in prayer over these next 6 months? Here are some specific requests:

· That we would finish well in Zambia

· That God would continue to grant us peace

· That He would clearly direct our steps

· That He would prepare our hearts and minds for the future

Sincerely,

Steve, for all the Allens

P.S. As usual, if you aren’t checking out www.aliveinafrica.com often, you will be missing out! Five years and 935 blogs strong... Be with us during the countdown to 1000 blogs on our last day in Zambia!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Culturally Adapted...

My girls love a lot about the Zambian culture. Especially celebrating
someone's birthday by splashing them with water. Kamryn and the girls
finally got Mwape good this year after four years of trying... The pictures
tell the story!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

captionless

Not sure what to say about this bus with stuff on it other than take a
picture of it so you could enjoy it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Remember - Chapter 6


Chapter 6
There are a lot of celebrities these days. Well, I am pretty sure there were a lot of celebrities all the days, actually. We love celebrities. The same goes for church preachers as well. I am sure all the social network and preaching audio accessibility has only furthered this phenomena. It is easy to follow and talk about gifted people because we are people created to worship. We love to worship, especially when we can see and hear it. Jesus was that celebrity preacher in his time. He possessed an amazing ability to speak the word of God like He wrote it and do miracles of all kinds. He enabled people to feel comfortable around Him, especially the worst of the sinners.  He was followed by thousands (if only Facebook and Twitter had been around then) and he could have really capitalized on that popularity if he had not said such hard things, which seemed to always decrease his following quite a bit. The hard things He said included stuff like eat my flesh and drink my blood (John 6); not always the best way to get followers. I think if I could have gotten past all that stuff, I would have really liked Jesus as a preacher and teacher. He seems to be one that simplifies things to a level that I (and forgetful people like me) can handle. It was just the smart ones that took/take offense at Him. 
Jesus took religion out of the hand of the rich and smart and gave it back to the poor and humble.  In Matthew 11:25-26 He said, 25 “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” The little children referred to here are not children, but his adult disciples, because they were looking to Jesus with humility and trust that characterize dependent children.  The insight here is that God is the one who both hides and reveals; knowing that He has that power, look at who gets the secret and from whom it is hidden. Jesus did not come to create a bunch of rules and make it harder. He came to sum up the whole religious/rules/commands thing in Himself. Get Jesus, and you got it all. Jesus is my kind of God. Simple. Not easy. But simple. Challenging. But, not complicated. Clear. 
Check out these verses to see if you agree:
John 5:39-40. 39“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Jesus says pretty clearly that the scriptures do, indeed, speak of eternal life and that the eternal life in the scriptures is found not in words, but in THE Word, Jesus. Come to me if you want to live forever and there is no way around me. 
John 6:45 - 45“It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.”
To learn from God, we must go to and through Jesus.  Simple enough.
Matthew 11:28-30 - 28“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 
If you are weary and burdened, come to Jesus. Not a doctrine. Not a belief. A person.
John 15:3-5 - 3“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.’”
Jesus cleans and Jesus produces the fruit. It is quite clear. Apart from being connected to Jesus we can do NOTHING.
Matthew 28:18-20 - 18“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’”
This is significant passage for many reasons. Jesus declares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him. He is above all. As Philippians 2:5-8 declares, He is Lord of Heaven and Earth and all people will bow to Him. Because He has been given authority, He has the right to give the orders. What is His order? Go! Make Disciples! Baptize! Teach them to obey everything He commanded.
Well, what did he command?
John 13:34-35 - 34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
It wasn’t a really new command. But, it is. Sort of.
He took 716 laws in the Old Testament and boiled them down to one word, one command: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and Love your Neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27). In Matthew 22:40, Jesus said,  “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” 
In one moment, Jesus  both delighted and frustrated all those who heard Him. Jesus said, “I am summing it up all up. Love me. Love them.” All the laws of the Old Testament simply help illustrate and paint a picture of what love should look like. Laws are like a child’s coloring page. They give the outline of what love should look like and should not look like and love is the color that fills it in.
In John 15:9-1,1 Jesus said,  9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
Jesus loves us. We know that the Father loves the Son and Jesus loves us with that same kind of love. Our job: remain in his love. How? By obeying the commands. What are the commands? Love Him. Why? So we will be full of Joy.  
It is quite simple; He has commanded a never-ending, simple, circle of love.  Not too hard to remember, I deem.
The other thing that Jesus did, which I like, was take all the feasts, sacrifices, and rituals and boil them down to two symbols. The first symbol is baptism. He commanded that we baptize all people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Not only are we following in the footsteps of Jesus when we get baptized, but we are identifying with this death (when we go under the water) and his resurrection (when we come out of the water). (Romans 6:1-4).  Baptism is something that we only do once. Through baptism we proclaim that we, too, are dead to our rights and our will for our lives. We have died to sin and the lordship of our flesh. We are new people, followers of Jesus, indwelt with the Spirit of life through the resurrection of Jesus. It is significant, necessary and symbolic. It is like a wedding ring, an outward symbol of inward commitment to be married only to your spouse, or in this case, Jesus.
The second symbol, like baptism, is also a command; it is an ongoing command to partake in the Lord’s Supper. We are to drink the cup and eat the bread. Why?
Well, Paul records it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: 23“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Did you catch it?  We eat the bread and drink the cup in REMEMBRANCE of Jesus.  We do this to remember.  Remember his death. Remember the blood poured out for your sins. As often as we eat and drink, we proclaim the Lord’s death and ultimately His (and our future) resurrection.  So, the question is: How often do we need to remember His death?  Pretty darn often. Once a month. Once a year. Once a week. It doesn’t really say, but it does seem to imply, especially after reading about the spiritual amnesia that seems to be fairly contagious in the Old Testament, that oftener is always a better rule of thumb.
And that is it. The preacher of all preachers points to Himself (if you forget everything else, just remember Me). He gives two commands (really just one – loving God is bound up in loving others – you can’t do one without the other) to sum up 716 laws. And He commands two symbols (a one time and a one all the time) to sum up a variety and number of feasts and rituals.
So, so simple. SIMPLE. We just need to remember Jesus. Remain in His love. Love Him and others with the same love. Remember his love by continuing to take communion.  Repeat.  But, we can’t, don’t and won’t... Why not?   

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blessings from Above, Part II

It was a real blessing to have Matt join us in Zambia, as a pastor and as a friend. He jumped right in, built bridges into the lives of the Zambians and blessed us real good.

The best thing a visiting pastor can teach is how to teach. And that is what Matt did. He taught them a form of preaching using the stories from the Bible. Simple. Transferable. Brilliant.

One of things Matt said he wanted to do here is get to know our kids. It didn't take JoJo long to warm up. The kids absolutely loved his stories.

On Wednesday he taught the pastors. On Thursday, after his long 10 day ministry trip to Kenya, I decided it was time for some relaxation. However, our plans were derailed a 1.5 hour bit as we had to fix my first flat tire in four years here in Zambia. Because of the angle of my jack, I couldn't get the tire up high enough. Thankfully, someone came along who had a big jack.

It is winter here. The morning was cold. The afternoon was perfect. We went on a safari first thing.

And we saw a 20 ft python coming out of a whole. It was surreal to say the least.

We saw elephants.

Hyenas (thankfully behind bars)

And this Lion here who I think would have eaten us if he wasn't behind a bar. He actually did charge the fence and scare us pretty good. It was feeding day and I think he was hungry.

It was a perfect afternoon, hanging by the pool and relaxing.

Gotta love the snooker table.

On Friday morning, we visited the pastors houses and picked them up to take them to a pastor's conference in Kalikiliki. We picked up Patson, Peter, Alfred and Joseph so Matt could see their houses in the compounds as well as save them a trip. We went to Pastor Jere's church to teach the pastors from that compound on preaching. Matt opened it up sharing about how to teach using story, and then I taught on preaching. And then, the plan was for Patson, Peter, Joseph and Alfred to all share 10 minutes on each of the preaching points that I introduced. Can you say highlight of my year? The point of them sharing was to show how these points in preaching affect their preaching. Now, they spoke in Nyanga but it didn't matter. They were animated, they were passionate and they spoke with conviction and knowledge of the subject. They answered questions, and worked together as an amazing team. It was what you always hope will happen, in that the teachees become the teachers and do such a better job than the teacher could ever do. I am done. Seriously. Now the plan is to help facilitate a pastor's conference where I don't say a thing. It was honestly one of the most pure, amazing things I have witnessed since I have been here.


After the conference, Matt spoke again at the ACTION Pastor's college. He took the next step, demonstrating how to lead a small group in the story teaching.

Friday was July 15, and as it turned out, Matt's 39th birthday. We celebrated with Dessert Pizza and some Stephanie homemade famous pizza.

And here he is talking with Julie, his beloved wife, on skype, a few minutes before he left for the airport. I am still blown away by technology.

It was a great three days. I blinked and it was over. The beauty of great friendships with history is that even when you haven't hung out in 12 or so years, that you just pick up where you left off, except with a couple of wives and a bunch of kids:)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blessings from above...

My good friend (best man in my wedding/high school and college and roommate
after college) Matt Canlis spent the last three days with our family. We
haven't really had more than a few hours to hang out for probably 12 or so
years. It was a very sweet reunion! He lives in Scotland with his family
and ministers in a church near Aberdeen. He was on a ten day mission trip
to Kenya and then made his way down to Zambia. Oh, what a blessing this time
was to our whole family. This is one of my favorite pictures. These
pastors (left to right - Peter Zulu, Alfred Mwanza, Joseph Zulu and Patson
Sakala) are my closest friends here in Zambia pictured with my good friend
Matt. There are more, many more pictures of our adventure, which included a
conference, two classes, a safari and his 39th birthday, but this one will
more than do for today...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One for the ladies...

The ladies finally get to go somewhere! I am sure it is hard for the wives
not to be a little jealous of their pastor husbands and all the training and
time together they get at the Bible School. Well, this week is their turn!
They headed out via this big blue bus to Ciyanjano to have a pastor's wives
retreat led by the four women short term team from California. Stephanie
will be joining them tomorrow for the day, cooking, cleaning and serving the
short term team so they can focus on the wives. Please be praying for this
time, for healing, encouragement and fun, because honestly this is probably
the first (or second-last year) retreat that these ladies have ever been
on... They were like giddy little school children when I said goodbye at the
meeting place! It is a very difficult job to be a wife of a pastor, and
Africa is probably even harder. So, pray that this week (they come home
Thursday morning) would just full of joy and good health and the presence of
the Holy Spirit! Thanks!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Just a (not) simple little uneventful Saturday drive

There is NEVER a simple little uneventful drive in Zambia. Ever. If someone says there is, just know they are lying:) We made a trip down to see the future house of our good friends, the Whitfields. Check out their new ministry here! We made it there and back and had pictures to prove it.

It was so great seeing everything firsthand. A truly amazing place and we are excited for them to come back with the Roberts and minister in this needy place... Anyway, back to the drive. We were feeling a bit nostalgic driving down there through the wide open bush because our days are numbered here and there is nothing like Zambia in America. It is truly an incredible place. But, I think God just wanted us to have a few adventures a long the way and we documented them in picture!!! So enjoy the next few pictures with some good explanation!

We loved this store front - Bible covers!! And if you look closely it says "0" sizes.

We needed to buy some charcoal for our friend Luke. We decided to make this young guys day and buy it off his bike. His day was done!

You gotta love this African bus. Loaded sky high and seriously retro.

This was an amazing sight of cotton bales packed way high over the edges... Keep looking at pictures and you will see what happens later.

Just wanted to show you how fun it is to drive on these two lane roads with lots and lots of trucks driving 3 miles an hour.

Lots of high grass. I always wonder what David Livingstone was thinking when he was walking through this grass when he actually might encounter a lion.

We turned off the main road and this is the view of their valley.

The wheat has just been planted by the nearby farmer. Amazing.


Their house is cool but big time under construction!

A view from their front yard.


The kids went for a tractor ride!

Eating lunch on the car!

Notice the four little kids who stared at us the entire time we were there and wherever we went, they followed us.

A stream into the nearby dam.









We saw a wild ostrich on the way home. Don't see that very often in Seattle.

Jo in la-la land on the way back.

Remember that cotton truck. This one lost a few bales.

A car drove off the road and the entire city stopped to watch. Very sad.


Drove through Soweto and the markets.

This truck driver was driving like he was in a Honda Accord.

More markets.

Everything but the kitchen sink in here.

Who needs a truck when you have a wheelbarrow?



Crazy, good day!