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.