I am sitting at the airport in Ndola, Zambia waiting for our flight to Lusaka. We were supposed to begin the journey back home today, but Kenyan Airways cancelled our flight scheduled for today from Lusaka to Nairobi and put us on the next scheduled flight which is not until Saturday. This means we must spend an extra two days in Lusaka. When we received the news about our cancellation, I was concerned because I have absolutely zero contacts in Lusaka, and I generally avoid going places I have never been without a trusted contact. However, in God’s providence a man who lives in Zambia and worked with ITEM in the past contacted us out of the blue. When he heard of my predicament, he arranged to have his son pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel and back to the airport when we depart. Just another instance of God’s gracious and faithful provision.
Takeaways from Our Training in Chingola
Our training in Chingola has been very well received. Typically, we like to cap attendance at 100 during our seminars because we want the training to be personal and interactive. Additionally, many African pastors desire to have very large crowds when Westerners come because it serves as a means of promotion for their churches. In Chingola, we started with 88 attendees on Monday, then it grew to 101 on Tuesday and then our final seminar day the attendance had swelled to 150. This is typical as word spreads after the first day of training and then more and more pastors come. We had one pastor to arrive from Lubumbashi, the largest city in the southern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who oversees a fellowship of 250 churches. After sitting through several sessions, he asked us to bring our training to his churches. The Lord continues to open doors for ITEM and with God’s help we will do our best to walk through them.
On the downside, several of our team members have been battling the Dehli Belly Syndrome (DBS) the past couple of days. If you have never heard about the Dehli Belly, it’s simply an intestinal reaction to the different bacteria found in food in foreign cultures. Pretty much anyone who has ever traveled to a different culture, especially a majority world culture is certain to experience its unpleasant effects. Unfortunately, my training associate for the seminar fell ill with DBS on Tuesday evening and was unable to attend the final day of training. Therefore, I taught from 9:00am–4:00pm. After the conference concluded, the host pastor had arranged for me to preach at his mid-week service since we were unable to be there on Sunday due to our interrupted travel schedule (See “A Bump in the Road” Post). It made for an exhausting but fulfilling and fruitful day.
One item of note (pun intended) is during the last half of our first training seminar we introduce the idea of biblical preaching, or as it is homiletically referred to as expository preaching, in which the preacher simply explains the text in context and applies it to his audience. Because African pastors have received such scant training most have never heard of the term, nor have they ever heard a text exposited. Our vision at ITEM is to help pastors become faithful equippers, examples, and expositors. When I began our first session on expository preaching, I asked the pastors present how many had ever heard such a sermon. Over 100 pastors were present in the session and not one hand was raised. It was a stark reminder of how badly ministries like ITEM are needed.
One of my favorite parts of each seminar is our Q & A time, which serves as our very last session. It is remarkable to me that as often as I have been coming to Africa and participating in these seminars the questions never vary regardless of location. They tend to revolve around the same couple of issues are there still apostles and prophets today (note: there are many self-proclaimed apostles and prophets in Africa amassing large audiences) and the role of women in ministry. The discussions are often spirited but generally respectful and fun, and this one was no different.
Finally, after our certificate ceremony, it was time for photos and goodbyes to the pastors. While sitting in the airport today, I received a message from the organizer stating that calls are starting to pour in from pastors in attendance who were greatly impacted by our training and are excited about beginning the journey of change in their ministries. What an encouraging report!
You Haven’t Been to Chingola Until You’ve Touched Chiwelempa
We were told by our hosts that you haven’t truly been to Chingola until you have touched Chiwelempa, which is the largest market in Chingola. Accordingly, after our last afternoon session on Tuesday, we were escorted through the massive labyrinthine market. It was quite the experience as the market contained just about anything one could imagine including fried caterpillars, a variety of dried fish, and the biggest avocadoes you have ever seen!
A Chance Meeting at the Airport
This post has been a little long but there is one more story I must tell. When we checked in for our flight and sat down at our gate, we happened to meet a Nepalese man who was working at a local hotel in Ndola as the chef. He was headed home for the first time in two years to visit his family. After the conversation ended, I was telling our team about how the Lord had provided a driver for us in Lusaka. While telling the story, I noticed the young man was getting very animated. One of our team members then asked him if he knew about Jesus. The young man replied, “I want to know Jesus.”
After our team member shared the gospel with him, the young man proceeded to tell us an incredible story. Having been raised in a Hindu family, he had heard from a friend about Jesus and subsequently began a quest to find the true God. Is the true God the Hindu gods or Jesus Christ? During this quest, he began to have a series of dreams in which he was being pulled by his family into hell and he would pray to Vishnu, but no help came, but then he would pray to Jesus and then he would be pulled from hell into a very bright light. In another dream, his uncle took his arm and told him he belonged with his family who worship Hindu gods, but as his uncle began to lead him things became darker and darker, and the young man cried out to Jesus and suddenly he was standing in the light and immediately awakened. At that point, he knew Jesus was the true God.
As we continued to talk, we discovered this young man was returning home for the first time since the pandemic began with the intention to gather his family and tell them that Jesus is the true God! What’s even more remarkable about this story, is that neither our team nor him were supposed to be on this flight. Our team was rebooked on this flight because of our little situation at the Malawi airport, and this young man was rebooked on this flight because he had documentation issues with his COVID test.
Somehow, God in His providence brought together a Nepalese and three Americans in an airport in Ndola, Zambia so that this young man might be encouraged in his fledgling faith and that we might be encouraged that God is working in ways that are beyond our comprehension to redeem a fallen world. Truly Jesus is the real God!
Now, on to Lusaka and then home!