28 November 2007

Fair Service

Greetings from Luanshya!

ZAMNET has been having "issues" again. This time the electricity went out at a relay station 50 miles north of Lusaka (150 miles south of us) so email was out. The electricity kept going on and off for several days so email was out of order and Internet access (and SKYPE) was intermittent. They tell me it is working... We'll see!

Last Saturday we were given the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony of the Mobile Missionary Maintenance Vocational Training School.

The MMM teams have assisted us several times over the years on various construction projects. It was started by missionaries from Australia and was placed entirely into Zambian leadership a few years ago. They still receive support from outside Zambia, but the day to day administration rests squarely with the local Zambians. As I sat and watched the graduation, I was impressed by the quality and testimonies of those who had gone through the program. They had trained carpenters, bricklayers and tailors but the outstanding facet of the education was the Christ-centered curriculum.

Students talked about loving the Lord and being prepared to serve Him through their vocation. It is good to know that we had a small part in sending these young people into the fields to harvest.

Speaking of MMM, one team of carpenters is currently on site at the Fellowship Chapel grounds to place the roof on the building. Due to illnesses and the graduation ceremony, the building is four weeks behind schedule and, of course, we have the additional challenge of almost daily rain storms. The one this afternoon lasted twenty minutes and dropped nearly four inches of rain and hail. The students quickly covered the timer, gathered all their tools and waited under shelter until the rain passed.

Immediately after the storm, they returned to the site and resumed work. We are excited about the prospect of having this building enclosed in a few days time. Please pray for the MMM team as they endeavor to complete this task.

During my discipleship session with Mr. Siwale we were discussing the lordship of Christ. As we looked at Romans 12:1, it struck home to him that being a living sacrifice-giving everything you have to the Lord Jesus Christ-is reasonable service. The "fairness" of being a living sacrifice became real as we talked about other things being fair. Go into the market to buy vegetables and paying for them is fair. Going into a shop to buy shoes and paying for them is fair. Enjoying electricity in your home and paying the monthly bill is fair. Giving our lives back to Christ because He paid for it with His blood on the cross is fair. The realization brought a smile to his face. He said, "This is why obedient Christians are happier than disobedient Christians." This is a profound statement. Please pray for brother Siwale as he continues to grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

The Christian Resource Centre continues to be a valuable ministry. There have been a number of new enrollments in the Bible correspondence school while new faces have been appearing every day to use the resources offered.

This afternoon a long time student came in to have Sherry work on his computer straightening out a Bible resource program. The work among the youth of the community continues. With school almost at an end for the year, we expect many new young people to attend the special meetings set up for them. Friday evenings we continue with various films. We are currently watching the Chronicles of Narnia. Thank you for praying for the various ministries that fall under the Christian Resource Centre.

In His Service,

Patrick & Sherry

21 November 2007

Last Act

Greetings from Luanshya!

This has been a very difficult week for a number of the believers with whom we work. Mrs. Tali, the wife of one of the church leaders, lost her 73 year-old mother because of a stroke and subsequent complications. Finally, John Bwalya's brother, Victor, was killed in a bus accident just a few days ago. All of these individuals were born again children of God. The family and friends will see them again when they reach heaven. However, the pain of the loss is always excruciating and grief takes time.

Victor Bwalya was the youngest of those who died last week. Yet his story is the most compelling. He recently obtained a job as the conductor on a long distance bus service. His job was to make sure the customers were happy and obviously that they all paid their fare. However, Victor was much more than this on his tours back and forth. He was known to share the gospel by preaching to this "captive audience" of travellers. On the day he died he had just finished preaching the gospel and was on the way to the front of the bus with a gospel music tape in hand to play over the sound system. Another driver, who had determined to commit suicide by running into a large vehicle, collided with the side of the bus right where Victor was standing. Nobody else on the bus died. The driver of the other vehicle also survived. We cannot know why God allowed this event to take place. John and his family are dealing with this sudden loss and trying to make sense of it all. Those who survived the bus accident talk about the testimony of this young man. He was dedicated to the Lord and proclaimed his faith openly. The last act he committed on earth was to share the gospel. What a fantastic testimony that is!

One of these days we will all commit a "last act". Until that time, we prepare for our transition as believers from earth to glory. This past week, in the midst of all the trials, I met with Mr. Siwale for our discipleship class where we talked about sharing the gospel. Mr. Siwale said he was learning more and more and was becoming bolder in his sharing of the good news. After hearing the story of Victor Bwalya, we pray that more believers will gain boldness to share and hold forth the Word of Truth.

As we come to this particular time of the year, we thank the Lord for the blessings we have received. The blessings include the opportunity to serve Him and to represent you in that service to the people of Zambia.

May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

In His Service,
Patrick & Sherry

14 November 2007

Veterans and Remembrance

Greetings from Luanshya.

I have been "celebrating" (if that is the correct term) Veterans Day for over half a century. I have watched hundreds of films showing both the devastation and victories of war. My favourite film on the subject is the 1941 classic "Sergeant York" starring Gary Cooper. As a boy, was that this man with such a violent temper made a complete turn-around when he came face to face with God - even to the point of refusing to go to war. He became a hero not because he wanted to kill, but because he wanted to stop the killing of his comrades in arms.

For the past 14 years I have been a participant in the "Remembrance Day" service here in Luanshya which is conducted on the Sunday nearest 11th November. For 11 of those years I have been the preacher at that service. In the past I have spoken on turning swords into ploughs, seeking peace through a relationship with Christ and thanking our fathers for the freedoms we enjoy. All of these messages were Biblically sound, but this year the service meant something more to me. This year we have a son in the military.

As I was preparing for the message I looked at the patriotic presentations sent to me by friends and family in a different light. The sacrifice offered by our fathers (both of whom served in the United States Navy) suddenly became more real. As I talked about the ultimate sacrifice made by (then) Northern Rhodesians – both black and white – in World War 2, I thought more about what a certain young man was preparing to sacrifice in service to his country: our youngest son, Colin.

Last week Colin telephoned and we spoke for over 30 minutes about his training and his plans. He made a comment that left me speechless for a moment: "Dad, I love my country and the more I am here the more I love it." Remember, this is a young man who never had the privilege of attending a high school football game, did not have a homecoming parade and never – not ever – heard the Star Spangled Banner played or The Pledge of Allegiance recited in school while in Zambia. In fact, he was almost always the only American in his class. We were criticised for encouraging him or even "allowing" him to enlist. His decision to enlist in the United States Air Force was entirely his decision and some members of his own extended family were not pleased. Colin's response: "My decision. My choice."

While we do not wave an American flag at our home or have a decal on our car here in Zambia (as suggested by the American embassy and the local police) we are proud of our young airman and look forward to seeing him in uniform some day.

Thank you for your prayers for us and our family,
Patrick & Sherry

08 November 2007

Rain! Rain! More rain!

Greetings from Luanshya!

Rain! Rain! More rain! Ordinarily we would enjoy early rains. The official start of the rainy season isn't until the last week of November but we have had four days of heavy rains from Saturday through Tuesday. As I said, ordinarily, this would be great. However, when we are trying to build and paint, the last thing we want is RAIN. Fortunately, we know that we serve a sovereign God and we know that He has a reason for delaying this work. It's only in our human limitations that we are frustrated with the weather.

Several weeks ago we mentioned the fact that a young church leader had come into the library to share that he had lost his 14 year old son to a drowning incident. This morning the husband came in to ask for an appointment for him and his wife. This afternoon we spent an hour with brother and Mrs. Zulu.

They shared their anger and their pain at the loss of their first born son.

We were able to share scriptures and experience with them. It is important that they forgive the boy who may have inadvertently caused the death of their son. It is even more important that they realize that God never makes a mistake and that this experience is part of His plan-as hard as that might be to accept. All too often we tend to believe that God owes us an explanation for what He does. As His children and as His servants, He does not owe us anything. The loss of a child, or any loved one, is never an easy situation. Being angry with God because of such a loss only magnifies the pain. Please pray for brother and Mrs. Zulu. Because of their position in their church, they are being observed. This makes their grief even more difficult to endure.

The grade 7 examination period is over! Our three grade seven children from the Lighthouse Children's Home are thrilled to have completed their exams and all of them, of course, think they did spectacularly. The results will be out in a few weeks and we will be able to congratulate or console them with the final outcome. We hope to find places for each of them in local government high schools that will take them through to grade 12. Please pray for them as well as the grade six students who are entering grade seven and will be experiencing these same exams a year from now.

This coming Sunday I will be speaking at the Veteran's Day Memorial Service commemorating the four remaining Zambian servicemen from WWII. It has been my privilege to speak at eleven of the last fourteen memorial services. It is an opportunity simply to say thank you to these very senior gentlemen as well as share the Word of God to the current soldiers and police officers of the day. Please pray for us during this service. It has all the more meaning this year with our son now serving in the United States Air Force.

We are privileged to be used by God and ever thankful for your prayers on our behalf.

In His Service,
Patrick & Sherry

01 November 2007

Continuing Education

Greetings from Luanshya!

We want to start with an update from last week. We mentioned a young man named Potiphar who came in asking questions about prayer and salvation.

Sadly, he did not return on Thursday for our follow up meeting. He did, however, come in to the Christian Resource Centre this morning while I was making a hospital visit and apologized profusely for missing our appointment. He is in the middle of his grade 12 exams and this is obviously taking up a lot of his time. We were encouraged that he came and is interested in continuing our conversation. Please pray for him and for the rest of the children who are taking final exams during this period.

The lumber for the trusses at Fellowship Chapel have been purchased and treated against termite infestation. The carpenters will be on site, Lord willing, by the end of the week and the plan is to have the roof on by the end of next week. Bit by bit we are completing this very important project.

The youth continue in their study of The Names of Jesus. This past week they looked at "The Branch", "The Bridegroom" and "The Bright and Morning Star".

There was quite a bit of discussion on the various names and coinciding verses that made the young people think beyond the surface. Please continue to pray for the classes. We hope to hand out small booklets to each of the attendees for review at home.

The Christian Resource Centre has been busy these last few days with various ones coming in to use the computers for Bible study and others using the books in sermon preparation. The are a number of young people who have also been making use of the facility as they are completing homework assignments from their Christian education classes. We praise the Lord that we are able to serve the community in this way and open the doors for those who request counseling and advice.

With that is happening through the week it would be impossible to put it all in one letter. Please believe us when we say that your prayers and support make it all possible. We appreciate you tremendously.

In His Service,
Patrick & Sherry