I've emailed this out to everyone already, but just for the sake of having it up here I wanted to post update #1. I'll post a new update some time next week giving some info on what classes have been like.
Sorry this is so long but I want to give you a fair account of how things have been so far, and I have to say right now that my words could never do these experiences justice. I've been in Zambia almost two weeks now and to a certain extent it's still not real. Every once in a while one of my team mates will randomly throw out, “we're in Africa right now,” and it dawns on me that I've almost forgotten where I am. Our base is built on a cliff overlooking rapid 14 of the Zambezi River with a 180 meter drop off. On the first day of AMT we hiked down the gorge to check out the view. On the way back up my friend Dave and I took the wrong path which quickly leads to a dead end, but we figured we could hike it anyways. We realized this maybe wasn't the best idea when we got about half way up the cliff and found that things were a bit more serious than we initially thought. After about an hour of scaling crumbling rocks and one of the scarier climbs of my life we made it to the top. Welcome to Africa.
We spent the first week of AMT here on the base getting used to how things work and hearing the vision of Overland Missions from Phil, the founder. The organization is still fairly small but will definitely be growing a ton in the near future. By 2020 Overland hopes to be reaching 20 million people in the most remote villages with the Gospel and implementing the SAM and LIFE projects, which include humanitarian aid, education, and sustainable agriculture. This is done mainly by Sector Managers who spend five years in a region of southern Africa building into local leaders and discipling pastors and other community leaders. Overland also sends expedition teams to unreached villages to pave the way for Sector Managers by working in the villages and preaching the Word of God.
Last week we went on our first expedition to the bush, beginning with a five hour drive down some of the bumpiest roads I've ever seen in my life. We were received with singing, dancing, and a man with dreadlocks who wanted to marry some of the women on our team. Many of the villagers had never seen a mukuwa (white person) before our arrival, and when we were working in the fields one woman asked, “do they know they have white skin?” In the mornings we would go out to the fields and harvest maize (corn) or ground nuts (peanuts) in order to connect with the villagers and help bridge the wealth gap that often creates barriers. The work wasn't too bad except the one day a caterpillar crawled on my back, leaving behind it tons of microscopic hairs that put me into a frenzy of itching. In the afternoons we would play games of soccer then gather the villagers together and one of us would preach. On Wed. we held a feast where we personally captured, beheaded, plucked, tarred and feathered (kidding), butchered, and cooked six chickens. Needless to say this was certainly one of the highlights of the week and the meal was delicious. The generosity of the people also amazed me. Every day in the fields we received tons of ground nuts, watermelons, pumpkins, and squash. We left with loads of nuts, 10 pumpkins, and as we were about to board our vehicle the head man (like the mayor) attempted to give us a live goat, which we regretfully declined.
Many of the people in the villages are nominally Christian and others follow a mix of Christianity and tribal religions, but for the most part the villages haven't been reached since the days of Livingstone. Unfortunately for me, the crowd I preached to happened to believe we were Satanists, which made my job a bit more difficult. The meetings we held were unlike anything I've ever experienced. We would give a short message and share the Gospel, then give people a chance to respond by coming forward. Many people received or recommitted their lives to Christ in front of their entire community. We then would invite anyone who was sick or in pain forward, and that's when things got crazy. In truth, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and pains are healed by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Having never seen a TV or even westerners, these people wouldn't even know how to fake the things I saw, and I can say with certainty that the spiritual battle is completely different here. Many people would go to the witch doctor because they were being bothered by demons, and he would give them white bracelets and necklaces to wear for protection. It was incredible to tell people of the sovereignty of Christ and see them break free from these chains.
The trip to the villages was an experience for us all, but even more importantly it opened many doors and created relationships for our sector managers in that region who will take care of the important job of sustained, long-term relations with the villages. These kinds of relationships will bring lasting change to the villages and raise up local leaders who will be the ones to truly reach their own nation.
That pretty much covers the first two weeks of AMT, classes begin tomorrow and I can't even imagine where things are going to go by the end of summer. Sorry I couldn't include pictures, the internet here is pretty slow but I'll hopefully get some on facebook soon. In the mean time, please pray for our team to continue to grow together and for our hearts to be open to what God has for us all in the future. Thank you for your support and I look forward to telling you more!