Monday, June 22, 2009

Don't Lose Your Head...Man


Hello Everyone!

Well we returned safely from the bush yesterday after a great week! After a six hour drive our team arrived at the chief's palace in Nyawa Kingdom to do ministry at a head man conference. Overland organized and ran the conference, inviting fifty five head men from around the kingdom. We were excited to see one hundred head men arrive, some who had walked 40km just to get there. Needless to say the conference was a huge success. The head men received training in Christian leadership from some of the full-time missionaries, and our team was able to build relationships with them as well as gather valuable information about their villages, which will go towards future partnerships. During one of the teaching sessions, one of the head men raised his hand to ask if the missionary speaking would come back more often because his teachings were so powerful. On the final evening of the conference, after a powerful message from Jake, our sector manager, seventy of the men attending stood up, held hands, publicly confessed their sins and repented of them. This sort of thing is virtually unheard of here and it was amazing to see God at work in these men's lives. Some of these head men are in charge of as many as twelve villages, which means a change in their hearts will affect thousands of Zambians, preserving their culture while bringing change through true relationships with Christ.

During some of the sessions our team went out to the villages surrounding the palace to work in the fields and hold meetings where we taught and encouraged the people. The first day out we harvested maize, which we're virtually pros at by now. On the third day of the conference a few of us (including myself) had the unique opportunity to walk 5km or so to Kalomba Village and encourage a church. Over lunch (where I got to try boiled corn in sour milk...mmmmmmm) the elders there told us we were the first white visitors to ever visit and socialize with the village. During the service (which lasts from sun-up to sun-down) I was able to share a testimony on God's grace and how badly He wants us to turn back to Him and be embraced by Him. It was truly a blessing to spend time with the people there and even more importantly put a new village on the map (well...at least GPS) and open doors for Overland to work with them in the future. Kalomba has no clean water access and the nearest school is at least an hour walk; I did it myself, and I can't imagine doing it every day, but for some it is comparatively close. Sustained future relationships would meet these needs and build upon the firm spiritual foundation that is necessary for any real change to occur.

With only five weeks left of AMT things are getting pretty busy. We had a guest speaker today and tomorrow we have our practical application for 4x4 off-road recovery. We'll head to the Botswana border, get an enormous flatbed truck stuck, get it unstuck, then head back to the base with a stop for ice cream on the way. I honestly can think of no better way to spend my 22nd birthday. Thank you all for your continued prayers, we live off of them out here.

In Christ,

J.J.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Base Life


Hello Everyone!

It's officially been more than a month here in Zambia and everything is going great! Since getting back into the villages we've gotten into a pretty regular routine of classes, or at least as much of a routine as you can have in Africa. I figured I'd share a bit about classes before we head out to the villages again next week for our second expedition.

Practical Classes – Bush Cooking and Diesel Mechanics
We began our practical lessons with bush cooking, which is basically how to cook for 25+ people when all you have is a fire and what you brought with you...This was one of our shorter classes, lasting just three days, ending in a competition to see who could produce the finest bush cuisine. As you may have expected, or may not have if you're in my family, our team Kitchen Thunder (formerly Bathroom Thunder) won a handy victory with a meal consisting of grilled chicken with a peanut sauce for an appetizer, a Spanish paella for the main course, and peanut butter cookies for dessert. We won extra points for arranging our grilled chicken bits in the shape of the Overland logo.
Our next set of practical lessons were in diesel mechanics, definitely one of the more exciting classes we've had so far. We learned an extremely basic version of the theory of how diesel engines run and common problems one would have when driving out in the bush. Then we got to spend time in the warehouse seeing and even fixing some of these problems. In the week and a half we were in class, we saw a punctured fuel tank, a multitude of motorcycle problems, and an air lock (this one was in town), and I'm pretty sure we didn't see anything close to all the problems. It definitely cannot be said that what we learn in these classes doesn't have a direct application to third-world missions. As an engineer this class has probably made the most sense to me and it's been fun to use the nerdy brain God's given me for something good, not that Fourier transforms and stochastic processes aren't God-glorifying...

Missional Classes – Culture, Ministry Ethics, and Preaching
One of the most interesting classes we've had while here deals with African culture in general as well as Zambian culture specifically. Here we learned about the basic philosophies that make up African life as well as the theological foundations of the numerous religions. This is especially important in sharing the gospel because we are fighting language barriers as well as cultural barriers. One of the most important lessons I took from this class was the importance of planting seeds, not half-grown plants. The gospel isn't something that's grown up in America, shipped to Africa, and transplanted here, and this is extremely important to remember when planting churches. Too often we've seen western missionaries plant western churches in Africa, alienating believers from their tribes and setting up cultural barriers that inhibit true relationships with Christ, which just leads to apathetic churches and no real change on the ground. We've also had the benefit of having plenty of true Zambians around to teach us a ton about traditional customs and how to be more effective ministers.
For the sake of length and not boring you all too bad I'm going to skip talking too much about ministry ethics. For this class, we had a guest speaker who has been with Overland since the beginning and challenged me a ton.
We finished up our lessons on preaching this afternoon, which were a great experience and maybe one of the most important things we've done so far. We took turns popcorn preaching (you get a verse, 1 min to prepare, then you have to preach), doing some in-depth teaching, and giving a full-out salvation message. It's been a great experience and I think I've come along way even since my first message in the villages a few weeks back. I did receive some criticism for referencing a show called Firefly (a cheesy space western) since our target audience was supposed to be villagers...but other than that I think I did alright. Most importantly it's given us some practice and more confidence for when we end up in a village somewhere and are the most well-equipped people to preach.

Well that about covers it for the past few weeks. Outside of classes we've been enjoying the sand volleyball court here on base and making trouble at the three-star hotel pool where they let us swim for free on the weekends. We also made it up to Victoria Falls a few weekends ago which were incredible. In true African fashion, we've had a few sunset rides on the back of a flat bed truck, these are moments I think I'll remember forever. I've included a few pictures here of the team and myself, mostly of me ruining other peoples' pictures, but what fun would they have been otherwise? I really appreciate all of your support and prayers. Please pray for our team as we go out to the villages again next week for a large pastoral conference. We'll be doing our best to build into these men so they can build into their communities and be the church Christ has called us to.

J.J.