After working among the Mumena chieftaincy for four years, I have tried, failed, and succeeded in many different attempts of serving God here. However, that experience and time creates a wonderful view of what God is doing.
When I first arrived, I wanted to find all the problems in the community and solve them. However, it didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t do it. I could neither see what the problems really were nor do anything to change reality.
Now, as I have become a part of the community, I have a very different perspective. I can see the reality of life here. In some ways the people are very rich: Socially, both in their extended families and in their community they have very strong relationships. However, in some ways they have true poverty: single parenthood and divorce are rampant.
The only thing I have ever seen make any real difference is when a person allows God to transform his or her life:
- I’ve seen drunks and abusive husbands stop drinking and lead their families to Jesus.
- I’ve seen “the local bum” who was a joke in the community change to become the elected headman of the entire community.
- I’ve seen cowards who were afraid of shadows stand up to evil happening in their villages.
- I’ve seen a depressed angry old man become a joyful and respected elder in the village.
- I’ve seen young afraid mothers decide to give their children a better life.
No amount of “aid” or development can make those changes in a person’s life. This is God’s ministry: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13 NIV).
What do I see God doing now?
Now, I have seen some great plans come together that will have a powerful effect on many people:
April Servanthood Seminar
We just finished the 1st week of the April Servanthood Seminar. Thirty-five men who are some of the active leaders and teachers of their congregations have come to continue their training. They each attend 4 classes during 4 weeks to help them become better servant-leaders and teachers of God’s word. This is not like a typical Bible school. Each man has paid his own way and the group can continue using this model to teach each other in the future, even if we outsiders are not involved. This is the fourth year for the seminar and the most impressive as we see the men take charge of all the small things that need to be done.
After many years of prayer for this need, God has made a way for it to happen. The Bible Society of Zambia has developed audio bibles for most of the major Zambian languages. They have a program that provides “Proclaimers” to groups who commit to using it seriously. A “Proclaimer” is basically a solar powered audio player with a big speaker.
We have met with the Bible Society and soon we will start training all of the Christians to use Audio Bibles. They will be forming groups of at least 20 people which will include Christians, their family, and their neighbors. They will commit to listen to the entire New Testament over the next year. We plan to begin with between 20-40 groups.
Because literacy is very low, 99% of people (including Christians) have not even read through a single Gospel about Jesus. However, now they will have a tool available to listen to the entire Bible.
I am very excited about this and see it as one of the most important accomplishments that we have helped bring here. This will allow thousands of people to hear God’s word clearly without literacy problems creating confusion.
This year, we are going to start training Christian parents in how to help train and educate their children. We have always taught the parents that this is important, but they have come back saying, “We don’t know how.” Of course they teach their children how to farm and live in the village, but the relationship doesn’t often go beyond this.
The modern society has pushed most parents to believe that they are unable to teach their children. They are told that education must be done by the professional teachers at the public schools. The problem with this is that the public schools are not working. Failure rates reach 100% most of the time. It is a very difficult problem to overcome with 100 students per teacher.
We can’t do anything to solve the system. However, as a home-school parent I know the power of teaching at home. The Zambian farmers don’t have the time or resources to teach their children full time, but they can make a huge difference. The most successful students have parents who help them with their homework and practice basic skills at home. This is where we want to help the parents.
The parents have skills that they can give their children already. It all comes down to the fundamentals: reading, writing, and arithmetic. It’s interesting that these skills which are a foundation of education are often forgotten here. I have met many high school graduates who cannot add simple numbers.
However, we can help the parents make a difference. By teaching the parents to play simple math games, reading to their children, asking comprehension questions, and spending time showing their children that they love them, we can help transform their lives.