Saturday, September 29, 2012

Run for the World

Today all the missionaries on the team at Lake Tanganyika participated in the Run for the World event.  All over the world groups of believers came together to run a 5K to raise awareness for and be in prayer about fatherlessness in our communities and nations.  We have heard some pretty staggering statistics recently about the devastation that arises when fathers are not present in their children’s lives.  Kids who grow up without a dad are more likely to be involved in drug and alcohol use, gangs, and other delinquent behaviors.  There is a great need all around the world for men to rise to the challenge of fatherhood and be the kind of father their kids need. 
Our whole team!
During our recent day of prayer our team spent quite a bit of time praying over this issue; praying that God would turn mens’ hearts back to Him, and in turn back to their children.  We are praying that these fathers would be reconciled to their families and would begin to lead them in ways that are pleasing to God. 

This morning at 5AM a group of 40 of us on the team ran all over Mpulungu as we prayed for the families and fathers and prayed for the people here to see God as their heavenly Father.  It was really cool to be part of this global event!  I always love prayer walks (or in this case a prayer run), because you can be pray for specific people and families as you pass by them on the road.  There is something really powerful in that kind of prayer. 

Our route turned out to be closer to 6.5 kilometers, and not only was it good to be in prayer, but it felt good to be running again after not having the chance to for so long.  Susanna and I ran together the whole way and encouraged each other along the way.  Only about ½ a mile of the route was on pavement, and the rest of the time we ran on dirt roads with rocks jutting out here and there.  Despite the perils of the road, we were able to make it through the whole route without falling.  We attracted a lot of attention from the people in the villages though, as I doubt they see too many white girls running that early in the morning.
We felt pretty tough after running 4 miles!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hiking Kalambo Falls

Last weekend we were at Isanga Bay enjoying a little time away from the base and all the chaos that is daily life.  Patrick, Susanna, and I decided to hike up to Kalambo Falls, which is one of the largest waterfalls in Africa (maybe even the world.)  We had a guide who picked us up in a boat to take us to the starting point for the hike.  To get to the trail we had to tromp through a small village, meaning we had a ton of kids following us shouting “Mazungu! Mazungu!” (white person).     

He makes me so nervous sometimes!
The hike wasn’t too bad except for the fact that Patrick and Susanna weren’t feeling too well that day.  We climbed a pretty steep hill for the first 45 minutes then the terrain evened out a bit.  Still, the African heat gets to you after awhile, so I was certainly glad to finally make it to the falls.  It’s a 770-foot single drop, and is quite impressive! 

The Kalumbo River serves as the border between Zambia and Tanzania, and since it’s still the dry season we were able to (carefully) walk across the top of the falls to the other side.  Later when we thought about it, it was kind of terrifying to think that if we’d slipped, we most likely would have drifted right over the edge.  Yikes.  But we had a steady guide who helped us across safely both ways, and now I can officially say I’ve been to three countries since leaving home in August.     

Slightly nervous going across
In Tanzania!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things I've Learned in Africa

1.  Pet chameleons are easy to lose.

2.  When you visit a village, the kids will rub your skin to see if the white comes off.

3.  Hypnotizing chickens is not only possible but is also hysterical (and rather addicting).

4.  When you line-dry your laundry and you didn’t quite get all the soap out, all your clothes will be a bit crispy.

5.  Roosters don’t have snooze buttons.

6.  The conversation at the dinner table with people from so many different countries, languages, and cultures can be very entertaining.

7.  On a windy day, everything in our room without window panes will be covered in a layer of dirt.

8.  Popcorn made over a gas burner is way better than in the microwave!

9.  The giant spider in the bathroom is more afraid of me than I am of him.

10.  Black Adders like to join you for your beach bonfire.

11.  When you tell a Zambian that there is a Black Adder at your beach bonfire, he'll hunt it down and kill it with nothing but the bristly end of a broom.

12.  No matter how hard you scrub, some dirt just never comes off.  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Childrens' Outreach in Tongwa

Last weekend we did our first overnight visit to the village Tongwa.  It was about a 3-hour boat ride from Mpulungu.  As the boat pulled onto the rocky shore all the village children had time to gather to greet us.  The instant we set foot on land we were immediately surrounded by tons of kids wanting to hold our hands and practice saying “how are you” to us, since that’s pretty much the only English they know.  I love kids and I love hugs and hand holding, but I’ll admit I was a little nervous about all the germs since soap doesn’t exist in villages like Tongwa.  Needless to say, we carried hand sanitizer with us at all times.
The purpose of the village visit was to do children’s ministry.  Outreach groups go to Tongwa on a pretty regular basis to teach the children Bible stories, songs, games, and the like.  So we spent a day and a half doing just that.  Susanna and I prepared a lesson on what it means to be a good friend.  Sadly, in places like that there is a lot of fighting amongst the children and it’s not uncommon to see one child haul off and slap someone else right in the face.  We told the story of the Good Samaritan and acted it out with the help of some of our Zambian friends.  To make the story a bit more relatable we changed a few details and re-titled it “The Good Congolese Woman.”  Instead of a priest and a Levite, it was a headman and witch doctor that went ignored the hurt man on the road.  Instead of a Samaritan man, it was a Congolese woman who helped him.  The kids seemed to enjoy the story, and through our translator I was able to tell that they understood the message.  After the story we all played a huge game of kickball, which was thoroughly entertaining for everyone.
All the boys played soccer (football) with some of the older kids in the village.
 It’s hard for me to imagine life in a village like that.  It’s one thing for us to go for one or two nights, but to live there permanently?  There’s no electricity, running water, real bathrooms, or healthcare, and every day is a fight for survival.  We visited the health clinic where we saw a very empty-looking supply shelf where all the medicines they need should be. Life for people there is a constant cycle of carrying water, cooking food, and washing clothes, only to start over again the next day.  It’s the same thing day in and day out.  I can’t imagine a life without books!  Since education is not highly valued in places like this, many children don’t go to school at all, or if they do it’s only for a few years.  It’s amazing to me that places like this exist in the same world as laptops and microwave dinners.  When we go to places like that it feels like we’ve gone back in time a few thousand years!    
The very empty supply shelf in the health clinic.

Cooking dinner over a fire.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Taking Back the Kingdom

Have you ever had the experience of learning something new, or seeing an idea in a whole new light that makes you excited beyond words?  That happened to me last week one night after our training.  I was so excited by what God had revealed to me that I was literally jumping up and down.  Ever since I’ve been trying to think of how to put it all into words.

I think my whole life I have thought that the cross of Christ was the end of the road.  It is where we land when we hit rock bottom and can’t move another step forward, but it’s far from the end of the story.  In fact, what I’ve been learning recently is that it’s just the beginning.  I think we all know people (and have possibly been one ourselves) who have received the gospel of salvation and are holding their “ticket to heaven” just waiting for Jesus to come back or for death to take them, whichever comes first.  I know it’s not a pretty picture, but when we boil down everything in our lives, sometimes that’s what it seems to come to.  When I think about the things I’ve believed, I realized that in a nutshell, that’s how I was too. 

But don’t you just know that there is something more?  Yes, absolutely we need the gospel of salvation.  I believe it’s true what Jesus said that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  But we don’t receive salvation just so we can sit around and wait to go to heaven.  We receive God’s mercy and grace so we can enter into the kingdom.   It is this gospel of the kingdom that is often missing from our vocabulary. 

When you study Jesus’ life and teachings you will notice a pattern.  He spent the majority of his time explaining to people that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  When God created man, his vision was that man, created in God’s image, would walk in close relationship with him.  The kingdom of heaven is all about returning to a right standing before God and regaining the authority over creation that we lost when sin entered the world.  It is this that Jesus came to preach.

When Jesus sent out the 12 disciples we read that, “he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2)  He doesn’t send them out to teach high-minded doctrines and saddle people with more religious jargon and rules.  He sent them out to bring the kingdom of God a little closer to us.  Likewise, when Jesus taught the disciples to pray he taught them, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10)  We beseech God to come to us and dwell among us.  That’s what the kingdom is all about!

So often we accept Christ and consider ourselves saved only to then sit back in the pew and wait.  What are we waiting for?  God doesn’t call us to salvation so we can sit idly by till the end of the world.  He calls us to be active citizens of the kingdom!  Our ultimate goal shouldn’t be to simply escape this world of sin and degradation.  We aren’t here to pass out tickets to heaven and call it good.  We’re here to establish God’s authority on earth, and to rule in victory with him. 

What does taking back the kingdom actually look like?  Colossians 1:9-12 says, “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”  As citizens of the kingdom we praise God and seek to glorify him in all we do.  With each person who falls at the foot of the cross, a bit more of the kingdom is visible.  As we pray and study God’s word and learn to walk with him in our daily lives, we cast out the darkness, replacing it with God’s glorious light.  Taking back the kingdom means renewing our minds to God’s Truth.  Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” 

How you think about the future impacts the way you think about how you live your life now.  So what’s it going to be?  Will you sit back and wait for the end, or will you stand with God in the kingdom and seek to share in his vision for you life?  It’s time to choose!