Tuesday, March 25, 2008

23rd March 2008

Kamphata. Let me begin by saying this place was beautiful. The church was built at the foot of a rocky structure. It was stunning. We were all struck by how beautiful it was. I envisioned coming away to this place for weekend retreats. We settled on having our next pastors’ overnight prayer here. Of course I am still hoping I can come and build a weekend house here. Everywhere I go I want to live.
There were over 250 youth. It was overwhelming and made me feel very very small. It is a good feeling. It makes one lean into God all the more because the thought of venturing out alone is frightening. I have never seen so many young people in one place. Accompanying that sense of awe at God comes another twin feeling… fear. Making mistakes with 5 people is one thing (although that in itself is bad) but 250…? That is some serious stuff.
The subject was ‘the role of the youth’ so we taught on “potential’. After all, why would you take your role seriously when you have no idea who you are or the possibilities within you. So we spoke about potential and the One within us Who raised Christ from the dead and lives to guide and teach us all things. We spoke about the baton being passed from one generation to another and how sitting in the ban stands cheering is not the place for the present day youth. Then we spoke of David and all that he was as a young man with only the intimacy of His God to assure him of victory over goliath. The present day situations are none like our predecessors have met before and the strategies have to change. We told them they are the David of this time, unafraid and seemingly foolish and yet just as David killed Goliath, they too can overcome the giants of their day.
Their voices cannot be written down on paper and so I fail to express how incredible the singing was. There were drums and gadgets I cannot name because I have seen them before. They all praised the Lord and we joined. Young people have an energy that is electrifying. It makes you want to go to war, want to fly.
Half the room was filled with girls and yet they accounted for 5% of the participation. How to change this is not from a sermon or fancy cool youthful message. This is ingrained… girls don’t count as much as boys. They’ll sing but very rarely will they offer up a comment. Yet I know they are just as smart. The sad thing is that they don’t know this. It takes more than a sermon to change this. It takes telling them over and over and over again. There is something to be said about the fact that I am a woman. I know that had heads buzzing. But how do I, in three hours, get the message across that I am no freak of nature? That there are more of us and God from the days of Miriam and Deborah has used women? How do I do this and not turn this into a women’s meeting? So I don’t. I just pray that I get to come back. Someone has to tell them that they count for more than what they believe they do. You only go as far as what you know. I think I read that somewhere. If that is true, where will they go? In their hearts and dreams and goals? How far? Two days on and I am still thinking about them. Sometimes we leave exhilarated from the word and then… burdens keep us up at night. This is mine for now.
One girl came up to us afterwards and asked for a bible. She said it was hard to have bible studies without one. We gave her one. We always do. It is hard to say no. sometimes I pray that they don’t all come individually and ask because there isn’t anyone strong enough to say no. I hope there never will be. I also hope we will have enough bibles to give every person who desires one. I don’t ever remember being desperate for a bible. It was available long before I even wanted to look at it. How can you say no to someone whose desire goes beyond your comprehension?
So even though I was disappointed at the lack of participation from the girls, God turned my frustration into a burden for prayer. We are thinking about returning once a week (during the week) otherwise the next opening is July. At least a weekly bible study will mean consistency and faithfulness on our part and perhaps fruitfulness on theirs. Change is not an instant miracle. It is journey.
I have a weekend off! Will write in two weeks when I return to my home village – Mngwangwa, where it all started.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

15th - 16th March 2008, Mgona Village

15 – 16 March 2008

Back in Mgona. There is a different way you clap in praise and another for worship. It is the first thing we realized going into this week’s sessions. In worship the hands are curved and make a more hollow sound. It is the hand clap used for honour. It is a beautiful sound and truly changes the atmosphere. There are some awesome things that you know you would never experience in the city.

It has been the most rewarding of weekends. We are here teaching the final part of the series on salvation, which is ‘born again’. I love this session because it is such an eye opener and it never ceases to amaze me the wonder of a God that completely dealt with the state of sin. I think it was really fascinating the WAY God saved us. And so we speak sin and its origin. We talk about the separation of Adam and Eve from Life – who is God. We speak of Jesus, who is the way, the truth and THE LIFE. Of course in the midst of all this there are two little boys rolling over in the dust fighting. We stop them now and again but they become the thread throughout Sunday’s session.

Yes, there are many children with us. I ‘threatened’ the group last time that if the children outnumbers the adults I will teach the kids. It is sad to see how children are ignored. Of course this is no fault of the people here as they don’t know what to do with them. But every time I look into their eyes I see the least of these that Christ told us to treat them with care. It is the reason why we are thinking of having Sunday school training. In all the places I have been there are no Sunday school classes for kids. There is nothing for kids. They watch through praise and worship probably because they think it’s all adult stuff. Anyway, I believe that by the end of the year some of the places we minister in will have Sunday school. My younger sister Julianne gave me toys to hand out to the children. It was exciting (even though most were used toys). The only downside was the little boy that cried because I ran out of toys.

This has been a groundbreaking series in Mgona because I met the first female pastor in the village. In all my travels (and they haven’t been as many as you would think), I have never even encountered a female in leadership, so a female pastor warmed my heart. Here in Mgona, the women outnumber the men with a 3:1 ratio. Mrs. Samiyeli (Samuel) is her name and she was with us throughout the two weeks. So were 11 others and it warmed our hearts knowing that. We gave them a bible and notebook each as a reward for their commitment. It was a jubilant time. Of course we were asked to give as many bibles as we could but there are only so many you can give per area. This time it was 12. At least 12 more people can read the bible. Of course leaving the other 24 without was tough. You never grow a thick skin for that and thank God you never do. It should break our hearts that there are people out there craving the work and not having access to it.

At the end of it all we said goodbye. It felt like we were leaving home, leaving family. This is another thing that never changes. It hurts and I must admit I don’t know what to do with it. It would be wrong to ask God to remove it and yet… Truth be told I am close to tears. Aahhhhhhh! We will only see this group again in 3 months. 3 months! It seems too long before I can see people I have come to embrace as fixtures in my life. I think to minister to anyone we have to become involved with them, otherwise it is all too clinical and I can’t do clinical. Hopefully a good cry will ease this heavy chest.

A young man came up to us if he could follow us wherever we went to teach. It was scary because we realized how serious this all is. Mistakes cost when people are watching and learning. Do we want him coming everywhere with us? Does anyone want that kind of responsibility? And yet… he just wants the word. Who can deny him? But help us God to follow Christ so he can follow us.

This coming weekend we are in Kamphata (an hour out of town) speaking with youth.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

8th - 9th March 2008

Saturday morning. It is wonderful to be back here. It’s been almost three months since we were introduced to the people in this area. We are at Steven Phiri’s church (Faith for Healing Church), although the meeting includes people of other churches too. This time, the numbers have trebled although there are no more than four men in the group of about thirty. It takes time to get them talking in response to the questions but eventually they interact. Our subject is 2 Corinthians 5/17 and what this scripture means. No matter what subject you start out teaching in the villages, you always end up teaching about salvation and what it means to be saved. The people of Mgona told us last time that they had never been exposed to teaching of any kind, which shook us quite a bit because with TBN and the internet teaching is always available for those of us in the city. In addition to that we have access to books. Here, the pastor was the only one who owned a bible. It is difficult not to give every person there a bible when you hear things like these but since we know that it is almost the same everywhere we go, we try and give out what we can without compromising the other areas. It is just as painful to ask for the bibles back at the end of the teaching when you know that they are going to homes where there are no bibles. So, statements like “make sure you read…” never come out.

There is a chicken in the back and the children are chasing it. One thing about working in village communities is that you learn to adjust to distractions. So many of the women come with their children, sometimes the children outnumber the adults. There was a lady with her three children. It goes to show the desire for the word. Even with three children she interacts and listens as best she can. The most beautiful sound is the reading of the word in concert. For most, this is the first time they have held a bible in their hands, much less read one. It is interesting to watch their eyes as they realise what they are reading. It helps us not to take the word for granted, what with our several versions stacked on the book shelves.
The hours pass quickly and soon we are done with day one. We will be back the following day.

Sunday brings a very different group. One of the challenges of doing a teaching that is in segments is the sporadic attendance. People are always working in the village. It is hard to attend all the time and so we appreciate the ten that return from the previous day. Of course, this means we must recap the previous day more in-depth so as to not leave anyone behind. We also learn not to take anything for granted. Statements like “we all know…” or “we all remember the story where…” cannot be used. They don’t know, they don’t remember. It takes half the session to recap and then we are off. There is no greater time than realising that a truth has penetrated the mind. There is much excitement and you are able to see it in the eyes.

We part ways promising to return the following week. We have one more week here and then it will be two months before we return. It always feels like we are leaving family behind. No matter where it is, we always feel like we belong. After all, these are our people. They are only thirty minutes always and yet the absolute difference in access to the things of God (the bible, materials etc.) is overwhelming. But this is our reality and we face it every weekend. Nonetheless, we choose to make the small indent rather than stare at this mountain and do nothing.

This is our journey and we are privileged to be invited by the Spirit to participate.