Monday, December 8, 2008

2nd December 2008, Lumbadzi

Lumbadzi. It is a 5 minute drive from the airport...left, so it took us 30 minutes to get there. This was a pastors’ fraternity that had asked us to come and talk about discipleship. We arrived and there were three or four of them present. We waited for some time for more to arrive and eventually they did. In the end, we had 27 pastors.

The teaching was on discipleship, but God had spin on it. We fail to disciple because it takes too much; too much time, too much of ourselves. Witnessing Christ is simpler, over between ten and thirty minutes. Discipling is investment. It is hard and challenging. Follow me as I follow Christ, Paul taught. He was willing to step up to walk circumspect, willing to be a reflection that could be trusted, willing to be openly transformed into the likeness of Christ. Discipleship is a subject dearest to my heart. I have been discipled by great women and I have been the better for it. I am the poster girl for this subject. I have always wanted to be discipled, knowing that it is a key part of becoming who I needed to be. There have been tears and laughs, hugs and evil glares (from me...) but I would not trade any of it. Everything, hard and soft, understood and not, all make me Keta. There are things I have taken and they are a part of what I do and there are things that I have not taken and they have taught me how not to be and so all the discipling I have sat under and will continue to in future, I will never regret. This was the place where I came from and the reason why I loved talking about it. My disciple came. I look at her and some others and I know that, at least with this...I did okay.
God has me in that place though; the place where I want to dig a hole and disappear. I hear the words coming out of my mouth and I am afraid. Moses comes to mind. Don’t get me wrong, by no means am I comparing myself to this incredible man or his extraordinary circumstances. I’m just saying that he is the one I identify with when I am speaking to men of God and rebuking them. There I was, this ‘no one’ telling these pastors about what they need to look into.

“A disciple maker...” was the opening line of every point I had. I could sense the anger in some, the conviction in others and encouragement from my team. We told them they could stone me later but that I was sent by God and they should, at least listen before throwing anything our way. When I usually say this, many think I am joking. No so, many times I sense the anger and I get a little afraid that I am crossing lines that aren’t meant to be crossed. I minister in communities where almost no women are in leadership, let alone going about rebuking anyone. It is humbling to speak to men who are pastors and let God say His piece. It is not that I was not afraid, because I was. It is usually that God knows that I would chicken out and so He uses me as his mouth piece on the spot and much of what I’m hearing is news to me too right there and then.

So there we were, in a new place, no reputation, no relationship upon which to suddenly be rebuking...but there we were speaking out. Pastors want to fill the churches and collect in on tithes and feed their families and so some things about discipleship aren’t appealing to them. Here are some of the points we covered. Using John the Baptist, we talked about how a true disciple maker:

• A disciple maker is one who first of all knows his place. One who puts himself in clear perspective to the Christ. So often people are more honouring of their pastors than of the Holy Spirit. A worship of pastors has begun to filter into the church as more and more pastors place themselves above others. The elevation of this part of the five-fold ministry has been such that pastors are becoming more and more isolated and elevated. Few speak up and bring true clarity so men and woman cannot make this mistake that we tend to make....
• One who gives a clear understanding of Christ to his disciples. On so many occasions people are being introduced to the job giver, the rent payer, the money maker and yet John make it clear who he was revealing...the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

As a result, the disciples were free to follow Christ and leave John. So many people are fearful of leaving their churches because it is construed as a betrayal. People ought to be free to follow Jesus when He leads them. Should it be such a horrid thing for a person to say, “I am not fitting here, I believe that I should be at the church down the street.” Most would not even tell their pastor. They just disappear. Not that they don’t care but because leaving is seen as a betrayal. Yet, the allegiance was not to pastors as individuals, nor to the fraction of the vision that they hold but the allegiance is to Christ and where He leads, every man, woman and child should be free to follow. There were more points but as I love this subject so much, I am fearful of writing a book right here and now and subjection the reader of this blog to that...

We spoke about allowing the disciple to learn in transparency and authenticity by being open about strengths and weaknesses as Paul was when he shared his weaknesses. sharing his weaknesses allowed for God's strength to be made manifest. We also spoke about the disciple maker not being afraid of tough love...not being afraid of losing a good tither through offense, trusting that God knows just what each of us needs to get us out of the enemy’s danger zone.

In the end we asked the question: “how far have we come? What is the difference between us today and the old church where the priest was distinct in garments, people bowed to them and they had special treatment? Have we not replaced altar boys with ushers who usher in the man of God during worship, as if the worship has set a stage for the entrance for the pastor? How far have we truly come and what, what will the Groom say of the best man’s treatment of His bride when He comes?”

Well, going home, I was relieved. We made it out in one piece. We went in, spoke the word, and made it out. It was exhilarating. The anointing is quite powerful. Courage and power all rolled into one...enough to let you know that, what just happened in there, is not you. Thank God too. I truly believe that if I had to do that alone, I would get stoned. This is not to say that they will not stone me with the anointing...look at Stephen. All I’m saying is that, thank God for God.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

1st December 2008, Mgona

They came from everywhere, some on bikes, with their wives behind, others on foot. They came from as far as about 30 kilometres away and I was brought to a place of wonder as I watched, together with Felix as they drew up to the shed at Mgona. On our own journey here, we had found 23 women from Mtandile (volunteers and the zone leader) waiting for us. These ladies have joined us on every trip we have made since October. It is very humbling to see them there, always dressed in their uniforms and waiting, seated on the side of the road. When they enter the minibus, they sing throughout. It is incredible. This time they taught us a new song and it has been with me since.... “Someone has to preach, if these won’t go, Lord send me.”

Arriving in Mgona, there is worship already happening at the shed. Hunger for God can change even the custom of things, I believe. The communities are not ‘time conscious’ per se but here they all were, praising God. A few minutes after arriving is when I saw them...riding up, walking up. The largest group came from Mngwangwa, Milanzi leading with his wife on the back of his bike (these were the ones that travelled the longest distance. The remainder were zone leaders that came from Matanda, Deya, Mzondo, Mbvunguti and Tambala each bringing one or two others with them. Cycling for an hour and a half is one thing...doing it with someone on the back of your bike is another. It calls to question what we are willing to do to hear the word. It challenges me as to my level of desperation to hear from God. Yes, all I have to do is get in the car to go to a meeting, or switch on the television to hear a message. I wonder in what other ways do I show my level of commitment to Him, whose I am. I wonder if I will live long enough to experience that level of need. I pray that however it will manifest, I will want Him in that way...

So, we filled the shed with 227 people.... That was the moment I stopped, when I saw how quickly the shed filled up. I know that it is not about the numbers but I am often taken aback at the responsibility that is magnified when I face these crowds. Am I REALLY the one God wants speaking to these precious souls? After all, He loves these people; He loved them to death, literally. How responsible am I to this call and am I up to it? Even though these questions scare me, they help me keep myself in perspective. Once I begin ministering it all goes but as I watch everyone, they are my sizers – as in they help me keep things in perspective. No one is up to being responsible for all these hearts. Only the Holy Spirit and He is available to me. Ah, yes, these are the moments I reach in. We all need him, all of the time but He helps us at times to get a clear picture of just how much. This was one of those moments for me.

Praise and worship is amazing. We have different pastors leading. Phiri, Study, Milanzi and others. The message begins to unfold right there, the harmony of believers. It is a wonderful thing when the brethren...funny how we love that old word...when the body of believers dwell together in unity.

As it happens, this is our topic – unity. We start off by telling everyone that praying for unity is like me desperately praying for God to make me a woman. Everyone laughs but soon we begin to understand. Why pray for something already given. I am a woman, praying for God to make me a woman is foolish. Fasting for it and spending whole nights before God’s face for it is pointless. I am a woman. We are united, a unit. We are baptised by one Spirit into one body. We are ONE.
We ask the question: “If a man and woman are married and they fight all the time, are they one?” the group says no, so we read Genesis 2:24. We ask the question again. We get the same answer. We read it again and then we get a different answer. Everyone begins to get it. Unity is about WHAT we are. Harmony is about HOW we operate. Unity is what GOD has done; harmony is what we do in response to HIM.
What we are not is harmonious – the manifestation or glory of that unity. I may be a woman but perhaps I fail to function as one...therefore, my prayers ought to be that ‘God help me function in action according to what you have made me to be. May I glorify You; manifest you according to your design.’ So too the church of Jesus Christ. May we manifest the design of God for the church. It is a wonderful time together of learning and breaking long set-in, solidified mindsets. We begin to talk about seeing each other as what God has decreed us to be so we may glorify Him. We talk about whose the church is and how He shares her with no one...not even with those He has entrusted her maturing to.

In essence, our message was about understanding just how God has made us one for the purpose of fulfilling HIS will and how we need to take our eyes off of ourselves and reach out to one another because no one by their lonesome can fulfil HIS will for the church and ultimately for the world as the church is God’s chosen vehicle for the restoration of the world.

During the entire teaching, the men sat on the floor and the women on the seats. Oh, yes, we went there! Broke the custom just this once, and totally threw everyone off their game. We changed things around during worship (calling the men forward) and God had us keep it that way throughout our time together. The men were very good about it and it was the women that were more uncomfortable when we first asked everyone to sit right where they were. Eventually they settled down and we were able to minister together. It was interesting to see the men on the floor and the women on the benches. I was afraid that they would utterly reject the command as I made it just after worship was over; never before have I ever seen men on the floor while women sat on benches. But God was good to simply say to us all, “There is nothing wrong with asking this, is there?”

When we were done there was amazing response to the word. Different leaders spoke out about how the word had affected them. A bishop, Mbewe, pleaded for the message to keep going and asked if it were possible for us to reach the area where he was from with the word of God. As he spoke, my heart responded. He was a like a father pleading for his children. There was an amazing presence about him. He spoke like one who had walked with the Lord for years and was peaceable and lovely. I cannot explain it well but I was honoured to be in his presence. I knew he was a rare and beautiful manifestation of our Father.

Chief Bonongwe said this: “Mgona has been sleeping for so long but I feel we are waking up. I am not sure if we need to change its name (Mgona means sleeping) but we need to wake up to the word of God. I can feel this awakening. I celebrate that all these people have joined us here today but I am looking forward to the day Mgona fills this shed, all by ourselves. We need the word here and I appreciate that my brother, the bishop wants you to go where he is but all I can say is that Mgona needs to wake up, needs to arise.” It was so touching. Chief Bonongwe is a sweet soft spoken man and every time he says something, I just listen.

So, after an hour of different people speaking (it was God speaking and it was wonderful to see the body talking to one another and remember, this is Africa, we are very big on hellos and goodbyes) they took a collection. I always am amazed at how Mgona always takes up a collection for “fantas for the teaching team”, they say. In the beginning I always wanted to say ‘no thank you’ but God reminded me that they were not giving to me but to Him and that it is their joy to do so and that I had no right to take that away from them. Humbling and true. So, we thanked everyone for their gift of “fanta money”...well it was almost a thousand Kwacha (US$5.50). We used it as part of our lunch, bless them.

we left amidst the fellowship of the saints. our 23 ladies sang all the way home. i meditated. i thought of how much bigger this all is than me or anyone else for that matter. i am but a drop in the multiple oceans of God's purpose. but blessed is he that is a drop in the multiple oceans of God's purpose. all of us, drops that make up collectively, the multiple oceans of God's purpose. the thing is, each drop is needed to make up the MULTIPLE OCEANS. thank God for you all because it takes us working together, each doing our part, to manifest Him in the earth and the earth and its residence are all desperately longing for that manifestation (even if they do not know it yet). smile, because this is too marvelous to comprehend!

Monday, December 1, 2008

26th November 2008, Tambala

I have never been to Tambala to minister, or otherwise. It would be the first time and we were on our way there. It is Wednesday and we have a combo, with youth ministry in Kalimbira in the afternoon. We get there after many twists and turns on a very difficult road. As I watched Felix manoeuvre his way, I wondered how difficult it would be during the rainy season. I kicked off this year with pushing the little truck out of a muddy situation in Mgona and the memories are beginning to return...nothing like a good push and puddles of mud to put life in perspective.

The room is full and worship is on when we arrive. We huddle in a small room and it fills up as we worship. In the end, we are 57 people in a room that is 3 by 6, in other words, we are packed.

The word is on salvation, as is the usual when we go to a new place (as the Lord leads). Interestingly, this is the first place ever where the women are outspoken. They attempt to answer without fear. The youth too are outspoken. It is wonderful to have the pastors and women and youth all together. So we go through what sin is and what death is so that we can finally come to the understanding of what true Life is. I love teaching on the basics, i love foundations. They are beautiful to lay down and even more beautiful to see someone get it. So we taught and they loved it! There was so much other place, have the people been so open in the first meeting.

At the close of the teaching, 29 people made a decision to have a relationship with Jesus. We did not sing as they stood and we did not close our eyes. We had talked about understanding the pure joy of coming to Christ in the open, in honesty and transparency, just as He gave Himself up for us in the open and in all transparency and honesty. For the first five minutes only one lady stood and then...suddenly a whole group began to rise. 29 people! It reminds me of the 29 that were baptised in the Spirit a few weeks back. God is doing some amazing things and I get to go along for the ride and write about it! I cannot express the incredible wonder that overtook me. And then there comes the pain of thinking of the many places where people do not understand, where they are told that all they need do is be baptised, or join a church to be saved. So many people come to Christ in the communities and yet it feels like we barely put a dent in the lack of teaching that is out there.
There are moments when sadness overtakes me, even at incredible moments like these. I guess it is the combination that allows for the hunger to continue, to always be there, a driving force. And it is there! Next year we want to get out to four new places, as we slowly come out of Mngwangwa so that we can build other communities. So many places where basic teaching has been lacking.

At the end, Alex (the young and vibrant zone leader) made a short heart warming speech: “ For so long the sign post has been pointing to other places, like Mngwangwa (he said this smiling at Milanzi and Nkhoma, who has come with us) but now it has turned towards us. We can keep it faced towards us by how we respond” he said to the group and then turned to us, “Don’t leave us like this. Please come continuously, like sasakawa (sasakawa is a hybrid of maize that you plant close together).” It makes us smile.

Two women with sick children came for prayer. These are the moments that i feel discouraged. I want the faith that heals the sick. I want the signs that follow the preaching of the gospel. I close my eyes and put my hand on the first feverish child and the temperature remains. I know i should believe to receive but i am a little discouraged. God help me, is my prayer. The second child has a hole in her leg, from an injection gone wrong. obviously the mother has allowed it to get to this stage, possibly because she lacks the money to get to a doctor or just didn't know what to do. I cover it with my hands and almost cry. This is something antibiotics could have changed. I pray and at the end peer slowly at it hoping (or is it wishing) that a miracle has occurred...and no, not the one i want. I hear God saying that we should get her to a good doctor, so we tell Alex to bring her to the office so she can get to a good clinic. Not quite the acts of the apostles but answer to prayer nonetheless.

We leave for Kalimbira but when we get there, the rain has sent the youth home. I get a chance to see the place they meet and it is heartbreaking. This is the body of Christ and while in the city we continue to build monuments as testimonials to the awesome God we serve, the dilapidated building speaks to more of what we really are. I am in absolute shock. How can we continue to ignore this? People cannot meet and pray together because of the rain. there is barely a roof and puddles of water are between the mud pews. Not that I remove any responsibility from the community for not caring for the place of worship but we are the body and we ought to be there for each other. So, I went to teach and it is I that learnt. I learnt that there is so much work yet to be done, so much to learn, so much to speak out about and that, as part of the body, I have a part to play. We all do. No one, no matter how awesome can take the body where it needs to go by their lonesome. no church, no ministry, no city, no country. this is a job for the body. We need each other.