Each Spring for the last six years or so, I've had the privilege of traveling to Zambia and training pastors at the Hope Center in Serenje. (Click here to see a short video describing what we're doing.) Going each year is almost a no-brainer, even knowing the time it takes away from other things I could be doing and - most significantly - the time it takes away from my family, and the extra commitment it asks of them. Here are 6 of the reasons (in no particular order) I still look forward to going each year:
#1: the pastors
Even though I know I said these wouldn't be in any particular order, the pastors are still probably the first reason I look forward to going to Zambia each year. These men are eager learners - sometimes traveling hundreds of kilometers to sit through a less-than-ideal teaching environment (envision backless picnic benches for 8-9 hours a day and you get the picture). For adults who are this eager to learn God's Word, I'm eager to do whatever I can to facilitate that! Most importantly, though, these pastors are men of deep character who are faithfully serving God. I benefit from my relationship with them far more than they'll ever know, and I'm better off for interacting with them.
#2: The ripple effect
So far about 35 pastors have graduated from the three year pastor training program at the Hope Center. Add to that the 15 pastors who are currently enrolled and you get about 50 pastors. 50 pastors who lead about 50 churches. Churches filled with men and women and children. Churches located in communities that need to hear about God's love, hear from God's Word, and see the tangible difference the gospel makes on actions, attitudes, and relationships. You get the idea - teaching pastors ripples out into their lives as individuals, into their churches, and into their communities. God's Word is touching many in Zambia through the pastors who are faithfully serving and eagerly learning.
#3: God is at work in africa
Philip Jenkins' book, The Next Christendom, first put God's activity in the Global South on my radar screen, and my experience in Zambia is one small testimony confirming Jenkins' research. God is doing tremendous things in Zambia in and through His church there. By going to Zambia, I can use gifts God has given me and the resources we're blessed with in the West to fan the flame of God's activity there. By going to Zambia, I see an awareness of God and a thirst for discipleship that stirs my own relationship with God, and stirs my desire to see those qualities grow and increase where I minister.
#4: Other forces are at work in africa
God isn't the only force at work in Zambia. Animism and tribalism are still prevalent. Other religions and cults have a presence. The consumerism and secularism of Western culture touch parts of Zambian life in evident ways. The church in Zambia must be equipped to think biblically and discern truth from error - so they can navigate the unique shapes that false teaching, competing worldviews, and misguided ideas take in their context.
#5: I want my family to have a global vision of god
I love that my boys are familiar with the work God is doing around the world. I love that I have pictures to show them and stories to tell them about God's activity in other parts of the globe. I love that they know Jesus is worshipped truly in other languages by people who look different than they do. And I pray that they're understanding, better and better with each passing year, that a relationship with God sends us out - even to other parts of the world - as we continue Christ's mission and form a renewed, redeemed people made up of every tribe and nation and people and language.
#6: I love to teach
I love to teach. I love to teach people who are eager to learn, and who I can learn alongside as we open God's Word together. I love to teach people who are chest-deep in ministry, and who can't help but translate knowledge from the theory to the practical. Whenever I can teach biblical content in an environment where people are eager to learn and engage and apply, sign me up!
The summary? God is at work in and through His church around the world! In what ways have you seen God at work around the world? How can you partner with what He's doing - either across the street or in another part of the globe?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.