I was privileged to speak to the staff at Loloma Mission Hospital this morning before they started the week/day. Morning Devotions start at 0730 and are over by 0800. I admire the staff who work in Mission Hospitals as they are doing a very important job. They have a great care for the people who live in the area, which amounts to about 55,000 people, but their services also benefit people from other districts, provinces and even neighbouring countries. The medical work started in 1956 and since then has grown to be a well equipped hospital (by African standards) with 120 beds for in patients. There is also a large outpatients department and various programmes involved in primary health care. 


The Mission statement of the hospital is to communicate by word and deed the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to members of the district, based upon the truth and teaching of the word of God. It is wonderful to see a health provider seeking to meet the medical needs of patients without forgetting that the spiritual needs of the individual are vitally important as well. Historically medical training was holistic but we in the West have forgotten that human beings have spiritual needs. Matthew Parris, a journalist with atheistic leanings wrote on the 27th of December 2008 in The Times (1) about a visit that he had made to Malawi, his boyhood home ‘Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good’. 

Later in the article Mr Parris reflects on a previous opinion he had of Christian Mission and faith and why despite being an atheist that he is convinced that it is Christianity that is good for Africa – ‘I used to avoid this truth by applauding – as you can – the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It’s a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith. But this doesn’t fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing. First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

Mr Parris goes on to tell of this increasing conviction when at the age of 24 he toured all over Africa. I’ll let him tell you for yourself as he expresses himself more succinctly than I would – ‘We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission. Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers – in some ways less so – but more open’.

The final piece of his article that I want to share with you is a record of his visit to Malawi in 2008. He states that things had not changed – ‘This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service. It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man’s place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.’

As a Christian I am bound to agree with the sentiments that Mr Parris expressed but please bear in mind that he is 1. Intelligent, 2. Good at expressing himself, 3. Contradicting his own worldview, 4. Well travelled and familiar with Africa, 5. Reflecting on a lifetime of experience, 6. Saying that the timeless truths of Christianity still work.

In closing, in case you are wondering my topic for the ‘Devotions’ was the final words of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As a Christian I believe that the death of Christ is the only hope that we can offer this world. I should clarify that statement – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the only hope that we can offer the people of this planet. I could spend my life developing new medicine and it would have an incredible impact on the world – that would be quite amazing. It could be my passion to develop a new fuel that possibly could save the planet ecologically and incredible as that would be it’s impact on the life of humanity would be limited. Extending the human lifespan and the quality of life would be an admirable goal but on its own it will never deal with the ultimate problem of death and all of the other dilemmas of life BUT the work of Jesus Christ on the cross has unending consequences for this world.

There are positive consequences for all who choose to believe the truth of the gospel – as Mr Parris discovered Christianity affects people’s lifestyle for their good and the good of others but it also deals with sin and provides eternal salvation. First Timothy states in chapter four verse eight that ‘godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come’.

The statements we looked at today were – 

Matthew 27:46 
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me

John 19:28
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!

John 19:30
So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!

Luke 23:46
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ”

Please reflect on these statements. Jesus was forsaken of God to pay the price of sin so that you could be saved. He endured agony on the cross and His thirst was so that you might be satisfied for ever. Jesus’ cry ‘it is finished’ reminds us that He did everything that was required to provide salvation for all who are prepared to repent and believe the gospel. The final statement reminds me that the Lord Jesus, unlike everyone else, had power over his life even in death. He willingly laid down His life and dismissed His spirit. Thankfully He arose from the dead three days later. His resurrection is the proof that salvation is now freely available to all.

Do you believe it?

1. Matthew Parris, The Times, 27th December 2008

This is the second Saturday that we have been in Zambia. We set off this morning at about 0915 to visit the village or township of Chipanda. We made a few scheduled stops on the journey to pick up people who had arranged to come with us. In addition to this we made a few unscheduled stops to drop off people we had collected on the way. In Zambia people just ask you for a lift if you stop to pick up someone else as there are very few taxi’s and buses are not very common. Walking and cycling are the main means of transport for the majority of people. This keeps them fit. You can see people setting out on foot for their fields between 0400 and 0500 in the morning. There is also usually a constant stream of people on bicycles heading toward local markets with produce stacked high in every possible position on the bicycle frame. If you don’t have a bicycle then you just ask someone you know if you can borrow their’s and as long as it’s back within the month, don’t worry!! 


That’s a bit of an exaggeration but, honestly, people do borrow bikes and then fail to return them for a considerable period of time. You see my cousin asked if he could borrow the bike and I said yes. While the bike was with my cousin his brother in law spotted it and said he needed a bike to go into town. His uncle came to visit the day my cousin’s brother in law got back from town and decided that he could use the bike for a day or two. It would unsociable to refuse any of these requests as we are one big family in Zambia and so my bike disappeared for a long time. This sounds like a far fetched tale but this they way things actually work in Zambia. Sadly despite sounding very generous it breeds a lazy attitude to life as why would you work hard if you can get what you need from the other members of your family and why would you work hard and earn good money when all that happens when you have money is that everyone in your village (i.e. Family) expect you to fund them as you have money. The Bible teaches that ‘if a man would not work, neither should he eat,’ 2 Thess 3:10. The Bible teaches this as far as our responsibilities for ourselves and our families are concerned but it balances this truth with the fact that we ‘should do good unto all,’ Gal. 6. 10. Christian’s should be generous to others but responsible to provide for their own families.

The conference went well. Today’s topic was about the promised return of the Lord Jesus Christ for the Church (1 Thessalonians chapter 1) and His promise to return to this planet one day to judge the world (Zechariah 12:10, 14:4, Revelation 1:7 etc). It is essential that Christian understand and live in the good of these topics. 

If you are not a Christian both of these topics should alarm you. They need not if you repent of your sin and receive Christ Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Yours through Grace, 

Stephen



For quite a few days now I have been working in the mornings on various presentations that I have been giving while in Zambia. There have a been a mix of events, bible teaching with the local church, children’s events, teens night, meeting with seniors in the their own village and visiting some of the local villages in the villages of Manyinga. 


The people of this area live very simple lives and yet they are so grateful for what they have. Don’t get me wrong I know (from talking and listening) that some of them complain from time to time but when you see their living standards I know that most people from where I come from would not be content to live as these people do. 

My day started with a visit to the local High School. The students were very happy to see me. We discussed the UK and the various regions of England as well as the four countries which compose the U.K. and the five countries that compose the British Isles. The students were asked if they had any questions for me. There were interested in what the weather was like in the UK. Not a topic that a Brit wants to talk about when sitting in a Zambian winter where it still manages to never rain and the temperature in the middle of the day is in the middle 20 degrees centigrade. I was then invited to ask the students a question. I thought about it and decided to ask if they had any ambitions. One lad wanted to be a pilot and another guy said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to be a pastor or a doctor. We had quite a discussion about how a pastor (or a bible teacher etc) dealt with ‘souls’ but a doctor attended to physical and mental health needs. You might make money as a doctor, the boy thought, but would that be a good reason to be a doctor. Medicine is an hourable profession and one that is well worth while perusing but we need doctors who have a love and a care for people. We need men and women whose passion in life is tell people about the love of God and the grace of God which is perfectly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ.

My day filled up quickly with a brief photoshot with the senior staff of the High School, a visit to the Nursery School followed by a look in the local book shop. Books were limited and the shop is not as well used as it could be. Where I come from we are so privileged to have access to literature both in book form and electronically. The greatest book we possess is the Bible, the word of God. The Bookshop has a number of bibles which was good to see. The Bible claims to be the word of God and I as a Christian believe this to be true. The good book says that ‘the scriptures are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus, 2 Tim. 3. 15, it also says ‘faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, Rom. 10. 17.

After this we visited the local airfield. This strip of land needs to be well maintained for the few times in a year when a light aircraft calls in Loloma. The grass needs to be kept down and a gravel runway maintained. It’s not what we would think of as a runway but it serves the local communities well in emergencies.

My morning ended with a brief call in to the hospital and tea with a couple of men from the village. It was a privledge to chat about life and the issues that we face on a daily basis. 

I visited a local village, Chilumba, in the afternoon to speak to a group of about thirty children. The children were lined up waiting outside the church hall when we arrived. They were all polite and excited as they rushed into the hall. It is wonderful to see their bright and happy faces as they sang to us some of the many choruses and songs they know. As English is the official language of Zambia (a legacy of the One Language: One Nation policy of Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda) I was able to talk in my mother tongue. I am however learning to speak slowly so that Zambians can understand me. I did wonder when I arrived why one of the local missionaries, who is from England, spoke English so slowly. I now know – if you speak fast people don’t understand. What’s the point of coming to talk to people if they don’t understand what you say. The Bible talks about a trumpet giving an uncertain sound, 1 Corinthians 14:8. If this is case then no one would hear the message of the gospel and be warned about coming danger. This statement in the Bible was made in the context of people being warned of danger, in ‘days of old’, by the means of the blowing a trumpet. We still need to warned to ‘flee from the wrath to come‘, we need to be aware of sin and it’s consequences. If we don’t make the message of the bible clear then people will be unaware of their danger. They will also be unaware of the protection they they can have (the Bible calls it salvation) through faith in God’s Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – Acts 16. 31

How do you talk to 79 teenagers who you have never met before? Well from my point of view it was quite scary. The teens came in bit by bit until the room was full. When the singing started it was enthusiastic and loud but maybe not as tuneful as it could have been. 


The singing was in English, as was my talk, which was good but this meant that my translating companion was not present so I had to get on with the job on my own. Seventy nine teenagers at the best of times is scary without the additional stress of feeling well out of your comfort zone in terms of country, culture and age profile. 

The topic for the evening was – Why should I trust the Bible? I am going to do something slightly unusual. I am going to paste my notes to this post and leave it there for tonight!

If you can’t read or understand my notes let me know and I will send you some digital ones.

Stephen

Stepcar61@gmail.com


My first day in the district of Manyinga was spent with the Christians in the Manyinga Gospel Hall. It took fifteen minutes to walk there from Loloma Mission Station. To my surprise we were walking in sand, it felt as if we were crossing a desert. We passed a few washing and bathing areas as we approached the bridge to cross the river. This is a new bridge, parts of the old bridge can be seen beneath the new bridge lying in the river bed. The river depth markers indicated that the water, in the wet season, comes up to just under the level of bridge – this is quite a height! Crocodiles appear quite frequently, at that time of the year, so we were grateful that we are here in winter as are no crocodiles were to be seen. I am sure that I and some members of our party would have been a little more reticent to cross the river if there was any possibility of seeing one.


The conference day started with everyone congregating outside the Gospel Hall. Time was needed to greet everyone and to meet the elders of the church. The Regional Chief is a believer and so he came to the first two sessions of the conference. It is a cultural norm to kneel and bow before the Chief. Many of the congregation came to kneel before him, at the end of the second session, just before lunch. I am not convinced that people should kneel before the Chief in a church context but some people feel that this is right and culturally the locals find it very hard not to as they have been taught from childhood to do it (I will explain later that I do think people should respect the Chief). 


This particular chief has a lot of regional responsibilities due to the size of his region. The position of Chief is hereditary and is a long standing tradition. Head men in each village report in to the Chief and he is regularly consulted to settle disputes. The method of settling disputes is very intriguing. The Chief sits in an enclosure at his palace and has representatives who come to him with the particular issue under consideration. While the Chief is not seen he is sitting behind a screen close by and can hear all that is being discussed. His representative goes back and forth while the debate takes place and then the Chief makes a final decision which is binding. Sadly, Zambia, like the rest of the world is changing and some of his people do not feel that he has the same authority to make decisions that he once did. He is paid a salary by the government and has to work within government guidelines but I am told that, from time to time, there are some conflicts of interest. The Bible teaches that Christians should be ‘subject to the powers that be,’ in Romand chapter 13 verses 1-3 and 1st Peter chapter 2 verses 13-17. God created levels of authority for the good of society and expects people to acknowledge, respect and obey them. The only exeption to this is when a government forces a. Christian to disobey the word of God. In that case the Christian does not intentionally disobey the authorities but an act of purposeful obedience to the word of God unfortunately puts them in conflict with the law of the land. For a good example of this read Acts chapter 4 verses 1-22.


The conference went well. There were three bible teaching sessions. The topic for the day was ‘Four Proofs that you are a Chrstian’ and the evidence was drawn from the Epistle of First John in the New Testament. As I close this post let me list the four reasons for you. If you want the biblical references to back these points up please email me (stepcar61@gmail.com) and I will send them to you.


1. A Christian is someone who has their sins forgiven,

2. A Christian is someone who obeys the word of God,

3. A Christian is someone who loves their fellow believer,

4. A Christian is someone who believes that the Son of God was a real man called Jesus.


Thanks for reading this, 


Stephen



After leaving Lusaka on Friday morning, at 0830, we arrived in Solwezi Airport an hour later. Solwezi Airport needs to be seen to be believed. It is just a room on the side of the air strip. No security, no barriers, a walk through waiting room and toilets which are of the non-flush variety with a sink with no water to wash your hands. There was, however, a lovely shop opposite the Airport exit. The shop sells some high quality, beautiful, Zambian tourist momentos but when it comes to coffee or tea they serve whatever is available at the time. My description is not a criticism of the facilities. Once you are in this country you begin to appreciate what you have and all the obstacles that people face as they simply try to survive a day. For many dear souls the vital issue is – what have I got to eat at the moment and where will my next meal come from? We often grumble about we have and forget that we are so blessed ‘on the other side’ as the locals call it, i.e. The West. It is good to remember the words of scripture ‘be content with such things as you have,’ Heb 13. 5.


As we started our journey to Loloma Mission Hospital we could not help but be amazed at the markets and shops all through the town of Solwezi. It seemed to me to be one long road, a bit of a dirt track, some tarmac and lots of crators to avoid. The skill of our driver was apparent as he swerved the vehicle from side to side very skilfully. Thankfully at this stage we had not had much to eat!! Later on we valued his expertise in avoiding people, animals and potholes.

A cursory glance at the shops would give you the impression that you could buy whatever you wanted if you had the money. However when you went into the shops you soon found out that supplies were limited. Many stores were in desperate need of repair and it was obvious that eking a living out of selling goods was hard going. If you wanted a phone, a SIM card or some airtime you could make a purchase every car length. Banks seemed to crop up reguarly as did pharmacists and men’s barbers. The basics of life can all be purchased on the streets of Solwezi and food shopping can either be done in the local shops, the stalls or in the major South African chains that are now springing up all over Zambia such as ‘Shopright’ and ‘Pick and Pay’.

The people are very friendly and always keen to meet and greet you. Greeting people in Zambia is a major activity! I love the sign language that is the greeting system that these lovely African people use. The gentle clapping of the hands is the normal way of saying hello. This can be done at a distance, instead of calling out, but it is also used, in addition to words, when near to a person. The response can be twofold – two hands held high indicate  – I’m good, I’m strong or one hand across the chest convering the heart indicates ‘I’m well, kind regards to you’. 

Ultimately, the Zambian always has time for you. The lesson of taking time with people is one that we ‘busy westerners’ would do well to learn. Businesses and Institutions in the UK talk about being people focused but we have truly lost the art of spending time on people. People are the most precious resource that this world possesses. We must not forget this! Life can become cheap and people can get in the way of what we are doing. I need to be reminded of this as I am a very task oriented person. As a Christian I should know better as my God and Saviour loves people and was, and is, willing to invest everything in people. One of the most famous verses in the Bible states ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,’ `John 3. 16. One of the greatest proofs of God’s love and interest in human beings is expressed in Romans chapter five verse eight – ‘but God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we still sinners, Christ died for us’. 

If you are cynical you might say if God loves us so much he should stop disease, provide more money and stop children dying etc. I should stress at this stage that God has done this; He does it through people. When God made the world He created sufficient resources to provide for the whole world. The reason why so many are deprived is not God’s fault, it is the fault of us, the humans. Greed in the human heart means that many are denied the things that God created for them.

There is little value in only removing symptoms if the cause of the problem is not addressed. If God simply removed the symptoms, i.e. the problems, then the same issues would come back to the surface time and time again. We need to discover why all of these problems exist and sort the problem at the source. The Bible gives the answer when it states – ‘just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned,’ Rom. 5. 12. All of the world’s problems exist by choice, by human sin. The solution is not found in us, it is only found in the Saviour whom God has provided – His dear Son, Jesus Christ.

The Bible verses which I have quoted earlier on in this post highlight the fact that Jesus paid the price to provide salvation and forgiveness to all who are honest, turn from their sin and sins (repent) and accept the gift of God which is ‘eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,’ Roms. 6. 23.

If I can answer any questions please get in touch – stepcar61@gmail.com

Stephen




Security at Lusaka Airport


Let me explain the security process in Lusaka. 

Security was very relaxed. We arrived at 0630 and our cases were weighed in two at a time. The cases were then labelled and set behind the desk. Eventually they appeared in a Reilly being wheeled out and put in the aircraft hold. At least we could see what was happening. 

Personal security was also interesting. For instance I left my belt on, my friend, Graham, took his off – it didn’t seem to matter one way or the other. We didn’t have to take liquids or electronic equipment out of our cases. No one was bothered! Refreshing and relaxed! Sadly it wouldn’t work that way in the west. We are so plagued by terrorism and violent men that we couldn’t risk relaxing our security checking systems. I am reminded that God never relaxes His security systems. Evil is never acceptable. Sin will always be outlawed. Nothing can enter the presence of God while still marked by sin. The book of Revelation states: ‘But nothing unclean will ever enter it (the presence of God), nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life,’ Revelation 21:27. 

I am so glad that we can be forgiven and acceptable to God. He has provided salvation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The word of God confirms in Romans chapter 5 verse 8 ‘But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’. We can be cleansed because ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin, 1 John 1 verse 7. 

The security systems in Airports might change but God is the same yesterday, today and for ever. His standards are never lowered even though the world constantly downgrades its standards of morality. Thankfully he offers eternal salvation and His grace is rich and free to all who call upon His name. 

Praise God for all that He is and has done. 

Stephen