Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years Resolutions

It's that time of year again. The time of year where everyone, including me, makes New Year's resolutions--some they stick to and some they don't. A few years ago, someone challenged me that while making resolutions, I should probably focus more on the ones that could really make an impact on my life. Yes, losing a few pounds is always good and makes me feel a lot better, but what are the resolutions that I can make that will benefit my soul.

So, in gearing up for your New Year's resolutions, I encourage you to ask yourself what God would have you work on over the next year:
  • Maybe you've never read the bible from cover to cover. Why not make it a goal to do this over the next year. There are many different plans to help you do this. One that I have found helpful is http://www.bibleplan.org/.

  • Maybe there are some areas of your life that you are struggling to give over to God. Why not make it a goal to memorize 10 bible verses and pray for spiritual freedom on the area of struggle. (i.e. Unforgiveness- Matthew 5:44, Lust 5:27-28, etc...)

  • Maybe you desire to know the bible better. Why not make it a goal to memorize 52 random verses (1 per week) and do a focused study on one specific book of the bible?

  • Maybe your prayer life is struggling. Why not do a topical study from Scripture on prayer and commit to praying 5 & 5 (5 minutes / 5 days a week)? Of course you can pray longer, but start small and work up.
So, think about it. Pray over it. What would God have you do over the next year to benefit your soul. What changes need to take place in your life that will bring about more intimacy between you and your heavenly Father? What spiritual disciplines can you develop that will help you to foster an attitude of dependence on God for all things?

Blessings in the New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ellison Elizabeth Roberts Has Arrived



Just wanted to announce that at 3:01 pm this afternoon, Ellison Elizabeth Roberts was born at Palmetto Health Baptist hospital. She was 7 lbs, 12 oz and 20 inches long. The delivery went great and mother and baby are doing well. They are now resting. Thank you so much for all of your prayers.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Quick Updates


It's been nice being home in South Carolina visiting with family and friends.  Our first month has been rather busy.  Just thought I would give you a quick update to let you know what's been happening and what will be happening with the Roberts.

  • Baby #4 will be delivered at Baptist Hospital tomorrow, as we have a scheduled induction.  Kerri and I are interested to see how Maddie treats the new baby.  Her favorite toy is her baby doll.  So, we think we're going to have to keep an eye out to make sure she doesn't try to pick the new baby up.  Please continue to pray for mother and baby.
  • You might call us crazy, but we have also started the process for adopting when we return to Zambia.  We had our first home study last week and are trying to get a bunch of paperwork done so that we can be approved for adoption.  Please pray that all of the logistics and paperwork will go smoothly.
  • Since being back, we've got to spend time with some different friends.  A couple of weeks ago, we went down to Kiawah to run in the Kiawah Island marathon/half marathon with a group from our church.  It was a great weekend except for having to run such a long way.  It has been great getting to catch up with all of our friends.
  • The food has been great, but costly.  I've already gained 12 pounds and I'm not pregnant.  It wouldn't be that bad if I hadn't been running over that same period.
  • We've really enjoyed spending time with our parents.  We're staying with my parents, and Kerri's parents have been by often.  It has been such a blessing to see them again.
Thank you so much for continuing to pray for us.  We covet your prayers.

Monday, December 08, 2008

To be a Blessing


Genesis 12:1-3
The LORD had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  "I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Psalm 67
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, "Selah"  That your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

Why does God choose to bless us? And how should we express thankfulness for His blessings? Is it just by our words or is a heart of thanksgiving also dictated by our actions? These were just some of the questions I was pondering as I read some verses from Genesis12. Although this particular passage of Scripture was a promise from God to Abraham about the Messiah one day being born through his seed, God was also showing me that He blesses His children so that they can be a blessing to others.

As I thought about this, I then began to think about Psalm 67, where the Psalmist is asking the Lord to bless His people so that His ways would be known on the earth, His salvation among the nations. As I sat there and meditated on these two verses, I then began to think about how the Lord had blessed me. I have been blessed with a healthy and beautiful family, I have been blessed with a Godly and beautiful wife, I have been blessed with friends who love me, I have been blessed financially (compared to the rest of the world), and most importantly, I have received the spiritual blessings that can only be found in Christ (joy in the midst of trials, love in the midst of being wronged, hope in the life everlasting).

But why? Why does God choose to bless me? And why does He choose to bless me in so many ways? It's not because of anything that I've done. I'm a sinner. Apart from Christ, I have nothing to offer God. All of my works are useless chaff. And He doesn't bless me in certain ways because He loves me more than someone else. He loves everyone the same. So, why does He bless me? Why?

I believe that part of the answer lies in the above verses. He blesses me so that I can be a blessing. He blesses me so that His name may be great among all the peoples of the earth. He blesses me so that His salvation can be known by many. He blesses me so that I can be a blessing to others. He blesses me in the ways He has blessed me, both spiritually and physically, so that I can fulfill His purposes to those He wants me to reach. Too many times, I feel like I fail in this endeavor, but I press on knowing that His strength is perfected in my weakness and knowing that despite my flaws, He still wants to bless others through me.

What about you? How and why has God blessed you? How would He have you use these blessings to bless others?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

22nd or Bust!!!

Just wanted to give you a quick update on the pregnancy. Kerri had another scheduled checkup with the doctor yesterday. The baby is doing well. If she does not go into labor by the 22nd of December, she will be induced that morning. So in less than three weeks time we will be welcoming a new family member into the world. Please be in prayer for us during this time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Zambian Politics Update

After returning home, we have had several people ask us what ever happened with the political situation in Zambia. I'm sorry that I didn't give a follow-up post on this, as a lot of you had been praying for us during this time.

In 2006, there was widespread rioting. The challenger, Michael Sata, was ahead by a wide margin, but when the final results were announced, the ruling party and their candidate won. There were allegations of vote tampering and a lot of unrest. Pretty much the same scenario unfolded this year. The challenger, the same Michael Sata, was leading by over 100,000 votes (a wide margin considering only 1.5 million people voted) but ended up losing by over 30,000 votes. Where most provinces had a 45% voter turnout, the last ones to come in had nearly double the turnout 75%.

As we waited for the final announcement, we learned that all of the machetes in Lusaka were nowhere to be found. What we didn't know was if it was the police who had rounded them up or the people who had bought them. We also heard rumors of political coups which if came true could split a young democracy. So, there was a lot to be concerned about. So, as the weekend progressed, we just hunkered down in our house behind a locked gate and awaited the results.

When they finally announced the winner, what we were expecting (widespread rioting and potential violence), never came to fruition. There were a couple of small riots in two of Lusaka's compounds, but really nothing more than that. Since returning home, we have had so many of you ask us about what happened and told us that you had been praying for us. You were also united in prayer with our brothers and sisters in Christ here in Zambia. Many churches were holding week long fasting for these elections. So, thank you for lifting us and the people of Zambia up in prayer. The Lord surely answered the petitions of His saints!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tempted


(Ultrasound Pictures)
If receiving this via e-mail, you might need to visit the website to view the pictures

In Zambia, Kerri had several ultrasounds as she progressed through this pregnancy. But the common theme throughout all of them was that the doctor would not tell us the gender of the baby. Because of tribal traditions many Zambians, including our ultrasound tech, will not venture to find out the gender of babies while they are still in the womb. So, for the past 35 weeks, we have remained in the dark.

Yesterday, we went for our first stateside doctors appointment and got to see another ultrasound of the baby, but this time, we had the option to find out baby #4's gender. Since we have already waited for most of the pregnancy, we figured that a few more weeks wouldn't hurt. As we sat there in the office, though, I think we both were still tempted. But we were strong and will just have to wait to find out.

Other than not learning the sex of the baby, the doctor said that he/she looks healthy. Kerri is measuring a little ahead of schedule, but the due date is still December 27th. Hope it's not a Christmas baby! Please continue to pray for a safe and healthy delivery.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Home Improvement 101

In trying to get prepared to return to the States, we had some stuff that had to get done. One of those was to replace the kitchen faucet. I thought this post would serve to assist you if you ever wanted to change a kitchen faucet in Africa and didn't know just how to do it. Enjoy...

Step 1 - Stopping the water flow
In Zambia, we're not allowed to turn off the water to our house without having someone from the water company come out and turn it off for us. If we have a shut-off valve somewhere after the meter, we can turn it off there, but unfortunately for us, the shut-off valve for our cold water is stripped and therefore, we were unable to shut it off.  So, how did I get around this first challenge?  Easy, I went into the bathroom and turned on the cold water full blast.  This took the water pressure from the kitchen sink and allowed me to remove the old faucet.

Step 2 - Plugging up the cold water outlet
When I got the new faucet ready to install and began to screw it on, the bolt for the connection on the new faucet cracked - meaning that I needed to get another one.  I couldn't leave the cold water running in the bathroom while I went to the store.  So, I had to seal the pipe and turn off the water in the bathroom.  How did I do this?  Even easier, a potato!  It works rather nice, don't you think?


Step 3 - Drilling a hole
The reason the new faucet cracked was because the hot water pipe (on the left) was coming through the wall at an angle.  The angle was too great to get the new faucet back on.  So, I grabbed a screwdriver and a hammer and began chipping away.  After getting help from our guard Charles, we finally were able to get through the entire wall and loosen the pipe.


Step 4 - Seal the Joint
After unsuccessfully trying to seal the joint using pipe tape (several different times) I had to resort to desperate measures.  I bought some PVC sealant from a local hardware store (there was nothing else in the stores here to use).  After coating the joint several times, I proved what I expected, PVC sealant doesn't work on metal pipes.


Step 5 - Ask for help
After trying several different things over the period of a few days, I finally gave up and enlisted the help of my teammate Graham Melville.  He quickly diagnosed that the joint was too loose and that the answer was to use pipe tape, which I had tried to use, but to use a lot more of it.  After spending 2 days trying to fix the leak, Graham fixed it in 15 minutes.


Step 6 - Cover the hole with cement and live with a leaning faucet
Because the pipes are so old, I didn't want to risk breaking them by putting undue pressure on them.  So, instead of trying to bend the pipe upward to give a level faucet, we just covered the hole with cement and left the sink leaning a little to the left.  It may not look all that great, but it isn't leaking!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

We've Arrived!


Just wanted to say thank you to everyone who prayed for our trip back to the States.  We left Lusaka on Wed at 9:00 am Zambia time and arrived this afternoon in Columbia at 12:00 pm (about 34 hours of travel and lay-overs).


Anyways, the trip went wonderful.  Maddie, who we were worried about being difficult to handle, was perfect.  She slept when she was supposed to sleep and didn't fuss too much.  Thank you for your prayers.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

We fly out this morning at 9:00 am our time.  Please pray for safety during the flights and pray also for Maddie.  Pray that she will do okay in transit.  She is a very busy 19 month old and we have an 18 hour flight across the ocean.  We look forward to seeing many of you very soon.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Preaching and Singing at Great Commission

Today, Kerri and I will be worshipping at Great Commission Baptist Church for the last time before we head home.  Kerri and a few of the members of the church will be singing during the worship time and Pastor Kandela has asked me to preach.  I'm writing this post a week in advance.  So, sorry we won't have any pictures.  I'll try to write a post about the service once we return to the States.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

Thank you so much for all of you who contacted us about sharing what God is doing here in Zambia. It's beginning to look like our time in the States will be sort of a whirlwind trip. After arriving on the 13th, we have several speaking engagements. Our last available Sunday morning is November 23rd, but we do have some openings to share at bible studies and other mid-week gatherings. If you would like for us to come and share about what God is doing in Zambia, please contact us.


Schedule of Events for Home Visit

November
  • Thurs 13 Arrive in Columbia
  • Sat 15 Dinner at the Birds
  • Mon 17 Lutheran Men’s Group, Living Springs 7:00 pm
  • Wed 19 Kerri to share at Ladies Bible Study
  • Thurs 20 Dept of Juvenile Justice 10:00-11:15
  • Fri 21  Cason Group Bible Study
  • Thurs 27 Thanksgiving
  • Sun 30 Virginia Wingard UMC, both services
December
  • Thurs 4 FBC Special Ed. Dinner 7:00 pm, singing only
  • Sat 6 Kiawah Marathon
  • Sat 27 Baby Roberts # 4 is Due
January
  • Sun 4 NE Presbyterian, sing and share/interview
  • Fri 9 Brent & Kerri's 10th Wedding Anniversary
  • Sun 11 Columbia Crossroads (Home Church), share
  • Wed 14 - 19 Out of Town
  • Sun 25 FBC Sunday School Classes, 9:00 am, share
  • Sun 25 Rehoboth UMC, 11:00 am, sing and share
  • Thurs 29 Kerri - UMC Womens Group @ Virginia Wingard, 7:00
February
  • Sun 1 Lee and Shannon Winters' Church in Whitmire
  • Sun 1 Charleston Baptist, 6:00 pm
  • Thurs 5 - 8 Out of Town
  • Sun 15 Lake Oconee Presbyterian Church, Sunday School & morning service
  • Thurs 19 Leave for Zambia

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Meet the Discipleship for Leaders Class


For the past 10 weeks, we have been meeting with 12 pastors and church leaders and teaching them how to disciple members of their own congregations.  Graham Melville recently brought in a video camera and interviewed the participants to see how the class has affected them personally.  Below is a link to those interviews.  Please take the time to learn more about the men we are working with on a weekly basis.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The Calm Before the Storm

It is 10:00 pm on Friday October 31st and the Zambian election results are about to be announced at midnight.  I wish we had internet access tomorrow so I could share with you who won and how it has affected Lusaka and the surrounding areas, but unfortunately, this will have posted before all of that stuff happens.  Since Zambians are so into politics (they follow their politics as well as U.S. politics very closely), we thought we would give you an update and peek into their presidential elections happening right now as I type.

In the last election (2006), there was widespread speculation of vote tampering by the MMD (the current ruling party).  I'm not saying that was the case, but it was the sentiments of many Zambians we have spoken with.  On the eve of the announcement, Michael Sata of the PF party was winning.  Then suddenly, the last count was announced and MMD representative Levy Mwanawasa was declared the winner.  Shortly after the announcement, riots broke out in many of the shanty compounds in Lusaka, including Garden which is less than a half a mile from our home.  The riot police were called in and Sata went on public radio and requested his supporters to stand down.  Eventually, everything settled down, but there are many many Zambians that believe that the true winner wasn't declared the President of Zambia.

In this year's election, Zambians are telling us that things are beginning to look very similar to the 2006 elections.  There is suspected vote tampering (i.e. Earlier this week, MMD staff were caught driving a truck carrying over 600,000 additional ballots.  Also, early today, an MMD representative was caught and is being investigated for putting pre-filled ballots into an already secure ballot box).  And Michael Sata, just like in 2006, is leading by a substantial margin (As of tonight at 8:30 pm, Michael Sata was leading by nearly 50,000 votes.  In fact, he has had a substantial lead all day).  But unlike in 2006 when Sata requested his supporters to stop the rioting and violence, rumor has it, he will not do the same this time.

This is what is beginning to concern us.  We're outsiders.  We don't know which political leader would best meet the needs of this country.  It could be Banda or it could be Sata.  But we are aware that if the 2008 elections end the same way as the 2006 elections, this presents the biggest opportunity for widespread rioting, violence and political unrest.  

We are well aware that it is the Lord who establishes rulers and authorities, and our prayer is that this appointment will come in peace, whoever it is.  And our prayer is, also, that whoever is appointed leader will fear God and govern the people by His wisdom.  Would you join us in this prayer?  Would you pray for our safety and the safety of our team?  We are less than a mile from where the votes are being counted and the announcement will be made.  And we are also less than 1/2 a mile from one of the largest compounds in Lusaka and one that is primarily a Sata supporter.  Pray that if violence breaks out that it will be contained as much as possible and that we will be safe in our homes.

One advantage of being in Zambia as opposed to some other countries in the world is that Zambians are usually a peace loving and tranquil people.  As one Zambian put it "We might get upset, but hey, we're Zambians.  We won't stay mad for too long."


Friday, October 31, 2008

Silence

This post is just to inform you that we will be without internet access beginning tonight at 12:00 am our time.  Since we are leaving for the States in 12 days, we decided not to pay for another month's worth of coverage.  It doesn't mean that you will stop hearing from us though.  We have written a few blogs that will post periodically over the next two weeks.  We'll update you as soon as we have landed and settled back in good-ole South Carolina.  We look forward to seeing and sharing with many of you while we're back on baby furlough.  Also, keep an eye out for our latest prayer letter.  It should be coming out soon!

Blessings
Brent & Kerri

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pay Backs !!!



A while ago my dear friends, the Robert's, hijacked my blog...well Brent, next time you sign out you need to watch out for Graham and his stealth computer skills.

This is a photo of Brent being a complete chicken after falling out of a raft while white water rafting...SO CUTE!!! This photo has been put out for a caption competition...so far we have "Oh dear, I've wet my pants"..."Our Father, who art in heaven..." Please submit your "caption" in the comments below.

As you all know, the Roberts are leaving us in a few weeks...please take care of them while they are at home so they can return to us quickly! We are so blessed to have them on our AZ team...


Consider this payback for the countless number of dirty "Maddy" diapers hidden in various vehicles for weeks on end!!! We will miss you!!!


Megan & Graham for the "AZ Victims of Brent's Shenanigans"

============================================
FYI....(Updated after I found out that I had been dooped!)

This is what the boat looked like just before the above picture was taken. Just thought I would give some perspective. Thanks Megan for the post.

~Brent


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Our Friends Away From Friends


One of the biggest transitions that we have had to make in coming to Zambia is making new friends.  While we have made some close Zambian friends and friends on our team, it has also been a blessing to have met some new American missionaries as well.  Once a week we meet with these few families for bible study and fellowship.  I can't express how helpful it has been to be able to process some of the stuff we've been going through in our transition with couples, about the same stage in life, who are going through the some of the same things.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Matebeto



A matebeto is a ceremony that usually takes place before a Zambian couple is married. It is a ceremony where the women in the family of the bride-to-be (it is often family and friends) cook food from the culture of their tribe for the family, friends, and guests of the groom-to-be. This tradition is usually held for marriages between two different ethnic groups or tribes. It is supposed to ensure that the husband doesn't get offended or upset when his wife brings him a dish he has never seen or eaten before. So the women stay up for a long time preparing pots and pots of food for others to consume at the event. The guest are suppose to make small donations for every pot of food as it is presented.

Today I had the privilege of being invited to a matebeto.  It was SO interesting and lots of fun! A friend from church invited me to the matebeto for her niece.  I arrived at the home of the bride-to-be just as they were finishing her part of the ceremony.  The atmosphere was very light and there were 4 ladies playing drums and leading songs the whole time.  The bride-to-be and the lady they called the Matron were sitting on the floor with all the food spread around the room.  At the end of this part of the ceremony, the bride-to-be laid down on the floor and mimicked sleep.  Then the ladies began to pick up all the pots of food and carry them outside to make the trip over to the groom's home.  The bride-to-be does not go.  

After we arrived at the groom's home we all stood in the street holding our pots (they gave me one too....a very small one!).  The drum music continued and many of the ladies danced until the women of the groom's family came out to welcome us.  They did so by dancing over and throwing money down on the ground in front of the Matron.  Then we filed in the gate and to the front door where each lady, holding a pot on her head, turned around and backed in the door.  Some of the pots and bowls were so huge that I didn't see how these women were carrying them, especially walking backward!  

The groom's family began to throw money on the floor and the ladies, in turn, put their pots down on the floor.  The Matron was the last to put down her pot, which she would not do until a sufficient amount of money had been laid at her feet.  She just kept dancing and smiling as the ladies of the groom's family put down more and more money and even laid down on top of the money, in a way begging the Matron to put down her pot.  She finally did and everyone clapped and cheered.

The groom, who honestly looked like he'd rather be anywhere else, was seated on a sofa at the end of the room next to an advisor who was explaining everything to him as it happened.  The bride's family is Bemba and the groom's family is Kaonde.  I was told that these Bemba traditions were all new to the groom.  As the ceremony began, the Matron and another lady began to open the huge bowls and pots of food - with their teeth - to show each dish to the groom.  At any point the Matron would stop, begin dancing again and wait for more money to be placed on the floor in front of her.  When she felt it was sufficient, she would continue.

After each dish had been displayed, the Matron was handed a bowl of water, a bar of soap and a towel with which she washed the groom's hands and face.  I was told they would wash his feet, but they didn't.  Then, the Matron laid down on the floor, was covered by a chitenge and pretended to be asleep.  She wouldn't "wake up" until, you guessed it, enough money had been placed around her.  Ultimately the family got the groom himself to put some money down and to "wake" the Matron.  To finish the ceremony off, the ladies of the groom's family did a traditional Kaonde dance for all of us and brought out gifts for the bride's family - two cases of soft drinks, a bag of mealie meal and a live chicken!

We left the house and went back to the bride's family's house where another feast was waiting for us.  It was quite the event!  I was so grateful to have been invited to the matebeto and to have been so graciously accepted.  I will never forget it!


Friday, October 24, 2008

Saying Short Goodbyes









With just about 3 weeks until we head back to the States for a few months, Kerri and I wanted to do something with Charles and Dailes and their families to just tell them that we appreciate them and that we'll miss them while we're away for the next three months.

















So, we decided to take them out for a bar-b-que and swimming. For Charles and his family, it was the first time that they had ever been swimming. Dailes' children had been before. So they were a little bit more accustomed to the water.

















Dailes and Charles, both, have really made the transition to life here in Zambia much easier for us and have become a big part of our family. It was really fun just getting to spend time with their two families.

















After the eating, playing in the pool and playing a little American football, we packed up and headed home for the day. We sure will miss these guys while we're in the States for the next few months.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pray for Peace

10 Days from now, Zambia will hold their presidential elections.  The main two candidates are current president Rupiah Banda (Top) and Michael Sata (Bottom).  

Political violence has already started.  This past Saturday, a rather large group of Zambians were marching down Independence Ave. in support of Rupiah Banda.  As they were passing by the national monument, an onlooker shouted out in support of Michael Sata.  That is when the march turned into a physical altercation.  The man who shouted out in support of Sata was severely beaten along with some journalist who were covering the event (including a young pregnant woman).

Politics in Africa are a lot different than politics in the U.S..  There is always the possibility that elections can cause political violence and possibly destabilization.  Please pray for this country as they transition in leadership.  
  • Pray for the new leadership, that they would work for the people and not their own ends.
  • Pray for a peaceful transition in leadership.
  • Pray for a corruption free election.  
  • Pray that whoever loses would bow out gracefully instead of trying to cause upheaval.  
  • Pray for continued freedom in the spreading of the Gospel.
  • Pray for the people of Zambia.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Preaching in Chongwe


On Sunday, I went to Chongwe (a town 45km east of Lusaka) to preach at a small village church.  Before arriving, Alex, Everesto & I picked the pastor and his family up from their home.  The pastor and his wife walk about 24 km (about 14 miles) to and from this small church every Sunday.  It was very humbling to see the commitment this man has to doing God's work here in Zambia.

I have to admit, I wasn't prepared for the type of building the church was held in.  As you can see from the pictures, it was a thatched roof insaka with several rows of stacked bricks, which were being used for the pews.  Not having walls, actually helped with the heat, as it allowed for a constant air flow.  Not like the typical church you would see in the States huh?


We arrived at around 9:30 am and waited about 30 minutes for other members of the church to arrive.  The pastor and Alex held a short meeting to discuss the flow of the service and then we started.  They decided that there would be a time of singing hymns and then Everesto would address the youth with a message, after that, another time of worship and then Alex would give the congregation a message of encouragement, after that, another time of worship, and then, finally, I would be called upon to preach.

The service went really well, but a little long. So long, that I didn't start preaching until 1:15 p.m. I spoke on Grace. Grace is something with which the Zambian church really struggles. I've seen it time and time again. Whether it be through the conversations I've had at church, or in cell group ministries or during pastoral and leadership training, Zambians just struggle to understand that God doesn't require us to do good deeds in order to earn salvation. They struggle to understand that knowing Him it is an unmerited gift. That is why I felt it was important to preach this specific message to this small congregation.



I think the sermon went pretty well, based on feedback from before and after the sermon, I could see that some of the congregation were beginning to understand the concept of grace.  So, I pray that God would grow the seeds that He allowed me to plant that day.

After the service, we were asked to stay for lunch.  Several ladies of the church had prepared a meal (Nshima, Rice, & Chicken).  They also served a local drink called, Mkoyo.  It is made by mixing ground maize in water and letting it sit until just before fermenting.  I tried it, but, sadly to say, I couldn't finish it.  Alex was gracious enough to pour the rest of mine into his cup and finish it for me.  

It was a blessing to fellowship with this group of believers and have them go out of their way to make me feel welcome in their community.  The more and more I do ministry here, the more and more that I feel like I'm the one being ministered to.  I can't begin to relay just how much I was humbled and blessed by this small village church in Chongwe.


Monday, October 13, 2008

My Baby!

This term, we enrolled Caleb and Gracyn in some extracurricular activities at an International School (LICS), which is about 2 miles from our house.  On Mondays Caleb goes for a group tennis lesson.  Well, with our car in the shop and all of our nearby teammates busy with other obligations today, I was struggling to figure out how to get him there.  I thought of just walking him, but in this heat and with my "bigness"  that just didn't seem appealing.  So, I called Brent at the office for suggestions.  He said, "why not ask Charles to ride him over on his bike?"  Sure, why not?  I think all fathers out there will probably see the logic in Brent's idea, and all the mothers out there will understand why this idea freaked me out just a little bit!  But in the end, Caleb really wanted to go and this was the only viable option for getting him there.  So Charles, assuring me that it would be just fine, loaded Caleb onto the little rack on the back of his bike and off they went.  Caleb, of course, thought it was fantastic!   

When Charles went to pick Caleb up I sat on the couch waiting by the window, trying not to appear nervous.  The two of them came in the gate laughing and sweating from their ride in the summer sun.  Caleb came in and told me how fun that was and ran off to play.  Dailes looked at me, smiled and said, "I think now you'll be OK."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Car Troubles


I don't think we were prepared for just how bad the roads are here in Zambia.  Even the roads in our neighborhood are without pavement and there are a plethora of potholes.  If there is anything that is costly for all of us missionaries here on the field it is vehicle maintenance.  Case in point...

This past week, two of the brackets that hold part of our suspension together broke free from the bottom of our car.  The metal just snapped.  Temporarily, Charles and I have tied the suspension up underneath the car.   But on Monday, I'll take the car to the mechanic so he can re-weld the brackets and do some other things.  Needless to say, the roads here are not friendly.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Singing in the Rain

When was the last time you saw rain?  Was it today, yesterday, a few days ago???  Well, for us, it was last February.  About two weeks after we arrived in Zambia, the final rain storm of last year's rainy came through Lusaka.  Well, today at about 3:00 pm, the heavens opened up once again. Coming from the States, I have never experienced such a long period of time without rain. Think about it, 8 months without a drop.  Needless to say, Kerri and the kids were so excited that they ran into the front yard to celebrate with a little dancing.

And today was no ordinary rain either.  In the middle of sub-Saharan Africa, on a day where temperatures were near 100 degrees, we not only got rain, but hail!  At first, it was few and far between, but after a while, it got bad enough that I had to pull the car under the carport.  In fact, it looked like it was snowing.

Maddie enjoyed the rain to.  At 18 months, she probably doesn't remember ever having seen rain before.  After we came back in, she sat by the back door and just watched it rain for a while.  Speaking of not seeing rain before... It was our dog Chiku's first rain storm as well.  He mostly huddled by the front door and shivered from being wet and cold.


All that to say, we're thankful to finally see some rain.  I'm sure in a few weeks, we'll be wishing it would go away.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Good Weekend


Thank you so much for your prayers concerning our planning session this past weekend.  We went to Ciyanjano (our ministry center) for a weekend of fun and planning.  I can honestly say that it went better than expected.  God seemed to answer a lot of prayers and we all walked away from the weekend encouraged by what the future holds.  

One interesting thing happened during our time as well.  Nearing the end of the weekend, a man who lived up the road from the Ciyanjano stopped by to visit.  He had a burlap bag with something inside that he wanted to show us.  It was a 4 foot puff adder!  Don't worry Mom, this little critter was not out wandering around the property.  And this is at least a 45 minute drive into the country away from our house.  He was brought to the gate by a man who catches and sells snakes and other creatures for a living.


This particular breed of snake is considered the deadliest snake in all of Africa and can have fangs as long as 1 & 1/2 inches.  Here I am holding its tail.  Just call me the Croc Hunter?  Kerri wasn't around when I took this picture.  So, when she saw it she about killed me.  But when do you ever get the chance to say that you held the deadliest snake in all of Africa and lived to tell about it?  Not a good argument huh?  She didn't think so either.

Anyways, it was a good end to a good weekend.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Not Triple A, Septuple A


This past Friday, Caleb and Gracyn hopped into the car and rode with me and Alex to Chongwe, a village about 40 km east of Lusaka.  We were going to see the completed piggery that I had been helping Alex get setup.  I'll write about his piggery later, but for now, I wanted to share one of my firsts in Zambia with you, a flat tire.  

After leaving Alex's farm, we headed back out through this maze of trails that were just wide enough for the car to fit through.  We were nearly halfway out when suddenly we heard a very bad sound.  Air was not just leaking out from the rear left tire, it was gushing out.  Apparently, a rather large stick had found a way to puncture the side wall of the tire.  Before I could turn the vehicle off and get out, the tire was almost completely flat.

Now, in America, whenever I had car trouble, I had this nice little card in my wallet.  Can you say Triple A?  But here in Africa, it's a whole different story.  There is no such thing as Triple A.  So, you better be prepared before you travel.  Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared.  After getting out of the car and seeing what had happened to the tire, I looked in the back for the jack.  Much to my surprise, there was no jack.  So, we came up with a plan.

Now, remember, there were only three of us at this point.  Our plan was to get a big rock and slide it under the axle, loosen the lug nuts on the flat tire and loosen the lug nuts and remove the spare tire from the back of the car, dig out from underneath the flat tire and replace it with the spare.  Sounds doable doesn't it?

Well, as we started, we quickly learned that there was another problem.  The tire iron that we were using to remove the lug nuts was cheaply made and as soon as we tried to loosen the first nut on the flat tire, it bent.  But we continued to work with it and two hours later were able to loosen the last nut.  And by then, it was no longer me, the kids and Alex, but a team of about 7 Zambians who had wondered our way from their homes in the village.

Then we shifted our attention to removing the spare tire.  Now, the spare had it's own issues.  It apparently hadn't been removed since it was put on the car and the bolts holding the tire onto the car were rusted.  This made it very difficult to remove the bolts without further bending the tire iron.  After getting two of the nuts off, the third and final one broke.  The bolt somehow found a way to break free from the welding on the car.  Because of this, when we tried to turn the nut to remove it, the whole bolt turned with it making it impossible to remove the bolt.  



This meant one thing and one thing only.  If I was going to get the car and the kids out of the middle of the bush in Chongwe and back to Lusaka, we were going to have to find a way to break the last bolt that was holding the spare tire onto the vehicle.  So, as you can see in the picture above, using tools provided by one of the village men, we used a two pound hammer and an axe head and busted the last bolt off the car and thus removed the spare tire.

Now, since we had more man power (7 Africans and me) we changed our plans for removing the existing tire.  We did use a rock under the axle, but instead of digging the tire out, we all crowded around the back end of the car and picked the car up onto the rock.  Who needs a jack?  We quickly changed the tire, picked the car up one more time to remove the rock from underneath the axle and away we went, a mere 4 hours after popping the tire.

I know I don't have triple A, but I don't know what I would have done without the help of my 7 African friends that Friday in Chongwe.

Please pray for these guys.  It is customary in Zambia to give money to guys that help you in times like these.  Because I didn't have money at the time, I invited them to come to a church I will be preaching at in Chongwe next Sunday and I would help them out then.  I figured that it would be a good opportunity for some of these men to hear the gospel for the first time.  The message will be centered around Grace.  Pray that their eyes and hears would be open to the Word of God.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Planning Weekend

This weekend, we're having an offsite meeting to discuss the ministry here in Zambia.  With the founders of Action Zambia, the Ripleys, leaving the field, we have a lot to discuss as to how to continue in ministry here in Zambia.  
  • Please pray for wisdom, clarity of vision and team unity.  
  • Pray for Steve Allen.  He is flying in for one week and will probably be getting over jet lag in the beginning stages of the weekend.  
  • Pray also for the logistics.  We will be having meetings during the day Saturday and Sunday and we all have lots of kids.  Pray that we would find ways of keeping them adequately entertained so that what needs to be accomplished will be accomplished with little interruption.
  • Pray for the Ripleys as they travel back to the States.  Pray for safety in travel.  Pray that over the next few months, God would give them wisdom.  Pray that He would show them exactly the next place/ministry/job He is calling them too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thursday Discipleship

Last Thursday, we had our 4th discipleship meeting for pastors and other church leaders.  During the bible study session, I told the following story followed by a simple question:

"One afternoon, a man, who was a christian, got on a minibus and headed home from work.  As the bus started off, this man realized that the conductor hadn't taken his money for the bus fare.  But instead of reminding the conductor of the error, the man just sat there quietly thinking that he was getting a free ride home.  In essence, he was stealing the bus fare.  When the bus reached its stop, the man got off, stepped out into the street and was immediately hit and killed by another car passing by.  Now, based on what you have heard in this story, did that man go to heaven or hell?"

Now, remember, we're working with Pastors and other church leaders, people who should have an adequate grasp on the core message of the gospel.  But I was kind of taken aback by some of the answers that were shared.  Several in the group immediately answered "Hell."  While others in the group had to think about it for a while before formulating their own answers.  There was only a few out of this group of 12 that quickly answered "Heaven."  It was a simple question, but very eye opening to the struggles the church here in Zambia faces.  If the leaders are not equipped to fully understand and share the message of the gospel, how will the church ever understand and share it?

It also got me thinking about some of you who might visit this site from time to time.  If pastors here struggle with answering this question, I thought some of you might as well.  So, how about you?  What would your answer be?  Heaven or hell?  Do you know, biblically, why hell is the wrong answer to the question above?  Do you truly know what it means to be saved?  Are you sure you understand the gospel?  If not, please let me quickly summarize:
  • God created man for a love relationship.  (Genesis 1:27; 31 & Psalm 139:13-15)
  • Man, all men & women over all time, has sinned and fallen short of God's standard.  (Romans 3:23)
  • God cannot have a loving relationship with man because of sin.  (Isaiah 59:2)
  • Because "all have sinned," all are destined to die a physical death here on earth, separate from a loving relationship with God and will spend eternity in a real place called hell.  (Romans 2:6-8)
  • But this is not what God desires.  Even though we are sinners, deserving His wrath, he still wants to have a loving relationship with us.  (Romans 5:8; Revelations 21:1-4)
  • So, God made a way.  He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as an atonement for our sins (Romans 5:8-9) so that we could receive the free gift of salvation and spend eternity with Him in heaven. (Revelations 21:1-4)
  • Salvation can only be received as a gift through faith in Christ.  It's given by God's grace.  Salvation, therefore, cannot be earned by our good works or by our obedience to God's law.  It is by grace.  Grace simply means getting something good that we do not deserve.  So, there is nothing you can do to earn salvation.  It's a free gift given by God.  (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23) 
  • To receive the gift of salvation, the Bible teaches that we must repent of our sins, meaning that we must turn and go in a new direction, and believe in Christ.  (Mark 1:15)  We must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10)
  • After doing this, the bible teaches that we will be forgiven of our sins (past, present & future) and be counted "not guilty" or justified before God.  And that this legal standing before God will never change.  We will forever become children of God and never be able to lose the gift of eternal life (Psalm 103:11-12; 2 Corinthians 5:21;  Galatians 4:4-7; John 10:27-28)
That last point is really the answer to the story I posed to the group on Thursday.  You see, the man who got on the bus, was already a Christian, meaning that he was already declared not guilty by God based on what Christ did for him on the cross.  When he stole the bus fare by not paying it, he was sinning, but he had already been forgiven of that sin when he became a believer.  His sin, even though it affected his fellowship with God, did not change His status before God.  He was still a son of God, someone whom God had declared not guilty, someone whom God had promised would never be snatched from his hand.

And God wishes that that would be true of us all.  Listen to this verse from 2 Peter: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Blessings
    

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Running For Jeremy and Grayson

Grayson (Left) & Jeremy (Right)

In December, shortly after we return to the States, Kerri and I will be making a trip down to Kiawah Island. I will be running in the Kiawah Island marathon and Kerri will be watching with her preggo self. I'm not writing this post to tell you about my prowess as a runner (one, because I am fat and slow and two, because when I run, it looks more like I am walking fast), or anything like that. But I am writing this post so that you would be aware of something that is happening in the lives of some dear friends--our church elders and their families, an opportunity for you to maybe help out.





The Shipmans and the Parks both have sons (Grayson and Jeremy respectively) who have been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.  Due to the type & seriousness of this disease, there are many costs associated with its treatment.  Fran Ricks, has been spearheading a fund raising event to help these families out with some of these costs.  It's called Running For Jeremy and Grayson.  Several members from our church will be heading down to Kiawah the weekend of December 6th to run the marathon in support of these guys.

If you would like to learn more about these families, Cystic Fibrosis or possibly even give a donation please visit their website.  Please think about trying to help carry the burden that these families are facing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A new doo!


Gracyn recently had here hair done.  One of our friends, Elizabeth Banda, came to the house and braided Gracyn's hair Zambian style.  It actually took Elizabeth two trips to our home and Gracyn watched a lot of movies, but the masterpiece was completed.  I can't wait to post the picture we'll take when she removes the braids!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Sunday School


This past Sunday was the last of 5 classes that I have been teaching on evangelism.  I have been using the class as a means to pilot some discipleship material, which has been good because it has kept me accountable for completing the material.  I've also learned a lot about what material works and what material doesn't in a Zambian context.


It was also a great learning experience on how to teach Zambians.  Normally, when you're in a teaching environment in Zambia, the pupils do not respond like they would in the States.  They typically just sit there quietly, keeping their eyes down, and sometimes take notes.  As I taught each week, I tried to make adjustments in order to solicit more participation.  Sometimes it worked.  Sometimes it didn't.  But in the end, I felt like I learned more about teaching in a Zambian context.

Please pray for this church, Kingsway Christian Ministries.  They have just re-located to an area known as Kabwata and are trying to do outreach.  That was the purpose of this class--to train the congregation on how to effectively share their faith.  Pray that their labor would be fruitful.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Voting


This past Friday, we, along with most other Americans were visiting the Marine House near the U.S. Embassy for a "Town Meeting."  The Marine House is where the U.S. Marines that protect the U.S. Embassy stay.  The Town meeting was to help us prepare for the upcoming election in the States.


They provided hot dogs and hamburgers, free of charge, and only asked that we bring a desert or a side dish.  We adults had a good time getting to meet other Americans living here in Zambia.  While the children had a good time playing on the jump castle that was rented for the evening.


I was surprised at just how easy it is for us to vote in the U.S. elections here in Zambia.  No lines and really no hassle.  All we have to do is fill out a form identifying who ourselves, our voting district and who we will be voting for and return to the U.S. Embassy.  They then take the absentee ballots and mail to the States with the Armed Services mail.  I think it's easier to vote here than it was back in the States.



Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Something Funny (If you're a little bit sadistic)

Yesterday afternoon, I was returning home from a meeting.  When I pulled up to the gate, I noticed that our electric fence was producing a popping noise.  This usually means that some tree limb or unfortunate animal is touching the wire while being grounded at the same time.  It turned out that a tiny gecko decided to cross one of the electric wires, but when it reached for the gate and grounded itself, it got electrocuted.

That's not the sadistically funny part.  I usually don't laugh at geckos getting fried by our electric fence.  The funny part, was that because the gecko was touching the wire and the gate at the same time, it passed the current from the wire to the gate and, as a result, the whole gate became electrified.  

So, here comes our guard Charles to open the gate.  He was hearing the same popping that I was and was aware that there was some creature somewhere getting barbecued, but he wasn't aware that the current was also passing through the gate.  And neither was I, until I saw him jump back as he tried to open the gate.  Needless to say, we both got a good laugh out of what happened.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Change of Seasons

Sometime at the first of August, it seemed that someone flipped a switch and the Zambian winter was over! Suddenly it was getting hot and the everything started to bloom. This is the first time that the weather has felt more like home. It's like May or June in good old South Carolina, minus the rain (we haven't had a drop of rain since February)! Since there's so much dirt here and it's been SO dry, I thought you might like to see some of the beauty that God has given us to enjoy now!

This tree (above) is my new favorite! It's called a Jacaranda Tree. They bloom the most beautiful purple and I've never seen anything quite like it. It's gorgeous! Unfortunately we don't have one of these in our yard, but they are all over the place. The rest of these pictures came from various trees and bushes in our yard. Lovely sights and smells!




With the change in seasons there are also some not-so-nice things like mosquitos and other assorted bugs! So, we've been spraying and trying to ward off the critters before they decide to invade our house. They tell us that October is the hottest month of the year, so we're getting ready for that. So far I don't think the temperature has been above 90 degrees, but on those days this pregnant lady has been spending lots of time in front of the fan!

The Zambians also say that since the warm weather came earlier this year, the rains will also come earlier - maybe in October. Although we'll be leaving in the middle of rainy season, I'm anxious to experience what that will be like. It's amazing to me how God delicately orchestrates the care of this earth!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Speaking Engagements

Dear Friends,

Kerri and I will be returning to the States on November 13th for a 3 month stay. We would love to share with those who might be interested, the work that God is doing in Zambia, Africa.

If you would be interested in having us speak during a church service, to a sunday school, to a small group during the week, etc... we would love the opportunity. If you would like for Kerri to sing, she is available for that as well.

We have availability from November 17th - December 10th and then from January 1st - February 15th. If you would like for us to come and share, please e-mail Kerrisings@aol.com with the following information: Date, Time, Location, Type of Group we would be addressing.

We look forward to sharing with you what the Lord has been doing through our ministry here in Zambia.

Blessings,
Brent Roberts

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Prison Ministry

On Tuesday, Glenn, Luke and I went to Kabwe--a city/town about 2 hours north of Lusaka.  A couple of weeks ago, Glenn had met the head chaplain over all of the prisons in Zambia.  He setup the meeting because we were hoping to begin taking various churches into prisons to minister to inmates as well as prison guards.

In Zambia, there are 54 prisons housing over 14,000 inmates, but there are only 14 theologically trained chaplains on staff to minister in those prisons to those inmates.  So, it's an understatement to say that they need help.

During the beginning stages of the meeting, none of us could really get a feel for how it was going.  The head chaplain was very hard to read and conversation was slow.  But one thing that I've learned is that, in Zambia, you can't read body language quite like you can in the States.  By the end of the meeting it was clear he was excited about us wanting to assist the chaplains office and discussed the many opportunities that we would have in doing so.  Specifically they expressed a desire for our ministry to begin training their assistant chaplains for the work of ministry.  And also, once we're approved, they will allow us access into any prison in Zambia to work with inmates as well as guards in the areas of evangelism and discipleship.  It was truly an answer to prayer as to how well this meeting went.

Our desire with this ministry opportunity as well as the hospital ministry is to begin to expose some of the churches we are working with to practical ways of ministering God's word to those in tough situations.  In essence, we're trying to mobilize the church here in Zambia to fulfill its calling to minister to, evangelize and disciple those around them.

Will you pray for us?  Please pray that we would keep in step with the Spirit, that God would begin to raise up churches for us to assist in training for ministry.  Pray for the Church in Zambia.  Pray that they would be burdened for the lost and have a heart to serve instead of be served.

Hospital Visitation

This past Monday, Luke, Chiluba and I went to University Teaching Hospital (UTH) to visit and pray with some of the patients.  Luke and Chiluba have been going for a few weeks now, but this is the first opportunity that I have had to go.  UTH is a very large hospital with different wards for different needs.  We ended up visiting two different wards, and praying for several patients.  I have to admit, I wasn't prepared mentally for what I saw.

Adult Ward:
The first man we visited with was the victim of a poisoning.  He was in a bar in the northern province of Zambia drinking, when someone slipped acid into his beer.  The results were horrendous.  He has yet to get an x-ray or any other scan.  So the extent is unknown, but he has not had a bowel movement in 2 & 1/2 months (Yes, I said months).  Basically, he eats and hopes his body gets enough of the nutrients from the foods before he throws it back up.  He recently made a profession of faith, but please pray for this man.  Pray for healing.

The second person we visited was a teenage boy.  This boy was diagnosed with liver cancer and is visibly suffering.  The tumor is now the size of a bowling ball and his entire mid-section is distended.  As we sat there and prayed for him, I couldn't help but notice his heart beating in his chest.  He is so skinny because the tumors restrict his eating and you can literally see every time his heart takes a new beat.  Please pray for this boy.  Pray that God would work a physical miracle in his life just as He has already done one spiritually.

The third person we visited was an elderly gentleman.  I could barely hear what he was saying, because he was going in and out of consciousness.  But apparently he has issues with his kidneys and is very weak.  We prayed for him, and he fell asleep shortly after we walked away.

Pediatrics Ward:
The pediatrics ward was in a small building on the other side of the property.  As we walked in, I was blown away by just how many babies and small children were there.  The mothers were there caring to the needs of their children and often performing some of the nurses duties.   It was difficult seeing these little children, full of tubes, laying there helpless and then looking at the mothers struggling to disguise their emotions about the situation.  As we prayed, I just sat there at times thinking, "What if this were my child?  How would I be handling this situation?"  I think it made me pray all the more earnestly and I hope that we were an encouragement to them.

Please pray for this ministry.  It is in its infancy and desperately needs  your prayers.  Our desire is to see the Church here in Lusaka take up its responsibility and begin to minister to the hurting people in this hospital.  Pray for laborers.  Pray for a vision to ignite amongst the members of the different churches we are working with here in Zambia.  Pray that the Church would become mobilized.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Is Gas Really This Expensive?


Kerri and I have heard a lot lately about the rising gas prices back in the States and I have to admit that because gas here is distributed in liters and sold in Kwacha, I never realized just how expensive it has gotten here.  As you can see on this picture, Unleaded is 9495 Kwacha per liter and Diesel is 8350 Kwacha per liter.  

Curious what the equivalent was in U.S. dollars, I did some conversions.  I converted liters to gallons and Kwacha to US Dollars (based on recent exchange rates).  When I multiplied everything out, I was quite shocked.  Regular Unleaded is selling here for $10.13 per gallon and Diesel is selling for $8.91 per gallon.  So, remember that even though prices are rising to levels never seen before, it can always be worse.