Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Months 2 & 3

Sorry about not posting for 3 days.  Just after writing a post about fixing the internet, we lost access again.  We didn't get it restored until this evening.

Here are our pictures from March and April of this year.  Enjoy!

Adjusting for Internet

Ever had problems with your internet service???  In Zambia, they are usually created by the provider instead of being a user error.  Case in point... About 2 weeks ago, our internet provider changed the tower from which they were sending our signal.  They moved it from Matero, which is near downtown to Manda Hill, which is closer.  You would think this would be an improvement right???  

Here in Zambia, we have receivers which are mounted on top of poles. These receivers are supposed to point to the appropriate tower. When they are installed, they are bolted in tight and typically not supposed to be moved. When they changed the signal to Manda Hill, they did it without informing us that they were doing so. When we called to have the issue resolved, they told us that we could adjust the pole ourselves or wait on their service team to adjust it for us (which could take several days). I opted for adjusting it myself. What I didn't realize was that there was a huge issue (a 60 foot issue) which did not allow for us to pick up the signal from Manda Hill--a 60 foot avocado tree. I called the provider back and they replied that they would monitor our signal from the office instead of sending a team out to route our signal back to the Matero tower.

What I have learned in the first 2 & 1/2 months here is that customer service in Africa is a whole lot different than customer service in the States. After another couple of days with intermittent internet access, myself and our guard Charles took things into our own hands. With a hatchet, we took turns bringing down this mammoth of a tree "pangono pangono" (bit by bit). Thought you would like to see some of the pics. I do have to say, that our internet service is "smoking" compared to the last two weeks--no thanks to Afri-Connect.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Best Blog Post Yet!!!

For those of you who have been waiting for the best of the best of blog posts, this is it! This past Sunday, Steve Allen, who is another missionary on our team called me with a request. His wife Stephanie had been up all night sick and needed rest. He was scheduled to preach that morning, but thought it would be better to stay at home with her and the children. So, whom did he think of as a last minute stand-in? You guessed it, little ole me. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, or maybe someone had slipped something into his coffee when he wasn’t looking, but he requested that I fill in for him.

For those of you who don’t remember my blog post about 2 weeks ago, let me refresh your memory. I’ve only preached one sermon and that was 2 weeks ago. This of course was the first excuse I threw Steve's way, but he calmly reminded me that this was a different church. So, it was probably ok to use the same sermon. Then I threw out another excuse of not having a car to drive, which he countered with letting me drive his cruiser. As he told me later, God had a plan for my life and he (Steve) was telling me what it was… So, hesitantly, I accepted and oh what a blessing it was.

On the way there, I stopped to pick up Mark Mwale, a pastor of a church here in Lusaka. He had arranged for Steve to preach at the village and was responsible for making sure I showed up at the right place. After picking he, his son and wife up, we headed north towards a village on the outskirts of Lusaka. After driving for about 20 minutes, we turned off of the highway onto an unkempt dirt road and then preceded about 1/2 a mile out into the “Bush.”

The church was a small mud brick structure with a thatch roof. One of the elders was waiting outside to greet us and welcomed us as we drove in. When we got out of the car, we were immediately ushered into the church. Inside, were pews, which were also made out of the same mud brick that was used to construct the church. About every 10 feet, there were wooden planks stretching from dirt floor to thatch roof ceiling. Up at the front of the church, there was a stage, which acted as a pulpit. This is where we sat before & during the service.

As we waited for the service to begin, I just didn't think that many people would show up. I envisioned preaching to an audience of about five. As the time neared 10:30, though, I was proven wrong.  Villagers began flowing into this small church building, so much that by the time the service started, there were a little over 70 in attendance.

The service started with praise and worship, which truly was a blessing to me. Those in attendance worshiped in their native tongues, Bemba and Nyanja. And they worshipped with fervor. They sang, danced, and shouted their praises to God. As I sat there, I couldn’t help but think of how the Bible depicts the scene in Revelations when God will be worshipped by every tribe, language, people & nation.

After worship, the pastor introduced me to the congregation and invited me up to preach. The sermon that I preached was no different from the first sermon I preached two weeks prior, but the results were... I preached on 1 John 1:5-7 and shared about how God desires for us to walk in the light. I shared how God desires that we live holy and upright lives, but that even when we make mistakes, we should seek to allow God’s light to expose our sins instead of us trying to cover them up.

At the end of the sermon, we had a time of prayer. I challenged them to ask the Lord to examine their hearts and reveal to them areas where they had fallen short in their relationship with the Him. As I sat there praying for myself, the Spirit began to move to the extent that one of the ladies in attendance just began to wail. As she cried out to God, others also began to audibly pray. It was truly a blessing to see the Lord at work, even through the message given by a sinner like me.

After the time of prayer, I finished the rest of the sermon and then we celebrated the renewing power of the Cross through more worship. It was truly an experience I will never forget.


It gets even better. After the last worship songs were sung, the worship leader had me come up front along with Pastor Mwale. He presented us with gifts that were brought to the church by the villagers in attendance. As we stood up front, person after person came in through the side door of the church bringing food from his or her own harvest. They brought a plethora of assorted fruits and vegetables (African squash, Chinese cabbage, potatoes and bananas).  The shocker was in the last gift brought in, a GOAT!  Yeap, a real live goat! In all my life, I never thought I would be given a goat as a gift for sharing God’s word.

As we prepared to leave, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the generosity of these villagers. These men and women, who struggle for daily existence, went out of their way to welcome me and provide me with gifts, which to them were a great sacrifice. And they did it with Joy! It was so humbling being in fellowship with them this day and truly blessed my soul to the core!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Morning of Football

This morning, Luke and I assisted Great Commission Baptist Church with outreach. Some of the group went from house to house, while Caleb and I decided to play a little Zambian “Football”—a.k.a. Soccer. When we showed up, Luke was sharing the gospel with about 10 kids who had shown up to play. When he finished, we picked teams and then began playing. We then played for the next 2 hours. It’s amazing just how many children there are here in Zambia. By the time we were nearing completion, we had grown from 10 to about 25 kids. They just kept coming from everywhere. Before leaving for the day, we took the time to share with the new children and to pray for some of them. This should be a regular Saturday event. So, please pray for us and this ministry. Pray that we can train some of the members of Great Commission to continue with this type of outreach. With over half of the population here being 16 years old or younger, it is extremely important for the churches here to reach these children with the gospel.


Wednesday thru Friday of this week, we had an off-site planning session for the Pastor Leadership and Development Team. After a daylong planning session on Thursday, we decided to have a camp fire and spend some time praying for the ministry and each other. This picture was taken when we were looking up at the stars. I cannot fully explain just how big the sky looks in Zambia. It’s different than in little ole South Carolina. The stars are just bigger and seem to be more plentiful. It’s truly breath taking just to sit and gaze at the sky at night—breathtaking enough for 6 grown men to stop everything that they are doing just to look up. It’s things like this in creation in which God’s authorship is undeniable. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why Us?

There is a young Zambian girl named Elizabeth who has been babysitting for us and for the Allens during our orientation and language classes. The other day we took her home, as we’ve done before, to a nearby compound called Ng’ombe. Today, however, she asked us if we would come in and meet her mom. So, the kids and I went inside to say hello. Her mother greeted us with a huge smile, swooped Maddie right out of my arms, brought us inside and pulled out their one chair for me to sit on while she sat on the concrete floor. Her mother didn’t speak English so Elizabeth translated between us as we talked for a few minutes. They are a beautiful family.

When we left I asked the kids what they thought of Elizabeth’s house. Caleb said, “It was fine, just really small.” I said, “You know that’s the kind of house most people in Zambia live in,” to which he replied, “So how come we don’t?”

Hmmm. My first reaction was to say, “because we’re Americans,” (which is technically true, but not the message we want to instill in our children). So, instead we both said, “God has chosen to bless us with enough money to live in a bigger house. Why do you think He would do that?” Caleb said, “Because He loves us.”

“Yes, but he loves Elizabeth’s family too,” I said. “God doesn’t show how much He loves us by giving us money and things. So, if He loves all of us the same, why do you think He would give us more money?” Deep stuff for a 7-year-old and also for a 31-year-old.

In that conversation with the kids we just left it by saying that God gives us the things we have so that we can use them to glorify Him and to love other people. Though this was the first time our kids have encountered this question, we have, in fact, been wrestling with it since coming here to Zambia. “Why us?”  

One evening Brent drove our guard, Charles, home. After returning he said, “Charles’s whole family lives in a house that is no bigger than our kitchen. I am no better than this man, so why is it that God has allowed me to be born into a society that allows me so much more?”

It is so easy for us to see, now that we live in a third world country, exactly how much we have as Americans – even as average middle class Americans. Here our relative wealth is ever before us. And though we would all quickly say how grateful we are to God for blessing us with so much, I think the challenge is in considering why He has given us so much. In His sovereignty, God has chosen to give us what we have. I don’t think His intent is that we should feel guilty about it and so try to do things to make ourselves feel better. I think He simply wants us to grapple with it and try to understand why and what He wants us to do with it. And I’m sure the specific answer looks different for each of us.

We have no brilliant answers. We are wrestling. As we search His word and try to learn the secret of being content (see Philippians 4:11-13), will you pray with us to understand God’s purpose?  

Also, let us say how grateful we are for all of you. We are so grateful to have a community of friends to walk with us and to support us financially and prayerfully as we make this journey. You are here with us and you are a true blessing from God!

Monday, April 21, 2008

We're Back!

Hello dear friends! We’re so happy to report that as of today we finally have power and internet again. Praise the Lord! It was an interesting week. Last Tuesday night around 11:00 our power went out, which was very unusual. Power outages are normal, but they usually happen at either 6:00 am, or 6:00 pm and usually last no more than 2 or 3 hours. This time it was out all night and we knew something was wrong. It turns out the transformer for our block blew. Apparently this takes 4 days to fix in Zambia! The power came back on Saturday morning and we are most grateful! During our time without power we had to cook over charcoal as you can see in the pictures. We also ate a lot of PB&J! We lost almost everything in our fridge, so this will be a rough month on the grocery budget, but we’re just grateful to have the means to replace what we lost. Many here would not.

On Saturday we celebrated Brent’s 31st birthday. We attended a missionary braai (like a barbecue) and had some cake there for him topped with a household candle – symbolic of our week without power! If you notice he looks wet in the picture, it’s because here in Zambia they have a birthday tradition – they dump water on you! Happy Birthday Brent!

Thanks to those of you who have been praying for our vehicle situation. We got word today that our car should be picked up from Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) by Friday and should arrive here by the first of the week. Please continue to pray! Pray that the car will make it through customs at the border with no problems and that all the paperwork will be processed in a timely manner once the car arrives in Lusaka. Thanks so much!

Our first newsletter from Zambia is finished and should be out soon, so, be on the look out! We treasure sharing our life here with you and we so appreciate your support and prayers!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gracyn does not need to fear the fence...

This post is guest published by John Ballentine.

At least for next few days, Gracyn has no need to fear the electric fence since the Roberts are now completely without power!

Brent sent a message that the power company has been having trouble with the transformer and decided that it would be best to remove the whole thing and take it in for repairs. Therefore, they have very limited access to email and Internet and no access to Skype until the transformer is back into place and operational.

Other than that, Brent says they are well.

Please keep them in your prayers and that the repairs to the electricity will happen quickly an smoothly.

John Ballentine

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Electrifying!

Funny thing happened today. Gracyn decided that she would test our security system. As our guard Charles and Caleb looked on, she climbed the fence and proceeded to touch the electric wires going around the top of our wall fence. The fence sends out an electric pulse. So, the first time she touched it, she missed the pulse—not the second time though. She quickly climbed down and ran inside to mommy. She said that her tummy was hurting and that she was “dizzy, dizzy, dizzy.” She said she felt like she was on a roller-coaster and started crying saying “I don’t want to die.” All is okay though. We think she learned a valuable lesson. Don’t touch the electric fence!


We had a visitor today. Mistook him for a pinecone at first. Every night we hear bats flying around the property. This one was taking an afternoon nap. Thought you would enjoy the pictures…

Sunday, April 13, 2008

God is Light!

This morning was another first for our family.  It was the first time that I have preached and the first time that Kerri has ever sat in the congregation as the preacher's wife.  Pastor Kandela from Great Commission Baptist Church invited me to speak a couple of weeks ago.  I've been spending the last few weeks studying 1 John 1:5-7 and I put together a sermon on these verses--the main point being God is Light.  It was about how God's light exposes our sin and how we must continually run to the foot of the cross seeking His mercy.  We didn't have any photos from the service this morning.  So, I thought I would include some pictures of us living here without light.

It seems that Zesco, our power company, only wants to supply light when they want to supply light.  I sure am glad that God's light shines bright all of the time.  Anyways, thank you for praying for me over the last couple of days.  Based on the testimonies of some of those in the congregation, God worked through the message that was presented this morning.

Friday, April 11, 2008


OK, we’ve decided that Caleb is a freak! Just before we left the U.S., Caleb lost his first tooth with a little help from Mr. John Brock, our tooth-pulling friend. On Tuesday morning Caleb came into our room super early and said one of his teeth was ready to be pulled. I told him to go back to bed and we would look at it when we got up. Well a few minutes later I hear him shouting, “What? Oh Wow!” and he came running back in with the tooth in his hand! He was so proud of himself for pulling his own tooth and we were equally proud and relieved, since both of us are squeamish when it comes to pulling teeth! So, yes, the Tooth Fairy found her way to Zambia and deposited a few thousand kwacha (about $1) under Caleb’s pillow.

Well apparently Caleb went on a mission and began working on the rest of his slightly loose teeth. On Thursday, he pulled out his other top middle tooth in the morning and his other bottom middle tooth in the evening for a grand total of 3 teeth in 36 hours. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a kid who liked to pull out his own teeth! Have you? All that being said, I think we should have had a line item in our budget for the Tooth Fairy!

Just wanted to report that our sweet Maddie is thriving here in Zambia. We know that many of you prayed earnestly for her when she was so sick just after we arrived and many of you have emailed and asked how she is doing. I’m so happy to say that she is just perfect! Our Zambia friends say, “She’s looking so fat” every time they see her (which is a compliment by the way). She really is growing quickly, and learning more skills everyday it seems. She’s also started testing her boundaries, getting into things, and screaming (not crying, but screaming) when the big kids bother her, or when she wants something – usual 1-year-old stuff. Anyway, thank you all again for your prayers for her!

We've told you about some of the changes in Gracyn already, but I though you would appreciate seeing how she is slowing becoming Zambian. The other day she came in and asked me to help her put her teddy bear in a chitenge. So, I did and she carried it all over the house and yard - just like a Zambian!  She also really enjoys helping in the kitchen.  I think she might grow up to be a chef!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Wednesday Study

Our guard Charles and I had our first time of bible study together today.  We have begun by doing a survey of the Old Testament and why the cross was necessary.  Today, we made it from Adam and Eve to Moses.  Charles had a bunch of questions about what we covered today and seems eager to learn.  Please continue to pray for our time together.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Quick Hits

Tonight, a few of our friends and I got together at another missionary's house to watch the NCAA Basketball Championship between Kansas and Memphis.  I hope I don't spoil it for you, but Kansas won!  Just in case you don't keep up with college basketball, the game was played on Monday.  We were on a 24 hour tape delay...

Please continue to pray for our vehicle.  The vehicle we have been borrowing needs to be returned by next weekend.  This means that we will be going back to being without a vehicle until ours makes it to Lusaka and is cleared through customs.

Another missionary, Luke Whitfield, and I have started a new ministry with a church plant across town.  Please pray for us.  I will be updating you soon as to the particulars, but we're both very excited about what God will have us involved in for the 1st year of our ministry.

We just wanted to take the opportunity to say again how much we appreciate each of you.  Thank you for caring about us and keeping up with us.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Saturday Outreach

This past Saturday, Luke Whitfield & I accompanied some of the members of Great Commission Baptist Church in community outreach. In one of the homes, there was a man named Mr. Myumbo. In our discussion, I asked him: “How does one get into heaven?” His response, which was typical of a lot of people (Americans included), was, if I pray, read the bible, and do good things, God will let me into heaven. Then I asked him, if that was true, then why did Jesus come? Why did he choose to put on human flesh, be whipped and spit on by those he came for, be beaten to a pulp and mocked, be forced to carry his own cross to the top of a hill to be hung on it. Why would he choose do that, if we already had the solution to getting into heaven?

We then talked about the Pharisees, who in Jesus’ time did all of these things. They new God’s word. They prayed unceasingly. They did things that were good. They were zealous in their religious pursuits. Yet the bible says that Jesus referred to them as a brood of vipers. When we got to this point, he asked something that not all people ever take time to ask. He said: “Why did Jesus come. Please tell me, I must know.” It was truly a sweet experience to be a part of. I was on the front row to seeing God open the eyes and ears of this man to His precious gospel.

For the next 45 minutes we talked about why Jesus came, how man is separated from God because of his sin, how there is no bridge of good works that can get us back to God, how that because God is holy there must be payment for sin, how instead of us paying for our own sin, he sent his Son to be that sacrifice, how God requires a blood payment of a pure and spotless lamb for sin, how Jesus was this spotless lamb and was nailed to the cross, fully satisfying God’s wrath against us because Christ fully obeyed God while here on earth, how when we repent of our sins and trust Christ with our lives, we are born again and are a new creation, how after we do this, God sees Christ in our place and forgives us based on our faith in His blood shed for us at Calvary and not based on our good works, how faith is not merely believing that Jesus existed and that He was God’s son, but that it is also a belief in Him with your whole life—trusting him with every aspect of your life no matter how dark or hidden, how when we place our faith in Him, we are sealed with His Holy Spirit and are placed into God’s hand never to be removed, how God even goes a step further and comes and resides in our hearts to help us in this life and gives us His Holy Spirit to teach us how to obey Him.

At the end of our time together, Mr. Myumbo reached a point where He wanted to experience God’s forgiveness and restoration. So, there, on his back porch, we prayed together. It was truly a humbling experience to be a part of something which the Bible says causes the heavens to rejoice!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Prayer Requests

I hope to blog about some of this stuff later, but felt it was necessary, in the meantime, to request your prayers for a few matters:

Charles and Dailes
For those of you who don’t know, we have two workers who help us around the house with security and cleaning. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know them both. Charles and I will be starting a Bible study on Wednesday mornings and Dailes is going through a devotional, which Kerri gave her. Would you please pray for these relationships?

Preaching on the 13th
Luke Whitfield and I have been working closely with a church plant in the Chilenje compound. The pastor there, Michael Kandella, has asked me to preach on the 13th of April. Yikes!!! I definitely could use your prayers on this one…

There are two children (brother & sister) who live at the Bill and Bette Bryant center (the orphanage we’ve been visiting). Both Kerri and I feel a bond with these two and just want to investigate whether or not they can be adopted. We’ve been told that in Zambia, many children who are living in orphanages are not adoptable because they have family who haven’t signed off on them. Please pray for clarity in this situation.

Our vehicle, which we purchased from Japan, is now in port in Tanzania. Apparently, the clearing agents are holding up the process and haven’t gotten the vehicle off of the boat. We have someone waiting to transport it to Lusaka and clear it through customs, but the car has to be cleared from port before they can do anything.

Changes in Gracyn

Since we arrived in Zambia, Gracyn has changed quite a bit. She used to be this delicate little girl afraid of almost any kind of critter. Well, all of that has changed. She is now queen of the lizards and frogs. In fact, she routinely catches geckos and frogs and is even brave enough to hold biting chameleons. We just pray that she never sees a snake!


Our schedules have recently become quite hectic, which has affected our ability to update this site. So, we wanted to apologize. We will try to manage our time better so as to keep all of you up to date with what is going on here in Zambia and what God is teaching us.  We’ll be updating the site with a few new postings this evening.  We do value your support and treasure sharing our experiences with you.  ~Blessings