Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Something Cultural

So, this evening, Kerri and I had Alex Mwilamwe and his wife over for dinner.  While at our house, we asked the usual "Get to know you" questions (how did the two of you meet, how long have you been married, etc...).  It was during this time that we also asked him to tell us how he proposed to Mrs. Mwilamwe.  For the next 15 minutes, we sat there and just listened.  We thought we would summarize his story for you so that you could see a part of the culture here that not many people get the opportunity to see.

Here in Zambia, when a man wants to marry a woman, he must speak with the woman's family.  But unlike in the States where the man asks for the father's permission, here in Zambia, he is entering into negotiations.  That's right, I said negotiations.  Alex, when he went to ask for his wife's hand in marriage took his cousin with him as an arbitrator.  When the two of them arrived, Alex kept quiet (as is the customary thing to do) while his cousin did the negotiations.  First, the father told them both that they wouldn't discuss anything until they had eaten a meal together.  So, they ate lunch.

After lunch, the father had his team of counselors come in for the negotiations.  You see, here in Zambia, the husband to be must pay a "bride price" to the family of the bride in order to have her hand in marriage.  The negotiations are over what price, usually in Cows, Chickens, Goats, etc... the man will pay for the bride--hence the term "bride price."  In Alex's case, the father wasn't even ready to discuss the bride price until Alex paid for the right to have the negotiations.  So, Alex gave his soon-to-be father-in-law money to buy a suit for himself and a chitenge for his wife.  After paying this, the negotiations began.

The first offer, by the bride's family, which was made only after a long prelude of compliments and displays of appreciation, was three cows.  After receiving this offer, Alex and his cousin went outside to discuss things and then came back in with a counter offer of 1 cow, which was also preceded by the same type of compliments.  At this point, the bride's family left the room to discuss it amongst themselves.  They came back in with a final offer of 2 cows, to which Alex happily agreed.  At this point, after both parties had accepted the terms, the family gave Alex his wife and they went home officially married!  A little different than in the States, huh?

I think Kerri walked away from this conversation wishing that I had worked that hard for her.  I came away glad that I didn't have to negotiate a bride price with her mother (who rightfully thinks that her daughter is the best daughter in the world :).  Trust me, it would have been WAY too high!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Zambia News

Ever want to know what's happening in Zambia.  From politics, economics, to sports and to peoples opinions of these things, we've found a great site.  Check it out sometime.  It has helped us to be informed and to understand what some of the people here are thinking about everyday life in Zambia.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Mom's Day Out

Several weeks ago one of our dear teammates, Karen Singleton, approached me about an idea she'd had to minister to us who are homeschooling on the AZ team. Karen has 4 grown children who she homeschooled and so she understands the ups and downs of schooling our own kids. She came up with an idea (a divine inspiration in my view) to have a Mom's Day Out once a month. On this day she would host all of the homeschooled AZ kids at her house for a day of learning and fun together, while we moms get the day off! Karen's thought was that it would not only minister to us moms, but also give her a "grandma fix".

So, this past Wednesday was the inaugural Mom's Day Out. Caleb and Gracyn attended and had a great time at Auntie Karen's house.

They had a great time doing some crafts and drawing in special books made just for them!

They learned about the Ethiopian who was the first missionary to Africa and even got to dress up in Ethiopian clothes!
Isn't she precious!
Isn't he scary! 

They played on the playground at Makeni Ecumenical Center, where the Singletons live, and had a blast together! All day long after I picked them up the kids were singing songs that Auntie Karen taught them and telling me about what they learned.

Brent stayed home with Maddie that day so I truly had the day off and hung out with Elise Whitfield the whole day...sitting and talking in a quiet house!

Thanks Auntie Karen!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Update on Water and Funny Story

Update on Water:
Just after putting the post up yesterday asking everyone for prayers, our water came back on. We all did a little dance in the kitchen when water started coming out of the sink. Thank you for your prayers.

Funny Story:
The other day, there was an article in the Daily Mail, a major news publication here in Lusaka. After reading it, we thought we had to share it with you. As you will see by the article, Animism is so prevalent in the culture that it even affects the headline stories here in the newspaper. I literally laughed out loud as I read the story.

Wizard Breaks Into Handymans

"A 80-year-old wizard from Nchelenge broke into Handymans Paradise last night. He was found in the early hours of this morning. Asked why he broke into the place, he responded that he needed a high powered welding machine to weld his flying broomstick and the only place he was sure to find it was at Handymans Paradise. He said he could not wait till morning because he only flies at night hence he had no option. He also said he could have got out on time but was mesmerized by the amount of high quality power tools stocked in Handymans Paradise such as Metabo. The proprietor of Handymans Paradise dropped all the charges against the wizard because he was convinced that the wizard was telling the truth about his shop and he urged everybody to come to Handymans Paradise for durable and high quality power tools. Handymans Paradise is simply a bond between men and hardware."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letter from Us to You

Dear Friends and Family,

Thank you for praying for us over these past few months as we have been seeking the Lord for guidance as to where to deliver our fourth child this December. Since finding out about the pregnancy, we’ve kind of been all over the map.

At times, we felt like staying here and at other times, we felt like going home. But instead of basing our decisions off of our emotions, we decided to seek proper medical advice, pray and then let the Lord lead.

All of this being said, we’ve now made a decision concerning where to have the baby. The Lord has given us both peace about the decision and our ACTION leadership has given its approval and support. Certainly not least of all, the decision will make our families very happy :). On November 13th, we will be arriving in Columbia for a 2-3 month visit—to have the baby, catch up with many of you and also share with others about our ministry here in Zambia.

There were many things that led us to this decision, but please know that we wouldn’t have had the clarity we’ve had on this issue without your prayers. Thank you so much for continually lifting us up to the Father.

One of the benefits of us coming home is that we can now, with more clarity, share what God is doing in Zambia and how He seems to be using us in ministry here. If you would like us to come and share with your church, growth group or any other group, please let us know, as we will be putting together a schedule for our time in the States.

Thank you again for standing behind us as we pursue making His glory known here in Zambia. We look forward to being with you over the Holidays!

In Sincere Appreciation,
Brent & Kerri Roberts

Still No Water

Going on 4 days now without water.  Luckily, one of our teammates brought over a drum which we filled at another teammate's house, but life ain't easy.  The drum should last us about 2 days, but the kids and adults are being bathed out of buckets and we're running low on drinking water.  Please pray for this situation.  The water company hopes to have the issue resolved tonight, but that's also what they've been telling us the past 3 days.  Anyways, we're alive and well.  So, no complaints.  We're just looking forward to having running water again!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Interesting Tidbits...

Have you ever been in a car with someone who is driving for the first time?  Was that person nearing his or her thirties?  Well last week, our guard Charles and I were on our way back from town after doing some shopping.  When I got to our street, I kind of surprised Charles.  I stopped the car, switched seats with him and let him take a turn at the wheel.  I think he enjoyed it, but it was kind of a scary event.  In the 1/4 mile drive down our street, he almost ran over someone's shrubs and almost clipped the gate coming into our driveway.  But the smile on his face said it all!  I think he really enjoyed his first driving experience.

I tried to get Kerri's picture for this post, but she wouldn't let me.  We have now officially been without water for 2 days.  Something happened with the power company which disabled the pumps for the City Water department.  We've been borrowing water from neighbors up the street who were not affected by the outage, but it hasn't been enough to get everything done here at the house (i.e. shower for Brent).  They said that the pumps to our part of the neighborhood have been turned back on and we should have water soon, but the last couple of days have been a small trial!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ministering to the Whole Man

Wilbur & Fern

Action Zambia works primarily with compound churches--usually the poorest of the poor.  I can't begin to tell you how many times we have heard pastors and church leaders share with us their daily struggle to make ends meet.  At a meeting, a few months ago, with several of these leaders, one pastor stood up and asked a question that has haunted me since that day and continues to drive me to find ideas of how to help these leaders provide for themselves and their families.  

He said, "Recently, I had a prostitute that said she wanted to come to God, but if she did, she would have to stop the only thing that was feeding herself and her children."  He then asked, "how do I tell this prostitute to stop what she is doing, when I'm not equipped to help her provide for herself and her family in a different way that honors God?  When I go without food sometimes days at a time and cannot provide for my own family, how can I help this woman?"  Tough question.

In Scripture, there are many references to ministering to the whole man, not only sharing the hope that we have in Jesus, but also looking for ways to better our brothers' circumstances.  You have references to caring for widows and orphans, looking out for the poor, bearing one anothers burdens, etc... the examples abound.  So, how can we come alongside a pastor like this and equip him not only for ministry, but also look for ways to improve his livelihood?  This is the million dollar question and the one which has been pushing me onwards to look for other ways of generating income here in Zambia.  

The first area of research: Pigs!!!

Apparently, piggeries can be a very lucrative business here in Lusaka.  One piglet can sell for as much as 100,000 kwacha (about $30 usd) and a full-grown adult can garner as much as 500,000 kwacha (about $150-$160).  My goal over the next several months is to document information on the costs associated with raising & breeding pigs as well as to find out as much as I can about the market here in Lusaka.  I'm trying to learn how the business works so that I might then be able to teach others.

Over the next several months, I hope, not only to find out about this industry, but others as well, all with the goal of ministering to the whole man here in Zambia.  Please pray for us as a team as I am not the only one researching ways for income generation.  We feel like this is an area of ministry that God wants us to pursue in the near future.  So, we are trying to be diligent in our research.  Pray that we would find effective ways of income generation in this broken economy.  Pray that we would then be able to equip pastors and church leaders to financially provide for their families.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Store Update

I just wanted to give an update on our guard Charles' new business.  As I wrote about a few weeks ago, he started a "Katemba" which is a small neighborhood grocery stand in hopes of providing a more stable income and less labor intensive job for his wife.  The other day, he took the time to do a count of his inventory and then we sat down and calculated his profits.  Through three weeks he has sold over 500,000 kwacha worth of groceries (approximately $150) and profited over 130,000 kwacha (approximately $40).  If his wife had been breaking brick for local cement mixers, she would have had to work 4 & 1/2 - 5 weeks to make the same amount of money!

Since opening the store, Charles has slowly been learning how to keep records for his business.  Each morning, we meet for a few minutes.  He prepares the books the night before and I check them for errors.  When we first started, he couldn't even get through one sheet without making several mistakes.  The past three days, he has made no mistakes and has finally grasped how to track inventory and calculate his profits.  I wish you could have seen the smile on his face when we reviewed the books today and found no errors!

Please continue to pray for this family.  Pray that the business would be a means of providing for this family.  Pray also for Charles.  He has learned how to use about half of the sheets that he was given for monitoring his new business.  Pray that he will be able to learn the other half.  Pray also for me, that I would be an encouragement to him both physically and spiritually as we learn together.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Outreach & Immigration

This morning, I was supposed to be providing transport for some of the leadership of Great Commission as well as a pastor who is visiting from the States.  They were scheduled to speak at a local high school and the visiting pastor was the guest speaker.  When I arrived at pastor Michael Kandela's home to pick everyone up, I found out that the pastor visiting from the States was on a medical mission in Chongwe and would be unable to attend.  So, as I drove to the school, it quickly became clear that Michael wanted me to take this man's place and speak to these high school kids.  

When we arrived, we were escorted to the Head Master's office to wait for the children to be assembled.  You see, when they told me that I would be speaking to a couple of classes, I thought that they would escort me into some classrooms to speak, but that wasn't the plan and the classes turned out to be entire grades (the 9th and 10th grades of this school).  So, unprepared, still with a "hat head" (I was wearing a baseball cap that I was instructed to remove) I was escorted in front of about 200 high school students.  I shared with them about how I came into a relationship with God when I was their age.  I also shared from Romans 6:23, which teaches that because of our sin, we earn spiritual death, separation, from God, but because of the gift that God provided in Christ through his sacrifice on the cross, those who repent of their sin and trust in Him can have eternal life.  

After I spoke, I invited those who wanted to respond to the message to stay around afterwards to talk with the leadership of Great Commission.  Many of the students stayed afterwards to find out more about the church and several of them prayed, led by pastor Kandela, to place their faith in Christ!  Please pray for these youth.  Pray that they will get plugged into a local church, if not Great Commission, another church that teaches the Bible.  Pray that the word of God that was planted in their hearts today will grow in good soil so that they will be firmly rooted and mature in their faith.

So, on a totally different note, a little before we arrived on the field, one of our teammates applied, on our behalf, for our work permit.  This past 5 months, I have had a routine.  I would visit immigration, scan the work permit book to see if my permit had been processed (Yes, I said book, because nothing here is computerized.).  When I found that our work permit had not been processed, I would go to desk # 8 (There are 12 desks each staffed by a person performing a different role for immigration) and get our visas stamped with an extension for another 30 days.  After about 3 months, I would arrive at immigration expecting to go to desk #8.  I really didn't expect to see my name in the work permit book.  Well, today, I got to go to another desk! My work permit had been processed and we are now officially legal residents of Zambia!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

It's Difficult Sometimes

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."  ~Matthew 16:24-25

This week has been difficult for Kerri and me in many ways.  This week we have had two close friends, back in the States, in the hospital for different reasons--one had surgery, and the other had her 3rd child.  Then on the tail-end of these events, Kerri's mom left from her visit here to return to the States.  I think the hardest part of being on the mission field is being away from those we love.  We both wanted to be at the hospital to support and encourage our friends and we both miss our family and friends very much.  That's why when we sat down to write about something tonight, this verse from Matthew came to mind.  

We're not trying to glorify our commitment to the Lord, but, in fact, share how uncommitted we sometimes feel.  Sometimes it feels like the walls are beginning to close in on us.  Sometimes it feels like we're all alone in a strange world.  It's during these times that we have to cling to this verse.  It's also during these times that we have to cling to the fact that you are out there supporting us and sustaining us through your prayers.  I think the events of this week have just made us a little "extra clingy".  

Since we mentioned them, we would like to ask that you pray for our friends.  Pray for Carrie Ballentine as she recovers from back surgery.  Pray for Jennifer Brock as she recovers from a c-section and also for their family as they welcome baby Elaina into their home.  Pray for Mimi as she recovers from jet lag and deals with missing her grand babies all over again.

Thank you so much for being such an encouragement to our family.  We truly couldn't be here doing what the Lord has called us to do without you!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Vacation Pics

Sorry for not posting the past few days.  As I said in the previous post, we were on vacation in Livingstone.  It was a nice break to get out of Lusaka and just spend time with family.  The first day of our trip, we visited Victoria Falls (also called Mosi-O-Tunia in the local language meaning "The Smoke that Thunders."  And as you will see by some of the pictures, we couldn't see the entire falls due to the massive amounts of mist (the smoke) that the falls created.  What we could see, though, was truly amazing.  

After visiting the falls, we headed over to Mosi-O-Tunia national park for a drive yourself Safari.  As we were driving into the park, a herd of elephants walked right out in front of our car.  They had just swam across the Zambezi river.  The park, though small, was packed with wildlife and was a good warm up to the safari we would be going on the next day.  Here are some of the pictures from our first day:

On the second day of the trip, we had arranged for a safari in Botswana at Chobe Lodge and National Park.  So, we got up early in the morning to take a taxi to the border.  At the border, we had to be shuttled over to Botswana by boat, because the two countries are separated by river.  Everything went fairly smoothly and we were at the park by 10:00 am.  The first part of the safari was a boat safari on the Chobe river.  We saw everything from hippos, to crocs, to lions, to African buffalo, to elephants.  In fact, on three separate occasions, a herd of elephants swam across the river right in front of our boat.  Chobe has one of the largest elephant populations in all Africa, topping 100,000.  So, as you will see by our pictures, we saw tons of elephants.  After the boat the safari, we ate lunch at the lodge and then headed out on a land safari.  On this tour, we saw wart hogs, giraffe, lions, more elephants and other various African game.  After finishing up at the park, we headed back to the border and back to Zambia.  Here are some pictures from our day in Chobe:

There was one interesting thing that happened at the end of our trip.  When we arrived at the Zambian border, our taxi driver, who promised to be there waiting for us was no where to be found.  So, we had to quickly find another taxi before sunset.  Everything went ok though and we made it back safely to our lodge that evening.  It definitely was a fun trip!

Picture of the day...
While we were visiting Victoria Falls, I took a picture of Mimi sitting down on some steps.  What I didn't realize, at the time, was that there was a sign on the ground behind her.  The sign read, "Baboon Sanctuary."  We all got a laugh out of this one.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th

Just wanted to put a quick post on our site.  Mimi, Kerri, Myself and the children arrived in Livingstone, Zambia yesterday afternoon.  After 5 months of settling in and doing ministry in Zambia and Kerri's mother visiting, we thought it was a good time for a vacation.  Today we went to see Victoria Falls (one of the 7 natural wonders of the world).  The falls were absolutely breathtaking.  The pictures don't do it justice, but I'll post them anyway. 

After seeing the falls, we went on a drive your own safari.  While we were on the safari, a herd of 11 elephants swam across the Zambezi River and crossed the road in front of us.  Really cool!  Tomorrow, we drive to the border to go on a safari in Botswana.  We'll post a slide show with all of our pictures shortly after the trip is over.  So, please check back.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Ministry Stuff

This evening, we had our weekly cell group meeting at the home of Alex Mwelembwe's.  Alex is a deacon at Great Commission.  We mixed things up tonight.  Instead of doing bible study, we played a game "2 Truths, 1 Lie."  The object of the game is for everyone to share two truth's about themselves along with a lie.  It is up to the group to then figure out which statement is a lie.  Here is some of the things we learned about each other:
  • Pastor Kandela has walked 100 kilometers in less than 18 hours.
  • Deacon Alex, when he was a child, threw hot chili powder into the eyes of a girl at her birthday party.
  • Another brother by the name of Michael wasn't involved in a minibus accident.
  • Henry is 16, not 14 years old.
  • Amayi Jenny doesn't have 4 children.
  • Carol goes to Kafue National Park to do evangelism; and
  • Abusa Kandela didn't eat a snake as his 1 lie claimed he had.
It was a good change of pace and very encouraging to see my Zambian brothers and sisters laughing and sharing stories about themselves.  Please pray for this group.  Pray that we would grow in our relationships with the Lord and with each other.  Pray that Luke and I would be able to equip these believers to also share with others what the Lord is doing in their lives.