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."


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


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.

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.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Changes for ACTION Zambia

Last Friday we received the news that Glenn and Liese Ripley, along with their children, Gift and Grace, have felt God calling them on to a new season of life and ministry and will be leaving Zambia in early October.  The Ripleys opened the field in Zambia for Action International Ministries in 2002.  When we came to Zambia for our survey trip in 2005, the Ripleys had a great impact on us and were very influential in our decision to serve in Zambia.  While we are sad to see them go, we are also rejoicing with the Ripley family as they follow the clear direction of their Heavenly Father!  Please pray for Glenn, Liese, Gift, Grace, John, Mark and Stephen Ripley as they walk through this change.

I encourage you to read the Ripleys' own letter detailing their decision to go back to the U.S.  
Click Here

Please also remember to pray for our team here in Zambia as we go through an adjustment period and seek the will of God for our team moving forward.  

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Happy Birthday Zambian Style

I've finally figured it out!  I was born in the wrong culture.  I should have been Zambian.  For those of you who don't know me really well, I am a prankster.  Back in the States, I developed quite a reputation with my friends because of the pranks I sometimes played.  Well, here in Zambia, things haven't changed.  They have a birthday tradition here that is right in line with my personality.  Whenever someone has a birthday, friends of that person are allowed to and, in fact, encouraged to douse the birthday boy/girl with water.

This past Wednesday, I got together with some of our Zambian friends and we decided to introduce Luke to this tradition.  I went over to Alex's house and set the trap.  We called Luke and told him that my car needed a jump.  Then we filled several buckets and balloons with water.  Alex waited at the entrance of his house and I stood beside him, responsible for opening the door so he could hit Luke with the bucket of water he was holding.  The others involved (about 7 in all) waited by the side of the house with the water balloons and other buckets of water.

The plan worked to perfection.  Luke showed up, came to the front door and knocked.  Immediately, I opened the door and Alex hit him with the first bucket of water.  Then everyone else came from around the side of the house and started pelting him with the balloons and other buckets of water.  By the time we were done, he was soaked.  He was a good sport about it and vowed that he would be paying me back in the future.  Regardless of the promised payback, I think I love this birthday tradition.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pastors Discipleship

On Thursday, Graham and I, along with 10 Zambian church leaders (mostly compound pastors) started a new discipleship program.  Over the next year, Graham and I will be leading this group through some material focused on Deepening Our Intimacy With God.

The first meeting went really well.  We did the normal introductions, introduced the material and then tried to memorize a verse from scripture.  Everyone seemed to be really excited about what God is going to teach us as a group.  Our desire is that the pastors attending this discipleship program will take what they learn and start similar discipleship programs in their own churches.

One of the biggest needs in the church here is discipleship.  In most compound churches, the pastors have no more than the equivalent of a 7th grade education, coupled with little to no theological training, which is the case of most of the pastors in our discipleship program.  Imagine having only a 7th grade education, no theological training, struggling to read English (in some cases) and overseeing congregations where 70-80% of the members cannot read and therefore are unable to learn from God's word unless taught by someone else.  Now, you can somewhat understand what these men are up against.

Please pray for this group.  Pray that God would use this program for His glory and for the benefit of these men and their churches.  Pray for the daily physical provisions of these pastors.  Many of these men struggle to provide for their own families, much less their churches physical needs.  Pray for Graham and I.  Pray that we would be sensitive to culture, and would lead in a way that equips these men for effective ministry.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Indecent Exposure

Wednesday morning, I decided to go for a run, which is the same time President Manawasa was being laid to rest.  The run was a long one and I didn't have a proper running shirt.  So, I decided to run without a shirt and get some much needed sun.  

The run started out great, I ran out of our neighborhood, past parliament (passing several police officers on the way), and up past Manda Hill, a local shopping center which was closed for business because of the funeral.  I have to mention, that before I reached Manda Hill, I must have passed at least 10 police officers, all of who said their kind hellos and other familiar morning greetings.

But when I got in front of Manda Hill, there were about 8 officers sitting just inside the closed gate.  As I passed by, a few of them stopped me and asked me to come over.  After asking the officers what the problem was, one of them said "I know you are in training, but today is a special day and we have a lot of important people here.  You need to go back to your home and put a shirt on."  I was caught a little bit off guard, but I complied, turned around and headed home.  I guess I won't be going on any runs without the proper attire from now on : )

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Internet Woes

We're sorry for not posting for the last week.  We've been experiencing issues with our internet and keep getting knocked off.  I am typing this post hoping the same will not happen.

Here are some quick updates.  We hope to have some more posts up soon.

Discipleship Materials
The past two Sundays, I have been piloting some discipleship materials with the church that we attend here in Lusaka.  They asked me to come in and teach the church on Sunday mornings.  Please pray for me in this area.  I'm trying to develop a basic discipleship curriculum which teaches believers here the core aspects of the gospel and then equips them to share it with other people.

Village Piggery
I went with Alex yesterday to Chongwe (about 45 km east of Lusaka).  We were finalizing a design for a village piggery and negotiating prices for its construction.  Alex desires to go into ministry full-time and wants to use this piggery to allow him to pursue this option.  I'll be posting something about him and his family soon.

Kerri and I are still plugging along in our pursuit to learn the language here (Nyanja).  We're nearing the end of our lessons on grammar and continue to need your prayers for this aspect of our ministry here in Zambia.

National Holiday Today
For those of you who don't know, Zambia will be laying to rest their president this morning.  Several foreign dignitaries are now in the Lusaka area and it is supposed to be a major event.  Zimbabwe's president Mugabe is here as well.  Please pray for this country.  Changing leadership in an African country is no easy thing.  There is always potential for violence as different parties vie for a spot in the president's office.

Again, we're sorry for not keeping you updated recently.  Hopefully, our internet will get better.  Blessings!