Monday, 21 November 2011

Because we’re eternal...

We said goodbye to 2 friends of ours today. Martin and Amanda Rider have been part of the Lusaka Church plant group for 6 months. Their story has been one of battling to get a permit to stay in the country. They had to spend 7 weeks in Johannesburg in the middle of the South African winter (which is cold!) waiting for permit problems to be sorted, they were then allowed back into Zambia, but ultimately permission was withdrawn and they are on their way back to the UK as I write. Why?

Marts and Amanda have become very precious to us. It helps that they are very nice people, but it’s more than that, we feel that God has joined our hearts to them, we share the same mission, we love the same God and now we feel their absence keenly. Why we do we make ourselves vulnerable to relationships which can get broken?

The answer to these questions is a simple one, we are eternal people. Eternity is not something that happens to Christians when they die; eternity broke into our lives explosively at conversion. Being eternal means we see the tree hidden in a mustard seed (Mark 4:31-33) We understand that the Kingdom of God begins small, but grows large, for this reason we are not discouraged by what we see: 2 Corinthians 4:18.
In Lusaka, we are gathering between 20 to 25 people, with the vision of eternity I can see the outlines of a City Changing Church.  The question that we’re asking is what sort of Church will change a city? We are becoming convinced that it is a Church where we lay down our lives for one another by the eternal power of God breaking out in us. We expect this power to be seen wherever we are and with whomever we are.
There is a risk in this. We are making friendships that will be broken when we return to the UK, we might take steps of faith and see no immediate return, we cling to risk taking because we are eternal.

The last fortnight has been eventful. We had a weekend in Kitwe which is a 5 hours drive north of Lusaka. I had my first experience of preaching in 2 morning services, the Kitwe Church is called Dayspring . It was a very exciting time, 6 people responded to the gospel and there was a good opportunity to pray for people. Whilst I was preaching a goods train went past the Church, its horn blowing. It felt like a trumpet call. The Kitwe Church has planted 9 other Churches and is a great example of what we are looking for in Lusaka. The Church in Kitwe runs 2 orphanages and feeding programmes for malnourished children. Whilst in Kitwe we had our first experience of deep fried eating caterpillars (surprisingly nice!)

Kitwe Feeding programme

We now have a car,which is making travel a lot easier. We are so grateful to the members of our Church in Bexleyheath for loaning us the money to buy the car.

Our car

In the remaining time before returning to the UK for Christmas, we hope to visit Christian Discipleship Church in Kabwe. The Church is hosting a conference in April when Terry Virgo and Stephen Van Rhyn are coming to speak. We are helping with the planning. For those of you who know me well, you will understand that by “we” I mean Elizabeth!
As December approaches and we celebrate the breaking in of eternity into the world in the person of Jesus Christ let’s remember that we are eternal and cling to risktaking even if it is reluctantly.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The rains have come

Zambia has 3 seasons: Winter, from May until August, and is cool and dry. From September until mid November it is hot and humid, I don't know what the season is called! Summer is from mid-November through the end of April and is warm to hot and rainy. The weather in Lusaka is moderated by Lusaka's height, it is positioned on top of a central plateau at 1300m. But the last few weeks have been very hot, this season is known as suicide month. The inside walls of our house were warm to the touch. Even locals find it hot and discuss when the rains will come. Last night the rains started, there was a loud thunderstorm and steady rain, this morning the temperature is refreshingly cool and there is a lovely smell in the air; the smell following the rains is called petrichor.
Coming from the UK it is difficult to get my head around the suddenness of the change in season. I am used to gradual transitions with unpredictable weather; feeling cold in summer and commenting on the unseasonable heat in April or October.
Last weekend we had Gary Welsh, Vuyo Gcilishe and Gavin Bingham visit us from South Africa. Gary and Gavin attend Helderberg Christian Church in Somerset West a town about 50Km from Capetown. It is set in a beautiful area, mountains, vineyards and oceans. Vuyo leads Uzuko Lwake Church in Khayelitsha a huge informal settlement (township) just outside Cape Town. We also had Jeremy Gibson and Norman Amey from Honiton Community Church UK. They came to Zambia to welcome a Church called Christian Disciple Centre (CDC) into the Newfrontiers family of Churches. CDC is based in Kabwe about 2 hours drive away from Lusaka. The Church plant group travelled up from Lusaka and managed to arrive (almost) in time for the morning service which was exuberant, loud, joyful and hot. It was a unique pleasure to be grabbed by Joseph Mwila, the leader of Dayspring Church in Kitwe and taken to dance at the front of the Church. (I think we will have to start building Churches with kitchens for me to hide in) I believe there is even video evidence, unfortunately my bandwith limits prevent this awesome display of my dancing inability being uploaded. My exploits do seem to have caused much amusement to some members of the Church plant group in Lusaka.
At lunchtime, pastors from the town were invited to lunch and in the afternoon there was the adoption service.  In pride of place at the centre of the Church was a wedding cake to celebrate CDC joining Newfrontiers. As part of the service, Newfrontiers vision and values were read out by various Newfrontiers leaders.
1. A gospel-preaching church that is loving, righteous in its lifestyle, involved in world mission and reaching the unsaved in its community by both public and personal evangelistic activity.
2. A church where regular teaching and preaching of the Bible holds a primary role and where Scripture’s authority is final.
3. A church whose people are assured of the grace of God in their lives and are clear about the full New Covenant benefits of being in Christ.
4. A church whose people are baptised in water and in the Holy Spirit, and brought into a genuine life in the Spirit.
5. A church where God’s presence is prized and where God is enthusiastically worshipped with genuine freedom for men and women to worship publicly in the Holy Spirit, to use spiritual gifts and to participate in ‘body ministry’.
6. A church which is a loving community, meeting both publicly and from house to house, sharing and caring for each other’s needs, both spiritual and material.
7. A church where Biblical family life is highly valued, where husband and wife embrace male servant leadership and joyful female submission, where godly parenting is taught and practised and where the special value of singleness and its unique opportunities are affirmed.
8. A church led by male elders (one of whom is clearly understood to be gifted to be lead elder) who are ordained by the Holy Spirit, recognised and confirmed through apostolic ministry. These men are to be helped in fulfilling their calling through ongoing fellowship with trans-local ministries.
9. A church where elders are honoured as servant-leaders, caring for the flock and providing appropriate spiritual disciplines where necessary.
10. A church freed from complacency and endeavouring to grow in gospel impact, faith, prayer, generosity, action and influence.
11. A church whose individual members are equipped for their role of service within the church and community, including the release and training of those called to trans-local ministry.
12. A church which is fully involved in our shared apostolic mission to extend the kingdom of God globally through the recovery of New Testament church life, making disciples, training leaders and planting churches by all means, including wholehearted financial commitment, welcoming trans-local ministries, regularly attending corporate gatherings, promoting our publications and communicating our news.
13. A church which is serving and empowering the poor within its own ranks and beyond.
14. A church which wholeheartedly embraces the New Testament teaching of the one new man, demonstrating love and respect between the races, cultures and sexes.
15. A church which is proving to be both salt and light in its location, impacting the culture of the community.
16. A church that is committed to excellent relationships with other Christians and churches in its community.
17. A church desiring and welcoming encouragement and correction from trans-local ministries in the fulfilment of these objectives.
Gary preached excellently and quite briefly, which whilst not explicitly a Newfrontiers value seems a good model, especially when the temperature was around 38 Celsius (in the shade, it was hotter than that in the marquee!)
Gary spoke to the Lusaka Church plant group the next evening, it was so useful to understand that Church planting is an apostolic activity. Gary is planting a church, we are working with him. He encouraged us to build strong friendships with one another and with those around us, to take opportunities to reach out to people and invite them to become friends with us.
Which brings me to a question some people have asked:"why are you planting a Church in Lusaka when there are already many excellent churches there?" We are here to share the New Testament values that God has shown us over the last few decades. The Church we plant will be recognisably Zambian. We are not here to turn Zambians English, we are here to form communities that are recognisably New Testament. This can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit transforming ordinary lives by His presence.
God spoke to His people Israel in Zechariah 10:1 (ESV) — Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.
In the Bible, rain is often a picture of the Holy Spirit. It is time for Holy Spirit rain. would those of you who read this blog and know how to pray, pray for this? Church History is full of times where the season changed suddenly, this can happen to individuals, Churches, communities and Nations. Just as investment schemes carry the warning: past performance is no guarantee of future performance, we can pray in the confidence that our future is not defined by our past, but by the promises of God.
Next Monday I start teaching some revision classes at Chiamama College, and in a week's time I am visiting Dayspring Church in Kitwe where I will be preaching. The following week, I go down to Livingstone for a few days and spend time with the Church there. In between times we are trying to get to know people, studying and preparing for lessons and preaches.
I hope to blog more regularly as we now have an internet connection in our house.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

It’s been just over 2 weeks since we arrived in Lusaka and patterns are beginning to emerge. We have landmarks by which we navigate, these tend to be shopping places, although we also drive past the President’s Palace sometimes, there is also a road with a wall covered in Omo posters. We are making friends and can now put faces to names we have heard about.
Last Sunday, (2nd October) We had the first Sunday meeting of the Lusaka Church plant. A group had been meeting on alternate Tuesdays for some time, but last Sunday was a first.
What was it like? There were 13 of us, 7 English and 6 Zambians, we worshipped in English, Bemba (one of many Zambian languages) but more importantly we worshipped in harmony. Not just because Zambians harmonise brilliantly anyway, but there was a harmony of purpose; we want to see a Church built that is defined by the presence of God, made up of people of all ages, all social backgrounds and from many nations, enjoying God’s grace with a confidence that God keeps his promises Psalm 2:8.
We face challenges, we need to find somewhere more permanent to live, we need to have permission to stay in the country, and we need to sort out some transport. At times these seem very big issues, let alone seeing a Church built and we can feel dwarfed.

This morning I was praying and I felt God speak to me. The God who has established an eternal dwelling place for His Children can provide houses. The God who has given permission to dwell in His presence forever can manage the permits we need to stay in Zambia. The God who carried Israel on Eagle’s wings can arrange our transport.
We would value prayer over these areas and for wisdom on how we should use our time. There is a temptation to do anything rather than wait to see what our Heavenly Father is doing, please pray for opportunities to meet Zambians, share our lives with them and serve the Church.

I have been listening to a Paul Oakley song Jerichos which puts into words how we feel.

We have also had the opportunity to see some of the beautiful places in Zambia. Last Friday we drove to the Lower Zambezi with some friends. It was a wonderful experience to see hippos and elephants and crocodiles in the wild and build friendships with the people God is joining us to.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

We are here!

It seems like we were planning to come to Zambia for ages, and now we are here. The last few weeks were very busy and we are grateful to so many people who made it possible for us to be ready in time.
We arrived to an overcast, windy Lusaka and were picked up by Marts and Amanda Rider and were taken for a much needed coffee and onto the house where are staying. I am almost reluctant to put up photos of where we are staying because it is so nice. 

I sit on the verandah in the morning and am joined by the 2 dogs who live here, I drink coffee and pinch myself!
The views are lovely as we are quite high up.

Our days are not all relaxing, we are learning to find our way about Lusaka, where to shop, where to drink coffee, gradually we are recognising places.
In between the shopping and drinking coffee, I have had time to pray. There are real challenges ahead: Lusaka is full of Churches, why would Zambians come to a small Church plant like the one with which we are involved? How will we meet people? How do we build in such a way that the poor are welcome from the start and feel they belong.

God has directed me to Isaiah 40:18. What are our limitations and obstacles compared to our mighty God?

I am praying for 4 things regarding the Church plant in Lusaka.

  • Team from the start
  • Remember the poor from the start
  • Manifest presence of God from the start
  • A supernatural people from the start.

I hope to blog again soon with more pictures and news of what we are doing.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Countdown has started

It feels like everything is happening very quickly now. We move out of our house at the end of this month and are busy packing up and decorating ready for the people who will rent our house. It is so nice to write this, we wondered if we would find someone who would rent our house and are very pleased to have someone.
We also have our Volunteer Visas, so it feels like the countdown clock is ticking.
In all the business, I feel God is still talking to me about values, not only values that I believe that should shape Church, but values God is emphasising for life.
The value I am learning at the moment is confidence in the prior activity of the Father.
Tozer wrote in "The Pursuit of God"
"We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. "No man can come to me," said our Lord, "except the Father which hath sent me draw him" John 6:44, and it is by this prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming...God is always previous."
The temptation is to think that to be useful in Zambia, I need to read lots of books or listen to lots of podcasts and these things can be very helpful, but they cannot make me effective. Any effectiveness in Zambia will be because of the prior activity of God, We are God's workmanship, created for good works Eph 2:10.
Scott Marques took an amazing seminar at Together on a mission where he talked about this.
I won't be useful because I have read books, attended conferences or training courses, have experience, I will be useful because the Father has started something. I don't need to wait for the lift off command, I need to look for what the Father is doing. This is not to say I don't value the books, conferences, training and experience, but I recognise that the Father's creative work in me is the essential thing.
There will always be more qualified, better read, more experienced people than us, but like Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:8-10, the issue is primarily about God starting something.
I am praying that a Church will be planted in Lusaka that recognises God is in the business of creating us for doing the works of God.
In the next few weeks I will be looking for what God is doing.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

What's the story, eternal glory.

I have been away on holiday in Turkey, it was glorious! Seven days of cloudless skies, temperatures in the mid to high 30's. Because I woke up earlier than the others who were with us, I had the joy of reading and praying on a shady balcony with sea views.
In the last blog I wrote that I would be thinking about values that might help shape the Church in Lusaka.
I read a quote by Alasdair MacIntyre a few weeks ago and it has resonated with me."A central thesis then begins to emerge: man is in his actions and practice, as well in his fictions, essentially a story-telling animal ...I can only answer the question 'What am I to do?' if I can answer the prior question 'Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?"
After Virtue, p. 216
I have been thinking much about the story in which I find myself. I don't relate easily to Mission Statements or vision and values, but I get stories.
As I prayed and read on my balcony in Turkey, I marvelled again at the story that has captured us, Genesis 1:26-27. Man in the image of God was not completed in the creation of Adam and Eve, but will be completed in a bride suitable for Jesus, Revelation 21:2.
As I prayed and read, I was struck by the story of Jesus stilling the storm Matthew 8:23-27.
Jesus' disciples were professional fisherman, accustomed to the conditions on Galilee and the danger of the sudden storms. As the storm arose, it became the compelling story of their lives, however the true story of their lives was Mark 1:17.
Under stress, we can revert to the wrong story, the small story. If we are to see a God glorifying Church in Lusaka, we will need to work together to focus on the big story of a community in whom the image of God is being formed.
The first value I am praying for is an understanding of belonging in God's story.

In the last post, I mentioned that Gary and Nicky Welsh were visiting our Church, Bexleyheath Community Church. He spoke brilliantly and you can download it here.
Our extraordinary Church also had a love offering for us as we go to Zambia, over £12,000 was raised. It is a small Church and the sum raised represents faith, sacrifice and love on a staggering scale. It is a privilege to be part of this Church.
In the next post, I will share some more about values and what I learnt at Together on a Mission in Brighton.
I would love to begin a discussion on values and vision with anyone who reads this blog (hello Mum!) Please feel free to use the comments section.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Pith helmet: check

In the last post, I wrote that I would be talking about things I want to take to Zambia. I was thinking I would do a kind of Desert Island Discs theme with books and music that I feel I must have with us in Zambia. However, since I wrote that post, I have been on a bit of a journey, which is making me reconsider.
It all began when I went to the Heaven touches Earth conference at the King's Arms Church in Bedford. I was excited to have the chance to listen to Angela Kemm and Julian Adams. Angela was involved in establishing the first brick built houses in Gugulethu and was involved in planting Khanyisa Church where my eldest daughter, Esther, was a member when she was in South Africa. Angela shared her story of how as an Afrikaans woman in 1980's South Africa, was led by God to go into the Townships and befriend Black South Africans. Her journey was remarkable, but more so was her insistance that she was just an ordinary person, in the hands of an extraordinary God. Not only was she able to persuade the apartheid authorities to allow the brick houses to be built, but she has seen remarkable healings as well. If you get the chance to hear her story, take it. If the talks are put online, I will provide a link.
At the conference God did something in my life. I have always felt the need for a precedent before God would use me. I felt that If I read enough and accumulated enough knowledge, God would use me in the way I hoped. God spoke to me in Bedford, that the only precedent I need, is to be His child, the precedent is dependent on the type of Father He is, rather than the type of child I am.
Because I am slow, I was reminded of this at a prayer meeting, where someone had a picture from God of me wearing thick spectacles (entirely appropriate as I am optometrist) God said, if you take off the spectacles you will see much more clearly, don't rely on aids like spctacles.
So, the first thing I am taking with me to Zambia is a renewed confidence in the wonder of being a child of God.
A little while ago I preached about Noah sending out the dove. Because it's a well known story, we can miss the picture. The type of bird that is made for flying over the ocean is an albatross; doves are not designed for flying over large expanses of water. So why did Noah send a dove? He sent the dove, because the dove was designed for the promise of dry land, not the prospect of the ocean. As we go to Zambia, I am reminding myself that we are created for the promise of what God will do, not the prospect of the need in Zambia, or the size of the task, or our limited abilities. I am not sure we look like missionaries or even Chuch planters, but I know we are made for what God is going to do. I have begun to understand Eph 2:15 in this way, the gospel makes us ready.

A friend of mine shared a Chris Tomlin song which sums up a lot of what God is saying.

I will be taking books however, these books have shaped my thinking the most.

The Puritan Hope: Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy
                    The Puritan Hope                                                    

The temple and the church's mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God (New Studies in Biblical Theology)


 The Temple and the Church's Mission

Total Church: A Radical Reshaping Around Gospel and Community

                      Total Church      

The mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative

                      The mission of God

 The Spirit-filled Church: Finding Your Place in God's Purpose

                     The Spirit-Filled Church

Next Sunday, Gary Welsh is speaking at our Church, we are hoping he will bring something of what God is doing in Africa, especially Zambia. I will put the link to his talk in the next post.
We have been so encouraged by the way people are doing amazing things to support us. 5 guys have cycled the Whitehaven to Sunderland cycle route, raising money for Ukuthasa see BCCC2C if you want to add to the sum they raised or find about about the impact their brilliant eforts will make.

In just over a week, we are off to Turkey and then Together on a Mission in Brighton, when we get back I will post about some values I am praying we will see established in the Church in Lusaka.

So for now, I am taking the pith helmet out of the packing case, this probably won't be the last time.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

When are you going to Cleethorpes?

Zambian Flag

I have been asked about when we are going to Zimbabwe, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Cleethorpes. People have trouble remembering to which part of Africa we are going. Actually the Cleethorpes bit isn't true. We are leaving for Zambia on the 16th September, so I thought I would give some information about this lovely country,  about how Newfrontiers became involved and what we are hoping to see happen.

Zambia is in Southern Africa. North of Zimbabwe and Botswana, South of the DRC, with Angola and Namibia to the East and Tanzania and Malawi to the West.

Thanks to Graphic maps for the image
Newfrontiers' involvement with Zambia began in several ways. In 2001 Simon Pettit visited the country with Neil Rabey. Neil comes from the Church on the Rock in Guernsey and is now at Helderberg Christian Church (HCC) in Somerset West South Africa, with Gary Welsh. I met Neil when I went to Zambia in 2008 to see Jubilee Church in Livingstone launched. Jubilee Church was the first Newfrontiers Church in Zambia.
Meanwhile Joseph Mwila was studying in Bolton and became part of Bolton Family Church. After Joseph and his wife Lillian returned to Zambia, they founded Dayspring Ministries in The Copperbelt Province where they have a group of churches with several hundred members. Dayspring is also part of the Newfrontiers Family. There is a wealth of information about Newfrontiers in Zambia on the HCC website
In Lusaka, Tony and Val Harwood, originally from Honiton UK, have a business called Shakespeare Court.

They have moved to Zambia to see a Church planted in Lusaka. They are being joined by others from the UK and are gathering people from Zambia. Martin and Amanda Rider have recently moved out to Lusaka, they are also from Honiton you can read Martin and Amanda's blog here.

The vision is to see God glorified by building a multi-cultural, inter-generational, socially diverse Church in Lusaka and to serve other Churches in the country. This is the vision that increasingly fills my mind.
At the Newfrontiers Leadership conference in 2002 Simon Pettit spoke about risk taking, he said "As the Lord Jesus opens up further and even greater new frontiers for us together, we need to become bolder and more willing to take risks." A Church that glorifies God is always worth taking risks for.

I am finding that as we prepare our house for renting we are throwing out an immense amount of things that we had kept. Much of what we are throwing out had been kept because it represented a dream: a different type of work in optometry, things we would do to the house. It would seem that to make room for a bigger dream, we have to give up on other ones. At the same conference I referred to above, Simon Pettit said,"I want to get my own ambitions out and say Lord,'what do you think of them?'"

I am increasingly convinced that Our Lord Jesus has New Frontiers for us all. The new frontier for Elizabeth and I is not Zambia primarily but the untapped promises of God in Scripture. We must hold the name Newfrontiers lightly, there are many other streams pursuing God's promises who will cross into new frontiers, but we must be those who are motivated by the untapped promises of God.

Please pray us as we prepare the house for rental, there is a lot to do! Please pray for someone to rent the house and for a successful visa application.

In the next post, I will share about the things I want to take to Zambia.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

How can you know when God is speaking?

In the biography “A beautiful Mind” Sylvia Nasar tells the story of John Forbes Nash a Nobel Prize winner for Mathematics, who is stricken with schizophrenia. Under the influence of the disease his behaviour becomes more and more bizarre until he is hospitalised. When asked why he did the things he did, he replied that the voices telling him to do the bizarre things sounded the same as the inner voice that gave him his insight that won the Nobel Prize.
It seems that our head only has one voice. For me the voice that says I would like an iPad 2 “sounds” the same as when I felt God speak to me about Zambia. I thought it might be helpful to share the process we went through to decide if God was really telling us to go to Zambia...and why I won’t be getting an iPad 2 just yet!
Look for the track record.

I have been part of a Church that believes that God speaks to people today, for the last 30 years. The basis by which we judge if God is speaking is always does it agree with what God has said in the Bible. No matter how passionately we might feel God is saying something, the Bible trumps our feelings if what we feel God is saying disagrees with the Bible. However the Bible is silent about Zambia and iPads (unless you count Exodus 32:16) From time to time, I have shared with our congregation what I feel God has been saying and on a regular basis, people have said that what I have shared has been helpful for them in their walk with God. On occasions, God has spoken to people in situations about which I knew nothing. There have been many times I have heard from God. I have found it helpful to share what I feel God is saying, asking people to weigh what I am saying. I felt God saying “Risk a year” was like the occasions when God had spoken to other people through me.
Elizabeth and I had moved 11years before this, from Downham Way Family Church to Bexleyheath Community Church and we had both felt that God was leading us to Bexleyheath, coming to the same decision independently. The lessons we learnt in that move would prove helpful in discerning the way ahead for Zambia.

Take advice from sensible people.

When I returned from Brighton, I talked over with Elizabeth what I felt God had said to me. I also discussed it with the elders of my Church: John Radcliffe and Martin Honeywood and with Dave Nunn who oversees Bexleyheath Community Church. Everyone was remarkably positive! This in no way makes them responsible for what happens to us in Zambia, but if they had had misgivings, I would have taken their thoughts very seriously. We were also very heartened by the encouragement of our children to go and see what God would do.

Understand that the Gospel is about risk taking.

John Piper writes:
Is the vision of God that we savor in worship—holy, sovereign, free, gracious—is this vision worthy of all our might?
Are we committed with all our strength to instilling and supporting and nurturing this vision in each other's hearts and in the hearts of our children?
And are we dedicated with all the power God mightily inspires within us to spread this vision of the glory of the grace of God across this city and to all the unreached peoples of the world?
If so, then let us be done with wavering. Let us put our hand to the plow and stop looking back. What risk have we ever dreamed of that would be too great for this cause? Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God! And may the Lord do what seems good to him!

Take encouragement from God

Elizabeth and I had a weekend away in May 2010 and attended the Church of Christ the King in Brighton. We were hoping that we might get some encouragement and direction about our plans for Zambia but if I am honest were a little disappointed when we discovered that Joel Virgo was going to preach about offerings for the work of the Church in Brighton, but at least we could sit with our wallets secure as we weren’t members there!
Joel spoke about the charge that giving sacrificially to God’s work was irresponsible. He told the story in Mark 14 where a woman pours a flask of very expensive ointment over Jesus’ feet. The cost of the ointment was a year’s salary; how irresponsible to waste a year’s salary! But to Jesus it was a beautiful thing.
This is the key for us and the yardstick by which we will measure our time in Zambia: was it worship?

Test it.

Elizabeth attended the Lusaka Church plant day in Honiton in November 2009 and we prayed that if God was saying no, she would hear no. If she didn’t hear no, we would travel to Lusaka in 2010 to see how it felt. She didn’t hear no so, so we visited Lusaka in October 2010. We met Tony and Val Harwood who have moved to Lusaka and who looked after us wonderfully. Read their blog Let's go Lusaka.
We returned to seek God about whether we could and should “do” a year in Zambia. I knew that we both needed to hear from God. Elizabeth comments that everyone was saying to her (including me) there’s no pressure...this was quite a pressure! She felt God speak to her through a book called the Shadow of the Cross, studies in self denial, the decision was made we are going to Zambia. We are not entirely sure what we will be doing, but we want it to be beautiful for Jesus, radical worship for the King of Kings.
In the next post I will write about Zambia and the people who are part of the big adventure.

You can only understand your destination when you understand your departure.

Today I ordered our flight tickets to Zambia. Why Zambia, why now, what will we do, how will we do it? Where did it all start?
Once upon a time is a convenient start to a story, but it is often frustrating to the reader; did nothing happen before Snow White’s parents met? Why was the wicked stepmother wicked? We aren’t told, and the Snow White story can be told without these details. Our Zambia story has a beginning in our understanding, but as we plan, I am conscious of a bigger story, that will shape ours’ and go beyond ‘The End’.
Once upon a time...In January of 2009 Newfrontiers Churches in South London and Surrey held a Churches Together weekend in Butlins at Bognor. During one of the meetings, Wendy Virgo shared a series of prophetic pictures, all of them with the sense of transition or change. The pictures included birds migrating South, fish returning to the place of their birth to spawn and a bear preparing for hibernation by filling themselves in preparation for what was to come. The picture of the bear particularly spoke to me, eating a lot and then sleeping a lot will always attract my attention.
We were aware that we were reaching a stage of life where the parenting of our 3 children: Esther, Jonny and Hannah was going to change. Esther and Jonny would start Uni in September of 2009, Hannah would start the next September. With the children away from home for most the time, parenting would change and perhaps a new stage of life was coming. This was our thinking when we went to Bognor.
As a result of hearing Wendy's picture, Elizabeth suggested that I attend the Newfrontiers Leadership training Course. I hope to post more about this in the future.

The migrating urge was upon us, but where to go and what to do? The next piece of jigsaw fell into place in July of 2009. I was attending Newfrontier's Together On A Mission conference in Brighton. Whilst walking to my seat before the start of a session, I had the clear sense of God talking to me. "Are you prepared to risk a year for me?" It wasn't an audible voice, but I felt that I had been spoken to. I am not a risk taker by nature, I grew up as a good Baptist boy where even raffles were frowned on. The idea of risk, transformed how I viewed the future, until then, I was trying to work out how to fit my life into what God might have for us, now God was saying in effect, let's start with a blank piece of paper and let me deal with the details.

Whilst at the conference, I attended an informal meeting of people considering planting a church in Lusaka. The group was led by Gary Welsh who is a longstanding friend of mine. We had been at Downham Way Family Church before Gary and his wife Nicky moved to South Africa to serve God there. At the time Gary was living in Durban, but travelling all over Southern Africa. Gary also is part of a small Charity called Ukuthasa. I have the privilege to be the chair of trustees of Ukuthasa and because we have projects in Zambia had already been to Zambia to be part of the Launch of Jubilee Church, Livingstone and to find out more about the projects we were hoping to run in Zambia.
As I met with the group, discussing the plans for the Church plant, I felt God say, "Here is where you can take risks"

I returned from the conference wondering how to explain to Elizabeth that I thought God might be calling us to a year in Zambia.

I hope to share how we tested the sense of calling in the next post.