The Spirit Gives Life

The Spirit Gives Life is a session built upon our new discipleship material, “Foundations for Life”. I’m currently writing a few chapters for my organisation Dignity. We have multiple authors from multiple backgrounds all callaborating to make a fantastic resource. As you can tell from the recording it’s really informal and the session would normally be done as a small group study in a village.

I’ve intentionally left the banter and interpretation in so you can get a feel for what speaking in Africa is like. This session is being translated into Bemba as I speak.

Also note, the importance of ‘story’ in speaking within Africa. The story of Faith and her sail in the Okavango Delta is designed to be memorable and a modern day parable of how the Spirit works in our lives.

Have a listen and visit another world!

Recorded at Dignity EQUIP Camp September 2016, Mkushi, Zambia.

© Jon Paul Witt and Dignity 2016.

© Image Copyright. Spyderonlines.com

Advertisements

The 10×10 Challenge

A few weeks ago Ethan and myself travelled down to Bernard’s village to make a video for Dignity. Ethan did the filming, I did some scripting and then Bernard and myself took an inordinate amount of time getting it right!

We need to fund a huge expansion in the village work of Digntiy in Zambia. To do this, we need your help!

Please, please watch the video below and share it. We need 100 people to do the 10×10 challenge. Maybe you and your friends could be some of the 100?

Dignity in Pictures

Next week there’s a photography exhibition in Mkushi, Zambia hosted by Dignity. As part of this I’m also exhibiting some photographs that I have taken over the years. There not necessarily my best photographs but they are ones that I think convey something of my work. 

Those that are down and out, desperate, just poor or have fallen on hard times. They are the ones in this world that are valuable and precious. It may raise money to show people suffering, but there is no Dignity in that. These are normal everyday people living normal but amazing everyday lives.  These are the people that God uses to bring love, meaning and comfort to many communities and people across the world. They are His hands and feet, and so very important.

My hope is that you will learn to see “the poor in Africa”, “asylum seekers”, “refugees” with the God given Dignity that they deserve. Only then will we treat people correctly and be open to the fact they they are more capable, more gifted and more precious than this world deserves. 

With Jesus they can do anything. My aim is to help people like this in every community realise who they were created to be and what they were created to do. The potential is amazing!

“But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

A lone rural zambian pastor studying his bible with one of the resources we use to help people to know God and their responsibility to each other.

Picture of Man Studying

Some of the people I have connected with over the years who work with me and Dignity in many communities in Zambia and beyond. Competition, fun and laughter are all essential ingredients in helping these guys become everything they should.

IMG_7458

This is Augustine, one of our Impact Team members. He exudes dignity.

IMG_6801

Having fun around the fire. Sharing stories of how God is using each other in many communities.

IMG_6784

These are two village volunteers cooking for a training session being held in their village. They don’t get paid for this and they give their time freely. They give as part of the wider work in their community.

IMG_5718

This is Gervas explaining how to meet together in a Life! Group and how to work in a community. This is done most months of the year in multiple locations across Southern Africa.

IMG_5700

An unknown guitarist. And yes, it did sound great! I love the ingenuity!

IMG_3078

These are market traders in Livingstone Victoria falls curio market. These are the guys that harass you to buy their wares. What interested me was the camaraderie and friendship. Africans are fun and you can clearly see that in this picture.

IMG_0965.JPG

This is Hunter, someone we worked with many years ago. You won’t find a more honest, compassionate and lovely man anywhere in the world.

IMG_0716.CR2

These are some people worshipping at a training course we run to teach people how to meet the needs of their community. They learn how to help people to know Jesus and to practically serve those in need in the community.

Group Worshipping

Some exuberant bush worship!

Freda Singing

This is the only non-African picture in my selection for the exhibition. It’s taken in Assam, India, I think in 2008. These are a group of Christian evangelists who worked in a very dangerous situation. Hindu extremists had beaten them, chased them and even killed some of their friends. Yet you would never guess this. You can see a joy and a quiet determination in them.

DSC04774.JPG

Normal life in Angola. The flats are run down, it really did smell and yet people are just hanging about, chatting, doing the types of things that any of us would.

DSC04377.JPG

This is my son Joshua being carried around a village by this lovely woman. There are some of us that believe different races are completely different, even better than one another. I don’t believe that we are that different at all.

DSC03609

This is a lady called Mabel sitting opposite Jude outside our tent, which is our home in villages. I liked the way that their poses almost reflect one another like a mirror. Maybe we are not so different as we believe.

DSC03469

Just a great shot of “poor” kids smiling and having fun.

DSC01925

A scene that could be repeated around the world. A classroom with children learning. Do we think that those who are poor, somehow do not share experiences with us?

DSC01911

I like the adult pose that this boy is taking. The reality is that many of those we would class as uneducated or poor, have faced situations that would cause many of us to disintegrate.

DSC00468

A lovely view of an Angolan girl in a dark doorway.

DSC00251

These Angolan women in Luena are praying that God would move outside the walls of their church and would reach the areas beyond. It’s through people like these, everyday people that God works and moves in power. God thinks small! Millions of people all playing their little part.

DSC00227

A Rural Future?

Glenelg is one of the most remote settlements in mainland UK. Around 150 people live there and it’s connected to the outside world by a 9 mile single track road. It’s a very seasonal place for some. During the summer tourists use the ferry to the Isle of Skye.

I have a small bit of history with Glenelg. 17 years ago on my honeymoon, I ended up speaking at a local Christian Fellowship there. Initially the 20 or so people present thought I was the replacement Pastor from Inverness. That certainly caught me on the hop! Two weeks ago I visited the Church again on a damp and very windy Sunday evening. After a game of pool at the local pub, Jude, I and the kids went back to see what it was like.

I recognised one of the guys as soon as I walked in, a lovely guy with a very broad Scottish accent. I could even tell him what his job used to be, and still was actually! When I was last in the church he had just become a Christian, now he was the leader. How times change. It was great, but a comment he made stuck with me very forcefully.

“Not just Africa, we need mission work here”

The fact is he is correct. I’ve been thinking the same for a year or so myself. In his county and the Isle of Skye there is a population of about 100000 people. Perhaps around a few hundred people go to church, which is 1% or lower of the population. That is incredibly low, and definitely a situation that demands a response of reaching out.

When I am in the UK, I have more recently made Snowdonia my home and I stay in my cottage in the hamlet of Cwm Penmachno. Over 100 years ago, it was a hotbed of the welsh revivals, more preachers came from Cwm Penmachno per head of population than anywhere else in Wales. An interesting point is that in welsh a vicar is called a preacher, pregethyr, a hark back to the revivalist days. Here, the situation is similar. At best in Snowdonia there are small handfuls of people who attend Church, there is one such group up the valley from where we are. However, I can drive 25 miles North West and 17 miles East and not really pass a church of any note at all, save for the one Anglican Church in Betws-y-Coed. Again, the population of the National Park is around 90000 people. Again, I would estimate around 1% or lower attend church actively.

It isn’t simply just about people knowing Jesus as well. There are profound issues in rural society, that the church would normally contribute to, and yet it doesn’t simply because there are no people. No people equal no money. No money and well it’s difficult to do anything. This of course doesn’t just affect rural areas, it can also be said of cities. My observation is that there are many churches trying to change this in the cities and towns, there are hardly any in the rural areas. The situation away from the odd mega church or tourist area is immeasurably worse.

There’s an entire generation of people that are either disenfranchised from the Church or is completely ignorant to what it is.

Historically we hold onto the fact that the church has been strong, and yet our current situation demands a different response. We can’t do “church” and Christianity the way we have done over many years, the landscape has changed completely. This landscape demands mission. I think you could justifiably state that some rural areas are “practically” unreached at this point toward the start of the 21st century.

This to me all sounds very familiar. For years I have worked in Southern Africa, within remote rural areas of Zambia and surrounding countries. Logistically the situation is actually more difficult, but there are many parallels and I think strategies and lessons that we can use from one ‘live’ mission situation to another.

Within Zambia I rightly or wrongly decided that the existing church structures often presented more of a hindrance to the gospel. That sounds incredibly rebellious and maybe even a little arrogant, I’m aware of that. They were either too settled and focused inwards or were power games where different church structures vied for dominance within an area. We sidestepped all of that and in a very simple fashion planted Life! groups of people to teach Christ in their community and provide a forum, a way of reaching their community. Everyday Christians from all church backgrounds met together and those that were disenfranchised came. Together they reached people and were extremely relevant in their community. At the last count there were around 200 groups, around 3500 people meeting and touching thousands more.

In some ways we have forged a new way, a new representation of Christianity for everyday people.

Whether it is more authentic and proper, I’ll leave for you to decide. However, I know it works and I could never go back to using the old ways. The future is not dominated by singular church leaders or even denominational churches. We need to learn to see the church in a village in its’ entirety and work on that basis. Sooner or later we won’t have a choice, we will die out if we don’t change. That sounds tough, but we are one generation away from that reality.

I have a very strong belief that through everyday Christians, people like you and me, God will reach our villages and that 1% could become 10% and maybe even more. Once we take that view it has to shape our modes of operation and activities to embrace that truth. This belief is also pretty universal for most rural areas wherever in the world I have been, whether they are completely unreached or simply “partially unreached”. The key is everyone aligning themselves with the plans that God has for the village and enacting them. For me it comes down to this.

We need a fresh vibrant Christianity right at the heart of the village for everyone. For the sake of places like Glenelg, are we willing to embrace it?

About Issachar

Chronicles 12 in the Bible introduces us to the Men of Issachar, people who could interpret the signs of the times around them and then crucially, also knew what they should do. They were wise men and practical men, which is a powerful combination.

Most of us in the church feel the opportunities and troubles of being a Christian in today’s world. Our public opportunities have become problematic. It is far harder today in Europe to say that Jesus is way to God. People think it far less relevant and even abhorrent. Secularism seems to be taking a hold and we play a poker game with intolerance masquerading as political correctness. We become silent and meek in the face of a difficult public response. Within Africa, the game is different but no less problematic. The church seems distracted by power and tied up in the affairs of state and despite its’ many strengths, seems to collectively lack the will to give away what it has for the sake of others. And yet, the Church is the people that comprise it, not the structure by which it manages people or hierarchy’s of leaders directing people. The people serving God are the very quality the very backbone the Church that Gid requires. A people serving Him.

There’s spirituality in abundance in just about any society, however it seems to be a god-less self serving spirituality. Ultimately it’s centred on our fulfilment. It’s not about us finding peace, or becoming more able, it’s supposed to be about finding rescue and salvation in God. We don’t seem happier for all of the self serving spirituality do we? As a society we generally seem worse off. We are busier, more hassled and we are never satisfied with anything. You could say we were lost…..

Worldwide, globalisation has led to a situation where similar experiences are traded between nations. For example, China’s huge economic growth and standards of living rises also fosters a consumer led self centred generation. Africa is the same. Ultimately it’s about our progression, a a bettering of ourselves, for our own aim. In each of these places, the gap between rich and poor has never been wider, the suffering of many is profound. Something is wrong. For some of us to be winners in this world, there must be resultant losers.

We’ve lost God, His Love and importantly his heart for people other than ourselves. Sin at its’ heart is also spelt ‘selfish’.

Trace the Men of Issachar elsewhere in Chronicles and Numbers and we discover that this tribe were also fighting men, people of capability and expertise. They had taken time to hone their skills and strengthen themselves for the battles that lay ahead. Not only were they able to interpret and understand the times about them, they were able to do something about it. We need to see what is happening around us and just like the Men of Issachar, find ways of doing something about it. That’s what it means to be involved in God’s mission.

Through the actions of everyday people, my aim and the aim of Dignity, the movement I lead is to bring people to Jesus and in doing so, make this world a more loving and generous place to be. In particular we need to commit ourselves to going to those difficult and out of the way places that are easily forgotten. We must make sure that we as a people lift up the lowly and vulnerable. If possible carrying them above ourselves.

We must commit ourselves to pioneering more, teaching more, educating and re-skilling people more, praying more, so that all of this can become a reality. For me, that doesn’t mean going to cities and busy areas where everyone else is, we need to deliberately choose to go to places that are not popular. We must be found on the single track roads not the busy motorways.

Just like the Men of Issachar, see the world around you, interpret it and do something about it. If you want to, get in touch! Seriously we need everyone we can find!

Don’t be a fool

No FoolsIt can be quite jarring how life’s priorities can be turned upside down in an instant. There I was just thinking I was coming out of a malaise of activity with no time to think. I felt that I was beginning to be able to breathe again. New plans were forming in my mind, new directions were taking shape and BANG! they all didn’t seem to matter.

My wife, Jude, fell down a 6ft car pit and seriously injured herself. Both of us, a long long way from the specialist care she required. Thank God she is OK and definitely on the mend. However there were a few, seemingly long moments where I thought she may not make it. She shared the same thoughts. They are humbling moments.

Our kids left at our place in Zambia not really knowing what had happened. I’m left in a maelstrom of thoughts, emotions and activity, desperately trying to get those first few hours sorted out. Every love and passion you hold falls into insignificance. It’s true place in your life cruelly exposed for the unimportant sham and it really is.

Mortality has a way of grabbing our attention like nothing else.

Many people have re-assured me that God was there. To be honest, I feel that some of those people are simply re-assuring themselves. An agreement from me, re-enforces what they hope to be true. Such a jarring, shocking event doesn’t simply shock those directly involved, it shocks all around. Maybe that is why I have written this.

Let me tell you something. I know God was there. I’ve been there before. I’ve been in deep trouble that I am powerless to defend myself against, usually in the continent of Africa. You learn to see the signs of His presence. He mobilises people, help, intervenes in the situation. In the middle of the night, people came to give blood, the insurance company didn’t play up, thousands (literally) of people prayed and Jude lived. I know that the story could have been very different.

We don’t fully understand why bad things happen in this world. Maybe we never will. We are however given a choice. Do we have no hope that we are on our own, abandoned in this wide universe? Do we believe there is someone who gives everything sense, direction and security? It’s very easy when life is well to say we don’t believe in God, to say that religion it’s a crutch. It is another thing entirely when the chips are down, maybe you will die…. it’s quite another thing to not believe in God then. You need a crutch then, you will do anything for one. We see and understand just how weak we really are.

Both Jude and I are indebted to the thousands of people who prayed for us, and especially prayed for Jude. We are indebted to the many people that have helped us with practical details in the last two weeks. Sometimes we feel out on a limb when we are in Africa, maybe the last two weeks have taught me just how much the family of God means to us. There are people out there, who if we are in trouble will go to the end of the earth to find us (you may have to one day!). I also never lose my sense of wonder at how God mobilises events and people when it really needs to happen.

Jude is still healing up and will be for a while. It still hurts her to even breathe. Both of our emotions are occasionally a little raw, but we know God is around us, helping us and we will definitely live to fight another day. We are not that easily put off. 🙂

In such times, there are precious viewpoints to be reflected upon. Such events do not come along often, we thank God for that. However, when they do, they give you a viewpoint of your life, your love and your relationships like nothing else. They help you appreciate your place in the order of all things, and the place of the God you say you have a relationship with.

The Bible says such troubles are light and for this moment. How can the Bible say that? In the light of all things, from the beginning till the end of time, they probably are. Yet they are up close and personal and the pain can be searing. Yet that same pain teaches, gives wisdom and helps us to live better. The viewpoints suffered achieve wisdom and correct perspective in life. Evil is somehow turned for our own and this world’s good.

It is the fool that becomes bitter at God at such a time for they ignore the source of life and healing. I don’t intend to be a fool and whatever your pain, maybe you shouldn’t too….

Socks

Socks are what I think of when my mind turns to Martin. He was a typical Zimbabwean guy. Khaki shirt, shorts and ankle socks that came up to just below his knees. Very much looking like the colonial white. All that was missing was the Pith helmet. I haven’t seen Martin for years.

Socks is also the nickname of a guy I have met here in Zambia. Again he is Zimbabwean. His nickname is synonymous with the most noticeable part of his attire. His knee length khaki ankle socks.

So it was with some curiosity that I observed the elderly Zimbabwean guy in the shopping mall at Manda Hill in Lusaka. Khaki shorts, slightly scruffy, khaki shorts, open toed sandals and again the trademark knee length socks. He looked kind of out of place.

Surrounding him were the trendily dressed youth and workers of Zambia’s up and coming middle class. More GAP, Gucchi, Armani and Nike than ankle socks. The new and gleaming shops of the capital screamed modernity and development at him. The scene could have been repeated at any number of the new malls like Levy, Woodlands and Arcades.

Looking at him, it became apparent to me just how much parts of Africa have changed in recent times. The elderly guy looked like an old colonial relic, a symbol of an Africa in times gone by. Like the rails at the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe that used to transport gentlemen and ladies to the falls on native pushed carts. They look a little rusted and out of date.

This new Africa certainly attracts attention, earns plaudits and does give a sense of hope for the future. However it too is caught in its own time warp. Just like socks and khaki that are more outdated these days, Africa is giving itself to a new materialism. For all of the bleating of the pan africanists that Africa knows best for Africa, the overwhelming evidence in the richer classes is a for a belief that it does not. They eagerly devour anything of western brand value, from Samsung, Barclays Premiership Football, Apple and Blackberry. Those brands are definitely not Africa. Obviously the corporations and conglomerates of this world together with Chinese investment know best?

“The result is the same, an Africa for the few, the rest have to eat the scraps from the table.”

In times gone by rich tribes exploited poorer ones, powerful tribes conquered those who were weaker. Colonial whites managed to get in on the act too, with rich and greedy chiefs complicit in giving their land away. Today it is those that are materially rich. The poor are still poor, sometimes more so. For some people to have much, others must have little.

Africa has not changed, just like the world hasn’t. The ‘haves’ are simply different, the ‘have nots’ are always at the bottom of the pile.