Religious and Indifferent in Sardis

In this talk we look at the Letter to the Church in Sardis, Revelation 3:1-6. There doesn’t seem to be much good said about the church in this once thriving city. We examine what it means to be truly alive and truly a follower of Jesus. Even thought this message is hard, it contains some fantastic encouragement. We can walk with God into eternity proud of what we have achieved here. For those of us who struggling, maybe even dying spiritually, we can be turned around so that we can live. No-one is ever beyond hope.

Click below to listen to the talk audio

Download the Powerpoint Notes for the talk below

light-in-a-dark-world-the-letter-to-the-church-in-sardis

This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 4th September 2016.

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt, 2016

© Image Copyright “Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik, Iceland.” Jon Paul Witt 2016.

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Enduring in Smyrna

This is a guest appearence by my wife Judith Witt.

In this talk we look at the Letter to the persecuted chruch in Smyrna, Revelation 2:8-11. Endurance and overcoming fear are key messages to the church in Smyrna, that was not only poor but also persecuted. We can learn important lessons from their example today.

This podcast was recorded at South Church, Mkushi, Zambia 14th August 2016

© Copyright, Jon Paul Witt and Judith Karen Witt, 2016

To Pioneer

The Matusadona Hills crown the view of Lake Kariba in the hazy distance. As I look out from one of the southernmost points of Zambia, I wonder how many seemingly unconnected events have collided to bring me to this place.

People sometimes ask me what pioneering is about. How do you begin something?

Now there isn’t a simple answer to that question, but for Christian ministry, some of it is simply following the Spirit, a hunch, intuition or whatever you want to call it. Following that hunch then takes a commitment to try it, to follow it and to be open to whatever it may bring.

So, I’m some 600km from my home. Bernard, one of our Impact Team leaders has come with me and we are simply here to meet some villagers. We are based at a camp in Butete Bay, which until recently was a simple fishermen’s camp. Now the area is slowly being developed through the involvement of my friend Rammy Singh amongst other people. 2 or 3 shore side chalets have sprung up, cooled by a pleasant but constant breeze off the lake.

Most of the workers from the camp come from 2 or 3 of the eight prominent settlements around this area. The settlements are very poor. Southern province and the Siavonga area are hardly well developed areas of Africa. As Bernard speaks Tonga, we spoke with some of the workers last night. We explained to them about trying to start a group in the community to teach about Christ and find ways of helping one another. These are the groups we call Life! Groups. They agreed and thought it was a good idea. This afternoon we now have a meeting with a lot more villagers some 10km from here where we will talk to them some more.

Funnily enough, an annual conference of one of the bush churches based in Zimbabwe happens to be in the same village this afternoon. As fortune would have it, Alfred the security guard is good friends with the bishop of the group of churches. We are going to greet them and explain to them later today. Is it fortune? Luck? Or the plan of a good, interested and involved God to move His work forward? You tell me!

Coming from Europe, people I know are more conversant with strategic plans, collections of goals and the like. We have them, but the implementation is more people based and well I guess, “fuzzy!”. Learning to live with following the Spirit, hunches and “fuzziness” is part of the missionaries and pioneers toolkit. Without it we would simply be very conservative and ineffective businessmen. You cannot pioneer with a business plan alone.

The reason is that true lasting change is actually achieved in the hearts of people. That way people personify what you are trying to achieve and are the “plan” rather than simply obeying the plan.

An awareness to be open, to listen, mental agility to connect the dots that you can see and some faith to connect those that you cannot. A commitment to follow through when you are not sure of where you are going and some bravado to convince others, inspiring faith that it is all OK. These are some of the ingredients of a pioneer. This is some of what it takes to begin with nothing and make something happen.

Maybe pioneers are some of the biggest blaggers in history but maybe just maybe sometimes they are right.

Bound

The young man was tied up, bound and left in a room on his own. The parents didn’t know what else to do. His madness was all pervading. He couldn’t talk, he refused to eat and appeared confused all of the time. For three years this had been the situation. Left in the dark dusty room of a typical high density residence, his condition worsened and worsened.

It’s 4’o clock in the morning. The residential areas of the remote town of Mwinilunga are quiet. Rhoda calls Loves to come and pray for her brother. No-one can cope anymore. He still lies bound.

Loves and the family pray for the young man. They take him to the hospital. His condition is improving.

A few hours after being prayed for the young man is able to talk, he can ask for food and wants to eat. He can recognise his family and relatives whom he has not seen or talked to for 3 years.

Loves bathes him and continues to pray for him for two days. By this time he is fully recovered.

He is not bound anymore. Jesus has set him free.

(from a report collected by Bernard of Dignity’s Central Impact Team, from Loves Kwangu in Mwinilunga)

Never will a child…..

If you want to know what our work means here in Zambia and how I relates to villages, people, hunger, donor aid and the like read the powerful words below that were spoken by Cornelius Chalwe last week at our leaders gathering.

They are very zambian and unedited, I wanted you get the immediacy of them

“We need to pray very hard…because they have brainwashed people in our villages
All people want to see is some handouts in our villages
That time has now gone. Zambia is paradise. Zambia is heaven on earth
No one can sleep hungry, no one
Unless that village is under attack
Unless in that village, people are not thinking, they are not focused
Some Churches have brainwashed people by giving them clothes, what, what, what, wherever they go
Every time they see Jon, they think he has come with a bale of clothes, a bunch of
money, it’s not that
That time has now gone
We have to work very hard
Zambia is fertile, Zambia has very good rainfall, we have rivers everywhere, streams
We can do wonders for the poor in our villages
We can grow a lot of things, vegetables, bananas
and help our vulnerable people we have in our villages
never in Zambia I saw a child sleeping hungry during our time myself, no
except during these days because we have been brainwashed
even our government depends on handouts, donor run government
that has just brought us something else
so we need to change the attitude in our villages
when they see us working together
something will speak out
As Jon was saying we need to die [to ourselves] but this will be a seed
that will remain in Zambia
unity, be focused and commitment
that will help us a lot, Praise the Lord.”

Aid doesn’t work, never has, never will, think about that next time you support a project. The only way is unity if purpose, unity of people, hard work and commitment. We achieve this through people knowing God and loving their neighbour as themselves.

Then, never will a child sleep hungry again.

Simple isn’t it?

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Location:T2,,Zambia

Adaption

All of us have constraints, assumptions and norms that mould our life every day. You may work 30 minutes from where you live, so everyday you will spend an hour travelling to and from work. You may have children and most of your day is taken up with them. Most of us find that our very situation dictates the way we live. It’s called adaptability, and as human beings we are actually not to bad at it.

Jude and I find ourselves just like everyone else having to adapt. I view what God has given us to do at the moment as an assignment. It is a task we have been given at this moment in time. I’ve found it a helpful way of thinking about our life. I guess this is because it is much the same way that anyone else may view their job in the UK for example.

The difference here is that to be in position to be able to fulfil our assignment, our mission if you like, is that we are having to adapt on many levels. We are having to carve out a new life at the same time as trying to complete our mission. This is actually what makes it very difficult indeed.

Many people who work abroad step into a ready made slot. Someone else has pioneered their role. Maybe they join an institution. They will be given somewhere to live, a ready made community to live and work with and the solution to a thousand problems that present themselves. This is not the situation that Jude and I find ourselves in. We are having to create things from scratch, maybe that is what we do.

I guess I’m writing this because at the moment this is pressing down on us. It at times can feel weighty, overwhelming and ill defined. We have made and are making friends, we have found our feet, but every time something doesn’t happen the way you expected, the cost of being away comes back to you. I wish sometimes we were part of a big organisation, or institution. I imagine some things would be easier, but at the same time I also think the opportunity to fulfil our mission would be severely limited.

Mental and spiritual discipline is important, and sometimes I have to admit I feel that mine is lacking. To keep your eyes focused on the goal, to keep on running the race, to not drop out discouraged and exhausted takes great reserve and well, it hurts, but there will be a time where you finish, after you have kept going and that is truly exhilarating.

Those life constraints that hem you in. Circumstances that you maybe cannot do much about. Yes God has placed you in those circumstances, but in them do not be dictated to by them, do not be squeezed to the pattern of this world. See something beyond them, something good to do for God and His Kingdom, and then move heaven and earth to do it.

Maybe you will find yourself in uncharted waters, unsure of the way, feeling literally out of your depth, floundering around in an ocean of overwhelming complexity. To be a pioneer is to follow God, into a maze of what to you is unknown, but to him is completely known. That is where Jude and I find ourselves, so many questions, so much we do not understand, but deep in me I know that God has the map, the compass and he knows where we are going, no matter how much it hurts and strains for us to get there. To be adaptable is gods gift to humanity, it allows us to embrace the yet to be, it enables is to embrace the future. In whatever way this applies to you, do it, he really does know the way.

Two Bulls

There is a Bemba proverb here in Zambia. It goes like this,

“Who loses if two bulls are fighting?” The answer is very simple, “The Grass”. I heard this from an American guy I saw the other day and although very simple it is very very profound.

One of the things I have talked about again and again here is a very simple concept, but one that I believe is very very important. The poor, do not have the luxury of the rich to be divided. Think about it. We get by in our own individualistic ways simply because we have the finance and the freedom to do so. Those who are poor, do not I believe have that luxury. Churches do not have the resources and teaching to not come together, but they still remain separate. People struggle on their own, but they would be better working together. A simple point, but again important. To go back to our proverb, “If 2 churches/people/anything are fighting it is only the community that suffers”.

I really do believe that God can work in the hearts of villagers to do amazing things. Just the other day at our conference in Lusaka, I heard Nick talking to Cornelius where he was giving him the story of the work in Nchelenge. The bottom line is that bringing people together in the power of the gospel has not only lead to faith growing it has also led to the growth of cooperation and there are concrete examples of this in home grown initiatives that have sprung up. They are not financed from the outside, and they rely heavily on the involvement on those there. Is not this the way things can and should go?

I realised today that I haven’t updated my blog for the whole of July. I actually did once, but my iPad lost the post….. unbelievable – see it even happens to ex-software engineers. So this is actually my second post of July! However it has been a very busy month. A couple of weeks ago I had a small team here from the UK. They spent some days with us in Mkushi to understand the work and then went from here to Lusaka, to hold a conference.

This conference was the first we had ever run for people from may disparate areas of Zambia. 24 delegates came together to here about the Life! Initiative and the work that we have been doing in the bush. The hope is that some of these villagers/pastors may be in spired to do the same in their own area. They came from Namibia, Zimbabwe, North Eastern Zambia and the North West, quite humbling really considering there was frantic relationship building going on to get people there in the first place.

Apparently, after the first talk (which I did) one of the delegates commented he had just been hit with a sledgehammer…….. all we had talked about was the divided nature of the church and community and what was required to fix it. Division, 2 bulls and all that…. it really cannot be the future. Hey! maybe we took it easier after that but over the 4 days we worked together to envisage a way in which the church can grow and be revitalised in the bush, so that life can come to all. All in all it was a very good time and I hope before the end of the year we will see some fruits come from this. Time intensive and very relational, but’s that the way you need to work here.

I must tell you about 3 guys from Namibia I met. Well in fact they are Zambians, one 27 yrs old, the two others are 25. They work in Katima Mulilo which is in the Caprivi Strip in Northern Namibia. With no support and no help they have just gone, rented a house and are reaching out to those in the bush. Fantastic stuff! I’ve got great hopes of working together with them. The biggest thing I was impressed by, they were just willing to go and serve. That’s the Spirit we are trying to cultivate in the bush. Pray for them, their names are Sly, Keagan and Bernard.

It has been an intensive time and to be honest I am absolutely done in. With that in mind we are going to namibia for a couple of weeks to unwind (and see our new Namibian friends). The most encouraging thing to me is that I know the work is growing and has a life of its’ own without me, even today there is a conference happening 10 hrs north of here to train new villages in using the Life! Initiative. Augustine texted me and told me that the turnout was “good” – that’s really encouraging, in fact it is amazing. Please keep praying that this work of God continues.

One of my colleagues Nick, when he was out here, met a guy called Francis in a village called Lilanda. I’ve never met Francis, he is a friend of Peter Muyombe one of the people involved in the work in this area. He said to Nick, “This…(as in the work).. has helped us to know Jesus – thank you” (or words to that effect). How very humbling is that?

The future is when there are hundreds of people like Francis, people I will never meet who take the name, the cause of Jesus Christ for themselves and become light and change in their community.

Then the bulls will stop fighting and the grass won’t suffer anymore.