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

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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

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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.

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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Some exuberant bush worship!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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Building

Today I spent the morning staining concrete so it looks like sandstone. The other day I plumbed in a solar hot water geyser, above a slightly rickety wooden platform. I’ve got to admit when I turned it on this morning, rather like a fountain, it leaked. In the last few weeks I have had to do so many things that I have never done before.

I remember last year having to fix some wiring that was smoking in a house I was renting. I simply ripped it all out and started again. A few weeks before in Wales I had asked an electrician how to wire in a fuse box…..???

The thing is, even with some of my inexperience, I am probably still better placed to do it than many of the tradesman around Mkushi. Plumbers normally remove the rubber seals meant to stop leaks and apparently in Zambian electrical work, earth and neutral are often the same thing.

The difference is confidence and education. If I’m not sure how to do something I simply get online and have a look how. I can understand the instructions and I’m handy enough to do the practical things I read. Guys here cannot get online and even if they do, they don’t have the background and framework within which to understand the information.

Lasford last year asked me who had taught me electrics, he was amazed when I answered I had just read something the day before. And yes! the house hasn’t burnt down…….yet……..

Even in our work here, even simple tasks can often become very complicated, simply because of this ‘background’ knowledge issue. You would not believe how complicated, convoluted and difficult communication can be.

Now many people will read this and just assume that villagers and builders in Zambia are stupid. They are not! Some of the best times in the last few weeks have been spending some time with the builders and working out with them how to do things. They are not stupid, many of them simply haven’t had the opportunity to learn.

Perhaps one of the saddest situations I have come across is perhaps that two of my builders I am having to let go, as they are alcoholics. They get paid and disappear in a drunken stupor for half a week. They could go far, but alas, their situation keeps them captive.

In some ways the problems these guys face are a microcosm of the situations that many people face in the villages. Imagine thousands of people, held captive by issues, not educated very well and not having confidence. You really then begin to get an idea of the challenges faced by Rural Africa.

Why I’m a Real Humanist

Using twitter, I came across a tweet by Stephen Fry. He tweeted regarding the British Humanists campaign to lobby towards the abolition of state funding for what are known as ‘Faith’ schools in the United Kingdom. From a Christian point of view, this predominantly identifies schools provided by the Church of England. These schools are popular with everyone, no-matter of faith, usually have excellent standards, and involve a provision for schools in poorer areas. My own children used to go to such a school, and one thing you could not say is that only Christians were selected. If I remember correctly, the admissions policy put non-church pupils and Muslim pupils ahead of some Christian pupils. However, to the BHA, none of that matters. Their line is that religion is deluded, even evil and we want none of our money going to that bunch of idiots. Never mind the fact that most of the bedrock of their ‘civilization’ including scientific inquiry is based upon the freedom that Christian principles bring. Their denunciation of anything religious, is almost religious itself in its’ faith and commitment.

Surfing the web, I came across the Charity Commissions’ decision to allow the ‘advancement of humanism/secularism’, the same status as ‘advancement of religion’ in terms of being a charitable benefit to humankind. This means that the BHA can fund raise and call it charitable work to take a small minded, small world agenda, and bankroll bashing anyone who is religious, or who has any trace of religion in public life. What I love here, is that on one hand the BHA are quite happy to be afforded the same status as a religious faith when it suits them, and not when it does not suit them. They certainly don’t believe that religion enhances public and personal life, and are quite happy to ‘charitably’ funnel funds to further this discriminatory agenda.

Humanism is a faith. It probably takes more faith to solely believe in the goodness and all conquering nature of humankind than it does in God. Our world is blighted by the personal and communal failings of humankind. We kill one another, insult one another and maim one another. We are capable of great things, but we cannot escape the fact that as a species we are not whole. We cannot conquer our own nature. If we could, peace would reign supreme in our world. It doesn’t! To blame religion for this, is intellectually naive at best. However, that is what many in the humanism/secularism camp would have us believe.

Out here in Africa, to be honest their arguments look pathetic. Here is a continent that is ravaged by disease, war, pain and suffering. It is a continent that has great potential, wonderful people and massive resource. It is easy to believe in humanism when your world is comfortable, secure and well funded. It is another thing when you are desperate, suffering and poor. God is the only hope for these people, it is the only hope that they carry. Most people in this world are poor and see life for what is really is. More people believe in God in this world, than do not, vastly more. Are the poor deluded, stupid, misguided and desperate as the humanists would have us believe, simply because they believe in God, or is it because they are not the cosseted in this world? They see God in their every day lives, helping them, giving them dignity amongst the life they endure.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Richard Dawkins is refusing to debate William Lane Craig? Humanism is morally, ethically and emotionally bankrupt as a faith. It has nothing to say on the great questions of this world. All Dawkins, Hitchens and the rest of his rabble rousing ultra atheists and secularists can do is hurl insults, innuendo and bravado at people of faith who are equally as reasoned, intellectual and articulate as they are. Even in British society this will eventually be seen as untenable.

To believe in God as I do, is to believe in hope beyond ourselves. It is to believe in justice that is ultimate and all pervading, and to believe in love that is offered to everyone whether they are rich or poor is perhaps one of the most human things I do. I recognise that I am incomplete. I am capable of great things but I battle with my inability to master my own nature that doesn’t do what I want it to do. In that I am a humanist! I realistically recognise my humanity and gratefully acknowledge the divine help on hand to live a life worthy of what I was created to be. This is the hope of everyone, even the villagers I work with here in rural Zambia.

My faith makes a positive difference to millions. Secular Humanism would be very hard pushed to claim that.