I’m sat in a classroom in Kayuhembe Basic School right in the middle of the remote town of Mwinilunga in North Western Zambia. (check out the gps reference in this post) 30 people sit around. Cornelius is speaking about Psalm 1 and the importance of having the right fruit as a Christian, the importance of making a difference. That’s after all why we are here, to help people make a difference.

In the background I can hear the many sounds of African life. The thump thump of a probably the biggest speaker in the world is pulsating through the town. Children laughing, people going about their everyday business.

I was very aware last night whilst camping here that a lot of the experiences I have are very varied, rich and really quite vibrant. I am very privileged to have them and maybe I can share some of them here. Having them whilst fun, does take a toll sometime though. Last night I found myself feeling incredibly homesick, and I wasn’t sure if that was for mkushi here in zambia or the UK.

On the way here yesterday, on the endless road that runs from Solwezi to Mwinilunga, we came across an Egyptian guy that had broken down. He had a flat tyre, but his jack was broken. Stuck in the middle of nowhere. We stopped. We helped him and he was in his way. Imagine if no-one had stopped. He would ha e been there for hours. We passed one car in 3 hours. He could have been there for days………

Last night the night watchman in the school was in a bit if a flap. No one had told him that we were camping at the school. He didn’t mention anything to us, instead he went off to get an army officer. Later the officer turned up, and was questioning me as to why we are here. It all boiled down to trust and initiative. The watchman couldn’t ring the deputy head, who did know we were coming, he also couldn’t make a decision on his own. He was fearing for his job, his livelihood. The army officer could see there was no problem, but if the watchman had been trusted or been encouraged to trust his own judgement, the situation would never have happened. Never been interrogated by the army before……..

Africa is also very loud. About 400m from our camp is a food shop. Dark, dingy and lacking in stock, nevertheless it is there. There ,is also a speaker the size if a man there. The whole town also knows about the speaker, From 7am until 10pm is is there every day. These things used to annoy me, now I have just got used to them. I like my peace and quiet. I have to shut myself in my tent, put my headphones in and play my own music to do that.

Bathing can also be fun. Africa us also very dark. At the school here, there is grass in the middle that is in full view if the town. Last night, without a bathroom we got a bath in the middle of the green, in full view. It was so dark that no one noticed.

In all of this “experience” and interest, real people are working out real lives often in very real circumstances. As I’m writing this, Cornelius has just said, “this stuff is life changing” and that’s the point. Changed lives, changed people, changed communities. That’s why we are here, that’s why I go through all of these experiences, simply to act as a catalyst to make it happen. I know that I am making a difference.



Kasama Bound

Some of you may well be wandering what it is that happens when we run a Life! Conference somewhere. Well a picture paints a thousand words, so here is a photo gallery to explain the what and how of some of what we are doing.

we're all ready to go!

“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas……” Ok we are not quite the Blues Brothers, but here are Andy and I ready to travel north to Kasama. Our trusty (but getting a bit decrepid) Isuzu is behind us, our trusty steed for this trip.

545 Kilometres, north east of Mkushi lies the large town of Kasama, it lies on the Great North Road whose ultimate destination is Tanzania. It took us 5 and a half hours drive to get there. Here we met Cornelius who told us that we needed to go a further 30 km into the bush, where the conference was to be held. 30 minutes later after bumping down a dirt road we were there.

This is Andy with Webster Chewe. Webster attended our Life! Planter’s conference which was held last July in Lusaka. At this conference we talked about the need for the church and community to come together to help people to understand Christ and to transform their community. It is usual for churches and people to be apart in many villages, this causes severe problems in areas that are already dependent and poverty stricken. Webster is not paid for his time, he volunteers it because it is not our work, most importantly, it is what God is calling him to do.

This is our home for 4 days. Our trusty tent and a whole host of gear in the back. The buildings behind are a rural school. It looks idyllic doesn’t it? There’s no mains water, no electricity and no lights! People here live in mud huts and mostly grow their food to survive.

This is Andy speaking to the 30 or so villagers that have come together. Through seminars, group work and fun we look at the themes of dependency, working in groups, the hope that Christ brings and how together with Him, the villagers can achieve great things! We believe in the potential of people, no matter how poor they are, especially if they know God. Through this work many villagers have discovered that they have a place in what God is doing and can be part of it too. From taking in orphans to fixing roofs, these lovely people are beginning to have hope.

This is a typical small group. This concept whilst common elsewhere is often unheard of in the rural areas. We help people of different denominations to come together with people in their community in such groups. Each village will have at least one group and together they can learn and make a difference. Here the people are preparing a sample group drama which they must act out together.

This is Webster’s group praying for one another. Their success depends on God and each other. It is not what one person can do with God, it is what many can do with God.

We also encourage the groups to pray and work together across villages. Here in this picture that are praying for one another village by village. They will nominate a few people to form a team that will help to coordinate the work of the village groups in the area. These teams form a spearhead in the future for further training and planting.

At the end of the conference, everyone get’s a certificate to say that they have attended. There is dancing, singing and great happiness 🙂

We hope and pray that the future is bright. Many don’t truly believe that those who are poor, dependent and rural can be used by God to do something truly magnificent. WE DO! If Kasama is like anywhere else, the 6 groups that will begin will continue to grow. As they grow, new groups will begin. People will become Christians as they are not shut outside of the Church, and as everyone come to know Christ, they will work together more and more to see their own community transformed.

We’re not trying to set up a project, we’re trying to inspire and equip a whole generation of people to move out of relational, financial and spiritual poverty.

A Year and a half ago, there wasn’t even one star on this map. The Life! Initiative did not exist, now there are stars everywhere. They represent either contacts beginning work or existing groups and work. Zambia is 4-5 times the size of the UK with poor communications, so the work is often logistically and geographically challenging. There are 7 million people in the bush, we want every one of them to know the life, potential and future they can have. You really do need to stand with us and pray with us.

The Spirit

The heat of the sun is beating down on the iron sheets above me. As they warm, they creak and groan as the metal expands under the heat of the sun. I’m sat in what I suppose is a traditional village church. This church is located about 30km outside of the northern Zambian town of Kasama.

The floor is broken cement, it was probably laid quiet a few hears ago now. People sit on simple wooden benches and the windows are just openings made in the brickwork. There are no window panes at all. A simple wooden cross painted with red gloss paint adorns the wall. To say it is rough and ready is an understatement.

We are camped in my trusty Vango Tagus 400. It sounds like a spaceship but it is actually a tent. The shade of a number of pine trees gives us shelter from the sun. We bath in a concrete bunker, with a broken iron sheet as the door. There is no electricity and no running water. The only water, is from a well at the school.

When people come from abroad, rugged buildings and lack of physical things is the first thing they notice. You then get a scramble to fix those material elements. People come to build, they come to fix up. What we miss all so easily is that there is a link between the spiritual world and the material one. You affect the former, it changes the latter.

I’ve just spoken to a bunch of villagers about the Holy Spirit. We talked about being children of God, having a common heritage. At this moment I am utterly spent. I’ve retreated back to my tent for a while. As I was speaking I was thinking to myself. The spirit really does give us everything ad Christians both to know God and change the lives of those around us. how often though do we start in the Spirit and then return to our own effort?

I heard a story from a group in Nchelenge the other day. A woman beca,e a Christian attending a life group that was using rooted in Jesus, which is a discipleship course. To this we supplement with a heavy dose of Christian social responsibility. She has taken in some orphans in her village into her own home. Why? It’s a work of the Spirit. She looked at the children one day and felt that they were all Gods children. So she took them in. Another area has prayed for their crime ridden area for a year. Many of the trouble makers lives are now different, they have become Christians. The area is no longer known for crime. The spiritual affects the physical very profoundly.

Andy has come from the UK and he’s speaking to a group of around 25 villagers. At the moment he talking about everybody having a place in a small group, in church (in the widest sense that meets in their village). It’s a powerful message because villagers are usually disempowered and don’t have hope for a better future. They definitely don’t believe that they can change their world. Yet because of the Spirit they can. The Spirit is the great equalizer. We need him to know god ANC we need him to make a lasting difference. Rich and poor alike is is the same. Humanitarianism depends on a stronger human helping benevolently a weaker human. This is not humanitarianism. Charity depends on the richer giving to the poorer. This is not charity. This is simply the Spirit welling up from within people in acts of godliness, generosity, power and change. That is how the Spirit works. I’m not a philanthropist, humanitarian of anything. I’m simply a Christian who believes in the power of God to change people.

The road that has led us here has it’s roots earlier in the year. Webster has organised the gathering here, and he back in july attended a planting conference of ours in Lusaka. Its really exciting to think that seed we planted, we are here watering. In fact our effort is only small, it is really Gods effort at work. It again is the Spirit.

This work is spreading. This week we are in kasama, next week in Mkushi, the week after we hope in Namibia. This isn’t because of anyone’s brilliance. It is because of the Spirit.

Seeing the Future

The Future

9 o clock in the evening is beginning to get on in Zambia. The sun sets at 6 pm and at this time of year the temperature drops, it actually feels cold and there is  vibrant chill in the air. Even a muzungu (white person) from England like me feels it.

Yet last tuesday, things were only just beginning.
Yet last tuesday, things were only just beginning. Around 25 people were still on buses all over Northern Zambia. The thought that I may have over-cocked the organisation ‘this time’ was more than going through my mind. You see, 25 villagers, those overseeing our work in Zambia were all coming to a conference organised by myself. The distances are vast. to give you an idea, a place called Kapiri Mposhi is considered ‘just down the road. It is in fact 75 miles away, about the width of North Wales, or from Manchester to Birmingham. No-one thinks twice about going that distance.
Earlier in the day some pastors had been stuck in Kitwe (some 4 hrs away) as they had underestimated their travel costs. At the time, I was getting a fuel filter in my car unclogged, so I was a little stuck. They were thinking that maybe only two of them could come to the conference, how would I get some money to them? Good ‘ole Western Union came to the rescue. A lesson learnt for the future I think.
I was on the ground at 7 pm, I ‘found’ some pastors in a bar at 10 pm in Mkushi. It was so cold they had overcome their usual hesitancy at entering such places. I must admit a little wry smile came over my face, I’ve been trying to tell them for years they have no need to fear such places. The others arrived around midnight after a 12 hour journey to Mkushi, the base from which we work here in Zambia.
The fact that 25 people had come was staggering enough. A few txts and phone calls were all it took to arrange the conference (and a few frantic phone calls whilst they were on various buses). These people are not just simply a part of what we do, they are what we do here in Zambia. If I’m honest I secretly hold a fear every time I come to Africa that it will have all fallen apart. It doesn’t however, God is doing something long lasting and real here!
These 25 people, represent maybe 100 leaders and probably a thousand people who are part of the groups we have begun in the villages in Zambia. Some groups are as small as 10, and I’ve heard reports of groups as large as 50 or 60. They are grappling with issues such as how to make an impact in their villages, how to overcome conflict, how to work as a community and how to work inter-denominationally. It was these issues that our leadership conference was to address. However, as usual, I didn’t take the usual route to get there…..
We held the conference at Ndubaluba Outdoor Education Centre in Mkushi, Zambia. The conference was a mixture of seminars, discussion and fun! For many years in the UK, we’ve used the outdoors to teach people teamwork, endurance, lateral thinking and the value of others. All of us remember at school going on such things. Our whole education system is based upon solving problems and finding solutions. It teach us to express ourselves. The education system (if there is a one) in rural Zambia is not like that. It is more directive, people give standard answers to questions and problems. That has defined the church, defined leadership and defined the way people approach ministry, life and well everything. It’s like the potential of rural Africa is held in an airtight container of missed opportunity and lack of vision.
“If you want things to change you begin with God working in people. “
If you want things to change you begin with God working in people. You then help those people to grasp hold of everything that God has for them. So, if the future is people, you sow as much in to them as you can. We talked about sacrificing our lives for the greater causes of God, we talked about provision and that God can provide for anyone. Then, we spent the afternoons solving problems. I will never forget the sight of Ranger, Joel and Vincent up Jacob’s ladder, some 10 metres above me working together to get to the top. Cornelius leapt 2 metres in the air when his team finally dropped a ball in a canister using no hands. Even the women, who are usually sidelined were fully involved. The impact of these times are brought home to me, because I have seen the difficulty of people beginning to move in this direction, I’ve seen the arguments, the dependency and the poverty.
This can really change the world. To have hope in, to trust those who have nothing, whom with a loving and powerful God can change their world. You could build a thousand mission centres and buildings and get nowhere near the impact of this.
Friday morning. Time for reflection, time for talking and a time for planning. What would the result of our time be? I’d laid some items before our friends, some ideas if you like. Perhaps for me the most important to me was that they for the first time ran their own training for the Life! Initiative. I asked them if they would consider forming a group of leaders in a neighbouring area, if they would mentor them, if they would train them. Going round the groups, they all had different ideas how, different ways to get to the same goal, all of them were excellent and valid. That excites me so much that it is hard convey here. In each of the three areas I would expect another cluster of groups to form in the coming months, and more importantly they are going to do this themselves. I certainly don’t want to intervene and rob them of the confidence, strength and exhilaration they will get from this.
So, friday lunch time, they went home. The truck arrived to pick them up and I watched them leave the centre singing and dancing on the back of a Canter truck. I do believe that the hopes and prayers of their areas go with them, certainly my hope and prayer does. On such people, we will see real transformation, real change and a future for rural Africa that is vibrant and real. Nothing and I really do mean nothing could and will tell me otherwise.