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?

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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!

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.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Whatever part of me thought that it might be a good idea to build, whilst not having a permanent house and growing our work, needs to be taken out and shot! In the last few days I’ve rapidly formed the opinion that I cannot be superman and must go with the shape of life that we have here at the moment. Namely we have to get a house built!

The psychologist Maslow defined what he called a Hierarchy if Need. At the bottom are things like food and shelter, and the top, ah! I can’t remember but less important stuff. I’m telling you, I have been up and down that hierarchy quite a few times. At one point last week I had somewhere to live for 2 days, now it’s 3 weeks!! Although the person who was meant to be moving in to our house is in fact now not coming, so you never know…

Tack onto that thought the fact that Gods plans will happen anyway and that at least gives me a way forward. What do I mean by that? God has a plan that supersedes and takes our plans and situations into account. I really don’t know how he does it, but I’ve seen it time and time again. I sometimes wonder if God does his work despite me 🙂 this should mean I can focus on my current needs and leave Him to arrange the expansion of the work. After all, God can do it an awful lot better than I can.

That doesn’t mean I do nothing, just follow the leads and do what I can, when I can. Let me give you an example. Within 24 hours of being in the country Rammy had suggested that we look in Siavonga, which is on the border with Zambia and Lake Kariba. Unbeknown to him we had been thinking about a place to investigate in Southern Province. Then, because of my slightly mad life at the moment I figured that to send Bernard, not myself was a good idea. Unknown to me was that Bernard was about to talk to me about going to Siavonga anyway. Do you think we may be being pointed there? That’s what I mean when I say that the Lord has a way of making His plans happen.

So at the moment I’m slightly up in the air, grasping for support even more than a little overwhelmed but I do believe this is all somehow in Gods will. The bible says that the Lord orders the steps of a righteous man. At the moment I really should hold onto that for dear life.

Its going to take me quite a few weeks to climb Maslow’s Hierarchy again!

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

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.

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.