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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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?

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.

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!

I’m not a Trainspotter….

African TAZARA RailwayNow let me say first, I am not a trainspotter. I had a brief phase when I was 8 years old, but I managed to pull myself away from it. I do remember getting excited however at spotting a particular type of train……. enough of that before I vilify any reputation I have online. 🙂

I was flicking through some channels the other day, and came across a documentary called African Railway, filmed by Bafta Nominee Sean Langan.  What got my interest it that the subject of the documentary was the TAZARA railway, which runs from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. Those of you that know where I live in Zambia, will know that the railway runs some 3km from my house. I often saw the trains running and had to cross the track every time I went anywhere. So I had a genuine reason to be interested 🙂

The particular interest of the documentary was the ‘inefficiency’ of the railway and how it is kept running by the everyday people that work on it. Sean often tries to track down and talk to the mysterious Chinese investors in the railway, and is blocked by that mysterious almost divine power of African bureaucracy.

It was interesting viewing for me, because I no longer have the simple view of a European, I have a fair amount of African mixed in as well. Facts that seemed to be presented as shocking such as lack of maintenance, long hours worked, how things are ‘just’ kept running and the like, didn’t really shock me at all. I actually found it quite amusing that someone would expect these things to be solved and running well at all. It really highlighted to me the chasm of difference between the UK and Zambia, in particular in terms of expectation. Every time a fact was highlighted as surprising, it simply struck me as normal.

In the UK we expect so many things to work out OK. The pensions strike action is a good example of that. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, the driving force is an assumption that life should be fair and equitable. If it isn’t, well we can do something about it. That is simply not the case in Africa. Many workers are not paid on time, conditions can be terrible and life very hard. However, there is a ‘working with’ or ‘acceptance’ of those facts, that is actually admirable. You could call them enduring qualities.

Perhaps an area in the Church where you see this, is where we blame God. We expect everything in our life to be well. We don’t expect anything to go wrong. However, life is not like that is it? And yet, when things do not go well and our expectation is crossed, we blame God. I have never found an African who does this, certainly not openly…… interesting isn’t it?

Africa causes me sometimes to be irritable, but I think I have learned to have more realistic expectations in life. Maybe we all should take that lead and we would spend more time enjoying life, rather than fighting against something to simply being dissatisfied.

So no, I’m not a trainspotter, but I did learn something from the African Railway.