May 15, 2016

Now that I am here – at the Rapid 14 Overland Missions base, 2.5 days into Advanced Missionary Training – I have so much to say!

First, I want to express how thankful I am for prayers over the beginning of my journey. I missed no flight, vomitted not once, and enjoyed the gathering company of my AMT classmates. The Lord did not take away every incident of error or discomfort (such as when I made myself go through security twice, and the inevitable trial of a 15 hour flight across the Atlantic Ocean), but these served to teach me basic travel wisdom and test my resilience. I don’t even feel the effects of jet lag for most of the day, so praise God for building me into someone who can do this.

Once we made our way through Zambia’s Livingstone airport, my teachers Casey and Brandy (+2 other staff) were waiting to help us exchange currency and load our bags into the massive expedition truck. It was a 30 minute drive from the city to our base– I saw several gnarled trees as thick as huts, baboons walking with their babies, and the last bend of the Zambezi River before it drops into Victoria Falls. Further in, our road took us through the households and schoolyard of Nsongwe Village (from which a Christian chief gave Overland the stunning location here for their logistics base in 2004).

Finally, we passed through the gate of a security fence, but entered into a expansive space of humble homes, gardened pathways connecting them, and gorgeous gorge-front views shared from a fellowship hall. We were of course tired and unshowered more than ever then, but again the Overland staff was kind to welcome us with a tour (pointing especially to the recently updated bathrooms) and shepherd’s pie dinner (they made the white cornmeal called n’shima the next night, that I learned to roll into a ball and shape into a scoop for relish, but generally we’re treated with familiar cuisine while on base).

Now, regarding the people who I am honored to learn from and alongside, you won’t find it surprising that I’ve had opportunities before, during, up until the present for conversations of all kinds to get to know them. In our AMT class, we are 25 members strong– 23 Americans (mostly from West Virginia, Florida, and New Mexico), one spunky South African, and a cheerful Englishman. Everyone here on base are awesome brothers a sisters, who I intend to describe with more justice as stories are created… but for now I just want to confess my own surprise at how these people are normal and real. I saw them so often as beaming faces in a Facebook photo or elite missionaries bringing Jesus to villages, that I was expecting them to be extremely extroverted and hyper-spiritual.

In reality, they are men and women from an array of personalities (though there’s few extra bubbly and adventurous individuals) who like to laugh instead of speaking spiritual truths every moment. They are startlingly ordinary, and yet they are filled (and identified) by the Holy Spirt of God, to each (together) reflect beautiful facets of Jesus’ joy, steadfastness, creativity, boldness, and gentleness.

I’m glad my expectations were wrong.

As I write, it’s late Saturday evening (I posted this a day late). Tomorrow is our first Sunday church service together. Following that, we will pack up for our first expedition which we start on early Monday. Yes, that’s right! Even though we will have only been in training for 3 full days, my team is about to embark on hands-on, cross-cultural ministry. I’m joyful that this is the case– Casey and Brandy equipped us with critical knowledge and will be overseeing the whole proces, but more importantly, we truly are indwelled by the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the grave and bestowed with the Good News to simply share as relevant for very nation.

This expedition will take us on a 14 hour rive across remote roads (previously scouted and recently cleared of fallen trees) to reach Bombwe Village. There are 10,000 people in this area. Foreigners have entered their land with their own motives of finding precious stones, but Overland Mssions has carefully established relationships with the village leaders, and shown goodwill to their entire community by fixing their water well just a few weeks ago. Before this, they had to dig into the sand of a river bank for their only source of (marginally) clean water over these last 12 years! Casey shared with us how it was a miracle that this rotting well pipe as able to get pulled up and replace, which was only followed by more amazement as the Bombwe headman stated how this water was tainted with a sulfur taste years ago when it worked, but is suddenly refreshingly sweet!

All glory for this belongs to our God, and I trust there is more to come. I’m so honored that I can be a part through listening to the villagers’ stories, sharing my testimony, and passing on the treasure we have been given by the resurrected life and universal authority of Jesus. We will be encamped at Bombwe from that Monday until Saturday to engage in hut-to-hut interactions and night meetings of doing exactly that. I can’t predict the precise outcome, but seeds of truth will not return void among thousands of hearts, and I know that the Lord desires more than any of us that Zambians of Bombwe will be gathered: glorified and giving praise at His eternal throne. Once we leave, Overland has a team which includes native Zambians and follows up with the long-term establishing of a church network and organizing Bible studies.

So much reason for excitement! If you can believe it, I do have occasional feelings of missing home and I quickly relate these new experiences to familiar memories of Fresno… but mostly I’m embracing this new adventure and clingin tigh to how God is the one who called me here for this time. There are also are some moments where I am tempted with fear – if I doubt my ability in a task, or begin to feel out of place – but then I see I am a different man able to resist those scenes of discouragement, and I stand fast on the truth that I represent an unshaken kingdom.

I thank you again for your prayers, friends. I have already seen our God answer so faithfully, and I feel strong. Please continue praying for me as I take on new physical and cultural challenges in our first expedition. I need to keep up my health as well as my heart to be a servant of Christ to the men, women, and children of Bombwe. I will be relying on the Spirit’s guidance for presenting the Gospel– already simple and relevant to all humankind, but I still want to use the wise words and touching illustrations He tells me to. Let us pray together for the people of Bombwe to encounter the Lord, and I cannot wait to share in another week how these prayers are answered.

Grace, joy, and peace from Zambia

-Taylor Lewis

Source: Taylor Lewis Zambia