Good News in Bombwe

May 27, 2016

It was 4am on Monday morning, when I climbed into the back of our truck with over twenty other missionaries. We had a roof, but no walls or glass windows, so the winter air became a buffeting wind as our vehicle set into motion. Some huddled into their sleeping bags and took naps. I kept the core of my body warm enough under my fleece and jacket, and for the time we spent on paved roads, by leaning forward for cover behind the front seats.

Our only stops were for picking up translators/co-laborers in Livingstone, and then a few bathroom stops as needed. It was estimated to be a 14 hour drive. By the time the sun was rising, we already left the smooth highway and were on a dirt road headed deep into the Zambian bush.

I watched the brick walls and tin roofs of the villages we passed by gradually give way to mud and straw huts. I was in awe of the diversity of the landscape– acacia with leaves lifting up like clouds, verdant shrubs breaking up the pale gold and lime green gradient of tall grass, and occasional three-story tree trunks branching into a hundred cactus heads. The homes may be humble, but they blend into the natural scenery… and the same can be said for their wide fields of planted maize, sunflower, and cotton.
The grassland became a crowded forest, as we continued across several recently dried seasonal streams. A few times the foliage was too strong and thick, so my leader Casey or our translator Pastor Jerry would reach with a machete or axe to clear the trail overhead for our truck. Far more frequently, we simply pressed on through that canopy of vegetation, ducking in our seats to dodge the barrage of branches, and enduring (or in my case enjoying) the exhibition of insects this left on our laps. It did become wearying and uncomfortable over time.

But we made it. Casey said he saw hundreds of trees already cut by the locals to prepare our way, which shortened our journey to 12 hours. As soon as we parked, we were surrounded with a crowd of curious children. I shouted “Leza mubotu!”, which means “God is good!” in the Tonga language. They were surprised, and with a translator’s help responded “chindi chansey!” (all the time).

Though we still had to set up camp, prepare dinner, and sleep… in that moment we finally saw the first of these precious souls in Bombwe we traveled so far to love and serve. It was beautiful. For the Tuesday to Friday following, we were about to see Jesus advance His kingdom to so many others, changing this village’s story in power– for present victory and into eternal glory.

As I shared in the last post, we jumped into this ministry after only a few days of debriefing. We were entrusted with the power of the simple Gospel, and our plan was likewise simple.

Our team split into small groups, each with a staff member and translator. We walked the distance from one hut to another, and every home pulled out stools for us to sit and talk… giving us time to know their story, their faith, and how to bless them. 

I quickly realized that in Bombwe, most (but not all!) people knew of Jesus. There are Catholic, Pentacostal, Baptist, Church of Christ, and New Apostolic congregations meeting in long huts in this area. However, this degree of knowledge and prevalence of churches counted for very little– only the smallest minority could explain who Jesus actually is, with the vast majority knowing the Christ only in name and living unsure of their eternal salvation.

So we shared the Gospel with all to emphasize grace and encourage deeper faith. Despite humanity’s downfall and Satan’s deception, God loved us at our darkest… providing Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin, but also His victory over death to make us new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) and disarm the works of Satan (Hebrews 2:14). We shared some of our own testimonies for how the Lord changed our life stories, but mainly assured those in Bombwe that this same redemption and power belongs to them.

In this, I saw every one of my hopes/prayer requests answered beyond expectation. Zambians were eager to hear Good News and learn more of God’s word. Me and my team were specially guided by the Holy Spirit– for the households we ministered to, the way we flowed together in speaking, and the cultural symbols we portrayed truth with. Sometimes we had opportunity just to join them in harvesting cotton or peanuts, which reinforced connection and reflected God’s care for every detail of their life. 

They prayed for Jesus’ saving Lordship with us, received miraculous healing in His name before our eyes, and willingly gave up witch charms to be burnt even at great expense. In our final parting, the senior headman of the village expressed two things: 1) deep gratitude for the spiritual treasure shared in Bombwe, and 2) sincere readiness to take the baton of practicing and sharing the Gospel.

In total – counting a day of children’s ministry at school, the hut-to-hut visits of all our teams, three night meetings around a fire, and an impromptu preaching session immediately after our soccer game ended with a shootout – we directly ministered to 1071 people, saw 626 salvations, prayed for 181 healings, and encountered 12 deliverances from demonic influence.

As for me, I’m definitely growing– in relationship building with others, confidence in my redeemed identity, and personal vision for the immense scale of our God’s work in our world. I’m cherishing all this time I get to share with missions-minded people, but also working to balance this with time alone and recharging in the Word.

Our classes this week focused upon the fullness of this great salvation we carry, and considered the character God must build in us to serve long-term in ministry. Next week there are a number of different guest ministers flying in just to bless us from their experience. Also, King Mwantiyanvwa of Congo is staying at our base right now for this weekend! He leads the Lundo tribe which encompasses people groups in Congo, to Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. It’s his first visit to Livingstone– a historical event that has chiefs assembled and Zambia’s President perplexed, yet is no surprise to our King of Kings who stirred their hearts to worship and is so ready to bring revival to their nation.

When I return to Fresno, it will be my honor and joy to share specific names and stories of the expedition and those Zambian lives touched, along with all the other encounters still to come (can you believe I’ve only been here two weeks?). Until then, I’m committed to savoring this whole adventure, absorbing spiritual knowledge, practicing new disciplines, and preparing to advance Jesus’s reign in two more upcoming expeditions.

Thank you!!! Thanks for reading, for believing, and praying to the glory of Jesus and empowering of our fellow believers in Bombwe, Zambia, and ultimately the ends of the earth.

And now the Lord says,

he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,

“It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to bring back the preserved of Israel;

I will make you as a light for the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Kings shall see and arise;

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;

because of the Lord, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.” -Isaiah 49:5-7

Source: Taylor Lewis Zambia