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Zambia Mission Trip: Pastor's & Wives Conference Report

Zambians are a peaceful people , our host explained. They do not fight each other or with outside nationalities; but death has a pervasive presence. Many families have four to ten children; often one or two have died, sometimes in an accident, often from disease. Many young women are widowed, children are orphaned. Grief is a constant companion.

One battlefront raging within that country, killing large segments of their inhabitants, is HIV/AIDS. Misinformation abounds about the ubiquitous enemy. Why is AIDS so prevalent in Africa ? They asked us.

Without answers to that haunting question, we sought to arm them with information and inspiration to save their lives and their marriages. Their thankfulness humbled us. Their celebration of the Lord showered us with joy. Their great hunger for His Truth captivates our hearts.

Living Well arrived in Nairobi June 1, 2006 , to partner with Africa Leadership and Reconcilation Ministry (A.L.A.R.M.) Living Well partners with ALARM to train pastors and their wives in marriage and family principles. On June 3, our family (Ed, Donna, and Jacquelyn Edwards) flew to Lusaka , Zambia , where we met Mike and Donna Jestes, our team members from Oklahoma , who flew in from Mozambique . Israel Simbaya, country director of ALARM, and Kedrick Sikaona, his assistant, met the team at the airport and drove us to Ndola , four hours away.

To begin our conference on Monday morning, June 5 , we arrived at a facility that was once a university but closed many years ago. A church rents a large room and allowed ALARM to use the space for the conference. As is common in much of Africa , the building and grounds lacked the maintenance to which we are accustomed. The people don't lead the same lifestyle of constant busyness; there is not the ability to always get where they need to be on time, so promptness becomes less pressing. As the conference started slowly that morning, we were thinking “This is too far to come, too much work, costs too much money, and is too tiring to do again. This is our last trip to Africa .” Those thoughts and feelings were quickly dispelled as we began to meet the Zambians in attendance.

We passed out cards near the beginning for them to submit anonymous questions about marriage. The variety of questions included many questions about HIV/AIDS and sex. Others: What can you advise a couple who found his partner in adultery? Why do pastors divorce their wives? How can the marriages be acquitted of traditions that are barriers? Why do men fail to say “sorry and please forgive me,” especially to their spouses? What can I do to make my marriage to be strong? … They have unique challenges due to traditions, low incomes, and the scourge of AIDS, but they also have the same kind of problems we do.

We should never presume that they cannot understand or absorb our message because of the difference in education, income, or exposure to modern ways. We have found that the African people are very intelligent, highly teachable, and have a thirst for knowing more of God's Word and how to live it out.

The Zambian church is keenly aware of a spiritual battlefront with the Islamic faith. To draw in students, Muslims are building libraries across the street from universities in larger cities. In smaller communities, they make inroads in the culture by offering funerals and burials for families too poor to bury their own. Islam wants a grip on Africa equal to what they have in the Mideast and Southeast Asia . Many African countries, such as Zambia , have officially declared themselves to be Christian nations and have been heavily evangelized. However, the need for training and equipping the Church in Africa is more urgent than ever.

We took notebooks of materials for each person. We took a modest amount of books to help ALARM build their pastors' library. We gave NIV Study Bibles to each family; but we were faced with a pressing hunger by the pastors for more resources. The ocean is wide between Oklahoma and Zambia but the shortage compels us to find a bridge by whatever means God provides in the future.

The comments on the other side dwarf the impact they expressed personally to us of God's message for their marriages and their ministries. Great joy was expressed in song and cheers as they received the Bibles. At the end of the week, we gave out 150 ties and scarves, which were provided by our church; they responded with singing and dancing and immediately putting on their new apparel.

Not to be outdone in giving, they ceremoniously gave us symbols of their culture – copper clocks to represent the Copper Belt where they live and colorful, African fabric which represents to us the color of their lives amidst joy and suffering and in the abundance of God's unique creatures on their continent.

Come and see what the Lord has done!

We pray that the Africans will infect us for life with their joy and demonstration of worship and that we do not become immune to the great need in the lives of our brothers and sisters there.

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