Greetings to you in Jesus’ name, all the way from Zambia! I have a wonderful story to share and an opportunity that is a little unusual. But it is something that’s changing the lives of Zambian pastors, widows and their families. I would only ask that you take a minute to read this and prayerfully give it a thought.
For those of you that follow the ministries of the New Life Center, you know that we held our tenth annual gathering of the Holy Spirit Encounter in April. It was another wonderfully, encouraging time in the Lord! One of the HSE sessions each year is a Pastoral Counseling Session. This gives the pastors we work with an opportunity to share what God is doing in their lives and some of the concerns they live with as pastors in some of the most remote areas of Zambia Africa. This is always a very important time and I personally listen carefully to what they say.
The one thing that’s aways mentioned is the hardships they live with as pastors in taking care of their families. These pastors are, without any doubt, true pioneers in building the United Methodist Church in Zambia. I could write a book about the sacrifices in their lives. Three of the pastors talked about how their families had gone to bed without eating for days. Another talked about how their children cannot go to school because they don't have the funds for school fees. Others talked about how they lost children and other loved ones because they didn't have funds for medical care. They live with no salaries, insurance, or pension. They exist by offerings from people's gardens or money from the offering plate that might be a few dollars each month. I have listened to these stories for years not knowing how to really help. And more importantly, I wonder why in the world they continue to serve the Church and Jesus Christ in these conditions.
As your United Methodist missionary, serving with these dear men and women, servants of Christ, my heart is broken for them. I am always looking for ways that can help them in ministry and with their families. I have tried many things throughout the years. Some have been successful and many have failed. But I keep on trying because I keep hearing God tell me, "Don't stop". So here I am, after twenty plus years, still looking for ways to help and waiting on the Lord.
With all that said... there is one thing that seems to be helping and I believe God is telling me to share it with you. A few years ago I brought two bales of used clothing over from GCF/Goodwill out of Raleigh, North Carolina. They are great partnering friends and can supply us with as many bales of used clothing as we need or want. It was just another idea to try and see if this would help our pastors and our widows. I wanted to see if the used clothing would sell in the local African markets. So our NLC staff went to work and to my surprise it was a wonderful success! These two bales weighed one thousand pounds each. The real value of the clothing was unknown, but everyone was very happy with the quality and with whatever they were charging for each piece. So I raised the funds and sent over the first full 40ft shipping container of used, baled clothing. It cost over twenty thousand US dollars for the bales of clothing, shipping and clearing costs.
What happened with this first shipment was amazing... People from everywhere came for these bales of clothing. We put a replacement cost on each bale of one thousand US Dollars in Zambian money. It was a bit more than what it costs us to send it over. In no time at all the bales were gone. But the interesting thing was, the clothes actually sold and people were making money. How much money? Every report we have received was each bale made between two thousand to two thousand seven hundred dollars. You do the math…everyone made money and they are now asking when the next container is coming. The answer to that question is, it just arrived! The goal is, as soon as the bales are gone and replacement funds are in hand, we will send another one and continue again and again.
However, the problem was our Pastors and Widows. I really wanted this to be a way to help them, or rather for them to help themselves. And some did, but most of them missed out on this opportunity. Why, because they didn't have the funds for the first bale of clothing. The important thing to keep in mind is, once they get one bale of clothing and sell the clothes they have the funds for the second one, and all the rest in the months and hopefully years to come. Having that kind of income from the sale of used clothing will change their lives in so many wonderful ways. As well as provide clothing for their own family.
So, at the Holy Spirit Encounter Pastoral Counseling session, and after much prayer, I asked three questions…
Now honestly, this is something new even for me. But the interesting thing is that it meets all of my personal criteria about mission service. This is not a dependent hand-out, it is actually a wonderful hand-up. These are real pioneer African pastors, widows, and their families partnering with you personally, one-on-one. I hope you understand how important this really is. But after much prayer personally, I hear the Lord telling me I should put the ball in your park. Do you want to play?
If you do, please email me as soon as possible at Groves@NewLifeZambia.com and I will start this ball rolling. The first thing needed is to introduce you to the pastor or widow and their family. I would like to think that even though the five hundred dollars is a one time match gift, that the relationship between the two of you will last an eternal lifetime!
Rev. Delbert Groves