Dear Ministry Partners,
Your New Life Center Zambia ministries have been very busy. Many of you have sent messages telling us how you had been praying for the Holy Spirit Encounter and the Lusaka Crusade. Thank you, thank you so much! Once again both of these events were a wonderful time of watching God’s hands at work as we continue to build His kingdom here in Zambia.
The Holy Spirit Encounter was low in attendance compared to previous years. There were only 200 pastors and leaders that was able to make it this year. However, it seemed much more intimate. Pastors and leaders were able to share more openly of their concerns and share their vision for the future in the local village ministries. Everyone was filled with encouragement and fresh insights and resources until next year.
The teams that came from Florida did an outstanding job. Evangelist Blake Lorenz with Pastor Tim Machtel from the St. Andrews UMC, Brandon, Florida did such a great job of teaching and deeply encouraged the Zambian leadership. The theme this year was “Establishing Altars of Prayer That Invite God’s Presence”. We learned much about ABIDING in God’s presence as well as being a Strong Messenger of Hope to a dark world.
The call to be a pastor in Zambia and a minister to the needs of the people is one of the hardest job I know of. Most of our congregations are in small rural villages or congested outer-city areas. The members of these churches are very poor and live with conditions that are simply un-speakable. That goes for our pastors too. Most of our pastors straggle to find food and medicine for their families. Their places of worship are in old school buildings where maybe four or five other churches are trying to do the same thing. Or maybe in someone’s home or even under a tree. Offerings for most of our churches are just a few dollars each week. There is so much sadness, sickness, poverty and even death that they live with daily. It does break our hearts. It’s very common for our pastors to get discouraged and wonder why they are even trying to make a difference.
This is why your New Life Center ministries work hard and focus on keeping the leadership and members of the church encouraged. That’s why we host the HSE each year. We strive to give them vision and hope with as many resources and materials we can, without creating an imbalance in their lives and false hope. However, you need to know, YOU, along with the New Life Center staff, are making a wonderful and important difference. But still much more needs to be done. I want to ask you to please-please keep your Zambian United Methodist Church in constant prayers.
With that said, the United Methodist Church does brings great hope to their communities. The message of Jesus Christ is the only real answer to life's strongholds. Prayer, smothered in faith, asking God to keep the people and the church strong, is needed. We do see so many wonderful signs of God’s healing hand and miracles of every kind. The best part is to see the way the message of Jesus Christ brings the forgiveness of sin and restores life from the bondage of African culture ways. The proof of these is seeing the way the church is growing. As I have mentioned before, 14 years ago when Sandy and I came to Zambia there were about five active UMC congregations in the country. There is now just at 100 congregations. Just the numbers themselves speak volumes, but its much more than that. It’s the TRULY CHANGED LIVES IN CHRIST JESUS. It’s the message of Christ truly being believed and received. People need the Lord. It’s that simple. Billy Graham said it best…. “Offer them Christ”. This year, 2014, it is said that 55% of the registered membership of the United Methodist Church is now in Africa. When we visit churches in the USA and speak about this, the question is often asked. “Why is there such a growth in the church in Africa and it seems like the church is dying here?”. I believe part of the answer is in the real love and need for God by the membership of the church. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments”. Church is not a way of life, Christ’s commandments are. The membership and leadership of the church is trying to change the church and it’s mandated commandments. John Wesley said, “What one generation tolerates, the next generation embraces”. I’m not talking about “Traditional Worship” or “Contemporary Worship,” I’m talking about doing what the Bible says. To not take God at His word is a big mistake. To doubt and not receive His promises is an even bigger mistake. What we are seeing in Africa is a people very tired from the problems of life. These problems are much different than what you live with in the USA. And they are showing their love for God by keeping His commandments and receiving His promises.
Over the last five years or more we started training men and women in evangelism. Just teaching them how to share their personal testimony with friends. We then helped them memorize basic scriptures and a few important points from the teachings of Jesus Christ. What kind of points you may ask. Actually there are five of them… Point 1, God’s Amazing Grace… Point 2, Men & Women are natural sinners and need saving… Point 3, God is MERCIFUL and yet very JUST… Point 4, Jesus Christ came to set us free from this natural dilemma and offers us forgiveness AND Eternal Life… and Point 5, of course, What is Faith?
These basic teachings really should be offered to every believer that wants to share their personal relationship with Jesus to their family and friends. This is what we have deliberately done over the last five years. We now have over 100 men and women that have taken this basic training. We call them The Evangelism Encounter Team. So what do they do, you might ask? Well, other then daily sharing this wonderful message of Jesus Christ with family and friends at school or the market place, pastors from around the Zambian Conference will ask for a team to come help him. A team of five to ten will go for as long as they are needed… They hold over night prayer meetings… hold actual services over the weekend… hold crusades… go knock on doors inviting people to church… They train others how to share their faith… you name it - they do it. Remember, they are not paid to do this. It is done out of a love for God and a love of sharing their faith in Christ with others.
After the HSE was over this year an “Evangelism Encounter Team was asked to come to the far Northern corner of Zambia and hold another Holy Spirit Encounter. So they went with all of their notes and messages fresh in their minds. They did a wonderful job of duplicating what they learned at the 2014 HSE. They will be traveling to at least three other areas in Zambia (maybe even in Congo) and doing the same thing by the end of this year.
NOW, how do they travel you might ask? Well, YOUR support helps with that. It costs about $500 for all the public transport, lodging and food for these teams to go out. We would love to do many more each year, and we will as funds become available. Remember, they are called the Evangelist Encounter Teams! The other thing this does is really encourages the leadership of the local church. It brings hope back in the pastor’s lives as they sacrifice and struggle with village living and gives them more resources to reach their communities for Jesus Christ. The testimonies we hear back from these teams and the pastors they have helped brings all those Holy Goose-bumps all over me personally (I will be sending a few of those testimonies out shortly). To be honest, it’s like watching the days of Pentecost first hand.
I was thinking about Pentecost the other day and something that was not planned by us in the beginning years of the Holy Spirit Encounter. Over 13 years ago now. I realized we have been holding the Holy Spirit Encounter the week after Easter each year. In Acts 1, Jesus told His disciples, “Go to Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father to come to them.” That was, of course, the Holy Spirit! That’s what we have been doing all these years with the Holy Spirit Encounter. The promise of the Father has met with us in so many ways. Leading and teaching and encouraging us, “To go and make disciples”. We have been receiving the promises. Jesus said, “All the Father has given me, I also give to you”. Again He said, “Everything you have seen me do, you will do also… and even greater things than these”. And again He said, “ You did not choose me, but I chose and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you”. Friends, that is exactly what has been happening everywhere we look. Every day, men and women that love God and truly believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and abide in Him, are experiencing God’s blessing in some of the most poorest, and most unlikely places on the other side of the world. Friends, if you were ever jealous about something, you should be jealous of me and the leadership of the Zambian church, because I/ we get to see this happening every day.
And its not just the Zambian church and its people, its also these teams that come over from the USA that are blessed. It changes them. They keep coming back for more and want to help more. I would need another hard drive for my computer if I start talking about all the team member’s lives that have been changed through the years. However, you talk with just the pastors that have come over, they are changed for life as well. Just talk with one, they too can tell you how they’ve seen God’s hand at work in this wonderful country. Im thinking of five pastors just out of the Florida Conference…. Pastor Blake Lorenz, just try to stop him from coming each year. Pastor David & Cathy Fuller. That’s a funny story…he was in the shower and God spoke to him and said, “Go to Zambia and help Delbert & Sandy Groves”. We had never met them before. Once they came they have never been the same. Pastor Allen Johnson, Ocala. Be ready to talk for awhile if you call and ask about his time in Zambia… Pastor Arlinda Burks, Mariner, Spring Hill… All I can do is smile when I think of my dear sister…
And then Pastor Tim Machtel, St. Andrews, Brandon. He was just here for the first time. His mission team helped with the Holy Spirit Encounter this year then went to dedicate their second “Sister Church” in Zambia. Tim did an outstanding job of encouraging our pastors at the HSE to “Abide in Christ”. All that the pastors are talking about is him coming back to share more. At the sister church dedication you should hear the testimonies from everyone. You should see this new church. It’s in one of the poorest areas, but it’s right in the middle of Chililabombwe’s outer city compound. People are living right on top of each other. And there sits this wonderful little church. The Zambian’s call it “The New Jerusalem UMC”. I love it!! Pastor Tim left Zambia with experiences that he said, “ I thought I would never see anything like that in my life”. Pastor Tim and his team were out having a BLAST and building relationships and memories for a life time.
During this same time, Pastor Blake and I, plus an Evangelism Encounter team went to Lusaka to hold the Lusaka Crusade. This was the first crusade we have held in the Capital City. The Lusaka Crusade again was another down right blessed time. It too was not attended like most are as we travel, but it was a very special time. Many heard and received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior for the first time. Others were just deeply encouraged and lead deeper in their faith. This was a three day crusade… Morning , afternoon and evening services. One husband gave a testimony about how his wife kept pushing him to go to the services. He said, “I came one time just to keep her quite, but after hearing the message I found myself saying to my wife, “Hurry up woman, we’re going to be late”. I love it! He also gave his life to Christ, as well as thanking God that there is a church around the corner he can call home. Yes, we have already built a Sister Church there in Lusaka. That was from Heritage UMC Clearwater. The roof is already up and hopefully they’ll have the walls completed soon. Also, please pray for Pastor Blake as he travels this year to ISRAEL June 2nd.
Also… While the Holy Spirit Encounter, Lusaka Crusade and Sister Church dedication was going on, Joe Harless was here helping with the setup of the NEW PET Zambia Facility. They have started building PETs out of it, but it’s not quite in full production yet. The finishing work takes time, as you know. Joe is our USA Representative for PET Zambia. Joe is a great man of God and loves helping disabled people through the PET outreach. He has been to Zambia a number of times through the years. Along with his ministry in Zambia, he handles the purchasing, loading and shipping of all the container supplies coming from the USA to Zambia. All of the ministry items you send over to Zambia, Joe is the guy that handles that for you. This is a big job and we deeply appreciate his ministry. If you or your church group would like to know more about PET Zambia, just ask Joe Harless and he would love to come share with you all that he has seen and done in Zambia. If you have ministry items you would like to send to NLC Zambia, contact Joe Harless… 813-546-6601 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Also… While the Holy Spirit Encounter, Lusaka Crusade, and Sister Church dedication was happening, Melanie Shelton was here. She is a person that lives with cerebal palsy, but that doesn’t stop her! She is a great woman of God, has her masters degree in Disability Counseling, and loves to share how Jesus Christ has helped her all through the years. She has been going to the Bwafwano Care Project that works with the disabled people in the Kitwe area. This ministry is another wonderful outreach supported by the United Methodist Advance Special. Melanie also shared her testimony at the HSE this year, and in any spare time that she has you find her sorting through books to put in our library or helping prepare meals for all the people we have around here. She will be leaving for Florida next week. Pray for her as she travels.
Please keep praying. We have many more teams coming in a few weeks.
I better stop here. This is starting to look like one of David Livingstone’s journals. Sandy and I can’t tell you how much your partnership means to us personally and the New Life Center ministries. Even though you are not here, you really are in so many ways. The church and people of Zambia know that we cannot do anything without your partnership. Hundreds of lives are touched and changed for life because of you…really. I write articles like this, take pictures, come to your church and tell the stories, but it seems like it really doesn’t do it justice. Please know you are deeply appreciated and loved by tens of thousands of Zambians and you are making an important difference.
We remain faithfully yours,
Rev. Delbert & Sandy Groves
Please click on the links below for all the images.