We pray that 2008 has already blessed you with God’s new mercies, peace and good health! It is hard to believe that we are four months into the new year and that we have been blessed to serve God’s people, as International Ministries-ABCUSA (IM) missionaries in Africa, for over eleven years- starting in South Africa in 1997 and now here in Zambia since 2006.
Early in a new year is a perfect time to reflect on last year’s ministry and mission opportunities and to express that we, so, appreciate the concern and support that you provide. We, certainly, could not serve God’s people here in Africa without your prayers and faithfulness in financial giving.
As we prepare for our four day meeting with our IM national partner, the Baptist Convention of Zambia (BCZ), to plan ministry, mission, evangelism and uplifting projects for this year I am amazed by God's faithfulness and His blessing on our ministry here, and surprised by God's people!
After leaving US/Puerto Rico assignment in the states, in late 2006, we were first blessed upon our arrival here to find our new IM partner convention, the Baptist Convention of Zambia (BCZ), welcoming and caring as we got our three young children settled into school and sought suitable housing. Our second blessing was how well our children adjusted to their new country and school. Our third blessing was, actually, finding a house and getting our furnishings shipped to Zambia from South Africa. We spent half of 2006 settling into life and ministry in our new location and moving into 2007 and our first full year of ministry and planning here in Zambia. We started slow, building relationship and learning many new things about our new host country and its many peoples, languages and cultures. Zambia is a, relatively, small, land-locked country bordered by seven other Africa countries- Botswana, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Divided into ten (10) provinces, with a total population of around ten (10) million people, there are seventy-two different languages spoken here! There are only a handful of major cities, or towns, with most of the country being rural village settings. We are living in Lusaka which is the capitol city and the largest and most populated, at around one (1) million people. The country gained independence from Britain in 1964, has had only three presidents and is impoverished and economically underdeveloped. Zambia suffers from poor infrastructure, poor housing compounds, poor roads, poor education system, poor healthcare delivery system, poor water and electricity delivery, low availability of goods, high HIV/AIDS infection rates and extremely high prices for nearly everything.
Our partner convention, the BCZ, has over five-hundred-fifty churches- most very poor and without a church building to meet in- yet they are strong churches with faithful believers. Once ministry and travel began for us the need and pace for engaging church leaders and involvement in evangelism rapidly escalated. By year’s end we had been involved in ministry, planning, tasks and travel in support of the national BCZ office and Central Executive Committee (CEC), regional church conflict resolution efforts, associational leadership development, pastor mentoring, congregational spiritual formation sessions, and national and regional and local church evangelism and conferences with men, women, married and singles, and youth.
One of Sarah’s weekly ministries is leading a bible study among women, some of whom, formerly worked in the sex industry. Commitments to Christ, baptisms, changed lives and Christian growth have resulted in this group in study of God’s word. Sarah carries out women empowerment through business training, Christian ethics sessions and micro lending projects. She spends time involved in Christ-like ministries including Christian counseling, education, orphaned and vulnerable (OVC) children; street children school reentry programs, and local church and community development. Sarah has developed Christian Business Management materials, Spiritual Formation, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, church leadership and other bible study materials which we have used in local church teachings.
Her Christian compassion and a mother’s heart has lead Sarah to be deeply involved with the children of one of our BCZ churches located in the very poor Kalikiliki compound in Lusaka. She has lead our efforts to register and successfully enroll a number of these children from the Kalikiliki compound in the nearest Zambia government school. They are poor and sometimes double or single orphans with no means or family to feed them. Sarah worked out a monthly food budget and created an employment opportunity for a daily cook, and instituted a lunch time feeding program for these children through the school. This provides, at least, one warm meal a day at school.
A good deal of time is spent engaging in evangelistic outreach and conferences, throughout several of the country’s ten (10) provinces, among various BCZ church associations and national gatherings- Chingola and Luanshya Associations in Copperbelt Province, near the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Kawambwa and Luapula Baptist Churches Associations in Luapula Province, also near the DRC; Mbala-Mpulungu Association in Zambia’s Northern Province, near Tanzania; Nyimba, Sinda, Petauke Associations in Eastern Province, near Malawi and Mocambique; Livingstone Association in Southern Province, near the magnificent Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe and Botswana; Mumbwa and Ithezhi-Tezhi Association Churches in Central Province heading towards Western Province, near Angola; National Youth Conference, National Pastor’s Conference Kabwe/Kipiri Churches and the Lusaka/Kafue Baptist Churches Association in Lusaka Province, also near Zimbabwe.
We have been blessed to work with our national partner and coordinate the visits of ABC church mission groups who visited and did some renovation and fact finding projects in Southern Province and Copperbelt Province. We also supervised, assisted and housed a seminary student while she completed her MDiv. field education requirement here in Zambia.
Much of our work and ministry opportunities involve daily travel, sometimes ten to twelve (10-12) hour travels on extremely poor or non-existent roads, being away from home weeks at-a-stretch, and preaching outdoors where reed and straw constructed fencing are the meeting area, and outdoor tent and sleeping bag living complete with cooking on open wood fires is the order-of-the-day. Meals during travel usually consist of nshima (boiled corn-meal), vegetables (like sweet potato leaf) and wild game when available. Some conference attendees- not me for this one!- got to eat favorite delicacies of the area, like caterpillar or fried mice!
God’s people, truly, are amazing! Amazing numbers of adults, young adults and children attended the ”camp meetings”-over four hundred at one site, one-thousand eighty-six reported on the first day at another site with more flowing in over that four-day ministry! And the efforts and means of several of the attendees to attend the church gatherings are, totally, overwhelming- truly sacrificial- stories to hear.
Twenty-two from one church, Nsokololo BC in Nsangu village, traveled by foot to attend the Mbala- Mupulungu Association meeting. Thirteen (13) of their group, riding bicycles, transported the food and cooking utensils for the group. The other nine (9) walked better than eighty (80) kilometers-forty eight (48) miles- to the ministry campsite location in Mwenda area at the foot of the Mbala Mountain. Their village, at the upper tip of Zambia’s Northern Province, near the Mpulungu town “boma” (municipal center), was on the banks of Lake Tanganyika. The lake forms the natural border between Zambia and Tanzania. The country of Tanzania is a combination of the land, formerly, called Tanganyika and the island of Zanzibar.
Experiencing the great movement of the Holy Spirit is awe inspiring. After preaching, to witness many come to faith and give their life to Jesus Christ is so spiritually rewarding. In one evening that I preached during the worship service, over two hundred came forward to accept Christ. Teams of pastors, composed of speakers of the different language groups, met and
counseled those who made decisions and the next day one-hundred and forty-eight (148) adults and young adults were baptized in the river near our Misassa (“in-the-bush meeting”) site.
At another location one-hundred and thirty-one (131) were baptized in a cold river. At another preaching site eleven (11) were baptized, at another forty-eight (48), and on-and-on people came to Christ. Youth below the age of fifteen, who came forward, were connected to the pastor and local church nearest them to meet and study in sessions for new Christians, and after completion, undergo baptism at a later date.
Souls won to Christ are harvest for the kingdom and eternal. The earthly rewards- gifts given to me, perhaps, thought meager by some standards- costing all of these people’s resources and lovingly given were prized and gratefully accepted. One conference gave me locally grown groundnuts (peanuts), another gave me a live chicken and a sack of grain that was locally grown, and yet another conference gave me a live goat!
Please consider partnering with us in prayer and financial support for ministry in Zambia, Arica. We invite you to become part of worldwide mission as a part of our Mission Partnership Team (MPT) or part of our nationwide Missionary Partnership Network (MPN).
For more information on MPT’s and MPN’s contact Ruthie Stevenson at International Ministries- American Baptist Churches USA Mission Center (Tel: 800-ABC-3USA or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org). It is easy to be a part and easy to donate. Just go to the www.internationalministries.org website and click on “Giving,” go to “Africa” on the pull down menu, click on “Charles and Sarah West” and make your donation. It’s as simple as that. Please help us be the love of Christ, present with God’s children here in Africa.
In His Service
Charles and Sarah West