Monday, May 14, 2012

AFRICA TRIP BLOG #5: Talking about Jesus…and Playing the Beautiful Game…

This morning we went to a small church and met new friends who are young adults in the Zambian faith community here in Zambia.  We sang and prayed together before breaking up into teams of 3-4 with Zambian and Cornerstone folks both in each group.  We were invited to then walk through the surrounding neighborhoods to share the Gospel, share our own stories of what Jesus has done and is doing in our lives, and to pray for people in our teams.  I know that for many of our team members there was a little bit of anxiety and nervousness as we headed out and they considered stepping out to share their faith with folks in a different culture. 
As we walked through the neighborhoods, we were pretty amazed at what actually happened.  I watched at the first house we went to welcomed Kelley Ritsema, our Zambian friend Maybeen who had just graduated from high school, and myself into their home.  As we sat inside we discovered that they had a grandma who had broken her hip and hadn’t been able to move for almost a year along with a sister of the mom in the house who and some serious disabilities that limited her to the house.  We were invited to pray for them and to encourage them by sharing Scripture right on the spot.  In many ways, we were blown away by the cultural differences in how we interacted with people in this community.  We actually had people seeking us out as we walked along to ask us questions, to invite us to meet the rest of their family, and to listen to us as we talked about the things most important to us in our lives.  As we drove back to our guest house, most of us commented on how this experience obviously couldn’t be duplicated in the States.  We joked about how many folks would have never answered the door and how many of us now knew people in Zambia after one morning about as well as we know some of our neighbors.  The spirit of hospitality and willingness to take time to talk and to listen is something we found ourselves wishing we displayed more in our own homes and relationships.
I think for many of us it was also a very unique experience to talk so openly and so boldly about our faith.  Many, many of our students and staff on this trip had the opportunity to clearly explain the Gospel and its transformational message today to people we met.  It was a bit scary but also so fulfilling to let others know how much Jesus has changed our lives and how badly He longs to be in relationship with each person He has created.  There were prayers made on behalf of those who wanted to know Jesus more fully and prayers for God’s healing and compassion to fall upon the people and families we met.  In our debrief time tonight so many students shared about how they were able to share their story as they heard remarkable stories of life and faith from those who they met in a neighborhood in Zambia today.  I know this wasn’t a normal activity for our team members, but we are excited about the way that our chance to talk about Jesus here will convince us of our need to share our faith in winsome and redemptive ways wherever God has called us to live and with whomever we are in relationship with in our lives.  We are invited and called by God to bear witness to the greatest news we could ever share…and we’ve been reminded of the simple and profound message we are entrusted with because of the chance to see the Gospel at work in and through us in Zambia.
As we finished walking through the Zambian neighborhood of Chifubu we ended our walk at a center place for this community…the local soccer pitch!  We donned our green CU SOCCER KOPION shirts (a men’s soccer team motto that means we will work to the point of exhaustion because of what God has called us to do with our lives) and played a match against many of the students in the local churches and community.  For those of us who love soccer, there is simply nothing like playing on the bumpy ground of Africa.  There is a connection with the people that blows away so many cultural differences and questions.  The “beautiful game” is truly most beautiful when it is played with joy and passion and laughter with people from both sides of the world. 
And the CU crew pulled out a 3-1 victory…gotta represent in Zambia!  This is where one of the best college players in the state of Michigan joins two girls who are wowing the Zambian men with their skills, a former soccer player who recently spent 6 months in Uganda playing soccer with African kids, and even a couple old coaches who found the strength to turn back the clock to play with students they love in a place where lifetime memories are created…I mean where else in the world when you score a goal do hundreds of kids coming running onto the field doing cartwheels and somersaults and you sprint over to a tree on the side of the field where 20 kids are jumping up and down in that tree while you are high fiving every kid along the way?  It is simply a moment of joy the Creator gives us…and we are grateful that soccer is a way to build relationships and share the love of Jesus in a tangible way…
(and by the way we did try to sneak into the brand new world class soccer stadium built just a mile or two away from where we are staying to kick the ball around on the best grass in Africa, but alas we had to settle for just taking a picture together in front of it…)
This morning we read from Matthew 19 where Jesus reminds us that He longs for us to welcome children with open arms, with great love, and when others don’t because the Kingdom of Heaven is found where they are and in how they believe…and I have watched already in just a few days this team welcome children in Jesus’ name in such beautiful and personal and grace-filled ways…it displays the love of Jesus so, so clearly for all to see…and I am blessed…
Tomorrow we spend our day in church where our bus driver for the week is the pastor, and our students will then be leading a time of games, testimonies, and teaching for a group of about 100 students from the Ndola church community…we can’t wait to join our brothers and sisters in Zambia as we worship the God of all nations together…
We miss you and wish Happy Mother’s Day from Zambia back home!
For all the Zambia Team,

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