What an amazing year this has been! We never expected so many opportunities to work hard, serve the Lord’s people in Africa, and experience God’s amazing grace. I am especially thankful for His provision of strength these past few months. Several years ago, due to the deteriorating condition of my health and frequent bouts of malaria, this workload would not have been possible. I’m exceedingly grateful for your prayers and support which have enabled me to return with joy and good health to the work I love so much.
Of course, the flip side of being so busy is that the construction of our Mission House has fallen behind schedule. Thankfully we have a very flexible rental arrangement that can be extended until we finish our home. The ceilings are nearly finished so interior painting can begin soon. At the moment I’m building Ashley’s kitchen cupboards (much to her joy). We still need to finish the electric and plumbing before we can move in. Thank you for your continued prayers as we raise the funds to finish our new home.
This summer several groups came to visit and lend a hand in the work of discipleship and sharing the love of Christ. It’s wonderful to watch people experience Africa first hand and be a part of Kingdom expansion. Having others on our team also makes a broader kind of ministry possible. Our guests shared God’s love with orphans, traveled to remote villages, slept on the floor, ate the local food, and helped us serve and disciple God’s people in Zambia. We’re grateful for the time and effort they committed to share the love of Christ in Zambia. We hope many more of you will follow them out here to lend a hand!
The Foundations of Water
Sometimes it’s easy to forget how we are connected to other Christians in the larger picture of Christ’s kingdom. I was recently reminded of this as I helped coordinate an outreach and relief project between ITMI supporters in Arizona and Zambian pastor (and ITMI missionary) John Jere.
Last month Steve and Mark from ITMI came to Zambia and together we drove out to remote Lukulu West. It’s near the Angolan border, about 500 miles west of our home in Kabwe. That area is truly removed from civilization and most of the road out there is terrible. One section in particular gave us grief as we rattled and shook our way across 200 kilometers (about 120 miles) of potholes and ditches.
We crossed the Zambezi River on a small pontoon boat run by one of the most corrupt men I’ve ever met (and that’s saying something). He should open up a school for crooks because he knows every trick in the book. He’s notorious for taking people halfway across the river, stopping mid-stream (with the crocs), and demanding more money for passage. I left the negotiating up to Rev Jere and prayed for God’s grace.
Welcome to my village…When we reached the other side (unscathed or scammed), all that remained of the road was a narrow track winding its way through the sand and scrub brush. Fortunately the village was just a few kilometers down the track. While Rev. Jere had done a number of trips across the river, we were the first “white men” to stay in that area. In those situations, it sometimes takes a little coaxing to convince the village kids that we are not as scary as we look. However, candy and crayons can be very persuasive.
The village we stayed in that night was very close to a wildlife reserve, certainly within walking distance. Because of this, the opportunity for an up-close encounter with a large, carnivorous animal was very high. To discourage anything from checking our tents for a midnight snack (which would be us), we parked our vehicles in the middle of the village and wedged our tents between them. Let’s just say that being rudely awakened by a hungry hyena is not on my bucket list.
Just as I was settling down, entrusting myself to the Lord for safe-keeping through the night, my stomach started producing an ominous gurgle. I needed to get to the latrine- fast. The village didn’t have an established “long drop”, so I grabbed my shovel (nothing like experiencing nature’s sadistic call without the civilized equipment). With that in one hand and a flashlight & toilet paper in the other, I danced my way outside the village, into the dark night. I returned to bed unscathed and thankful… and still cramping. My intestinal gymnastics demanded multiple trips into the dark bush that night. Each time I went out I would carefully shine my light in all directions to make sure that no hungry eyes blinked back at me from the shadows. On one of those trips, an enormous bug crashed straight into my light… which I was holding between my teeth. With a sore face and wildly beating heart I raced back to camp, clutching what little remained of my dignity. I’m not sure what happened to Insecto-saurus, but I’m very thankful I didn’t bump into anything larger (or hungrier) than him!
The next morning the women and children of the village were able to draw water from the well that Rev Jere and his team of drillers had finished just the day before. On one of his first trips to Lukulu, Rev Jere realized that the physical needs of the people should be met in conjunction with preaching the Word of God. Through ITMI he was able to drill 5 wells in the parched and destitute Lukulu wasteland.
The joy in the village that day was intense. As they pumped out fresh, clean water their faces shone. They realized that their lives had changed forever. No longer will they have to walk miles to the river, risking the loss of limbs and children to the crocodiles, in order to draw out fetid, disease-ridden water. For the first time in the village’s history, they have clean drinking water readily available.
Steve dedicated the wells that day and boldly declared the Gospel. His message was simple: God loves you and gives you life. Not just the ability to survive, but everlasting life from the living water of His Spirit and His Word. The response was astounding. After receiving the precious gift of pure water, the people could tangibly experience God’s love for them. No longer was their perception of “god” an abstract idea or angry ancestral spirit. For the first time they realized that His presence was real and His love was visible. As a result of these wells, and by God’s grace, many people gave their lives to Christ that day.
After the message, the people of the village asked “what now?” They immediately felt the need to learn and grow in their faith. Their enthusiastic response to the Gospel opens the door for us to continue reaching out to them with discipleship and God’s Word.
As we spread the Gospel, we realize that helping people “make a decision for Christ” is only the beginning. In order to persevere in their faith, they need to learn what it means to make every decision for Christ. This is the heart of discipleship. Discipleship is a long term commitment to walk alongside someone and discover how to live for Christ, how to see the handiwork of God, and how to live for His glory. It’s a more involved process than just a simple sermon or invitation. God has called us to Africa to carry His people forward from that first confession.
Over time roads, clinics, and schools will be built in Lukulu. Please pray for the Lord’s grace in preparing the people of these villages to build upon the foundation of Christ, that their faith may be passed on to their children. In the meantime, we and Rev. Jere will continue to visit them, bringing a sustained presence of the Word of God.
Effective ministry is always a team effort. I was glad to be a part of God’s people at work on this trip. Seeing fellow believers in the States support a Zambian missionary was very encouraging. Together we were able to reach out to those in desperate need of hope and grace. The Apostle Paul declares, “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.” I Corinthians 3:7 – 9
Book Collection is Underway!
Books, Bibles, textbooks, and education supplies have started coming in for our Container Project!!! Many thanks to the churches, schools, and individuals who’ve responded with boxes of these valuable materials. We still have lots of space to fill!! Most African teachers and pastors desperately need discipleship materials, classroom supplies, and Bibles. Through our first Container Project in 2009 we were able to put priceless resources in the hands of thousands of African men and women- most of whom are busy shaping the lives of the next generation. The project was incredibly successful in its goals of reaching Africans with the supplies they need to impact Africa for Christ, while saving money on fuel and import by bringing mostly second hand materials, in bulk, directly into Zambia.
You can help us do it again! We are collecting all kinds of new and used Christian school curriculums, home school books, school supplies, Bibles, Christian discipleship materials, books, etc. If you hear of churches or schools looking to replace old materials, please pick them up (or put us in contact with the people who have them). We have several drop-off locations in Phoenix and Tucson, as well as a shipping address if you live outside of Arizona.
We are also praying for the funds to ship the Container to Zambia once it’s full. We recognize the value in this project and trust in God’s provision to see it through, just as He did in 2009.
“Did that really happen??”
Renovating a clinic with President Bush…is a question I may be asking myself for quite some time. Back in June the US Embassy asked for a volunteer to help with the groundwork for the renovation of a rural clinic. They said a “VIP” was going to come in person to help with the work and re-open the clinic for cervical cancer screening. Seeing a great opportunity to reach out to one of the poorer local communities, I offered to help get the project going.
It was quite a bit more work than I anticipated, but in the end I was very glad I volunteered. Aside from getting to witness for Christ in an AIDS oppressed township, I got the pleasure of meeting a lot of extraordinary people. Some of whom I never in my wildest dreams would have guessed would ever be someone I could call a “friend”. Like President George W and First Lady Laura Bush. That’s right. Like I said, “Did that really happen??” Check out our blog for more stories and photos of this incredible, unexpected adventure.
(photo by Shealah Craighead/The Bush Center)
- For the men and women of Lukulu to grow in their faith
- For our safety and sanity as we travel extensively in the States with our three small children
- For materials and funding to come in for the Container Project
Thank you so much for your prayers, encouragement, and support. We hope to see you during our time in the States! We have many photos and adventures to share with you. Please get in touch with us if you’d like to meet for coffee or come to one of our meetings.
Timothy, Ashley, Monica, Frederick, & Olivia Keller