ITMI partners, Timothy and Ashley Keller are actively working on a multifaceted discipleship and education initiative to make disciples for Jesus Christ in Zambia and other parts of Africa. This is done through training teachers, church leaders, and in distributing Bibles and materials to schools and churches in need.
Enjoy this excerpt from their May 2015 newsletter about a recent distribution and training Timothy did.
The Keller Family.
One of our bigger outreaches recently was a trip across the country to the Eastern Province.
I am limited in my ability to travel “off road” at the moment because our field vehicle is no longer off-road-worthy. However, this was a great opportunity that I could reach by (mostly, sort of) paved road.
Preparing for the trip.
As I prepared to leave for Chipata - a 700km drive that would cross through the hazardous city center of Lusaka and across many kilometers of very poor roads, game reserve, and tribal lands - I had many concerns.
Update: the Keller's have raised enough funds to replace their field vehicle with one that is road-worthy for accessing the most remote parts of Africa! Thanks to those who made this happen!
Traveling Despite of Fuel Shortages
For one, the country was experiencing fuel shortages. This is an interesting exercise that we experience at least once every year or so- stockpiling fuel and planning our trips based on whether or not we might be able to buy fuel and get home again.
If you aren’t careful (and prayerful) you can easily get stranded in a remote area of the country until fuel comes again.
Some years ago a friend of mine was stuck in a small town in the Southern Province for over a week, waiting for the fuel truck to arrive!
In Zambezi last year we had to go from house to house looking for someone who would sell us a few precious liters of questionable diesel so that we could get to the next village… in hopes of buying more fuel to carry on from there.
When I left Kabwe for this trip the fuel station was empty. I had enough to get to Lusaka, Zambia's capital, but from there the availability was uncertain at best.
On his trip from Kabwe to Chipata and back, Timothy covered well over 2000 kms of road.
Transporting Books in an Open Trailer During Rainy Season
Another concern was for my cargo- over 700kgs of Bibles, school materials, and books maximized the weight capacity for my trailer. I found the cover for the trailer so badly damaged from wear and tear that it didn’t offer much protection.
While we are at the end of rainy season, storms still straggle across the country. We are very close to the tropical region which means a rain storm leaves a copious amount of water behind - and we all know how well books and rain get along!
I covered those priceless materials the best that I could and entrusted their care and protection to the One who calms the storms.
God's Provision and Protection
God’s incredible provision and protection definitely went ahead of me as I left Kabwe. I was able to find enough fuel as I traveled to reach Lusaka and from there on to Chipata. By the end of the journey my vehicle had covered well over 2,000 kms of road, made possible by the (incredibly) available fuel along the way.
We found many fuel stations that did not have anything to sell, which made me extremely grateful each time there was some fuel available! We also managed to reach Chipata without getting wet.
This was amazing as, at one point, we saw it had very recently rained (a lot), and we could see another storm coming from the other side.
We passed right between the storms without the cargo getting water damaged. I love witnessing God’s grace in such ways.
Timothy in Chipata with boxes of Bibles and discipleship materials to distribute.
Giving Without Grieving
At the end of our trip to Chipata my Zambian ministry partner there, Pastor Joel, wanted to distribute blankets and other necessities to some of the widows in the villages surrounding the rural town, Chiparamba.
While this kind of mercy work is desperately needed, it is very tricky to do it in a way that is fruitful, and where the supplies reach those who need them most.
How do you help those with the greatest need in a community where everyone has little to nothing?
Helping the poor in the third world has to be done very carefully.
More often than not I see well-intentioned people (including myself at times) give to a community but create a social disaster in the process. Where there is stuff, greed and jealousy are not absent. If you give to one person, then everyone else wants something too.
In a small village, it is easy for bitterness and resentfulness to take root and the person who received the gift actually gets harmed or treated badly by the rest of the community. It can get really ugly sometimes, and the people with deep, serious needs can end up being either neglected or abused. There are, fortunately, a variety of ways to get around this.
Pastor Joel’s strategy for this distribution was simple, but one of the most effective that I’ve ever seen in Africa.
Some weeks prior to our arrival, he had the local church leaders meet with the Headmen (like Vice Chiefs) of the different villages. Together they identified specific widows who had no one to look after them and were in dire situations.
These widows were not members of the church, but outsiders to whom the church wanted to reach out to. Going from village to village with the blankets, food, and supplies, we personally took the items to each of the preselected homes.
We were able to see what their living conditions were, establish that there was a very real need, and meet it as best as we could. Many of the huts we visited were falling apart- the thatch was old, molding, and even missing in sections.
Some of the widows were cooking their food with extremely worn pots and broken implements.
It was obvious that these women were in desperate need of help and had no one to take care of them. We were able to pray with each of them and explain why we were helping in the community.
Visiting widows, assessing needs and meeting them - while keeping peace in the village.
There were several times when others complained or tried to take something for themselves. When this happened, we would point to the house of the widow and show them how needy and neglected that particular person was.
As the other people in the villages realized what we were doing, they seemed to express either appreciation or at least acceptance of our project.
Outreaches of mercy like this can have a very deep ripple in remote communities - we want to make a positive impact on
people and not cause problems or leave bitterness behind us.
The goal is to extend God’s hand of mercy while providing an example of brotherly love.
Serving forgotten widows in Chipata, Zambia.
I really appreciated Pastor Joel’s method as it was initiated and followed up by the local church leadership and pinpointed established needs.
I would like to see some of our other Zambian partners implement this to increase the effectiveness of their mercy work and involve more people in the giving aspect of the project.
Giving pastors in Chipata access to Bibles and training materials from the Container Project.
Training pastors in both scripture and mercy by providing materials to read and practical training in ministry projects such as serving widows.
Please pray for the communities that participated - pray that they would see our project as an example of taking care of the neglected and needy and replicate that work themselves over time.