by Timothy Keller
Village or remote outreach is a regular part of our ministry in Zambia. Over the years I have learned that if there’s one thing you can expect in Africa, it is the unexpected. In spades.
We even have a name for it: “The Africa Factor”.
(I hope you hear ominous music in the background, because believe me, you should.)
A few weeks ego I experienced an epic edition of this phenomena.
Preparing for a trip to Eastern Province, I heavily loaded our 4x4 with Bibles, discipleship materials, and camping gear.
The Kellers' field vehicle has delivered many loads of hope and help to difficult to reach places.
So far, so good. About 12 hours before my intended departure our guard dog Maisie developed a freakish and
acute condition that required immediate sterilization surgery (goodbye Puppy Plan 2017).
So, the crack of dawn saw me up and repacking the materials and gear to make space for 130lbs of sad, injured doggy to be dropped off at the vet (100 miles away). The trip hadn’t even started and already The Africa Factor was in play.
On the way there I picked up several Zambian pastors who were partnering with us on the outreach. Just outside town I reached a police check point.
The guys sitting behind me hadn’t buckled their seat belts, which resulted in a K300 ($32) traffic fine (I was lucky they didn’t charge per person!)
The following day dawned on a crowd of people. A huge crowd of people.
Turns out that someone had announced our pending arrival to a crowd at a funeral the day before (no irony lost here). They said we would have piles of food and materials to distribute freely to one and all.
It took hours to convince everyone that we weren't hiding the goods and holding out on them.
In the aftermath our workshops started much later than planned, however we knew the people who stayed were there because they wanted to learn, not just for handouts (truly a silver lining)!
We experienced more challenges as the days wore on.
My co-leader’s Bible was stolen… in a room full of pastors. (This is why “preaching to the choir” is still a very real ministry in Africa!)
The outreach we planned for a few hours took an entire day. While it was rewarding work, it was also exhausting!
Timothy teaching in a remote area.
Because we were in a remote area, we stayed in tents.
This can be a very pleasant mode of accommodation in the right circumstances. In this case a bat infestation (oh, the stench!), intestines regularly on the menu, and petty theft problems left something to be desired in the peace and tranquility department.
While this trip was liberally peppered with logistical hurdles, it was also deeply covered by God’s presence and amazing grace.
Our lessons focused largely on family discipleship, God’s role in our lives and in our homes, and what He wants for our families. For these spiritually malnourished Christians in rural Africa, hearing that Jesus Christ cares about widows and orphans, parents and children, the elderly and the sick is brand new, counter cultural, and mind blowing.
We were surprised to see that several of the local chiefs came to hear our message.
When one of these powerful men publicly responded with repentance, expressing His intention to follow Jesus, we were dumb-founded.
We have gotten so much incredible feedback as the Holy Sprit moves in people’s hearts, helping them to see how God’s grace applies in their marriages, their parenting, and their communities. The message of grace is applicable, livable, and powerful.
God’s grace is sufficient for me; His power made perfect in my weakness.
Thank you for keeping our family and ministry in your prayers.
About the Author
Timothy Keller lives and ministers with his wife in Zambia. Timothy has over a decade of experience ministering throughout remote areas of Africa. The Kellers 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, both in Zambian cities and remote villages.