(This was written by Dad on May 11, 2015)
We rolled off the tarmac of Lusaka International airport at about 4:00 pm today, leaving behind many new friends and memories of evangelism in Africa. Just as the local brethren welcomed us to Zambia five weeks ago, so they escorted us to the airport and wished us safe travels back to Manila.
When we arrived five weeks ago, we were given a 30-day business visa to do church-work in the country. Since our “crusade” lasted for one month and didn’t begin till over a week after we arrived, our business visa expired a week before we were to depart! Unfortunately, one-month business visas cannot be extended in Zambia. But with the assistance of our Adventist colonel friend, we were assured that immigration would make an exception for us.
This morning we went to immigration headquarters to sign the documents, and were given an extension stamp in our passports, and a “deportation” letter—a formality since our visa had expired. The immigration officer turned out to be a Seventh-day Adventist! Our Adventist Colonel friend is one of the highest ranking colonels in the Zambian army, so when he showed up at the immigration office in full uniform, none of the immigrations officials even questioned our expired visa!
This afternoon at the airport, he again met us to ensure that there would be no hassles with the customs officers. When we arrived at the customs booth, the “big man” as he is called here, stood watching while the customs officers at the airport stamped our passports for exiting Zambia. Because of his military rank, he is able to pass through all the airport security without any question or hindrance. We felt honored to be escorted through the airport by this tall, respected, military official. In addition to be a military colonel, he is also the president of the lay-evangelists association in the conference, and conducts his own crusades. In fact, he was scheduled to preach on the “Signs of Christ’s Return” the night we left Zambia!
At the airline gate when we were being checked in, the gate-agent saw the Amazing Facts logo on my shirt, half covered by my backpack strap. “What is that,” he asked, “Amazing Grace?” I pulled the strap aside, and replied, “Amazing Facts, a ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” “Oh,” he said, “I have read many books by Ellen White. I too am a Seventh-day Adventist,” he said as he handed me my ticket stub.
There are church members in all sectors of society here in Zambia. We are told that only India has more Adventists as a country than Zambia. While we were here, the local union with its conferences, celebrated reaching one million members. With only 14-15 million people in this small African country, that means that one out of every 15 people you meet in Zambia, belongs to our church!
For the past two Sabbath afternoons, crusade attendees from both our sites, lined up to enter the church baptistery to join the ranks of Adventists in Zambia. On May 2, one-hundred and two were baptized. This past Sabbath, another one-hundred and seventy-two followed them. We praise the Lord for the strong interest in God’s word that we have found in Africa, and the response of so many to the Three Angel’s Messages.
One older man who was baptized, told me that he had been attending the Adventist church since 1981. But it was at this evangelistic series that he decided he needed to make his commitment to join the Adventist church. He was baptized on May 2 together with his wife who was re-baptized. The following week, one his grown daughters was baptized.
This past Sabbath evening for the final topic on Heaven, the air was so cool that you could see the speaker’s breath. And yet in spite of the cold, in spite of having backless benches for only about half the audience (the rest had to stand), in spite of almost nightly power-failures and other challenges, nearly a thousand people gathered on the dirt of the Mahatma Ghandi Grounds every night for an entire month to listen to the truths of God’s word! That has really warmed our hearts!
The needs here on this continent are as enormous as the interest. Many of the church members here are reading from used and often tattered Bibles that have been sent over from western countries. One seminar attendee came to me this past week with a large book that was almost falling apart. On the cover it said, “The Believer’s Bible Commentary” with the word “BIBLE” in large letters. “Is this a Bible,” the middle-aged man asked me? I had to tell him that it was only a commentary of a portion of the Bible.
To help meet some of the needs on this vast continent, Amazing Facts together with our family, are exploring the options of opening an AFCOE (Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism) in Zambia. We are discussing the possibilities with the local conference in Lusaka, and they have voted to accept the school in their conference! Interestingly, the current director of the HOPE channel in Zambia is an AFCOE graduate from the school in California!
And what of PAFCOE (Philippine Amazing Facts Center of Evangelism) where we have spent the past three-and-a-half years? PAFCOE will continue to operate under the leadership of the team that we have trained there for the past several years. The local conference wants to see PAFCOE continue, and is committed to continuing the program. We invite those of you who have supported the work of Amazing Facts in the Philippines, to continue to do so. PAFCOE needs your continued prayers and financial support.
As our family begins the transition from the Philippines to Africa this year, join us in praying for God’s guidance in this proposed Center of Evangelism for the African continent. And for those of you who are interested to support the opening of AFCOE in Africa, “Thank you!” Mark your gifts “AFCOE Africa.”
Lowell, Sandra, Teresa, & Michael
PS. We are flying back to Manila for 7th batch graduation ceremonies, and then will be returning to the States near the end of May till after the GC session. If you are coming to Texas for the General Conference session this year, come by and visit us at the Amazing Facts booth!