“God, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me, only sustain me. And sever any tie in my heart except the tie that binds my heart to Yours.” - David Livingstone

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Power problems...

(This was written on April 29, 2015 by Dad.)

Greetings from Zambia!  The first two weeks of the Prophecies of HOPE “crusade” here in Lusaka are past, and we are in our third week with one more week to go.  We spent the first week dodging daily rain showers.  The second week the rains ended, and we settled into a nightly routine of meetings under a clear, cool, night sky.  It is a unique experience for us to look up at the stars while preaching the three angel’s messages in Africa!
Michael and some little friends.
There are between 1,200 – 1,500 adults attending the two outdoor meetings, and another 650 children are coming to one of the two church sites—300 plus at each site.  We estimate that the majority are church members among the adults, but with the children, the majority are from the community.  African children love to sing, and when you hear over 300 children singing scripture songs at the top of their lungs, the sound reaches far beyond the walls of the church! (See video below.)  The effect of God’s word on young hearts is no less thrilling. 

Last night after the topic on baptism, one thirteen-year-old boy marked on his card, “Please pray that God will help me to stop drinking.”  Another wrote, “I want to learn how to read.”  Truly the challenges and needs on the African continent are great!

This past Tuesday night, we were to present the topic of Antichrist Part #1.  That topic we normally present in the first week, to create interest in Bible Prophecy without actually fully identifying who the antichrist is.  However, the night we were to present it, the meeting was canceled due to rain.  This past Tuesday when we set out again to present that topic, about half-an-hour into the presentation the power went off.  After fumbling for some time with the generator, our helpers got the presentation back up and running again.  Hardly five minutes later, the generator died.  Out of gas!  Through the darkness, I saw a group of men gathered around the generator, but no one had a flashlight on.  It then dawned on me that we had no gas on hand!
My translator quietly remarked that someone had been sent to a nearby gas station to buy gas.  As we waited under the starlight I wondered if the audience would be patient enough to continue sitting on their hard benches or standing in the darkness to hear the rest of the presentation.  But no one seemed to be leaving, and the children especially were enjoying a lively conversation with each other. 

After some time, the headlights of a car appeared at one end of the “grounds,” and hurried across the field to where our generator was located to the left of our staging area.  We soon smelled the aroma of gasoline, and after several more minutes, the generator roared back into life.  The children let out a cry of delight, and a few moments later when the lights came on, the whole audience rejoiced.  Amazingly, no one seemed to have gone home. 

Later we learned that the entire capital and nearly the entire country of Zambia had lost electric power.  Apparently there was a system failure in the main power generating facility of Zambia, and the power was off for most of the night.  Strangely, it happened on the night we were presenting the antichrist…  “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12)

That helped to explain to me why no one had decided to return home from the meeting when our generator failed, and we had to wait for gas.  At home, they had nothing but darkness to greet them, so they had decided to wait for the fuel, and the rest of the antichrist presentation.  Needless to say, we ended a bit late that night!

Michael at his site with his translator preaching
Perhaps the almost nightly power failures here, are turning out rather to the advancement of the gospel!  With no power at home, the lights and sound of our “crusade” on the central “grounds” of the community, attracts people who can’t do much else in the darkness.  When the power fails, so does their TV, their radio, their lights for gaming and social interaction, etc.  With nothing else to distract them, many wander over to the grounds to see the pictures on the big screens (sheets) and hear what is being preached.  Even those who remain at home find it difficult, during power failures, to avoid listening to the messages.  Since the brethren have rented an enormous speaker system, and fastened two big loudspeakers to a post high above the audience, the sound waves of the three angel’s messages are flying through the neighborhood!  Only God knows how many hundreds more are listening to the truth from their homes.

Again, thank you for your continued prayers and support for the work here in Africa!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Preaching in the rain!

(This was written on April 20, 2015 by Dad.)

Would you listen to unpopular Bible truth, standing on a muddy field in cold rain? 
Last evening as our local team set up for the evening meeting in the open air, I watched with concern a distant rain shower to the west.  The breeze was blowing from the northeast which seemed encouraging, but despite the direction of the wind, the rain seemed to be creeping toward our open field. 

When darkness settled on Lusaka, it was impossible to tell which direction the storm was headed.  The topic for the evening we had entitled, “The Topic that Satan Hates”—a lecture on the Bible Sabbath.  For the preceding several nights, I had forewarned the crowd that they might have difficulty attending the Sunday-night lecture, because the devil did not want them to hear what we were going to present that night.  The possibility of getting rained on had passed through my thoughts, and had been reinforced on Friday night when our meeting had to be canceled due to rain.

So it was with much prayer and concern for the weather, that we started the meeting last night.  The evening had already had it challenges as the power went off, and we had to start up the backup generator.  Then during the “Question and Answer” time, the generator ran out of fuel!  Someone had forgotten to refill it from the previous week.  The crowd waited patiently in the darkness for our team to refill and restart the generator.  When the machine roared back into life and the lights came on, the audience let out a cheer.

Some of the listeners.
After the preliminaries and other formalities, we got started into the evening’s study at around 7:00 o’clock.  Hardly five minutes into lecture, suddenly a group of children sitting in front of me jumped up and ran off the field to my left.  Moments later, I realized that they had run over to a second tent that the brethren had pitched on the right side of the staging area.  It was at that point that I guessed it had started raining.

Standing on the covered stage, my translator and I couldn’t feel the sprinkles, but looking out toward the projectors, I could see streaks of reflection as raindrops flashing through the light.  Our local technicians quickly set about to cover the exposed electronics.  The projectors each got their own umbrella, and the PA system was covered with a large plastic tarp.  Power-cord connectors were also covered with plastic bags, as were some of the more exposed speakers. For the next fifteen minutes or so, it continued sprinkling and more of the audience moved into the tents pitched on either side of the staging area.  The tents soon were packed with people, all trying to stay dry, and since the tent sides were open, those inside could see one of the two screens (sheets) set up for our slide projection.

I prayed earnestly while preaching, that God would turn off the water, but as the evening progressed the sprinkles got harder until we were in a light rain shower.  Thankfully it didn’t pour, and as the audience continued to listen, we kept preaching.  For a whole hour, probably 300-400 people stood in the light rain and cold, to listen to the topic of the Bible Sabbath!  The rest had crowed into one of the two large tents.

In reflection, I have thought that rather than praying for God to stop the rain, I should have been praying that God would reward the dedication and commitment of these African brothers and sisters who are willing to stand in cold rain to hear the truth!  If every Christian had the same dedication to the Word of God as these Africans, we would probably all be in the kingdom of heaven!

Again, thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Another update coming soon!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Demon possession and drunkards...

(This was written on April 19, 2015 by Dad)

Greetings from Africa! — A vast continent where light and darkness have been in conflict ever since Livingstone and other missionaries invaded this land.  The great controversy is most apparent when soul-winners seek to rescue people for the forces of hell.  Not since the early days of evangelism in the former-Soviet Union, have we seen such obvious manifestations of the devil’s power.  Demon possession and drunkards both attend evangelistic events, and we’ve experienced both here.

Last week, a demon-possessed woman came to Michael’s site, but God’s power released her from bondage!  Nearly every night at both sites, drunks stumble into the meetings either hoping in their besotted condition for some help and hope, or just “happen” to be passing by and in hazed curiosity, stop to listen.

Although Zambia is one of the poorest nations in Africa, alcohol consumption “has become the biggest activity in this country,” according to one news source (Norwegian Council for Africa, Feb. 2006).  According to the findings by the World Health Organization published in the Washington Post last year, no nation has harder-drinking women in the world than Zambia, with over 41% binge drinking.  Zambian men are still ahead of their female boozers, amounting to 48% of men who binge drink, but there are other countries in the world with higher percentages of alcoholic men.

At our evangelistic meetings, several with alcohol on their breath, have come asking for prayer that God will set them free for the bondage of booze.

The unusual weather here has continued to be a challenge to our outdoor evangelistic event.  This past Friday afternoon it started raining, and continued right into the evening.  Our outdoor “grounds” turned into a field of mud, and only a few faithful church helpers ventured out to the tent that is pitched to one side of our stage.  It was still raining when the meeting was to begin, so we ended up canceling the meeting in both sites.  Nearly 300 children had gathered at the local church near Michael’s site for their evening children’s program, but since the power was off, that meeting too had to be canceled.  We comforted each other with Romans 8:28 that night, and prayed for better weather on Sabbath.

Yesterday, Sabbath, we had only a few sprinkles in the late afternoon, and the “grounds” had dried sufficiently for a community soccer game to be playing on the far side of the field from where our evangelistic “crusade” is happening.  Dark clouds covered the horizon except to the west.  At one point in the late afternoon, the sun shone while there was a light sprinkle of rain.  To the east a beautiful rainbow appeared against the dark backdrop of clouds, a token of God’s presence and blessing in the crusade against evil.

Last night as I preached to a crowd of probably 800, the distant horizon was often ablaze with flashes of lightening, but the massive PA system the brethren here have rented overpowered any sounds of thunder.  Throughout the meeting, I prayed silently while preaching, that God would hold off the rain until we finished.  When the meeting finished, it had turned cold, and the distant lightning had faded into the night.  We rejoiced in a “rainless” evening!

Thank you for your continued prayers for the evangelistic meeting here in Zambia, and our student’s meetings in the Philippines.  Courage in the Lord!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Beginning the "Crusade"!

(This was written on April 13, 2015 by Dad.)

Many westerners think of Africa as a “hot” place, from the steaming jungles of the Congo to the scorching heat of the Sarah desert.  However when we flew south from Ethiopia (the Greek word for Ethiopia means to scorch the face), I caught a glimpse of the snow-covered top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, sticking up out of the clouds.  Landing in Lusaka, we found that the southern hemisphere at this time of year is “cool.”  This is the “fall” season down under, and early mornings are chilly.

Yesterday, we began our “crusade” as public evangelism is termed here.  Even though Zambia is the only nation in Africa that has officially declared itself a Christian nation, I wondered last night how a Muslim might feel as the pastor announced the opening of our “2015 Crusade.” 

I arrived on the crusade grounds at about 4:30, to discover an army of church members working on the staging area for our outdoor meeting.  The stage that had been ordered was poorly constructed, and arrived at noon.  The local brethren decided that they would have to use something else, and located a stage from a previous event that was much better built.  However with the meeting just hours away, they were in a real scramble to get everything set up in time. 
The team getting ready.

As the sun set around six, people were already starting to gather, knowing from the activities that there would be an “event” that evening on the “grounds.”  For an hour, they simply waited patiently, watching the set-up as the temperatures dropped.  By 7:00 pm, the construction was basically done, and there was a crowd waiting. 

Dad and his translator preaching
After some music and announcements, it was my turn to speak.  Looking out into the shadows, I could see approximately 500 people gathered.  Near the front were the children, seating on the ground on an old strip of canvas.  Behind them were women and older adults, seated on backless wooden benches.  Beyond were many more youth and adults simply standing because there was no place to sit other than the dirt.  They all listened attentively for the next hour, some shivering in the cold night air.  Some had brought blankets which they wrapped around those near them to stay warm.  Many took notes of the evening’s topic, some even while standing.  I couldn’t help but think how dedicated Africans are.  Few westerners would endure those kinds of conditions to hear the word of God! 

Part way into my announcements at the beginning, our PA and projector shut down.  Thankfully the lights stayed on.  The local song leader stepped in front of the crowd, and led a rousing song while a swarm of brethren worked over the equipment to get the power back on.  My translator and I waited helplessly on the stage.  Within 10 minutes, the PA was “live” again, and the projector was warming up.  We were able to finish the meeting with hardly a glitch.

While preaching, I observed an interesting phenomena that I had only heard about, but never witnessed.  An African man with a long stick kept careful watch on the crowd of kids sitting in the front of the audience.  Whenever one started misbehaving, he was threatened (or poked) with the stick!  Needless to say, we had no problems with the children!  Africans, whatever their religion might be, certainly believe in the old proverb, “spare the rod—spoil the child.”  As the result, for the most part, children here in Africa are well-behaved.

Michael, about two kilometers away at his outdoor site, had a similar attendance with the exception that his projector came late and didn’t work!  My wife and Teresa had a crowd of African children in the church building behind our open field.  The Zambian children generally understand English, so their program was conducted without translation. 

Tonight is the second night of our “2015 crusade” in Lusaka.  Thank you for your continued prayers and support of evangelism in Africa!

Another update - coming soon!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Landing in Africa!

(This was written by my Dad on April 6, 2015)

Greetings from Africa!  Friday afternoon, we landed in Lusaka, Zambia, ending an airline trek that took us from Manila to Hong Kong, then on to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then Harare, Zimbabwe, and then the final hop to Lusaka.  This land of David Livingstone is home to one of the largest populations of Adventists on the African continent.

As we stepped off the plane and descended the steps to the tarmac, the cooler weather of the southern hemisphere was a welcome change from the heat of the Asian tropics.  We headed towards the terminal, hoping that the church brethren we had only met through email, would be there to meet us.  After a brief wait in line outside for medical security to check our passports to ensure that we were not coming from an Ebola country, we entered the terminal.  Just inside stood three tall men in suits, holding a sign which read, “Amazing Facts – Pastor Lowell Hargreaves.” What a welcome sign that was to strangers in a foreign land! 

The brethren welcomed us as kindly as long-time friends, and a moment later a fourth man in a suit—a colonel in the military—showed up to help us with our visas.  For the first time in all our travels, we were taken through the diplomat line for passports!  The colonel took our passports, and handed them in to someone in the customs area.  As we waited in line, chatting with the men regarding our trip, I happened to see in the baggage area through an open door, one of our trunks passing on the conveyer belt.  I said to the brethren, “It looks like our bags have made it here too.”  “Oh,” said the colonel who had returned from the customs booth, “you have baggage?  Quick—follow me.”  We slipped through the open door, past the customs officials, and into the baggage area.  As I pulled trunks off the conveyer belt I thought to myself, “This is the first time in my life that I’ve skipped customs and gone directly to baggage!”

Providentially, not one of bags was missing in spite of all the transfers, and a very tight connection in Addis Ababa!  Moments after we had stacked all our trunks on baggage carts, the colonel was back with our passports.  Because of his position, we had no hassles with visas, and since he is a Seventh-day Adventist, the local conference officials requested his assistance.

Beautiful flowers! Going from the airport to our lodge.
Outside the terminal, we were greeted by more church brethren, all welcoming us like family.  Pastor Silas, the conference ministerial secretary, motioned us into a side door, and there in an airport conference room were the church ladies waiting to welcome us.  Two formally dressed little girls presented both my wife and I with a bouquet of flowers, curtsying as they did so.  Since Zambia is a former British colony, many of the English customs are found here.  Needless to say, we received a “royal welcome” by the church brethren in Africa!

After getting slightly lost in the spread-out city of Lusaka, our driver finally pulled into the compound were our “lodge” is located.  We were welcomed by a friendly African woman who is hosting us in her home.  She has a very comfortable house which she rents out to church and other guests—much like our “bed and breakfast” places in the States.  Only here, it is bed, breakfast, and lunch! 

Sabbath, we were able to see what life is like for many Africans.  Zambia is one of the poorest countries on the continent, and the section of Lusaka where the conference is organizing our evangelistic meetings is crowded with people who are living in poverty.  This city of two million has over a hundred Seventh-day Adventist churches, and most are full!  Sandra and I spoke (actually my wife just listened :) in a church with 700-800 in attendance, and Michael with Teresa, spoke in a church with around 1,200.

Just across the street from the church where I spoke Sabbath, is the Chimwemwe Primary School Grounds, the target venue for our evangelistic series which is scheduled to begin this coming Friday night.  Most public evangelistic meetings here are done outdoors, with people sitting on benches or the ground, or simply standing.  The brethren are planning to build a covered stage for the speaker, but everyone else is out in the open air.  Rainy season is supposed to be over (the locals informed us that it has not rained for the past three weeks), but since we arrived, it has been pouring every evening and often into the night!  We are praying for an outpouring of the latter rain here in Lusaka, but also praying that the rainy season will end again before we start the meetings!  Join us in praying for an outpouring of God’s grace and blessings for the people of Africa.

Another update to be posted soon!