“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

Monday, July 6, 2015

Baptisms and joy in Zambia!

(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.”

Your friends,

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!

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!