Thursday, July 9, 2015

What A Day in Zambia

After four days of teaching children in the Lusaka area and a village about 45 minutes South, we arrived in Livingstone much later than anticipated. We had hoped to arrive around 4:30 pm to get checked into our rooms and then have a nice dinner at one of the many good and unique restaurants in this tourist friendly town that draws so many visitors. This town is popular because of the close proximity to one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World, Victoria Falls. But, what brought us to this southern town is a group of pastors that Pastor Ibrahim has been eager for me to meet. For the past few years Pastor Ibrahim has been traveling on behalf of the CLC Bd of Missions to work with a group of pastors who desire training. These pastors are located in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, the African nation to the south of Zambia. The city of Livingstone just happens to be the main border town and crossing point between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River is what divides Zambia and Zimbabwe and this is the river upon which Victoria Falls is located.

Back to our travels from Lusaka to Livingstone. Our original plan was to stop at the rural CLC-Zambia congregation that is about 45 minutes south of Lusaka in the village of Chilangala. This is where Ibrahim has been working to establish a congregation for the past few years. We were supposed to arrive between 8:00 and 9:00 am. Due to a series of circumstances that are not uncommon in Africa, we didn’t arrive until about 11:30. But we were greeted by about 60 children along with their parents and grandparents. They met us near the main road by singing a beautiful song that one young man had written as a special song to welcome us to their village. In perfect harmony they sang of our wonderful Father in Heaven! Even though they had waited for more than three hours for our arrival, they did not show any sign of being disappointed or discouraged. The smiles on their faces were incredible. Pastor Ibrahim has developed a very close relationship with this congregation and it shows both by the way they interact and their depth of Biblical understanding. He has been training two elders in the village to serve them weekly. He makes the long trip from his home in Lusaka by bus every other week to visit, preach, and teach at this congregation. We shortened our lessons a bit due to our late arrival and then we piled back into our little van with all of our luggage to continue the last 4 hours of our 5 hour trip to Livingstone. About 2 hours into the trip William (our driver) pulled over to the side of the road to investigate a funny noise and smell coming from the front driver’s side wheel. After a quick look he reported that there was a problem with the bearing. So we drove the next 15 Kms or so very, very slowly at about 10 kph. William did not seem to be worried at all. When we arrived in the town of Monze he simply pulled into a small oil-soaked yard that was filled with cars in various states of repair. He pulled right up to the car that was currently being worked on and told the man that we needed a bearing replaced. The mechanic got up from the ground where he was working on the other car and started to take off the tire of our vehicle. We were told it would take about 30 minutes to fix. It took a little longer than that as we were back on the road about 2 ½ hours later. Pretty incredible really! And the cost was around $150 for parts and labor. It was dark by the time we got back on the road which allowed us to actually travel faster because there is very little traffic on the road at nights here in Zambia. We pulled into Zambia around 10:00 pm and found Pastor Sait waiting for us at his office. He took us to our Hotel and then to a restaurant for a late meal and to discuss the schedule for the next day. By midnight we were back to our hotel and in bed. What was supposed to be a relaxing evening to get some rest and for me to look over my lessons for the next day just didn’t pan out.

So this brings us to the reason for the title of this blog post: WHAT A DAY! While we certainly have reason every day to rejoice and be glad in the day that the Lord has made, there are some days that we just can’t help but rejoice and thank the Lord for allowing us the privilege of being servants in His kingdom! Tuesday was one of those days.

As I mentioned earlier, Pastor Ibrahim has been passing through Livingstone every-other month for the past few years. His purpose for coming to Livingstone was simply to make his way to Zimbabwe. But as the Lord so often does, He opened a door of opportunity for Ibrahim to proclaim the truth of God’s word here. And Ibrahim was ready whenever and wherever the Lord opens a door. He met Pastor Sait a while back and has been meeting with him and explaining to him that he is involved with the CLC in training pastors to be faithful preachers and teachers of God’s Word. Pastor Sait, who hasn’t had the opportunity to receive formal pastoral training in a college or a seminary, was very intrigued by the possibility of working with Ibrahim to be better equipped for the ministry that God has entrusted to him. Pastor Sait is also involved with a group of ten pastors who have left other church bodies and have joined together to encourage one another in the Word and in their callings. Pastor Sait and Pastor Ibrahim have been planning this day for the past several months. As is often the case, due to language and communication issues with our contacts and the work in foreign fields we do not always know the full plan for our visits until we arrive. All I knew from Pastor Ibrahim from our emails over the past several months was that we would be coming to Livingstone to teach children and to meet with a few pastors. What I found out this morning is that these few pastors (10) are very eager to learn more about what Lutherans teach and that they are hoping and praying that Pastor Ibrahim will be able to start a pastor training station here in Livingstone. So for the first half of the day I had the privilege of explaining to these men about the work we are involved with around the world and that our primary focus in our foreign fields just happens to be exactly what they are looking for; as our priority is the training of pastors to be faithful teachers and preachers of the truth of God’s saving word! We then spent our time going through a review of the CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose as a starting point for establishing a unity of faith and doctrine. As we closed out session, I explained that there should be not any expectation of financial assistance for their ministry from us but that we are pleased to assist them in the necessary costs of receiving their training from Pastor Ibrahim. Pastor Ibrahim then asked the men if there was agreement on what we had discussed thus far and if they would like to continue studying with him. It was unanimous among these 10 men that they would like to continue their studies with Pastor Ibrahim. WHAT A DAY as I was allowed the privilege of teaching these humble men the basic truths of God’s Word and encouraging them their faith and in their calling as pastors. WHAT A DAY, as I was privileged to see the beginning of work of the Holy Spirit in establishing a God-pleasing unity of faith and doctrine among these men through the study of His Word! WHAT A DAY, as I was able to be a small part of establishing a new district of the CLC-Zambia in Livingstone.

And, as if that wasn’t enough! After we took a few pictures, exchanged contact information, and said our goodbyes to the pastors, we drove about fifteen minutes outside of Livingstone to see one of the most incredible, awe-inspiring, praise to our gracious Lord inducing sights that any child of God can witness. WHAT A DAY! We spent about four hours walking all around Victoria Falls in an attempt to take in as much of this beauty as possible. This is just one of those places on earth that you want to see from as many angles as possible. We walked along the viewing paths that give you a full on view. These are also the paths where you get soaking wet from the mist that comes from the bottom of the Falls. The mist from the mighty water (Mosi-oa-Tunya – native name for the falls that means “Mighty Waters”) shoots into the air and comes down like rain. We also walked to the bottom of the Falls to see what is called the “boiling point” where the water violently swirls before taking a hard turn to the southeast. It was tough hike back up to the top for this old fella but well worth the effort. We also walked the path that takes you above the Falls where you can walk along the bank of the Zambezi river as it seems so gentle just a few kilometers before it crashes into a most beautiful wonder of the world. What one soon discovers is, that much like the Grand Canyon, there is no way to take it all in. There is no one vantage point from which you can truly see this sight in its entirety. It is absolutely incredible. What also amazes is the fact that this incredible place is the product of destruction! It’s just so incredible to think that Victoria Falls is part of what was left following the world covering flood recorded in Genesis that destroyed the whole world. Amazing isn’t it, when you think that God can bring something this amazing, this incredible, this awe-inspiring out of total and complete destruction.

When we look at the wonder and majesty of God's creation we can't help but utter thoughts like...My God is truly an awesome God, worthy of all of my praise. And yet, the beauty of Victoria Falls can’t even begin to compare with the beauty of our Savior and the loving sacrifice He made for sinners like us. While Victoria Falls may fill us with wonder and amazement, what truly gives a child of God reason to be amazed is the wonder that comes as we consider the question, why me? Why Lord, have you chosen a sinner like me to receive the gift of Your love? Why Lord, have you chosen me, the chief of sinners, to be Your child through faith? Why Lord, have You given me the privilege of being part of this chosen generation, this royal priesthood whom You have called out of the darkness of sin and unbelief into the marvelous light of Your Son? Why Lord, why me, why do get to serve You and proclaim Your saving Word? Thank You Lord, You deserve my all and my every ambition. WHAT A DAY!

In Christ,
Pastor Ohlmann

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