We just concluded the bi-annual General Council meeting of the Assemblies of God, Zimbabwe. Pastors and delegates from throughout the nation met in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, to transact the business of the organization. Proposals were discussed, adopted or rejected; elections held resulting in a new Assistant General Superintendent and confirmation of the acting General Secretary as the new full-term General Secretary; and services to inspire, motivate, and inform, plus enjoying the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Two dominant themes emerged from these meetings. First, unity. As a Spirit-empowered church planting movement in Zimbabwe, the General Council agreed there is need for unity; unity of vision, unity of purpose, unity of action. Second, growth. Our churches must grow in each local area, plus we must plant more churches throughout the nation. Unity encourages growth. Growth needs unity. Operating in unity the General Council will pursue the vision of planting 1,000 new churches by 2020. In fact, the growth has already begun. By the end of 2013, the 87 churches of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Zimbabwe will have added about 50 new churches! One province alone has a goal of adding 25 churches. It’s an exciting prospect.
One church plant will occur in Masvingo. Visiting evangelist, Greg Hubbard, will headline our effort as pastors and church members to establish a new church in this growing city of over 100,000 people. No Assemblies of God work exists there. New pastor, Tawanda Gasa, is laying the foundation for the upcoming evangelistic rallies, May 22 – 26. Working together, we believe the result of this effort will be a solid church that will become the flagship of church planting in the Masvingo province. Unity, growth – a winning formula!
You can help with both unity and growth. How? Pray for the success of this church planting effort. Pray for safety of the many church members and leaders traveling to Masvingo from various locations throughout the nation. Pray for the Holy Spirit to prepare the way. Your participation will make a difference in the success of this effort!
Rhonda and I served in Malawi for 13 years. We grew accustomed to petty thievery in the neighborhood. To help discourage thieves, we had dogs. Our last dog was a beautiful bull mastiff who was an excellent watchdog and deterrent to those who wanted to enter the yard without permission.
Even though we have not had any thievery problems in Zimbabwe, and we feel safe, we think it is a good thing to have a dog on the premises. We decided, in honor of Zimbabwe (formerly Southern Rhodesia), to get a Rhodesian Ridgeback. The search began and we finally found someone who could get a Ridgeback puppy for us. We paid the deposit and waited… and waited… and waited. We sent text messages and emails to the guy we had contracted with, no answer.
I told Rhonda, “We’ve been swindled!” According to the dictionary, swindle, as a verb, means use deception to deprive (someone) of money or possessions. Alas, it seems that is what happened to us.
However, a larger swindle takes place every day in Zimbabwe. According to the World Fact Book*, 75% of Zimbabweans are not Christian (25% are Christian in name, if not actually followers of Christ). They are syncretic (mixing Christianity with ancestral religions) or indigenous (ancestral religions). Every politician makes some allusion to God when they give a speech or interview. Every business person talks about God is some way while doing business with others. Every policeman knows something to say about God. All around God is invoked in some fashion. And that is where the swindle comes in.
The largest of the syncretic groups have deceptively named themselvesthe Apostles. They claim to have knowledge derived from many sources, sometimes including the Bible, that will help people find God. Mostly, they are filled with people who want to hold sway over the minds of others. They meet in fields, wear white robes, and perform a variety of ritualistic actions – letting their “righteousness” be seen by all who pass by.
More dangerous are the crop of “prophets” that are rising up in the nation. These individuals, who are nothing more than fortune tellers, lead people astray with their often bizarre “prophecies.” One recently told a large gathering that soon the people of Zimbabwe will be picking up gold off the ground. It will simply come to the surface for them to collect! To poverty-stricken people this may sound wonderful, but it is a sham and an attempt to swindle people out of their possessions. Yet, people flock to these false prophets by the thousands hoping that something they say will actually come true and benefit the hearer.
Some question the need for missionaries in Africa, and elsewhere. Some think missionaries should only go to the 10/40 window and to unreached people groups as defined by the Joshua Project. When so many people are being spiritually swindled – deceived to deprive them of the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ – in a nation rocked by political chaos, the HIV/AIDS crisis, and trying to recover from an economic meltdown, there is a need for the Gospel to be preached to each and every person, regardless of their tribal affiliation, economic or educational status, or religious background.
Your partnership with us enables the Kingdom of God to advance in Zimbabwe as we reach out toallwho are unreached with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Your partnership helps the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Zimbabwe to grow, one person at a time and one church at a time. Your partnership provides opportunities for those who are being spiritually swindled to have their lives transformed by the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Together we make a difference!
There is an area outside Harare called Chitungwiza. Within that area is Unit D. Within Unit D is Faith Assembly of God. Construction on the church building for Faith Assembly is nearing an end. But that isn’t the story.
I was chatting with Pastor Lloyd Chamisa about Faith Assembly and the progress on the work. He told me the story of the property where the church building now stands. Before the church purchased the land, it was overgrown, “swampish” land, used as a public latrine in many spots. In the middle of the land was a large tree. A footpath meandered from the road through the property, passed the tree, and out the other side. It was this footpath and tree that made the reputation of the land.
When the church folks began clearing the land, many people from the houses across the street came to speak with Pastor Chamisa. They thanked him for leading his church to get the property. More emphatically, they thanked him for clearing the land and cutting down that big tree. One lady said, “I lost a child by that tree.” Another woman told of physical atrocities she endured near that tree. Others came and spoke of attacks by thieves as they passed the tree, where they were robbed of cell phones, wallets, purses, anything perceived to have value. And, then, there were the stories of rape and murder that occurred near the tree.
The church needed land, so they purchased this plot. Unknown to them, they were not only finding a place where they can meet, but they were ending the horror of pain and misery associated with that plot and that tree.
A place of robbery, rape and murder has been converted to a place of hope, peace and life – sounds like the very transformation that occurs when people yield their lives to Jesus Christ and receive His gift of salvation.
Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter
— Proverbs 24:11 NIV
Zimbabwe is a troubled nation. Once the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe is now a beggar nation suffering from the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, an economic meltdown, and political chaos. In this atmosphere, people are looking for hope – something substantial to hold on to. Together we can bring such hope to Zimbabweans – one by one.
What are some of the realities faced by Zimbabweans?
We will initially focus on three areas:
Your partnership with us will make this effort possible, and successful. We appreciate each individual and each church that has already committed to investing in Zimbabwe through us. Together, we can bring hope to the hopeless and see lives transformed for the glory of God.
Fingerprints Across Africa exists to help at risk women and children in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Africa, through facilitating sustainable development. These women and children live in extreme poverty and are impacted by little education, poor medical care, and diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS. This development includes empowering the widows by teaching and implementing economic stability on a local level through microenterprise. In addition, Fingerprints Across Africa is involved in building schools and drop in day-care centers for orphans, implementing life skills training for widows and orphans, and establishing homes that house up to 10 orphans in a family setting.
You can find more information about this organization by vising their website.
The final aspect of partnership is that we are partners in finances (Philippians 4:14 – 17). We are partners in the gospel, partners with the Holy Spirit, and partners in Christʼs experience. But, to actually accomplish the mission of God we have to participate in the fourth aspect of partnership – finances.
We all value certain things. Some value a Starbuckʼs venti skinny nonfat caramel macchiato and are willing to pay $5 or more for it! Others value Applebees’ 2 for $20 dinner menu. Some will purchase only Toyotas because they value them above Chevyʼs. We all value things in life.
"What is the value of a Zimbabwean soul?"
Being partners in finances begs an answer to this critical question: What is the value of a Zimbabwean soul? (Or any other soul, for that matter.) We know that God valued a Zimbabwean soul so highly that He gave His Only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross to redeem that soul. You and I canʼt pay that kind of price for a Zimbabwean soul, but we still need to answer the question.
What is the value of a Zimbabwean childʼs soul? What is the value of a Zimbabwean womanʼs soul? What is the value of a Zimbabwean manʼs soul?
We can easily determine what we value in life. Take a look at your bank statement, or your credit card statements. Where are you investing?
Is the process of presenting the good news of Jesus Christ to Zimbabweans worth what is in your wallet? Your check book? Is it worth your time and resources? Let us know if you want to make a difference with us in Zimbabwe. Weʼll show you how.
The first aspect of partnership is that we are partners in the gospel (see my last blog). The second aspect of partnership is that we are partners with the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:1 – 2).
Partners in the Holy Spirit are in relationship with one another, regardless of time and distance. The Holy Spirit is not limited by time and distance. Even though the missionary is separated by 10,000 miles and several time zones from the partner(s), that does not prohibit partnership from happening. Partners are like-minded, have the same love, are one in spirit and purpose. Distance isn’t the issue. Partnering with the Spirit is the issue. What is He saying we should do? Then, we do it!
Children are suffering in Zimbabwe. Many are being trafficked out of the country to other African countries, the Far East, Europe, the U.K., even the U.S.A. Widows are suffering without adequate incomes, yet trying to take care of their children, or grandchildren, or even great-grandchildren. The Spirit has led us to transfer from Malawi to Zimbabwe. We go knowing that God loves each Zimbabwean and wants to transform their lives.
"Partners are like-minded, have the same love, are one in spirit and purpose"
In particular, Paul focused here on the characteristic of suffering. Suffering is an opportunity for Christʼs love and life to be shown to those who suffer. Suffering people need to know there is a Savior who has suffered, too. They need to know their is a Savior who understands what they are experiencing. And, they need to know this suffering Savior can transform them, even if their circumstances are slow to change. When we reach out to suffering people we do so as partners in Christʼs experience because we know that He suffered, but that He also rose in victory. That produces hope!
What does it mean to be a partner in the gospel? It means we work together to take the good news of life through Jesus Christ to every person on the planet. Itʼs too big of a job for one person. We must all get involved. As we work together we see individual lives transformed by the power of God as they put their faith in Jesus Christ.
There are several components to the missions enterprise – sending agency, missionary, partners, target group. Each of these plays a role in accomplishing the mission of God – which is that “none should perish, but all come to repentance.”
The sending agency, in our case Assemblies of God World Missions, provides a covering for missionaries to work in various nations and cultures of the world. The sending agency helps with budget development, visa applications, country-specific needs, transportation, and so on. Usually, the sending agency has some level of authority over the missionaries who are sent out from it.
"Missions is not about a one-man show; missions is about completing the work of God and that takes all of us."
Missionaries are people who believe God has called them to leave their homeland and go to a foreign land, culture or ethnic group. Missionaries use their gifts, talents, and skills to help the development of the national church with whom they work. Missionaries tend to be in teaching/training roles in order to promote the national churchʼs efforts. So, some missionaries teach in Bible schools, some help with evangelistic efforts the national church is engaged in, some work in compassion ministries (HIV/AIDS, medical clinics, water wells, etc.). All missionaries intend to leave the national church stronger than when they arrived.
Partners are vital to accomplishing the mission of God around the world. Who are these people? They are the folks that hear a missionary speak and begin to invest their resources to empower the missionary to be their representative in a place and culture the partners may never visit. They are “regular” church people, pastors, businessmen/ women, educators, medical specialists, carpenters, etc. But, without partners the missionary cannot get the job done. Missions is not about a one-man show; missions is about completing the work of God and that takes all of us.