In apparent weakness

In apparent weakness

One of the things I love doing is speaking to the huge crowds of people who come to the town meetings we have in villages whenever we are invited to begin working with them to build a new school. These meetings go on for hours. And I relish every moment of them. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people seated on grassy hillsides. A few words of introduction and customary greetings. Sometimes a few speeches by village leaders or elders. And then I get to get things moving by weaving the history of this work into an explanation of how we do it, and why we do it, and why all the tremendous effort it will take is worth it, as I seek to ensure that everyone knows all that they’ll have to do if they really want a school for their kids. And then we have questions and answers and that’s when things are really fun.

And often – almost always in fact -- it’s somehow inevitable -- somewhere in the conversation I somehow manage to get to tell them that out of all of the disciples the one who is my favorite is Thomas. Because he was the one who said that it didn’t matter to him how many people said that they had seen that Jesus had come back to life, that he wouldn’t believe until he saw Him himself! It’s my way of telling them that no matter how excited they all are about making bricks (we will start tomorrow morning making bricks, the whole village, all of us!) or hauling foundation stones (when you return you will see piles of stones here growing out of the ground like anthills!) that I will still be like Thomas. I want them to know that I will have to come and touch the brick kilns and feel with my own hands the mounds of stones. That mere reports and words simply will never be enough for me. It never fails to make them laugh. And it’s my way of telling people that I am not easily duped. I’ve made it a part of who I am to avoid getting “irrationally exuberant” about things, especially when I have yet to see anything at all myself.

And that’s why as I think of what is happening right now down in Zambia there is a big part of me that is very, very cautious. Because I haven’t been there, I haven’t seen anything with my own eyes, I have touched nothing with my own hands. And yet, even if I don’t want to be irrationally exuberant, I still feel a growing thrill inside of me. And as people here in Tanzania learn of what is happening in Zambia they too are beginning to feel a growing thrill inside of them. It is this latest email coming from a little village in northern Zambia that fills our thoughts and causes us to pause – and to rejoice. I hope as you read it that it will cause those of you who love this work here to also pause – and also to rejoice.

Dear Steve,

God is working wonders, am meeting two different Chiefs and their people. They heard about what we want to do through village schools from our chief in our area and they requested me to go and have a meeting with them. Have just finished the meeting with the people in Chikenge village. I went thinking to meet with the Chief himself and his advisors but there were over 250 people at the meeting. I explained to them how village schools works and they were very happy and they are looking for a place where the school can be constructed. The officers from the ministry of education are in support of the work and their member of parliament is also very happy. Tomorrow am meeting another chief with his people also. I see village schools to become the big movement of building schools in Zambian villages. Am receiving invitations from different villages in different provinces to go and explain the work of Village Schools. Indeed God will work wonders in Village Schools here in Zambia because am now finding favour from different Chiefs, Members of parliament, educational officers and many more people. I am telling everyone that you are coming on the 19th so do not fail us by not coming. We pray for your travels with the Director and General Secretary of Village Schools Tanzania.

Much Blessings,

Austine

Less than ten days and we’ll be there. We leave here on the 13th to drive to the Malawian border so we can get all the way down to the south of the country on the 14th. We’ll be traveling with Andrew and Jen who are going to start serving there at our school as the first of hopefully many missionary teachers we’ll be sending to that country. We’ll have our meetings on the 15th, the 16th and the 17th and then we’ll travel to Zambia on the 18th and start our meetings there on the 19th. I continue to pray for wisdom and for discernment. But also for courage and boldness.

And Godfrey, Emmanueli and I are going to have a great time traveling together! Everyone goes to Zambia to see the marvel of Victoria Falls, but I fear we won’t get to go there. Because we have to rush right back to Tanzania as soon as possible after the meetings. In the villages of Sintale, Ichesa, Kibena, Soko, and Dotina work is moving forward at a fast pace on building new schools. And in the other 29 schools that are already open, students have been making bricks, their parents have been hauling stones and everywhere we are pushing forward with building more classrooms and more teacher houses. There seems to be no question that 2014 is going to turn out to be an even bigger year than 2013 was! Justin, Ntula, Jovinus and my son Jonathan will be over in Rukwa putting more computers in our schools, and they’ll be taking two of our new missionaries with them to get them started in their villages. Abeli and Janelle will be taking another two of our new missionaries to launch them at their new schools. In each region of Tanzania, our trucks are hard at work as people use them in feverish activity. Everywhere so much is going on! And spending a full seven days out of the country, probably with limited access to phones and emails, is the limit of what Godfrey and Emmanueli and I feel that we can do right now! But leaving the work in Tanzania we’ve decided is worth it in light of the great potential of what might get started down in Zambia.

We want to believe that a movement can start in Zambia as it has in Malawi and in Tanzania. But we know that it won’t start just because schools are needed (they are!). It won’t start because we’re willing to work hard (we are!). It will only start if God opens doors and if God provides workers. And so as we get ready to make this trip, I feel in my heart that it is right to share with you what is happening in Zambia, not just so you can rejoice a bit with us, but also because I really feel that I need to ask for your help. If this work is to take off we need to have open doors. And so I want to ask you to pray for open doors, for many open doors. If this work is to take off we need to have workers. And so I want to ask you to pray for workers, for many, many workers. The leaders of Village Schools Zambia are a group of people who strongly believe that God wants the poor to get a chance to go to school, but all of this is uncharted waters for all of them. They just know that someone needs to do it, that God wants it done, and that He is giving them this opportunity. But they need wisdom and discernment. And so I want to ask you to pray for wisdom and discernment for them – and for us. We need your help. So I ask you to pray, and I ask you to share about this with anyone who you think might be willing to join us in praying. The attached PDF makes it easy to share with people. Please consider sharing about this with other people.

You know the “normal” way to start a work like this is to head down to that country with a program and a budget and committed staff and everything planned and laid out so that we can wow them all, move things quickly, and show them what we can do. Instead, we are committed to going down to that country in apparent weakness, with nothing in our hands, and nothing to offer them. They will have to believe that God can work through them, that He can open the doors for this ministry, that He can provide the workers that they will need, that He can provide the wisdom and the discernment so that they get a movement started. We go in apparent weakness. But I can hear in my mind my grandfather quoting to me over and over the words of Paul -- I delight in my weaknesses, for when I am weak, that is when I am strong. I can hear my grandfather reminding me over and over what God said to Paul -- My power is made perfect in weakness. I share with Godfrey and Emmanueli all the time what I want to share with my new co-workers in Zambia: we earnestly desire that the work become so big that everyone will know that we could not have possibly have done it ourselves, and that we will all have to acknowledge that all of this has to be of God Himself.

I want so much to believe, and I pray that God might help me in my unbelief.