Never Give Up – Lessons from 2 Corinthians (God’s Design in Hard Times)

Life is fraught with hard moments, hard days, and hard times. The temptation to want to give up can be strong and alluring. But statistics warn against giving up when the going gets tough. Many people miss out on the fruit of their labors if they give up in the hard times.

But more importantly than the warning of statistics, God lovingly, gently, kindly warns us to not give up. The apostle Paul was an expert at going through hard times. In fact, I wonder if there was ever a time in his post-conversion life that was not hard! And he did not give up. He was certainly tempted to despair. But he did not.

And, thankfully!, he shared some of the things he learned about going through hard times and what God is up to in our lives that helps give meaning and purpose to those hard days.

2 Corinthians 1:8-9

  • The feeling: “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.”
  • The meaning: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 16-18

  • The feeling: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus,”
  • The meaning: “So that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our moral flesh…So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 12:7-9

  • The situation: “A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me (Satan’s design), to keep me from becoming conceited (God’s design). Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”
  • The meaning: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Praise God for this kind of help, hope, and insight into the hard times! Now, I just need to keep on preaching it to myself.

Thoughts on Being in Zambia for Five Years

DSC01235Us with John and Eta on January 21, 2011. One of our earliest pictures here. 

Yesterday, January 17th, marked our five year anniversary of coming back to Zambia. Including our time five years earlier as singles, we have now lived in Zambia for 6 1/2 years. To commemorate our five year anniversary, I have five thoughts about our five years:

  1. Living cross-culturally is hard. No matter how much of an advertuous or easy going person you are, living cross-culturally is just hard, and it’s a hard adjustment and one that never stops. It can be even harder if the culture you crossed into is in the developing world. Not only are you adjusting to a new culture, which is weird and strange, but you are adjusting to a new way of life, a life of uncertainties – government problems and corruption, water issues, electricity issues, crime, where to get your car fixed, is the grocery store going to have this or that, bad roads, etc. When you live cross-culturally, you never stop learning and you never arrive. You peel back one layer, and you realize there are many, many more. The longer we are here, the more I feel that I don’t know very much about this culture. And how could I? We’ve only been here five years!
  2. Being a missionary is to constantly be and live in transition. If you became a missionary to have a life of stability, you should probably think about changing vocations. In the time that Kristin and I have been back on the field, we’ve seen three missionary units leave that were here when we came. Two have come and gone during our five years here. And now two more have come. I’m not saying that people coming and going is necessarily bad. People sign up for set times, life happens, and people feel that God is calling them elsewhere. But all that to say, being a missionary means a lot of transition. Then, on top of just people on your team, you have all the transitions in the country (in our case, Zambia) – presidents/government, the Kwacha (our currency here) getting rebased, prices going up and down by 50-100%, new regulations about a host of things, no power for eight hours a day, etc, etc.
  3. Having kids on the field is challenging. Kristin and I came back to field in January 2011 without any children. Now, five years later, we have two boys. Our first year back in 2011, we did ministry and life together. Now, I go out and do ministry, and Kristin stays with the boys at home. That’s been and continues to be hard for us. We love these two little guys and are so thankful for them. But with only having one vehicle and living behind an 8-foot wall with a 2-foot tall electric fence on top of that, it can start to feel pretty isolating for Kristin and the boys. Obviously, there are pros and cons to having kids before or after you come to the field, and each family is different in what they would prefer. But it has been a challenge for us and a big adjustment. Also, in our five years, we’ve had two home assignments that last about 4 1/2 months each. Trying to pack in seeing family, friends, supporters, supporting churches, and having a baby during each of those times is pretty exhausting. Our advice, which we’ve heard from many others as well, is that if you need to go back to your home country to have a baby, just go back and do that! :) Schedule your actual home assignment time for another time.
  4. Do I really get to do this? Even though Zambia and living here has its challenges. There are still so many times when I’m driving on crazy roads, in crazy traffic, sitting in some impoverished compound/slum teaching, fellowshipping with a local pastor here, talking with other missionaries, seeing the beauty of Zambia, admiring something about the culture here, seeing lightbulbs come on in people’s hearts and minds as they study the Word, that I think, “Wow! Do I really get do this for a living? For a ministry?!” We feel very privileged and blessed that God has called us to Zambia, and we pray that we are glorifying Him in our ministry here.
  5. Time is weird here. We have been back here five years, but why does it feel like it should be 15 or 20 by now. One time, I said, “Time moves really fast here, in an excruciatingly slow sort of way.” I feel like every day goes by so fast, but then when I think back to an event that happened two weeks ago, it always feels like that was months ago. How could it have happened only two weeks ago?! I don’t know why that is the case for me. Maybe because the weather in Zambia is so similar – it’s sunny, it may rain once in a while during raining season, it is hot, or it is a little cooler. The seasons are not as defined here, and we really only have three seasons, instead of four. But I actually think this time phenomena is because there is so much unpredictability here and is related to always living in transition.

Well, there’s a lot more that could be said and more thoughts to write, but there you have my five thoughts on being here for five years. We want to thank all of you so much who are praying for us and supporting us here!!

I guess I have one more final thought, or set of thoughts. I am thankful for Christ and his work in my life these past five years. I’m thankful for my wife and kids that are amazing, and whom I love so much. I’m thankful for this ACTION Zambia Team and the ministries that God has called us to here in Zambia – to help strengthen the local Church. And I’m thankful that we are called to serve in Zambia.

DSC_3980 (1)

A New Year – What Will It Bring?

Now that the Christmas and holiday rush is over, you probably have time to sit down and read all of those Christmas letters that people sent. Unless you are us, as we have not received any mail whatsoever in about 4 weeks. The post office went on strike for the month of December. I wonder if they regretted that decision when they came back to work and stood before Mt. Holiday Mail?! But, I digress.

As we begin a new year, there are millions of situations and decisions we will face. Many we anticipate, and many more we do not. This got me thinking about some of the decisions I have had to make over the last year that I did not anticipate. Here are a few:

  1. As I mentioned already, our mail has not been delivered for over a month. (Thank you to those of you who sent Christmas cards to Zambia! We look forward to reading those, hopefully, in a couple weeks when they are delivered). Since I have the email addresses of some key people in the postal system, I have wondered how often I should continue to email them to ask about the whereabouts of several packages, which people sent in November, especially since they don’t respond to my emails. :)
  2. What should we do with our dog between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day? Zambians LOVE fireworks. Our dog does NOT. From 8pm until 2:30am for 7-10 days, there are fireworks, a poor dog going out of his mind, and poor us trying to maintain stability and sanity.
  3. Sam has been growing some pretty cute curls at the nape of his neck along with some crazy flyaways behind his ears. When should I cut his hair for the first time in his life?
  4. Does freshly-picked-from-our-backyard mango salsa pair well with spicy shredded chicken on freshly homemade tortillas? (Yes. the answer is a resounding YES!)
  5. Does my househelper/maid do a good enough job that makes it worth it for me to pay her child’s school fees/day care costs? She is only able to work if she has someone to take care of her daughter, but she cannot afford day care costs.
  6. Should I continue on with my undergraduate studies for my Bachelor of Science?
  7. When am I supposed to start officially home schooling? What curriculum will I use? Am I up for the task?
  8. What will I cook for dinner when our power is off for 8 hours every day? Will I actually turn the oven on when it’s 100 degrees outside and 94 degrees inside?
  9. How hard do we push potty training, when someone has told us in no uncertain terms, “I do not want to. I just want to wear diapers.”
  10. At ACTION’s 40th Anniversary Jubilee in Canada, I asked Wheaton College professor and author, Scott Moreau, a question that I found rolling through my mind several times in 2015 – How do I know what the purpose is of each trial? Is it simply spiritual warfare trying to distract us from the work we are doing? Is it the consequence of sinful actions or attitudes? Is it general sanctification – purging sin and learning to rely on God? Dr. Moreau’s response was profound – pray. Ask God. Press in to him. Get counsel from godly men and women. He lamented that he couldn’t be more helpful. But I do hope and pray that I will press in to God this 2016. There will always be trials. So, may God grant faith to trust him and rely on him more, especially for all the decisions and questions that will arise. And may he do the same for you.

Here’s our Christmas Newsletter!

DSC_3980 (1)Merry Christmas!

Greetings from hot, humid Zambia! We hope you all enjoyed your Fall (although, it sounds like it still is Fall for some of you with the mild weather it has been)!

Here is our end-of-the-year newsletter (click here) with the bird’s eye view of what happened in our lives this year.

In this newsletter, we cover:

  • How many miles we traveled in the month of July
  • Self-inflicted vs. Providential issues that made this a one-of-a-kind year
  • Quotes from Charlie, our thoughtful, sensitive, quick-witted firstborn
  • One surprising thing Derek learned about himself
  • And more!

Thank you so much for your prayers and support of us here in Lusaka, Zambia!!

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (ESV)

PFR (Pray For Rain!)

zambiarainThe Reuters article below pretty much sums up the situation here in Zambia. The article is dated October 15th, and, in that time (at least, in our part of Zambia), it’s only rained briefly a couple of times. The article also doesn’t mention the social consequences of low rainfall. With so many people losing jobs, things like domestic violence, prostitution, crime, drunkenness, etc. all increase. The situation is quite dire for many Zambians, and the consequences to their families are extremely hard. So please PFR with us! PRAY FOR RAIN to come and in an abundance to Zambia and Southern Africa.

Low rainfall and crippling power shortages hit Zambia’s economy

“LUSAKA, Zambia Oct 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Brenda Nglazi Zulu has tried to adapt to the power cuts that sometimes leave her home in the capital Lusaka without electricity for half the day. She bought a gas stove and installed solar panels to help keep her lights on.

But the cost to her career as a freelance journalist and researcher is becoming intolerable. Her monthly income has dropped by more than half, because most of the day she can’t work at all.

“I now only work when electricity is available to power my mobile phone and my laptop,” said Zulu, 45. “Initially it used to be two to four hours of no electricity, but now we go eight hours to 12 hours a day without power.”

With increasingly erratic seasonal rainfall causing severe water shortages at Zambia’s hydropower plants, Zesco, the country’s sole power utility, says it has been forced to cut back on electricity supply to households and industries.

The lack of reliable power is hitting Zambia’s economy, as people struggle to make a living without electricity half the day, experts say. Unless heavy rains come to Zambia soon, they add, the country will face a heavy economic bill from climate change.

CRIPPLED COPPER MINES

In June, Zesco released a statement saying that erratic rainfall over the last two years has resulted in low water supplies at both its Kariba North Power Station in the southern part of the country and nearby Kafue Gorge Station.

Kariba is running at only 40 percent capacity, the company said, while Kafue Gorge is running at one-third of its 1,500 megawatt (MW) generation capacity.

According to the Zambia Meteorological Development agency, annual rainfall has dropped from an average 1,200 mm to below 600 mm in most areas over the last two years.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) predicts that the current El Nino weather event will only make things worse: “With El Nino forecast to continue into the first quarter of 2016, suppressed rainfall is likely over many regions during the coming rainy season, including in southern Africa, America, and the Caribbean.”

Continued low rainfall could have a huge impact on the country’s economy, experts warn.

The country’s copper mining industry, which accounts for 70 percent of Zambia’s foreign exchange earnings, has already been hobbled by the country’s power problem.

In September, Anglo-Swiss mining and commodity trading giant Glencore, which owns a large share of Zambia’s Mopani Copper Mines, told the Zambian government it plans to lay off workers and cited power supply shortages as one of the factors behind the decision to downsize, alongside dropping copper prices.

“They intend to lay off close to 38,000 workers,” Zambia labour minister Fackson Shamenda told local media.

Also in September, copper mining firm Luanshya Copper Mines said in a statement it had cut production and sent some 1,200 workers on forced leave after reducing the mine’s operational hours to compensate for the electricity shortage.

The National Union of Miners Workers has since requested an emergency dialogue with the parties involved to try to save the mining jobs.

MORE DAMAGE TO FORESTS

Climate experts say that the damage low rainfall does to the country’s economy could also have a destructive impact on its environment.

“(The power shortage) may lead to soaring deforestation and further compounding on global warming as more households resort to wood and charcoal for cooking and heating,” said Chileshe Musonda, coordinator at the Zambia Climate Change Network in Lusaka.

According to figures from the Zambia Forestry Department, the country already loses between 250,000 and 300,000 hectares of forest every year, mainly due to the production of charcoal.

Recently, the government announced plans to build a 750 MW hydropower plant to ease the pressure on existing power stations. But that may take up to 10 to 15 years to be fully operational, the ministry of energy said, and changing rainfall patterns could also affects its operations.

In the meantime, power company Zesco says all that Zambians can do is hope for rain – lots of it.

In a statement released in July, senior manager Readley Makaliki said the company needs two or three normal to above-normal rainfall seasons to get back to its usual energy production patterns.

“The key thing to note is that even when the rains come either in November or December, (the power supply) won’t normalise,” he said.

(Reporting by Danstan Kaunda; editing by Jumana Farouky and Laurie Goering :; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit http://www.trust.org/climate)”

Sam Turns 1 Year Old

Well, our blogging skills lately have been as good as our Nunchaku skills, which we get an F- at! We haven’t posted anything for a while about our kids (or anything else for that matter – sorry about that), so we thought we would share this fresh video of what both of them are up to these days. This is pretty much how most days look and sound… :)

We’re thankful for these two little guys and especially, lately, for Sam, who just turned 1 year old on October 30! This year has been filled with traveling, adjustment, and craziness, and we are thankful for this little guy, who generally has a smile on his face, except in the video above. God has really blessed us with two precious little boys. We would continue to covet your prayers for them. It seems like every two weeks one of them is picking up a little bug of some kind or another.

We’ll send out some more information soon – there’s actually a lot going on! Thanks so much for your prayers and support!

Some Mid-October Prayer Requests

IMG_1629-Please pray for us as we are in the thick of hot season in Zambia, with temperatures well into the 90s every day. This time of year is always challenging with such hot, dry, and dusty days before the rains start. Hopefully, in late October or early November, rain will be here.

-Please continue to pray for Zambia, as the entire country is still on 8-hour/day power outages due to low rainfall. Although, strangely enough, our power has improved a little bit this past week, and we even had one day where the power was on for a full 24 hours! 93% of Zambia’s power is generated by hydroelectric power. When there’s not enough rain, there’s no power. Tanzania, which borders Zambia, just shut down all of their hydroelectric power due to not enough water.

-After a slow start to the CROSS Project HIV/AIDS Ministry this term, we are praising God for three churches that have signed up! For those that are familiar with the Lusaka area, we have a teaching locations in Garden Compound, George Compound, and in the Kasupe area near Ciyanjano. All three churches are on Lesson 2 (out of 16) this week.

IMG_1617One of the churches we are teaching at this term. 

PRAY that God would work mightily in hearts, minds, and actions, as people think and pray about how should they respond to, as Christians, and glorify God in HIV/AIDS and domestic abuse in their lives, their families’ lives, churches, and communities.

-Please PRAY for John and Eta (our two national workers in the CROSS Project), as they do the bulk of the teaching at our new churches for CROSS to teach at this term (September – December).

-Please pray for Sam, as he’s been struggling with some stomach and digestive bugs for the last couple weeks. He’s still energetic and happy but just can’t seem to shake this little bug.

-We PRAISE God for two happy and healthy little boys, who keep us on our toes. Please PRAY for them and for us as we seek to parent them in a way that is honoring and glorifying to God. We, as parents, need a lot of wisdom and guidance, and please PRAY that God would give these two boys soft hearts to him and his Word. 

-Please continue to pray for Jason and Grace Van Ankum, as they are now back in North America this Fall raising more support and connecting with current supporters. They hope to be back with us here in Zambia by the first of the year. You can find more about them here.

-Please PRAY that God would give Derek wisdom and supernatural guidance as he continues to settles into this new role as Country Director and seeks to lead this field.

action team pic facebookSome of our team members at Staff Meeting 

-Pray that the ACTION Zambia Team would put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, love, and peace. And pray that the Word of Christ would dwell in us richly. (Col. 3:12-17)

-We would really appreciate broad, general (Pauline-type) prayers for our entire ACTION Zambia Team as well as their ministries – Ciyanjano, PLD/APC, CROSS Project, Bible Clubs, and Feeding Programs

-Please continue to pray for more funds for CROSS and CROSS Graduation Bibles. Click here if you would like to donate to help get Bibles future CROSS Project graduations. In the Comment box at the bottom of the page, type “Bibles.” Click here if you would like to donate monthly  or one-time to the CROSS Project.

Please click here for giving options, if you feel so led to donate to the Dearths personal support.