Archives for September 2015

Jackson, Mississippi: September 14–16, 2015

With Dr. Elias Medeiros, his wife Fokjelina, and her parents, Margerita and Frans, former seminary president in Brazil

With Dr. Elias Medeiros, his wife Fokjelina, and her parents, Margerita and Frans, former seminary president in Brazil

(The following post was written by my wife, Mary.)

Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson invited Joel to speak for their seminary chapel and their mission conference. His chapel message was “Keep on Keeping On” from Hebrews 12. His mission conference addresses were on “The Age of the Spirit and Revival” and “How to Promote Genuine Church Growth.” He also lectured spontaneously for a preaching class on “The Golden Age of Puritan Preaching.”

Our dear friends, Dr. Elias (RTS’s mission professor) and Fokjelina Medieros, organized our itinerary and took us around. Elias had just returned from Brazil Tuesday morning and planned to go back Thursday to be with his ailing mother. He told how she was giving Gideon’s Bibles and evangelizing everyone from her bed in ICU, including the respiratory therapist as he was giving her a breathing treatment. Now we know from whom Elias gets his evangelistic zeal!

Fokjelina’s parents were also on campus, and were a delight to visit with. Her father served for many years as a president of a notable seminary in Brazil.

It was good to visit the RTS campus again, touching base with faculty and students. Joel also thoroughly enjoyed his serendipitous visit with Guy Richardson, the seminary’s personable president. Pray that God would richly bless RTS-Jackson and that the RTS students would go out and preach with passion.

Jackson Antique Shop with Two Widowers

After Joel was done speaking, we stopped at an antique store. The owner, Gary, had recently lost his wife. I asked him if he knew the Lord. He said he did and it was a great comfort to him. A customer, James, a bricklayer, chimed in that he had lost his wife four years before. He too was strengthened through his faith in Jesus. Joel pastored them and prayed with them. The joys and sorrows of the human condition—birth, growth, marriage, children, aging, death—were so poignantly felt. Seeking comfort and refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ created an instant bond between us. Pray for these two lonely men.


Update on Summer Travels

If you would like to read about my ministry trips this past summer (some of which have been posted on this blog already), you may download my latest pastoral letter.

Lusaka, Zambia, Africa, Part 2 (August 27-September 1, 2015)

Zambia Elephant

(The following post, a continuation of the previous blog post on our trip to preach at the Reformed Family Conference, was written by my wife Mary.)

On Thursday, Joel spoke about Willem Teellinck to the ministers; what an example that man was of piety and perseverance! At the Family Conference he spoke on “The Puritans on Prayer.” We went to a potluck lunch for about 70 people at the home of the parents of PRTS student Katolo Mendamenda. We heard an update on the proposed African Christian University (ACU): all the plans are laid, staff and faculty in place, and the venue is ready. The only thing they are waiting for is approval from the government. They are hoping it comes next month so they can start in January. This is the fruition of the bold vision and work of Ronald Kalifungwa, Conrad Mbewe, other pastors in the area, and their churches.

With Dr. Voddie Baucham

With Dr. Voddie Baucham

Dr. Voddie Baucham has come from the United States to direct the ACU Seminary. Their mission is to provide both a liberal arts university as well as a seminary of Reformed persuasion. They feel called to prepare students to be gatekeepers who carry out the Christian mandate in society to follow God’s commandments and to love God above all and our neighbor as ourselves. Rather than just complaining about corrupt politicians and business leaders, they feel called to take action. Pray for this worthy endeavor.

On Friday, Joel spoke to the ministers on “Wilhelmus à Brakel’s Biblical Ethics of Spirituality” and to the families on “The Puritans on Sanctification.” I was able to go with Sarah Kalifungwa to a market to buy some fabric. After seeing all these ladies in their beautiful outfits, I wanted to get some cloth for the ladies in my family and myself. At $1.75 a yard I was quite happy. The market was a real experience!

With Ladies from Namibia--Note Hats Like Cow Horns

With Ladies from Namibia–Note Hats Like Cow Horns

The conference concluded that evening with Joel preaching “Keep on Keeping On!” from Hebrews 12. It was very encouraging to be reminded to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, as we run the race set before us. A young man came up to Joel and Ronald afterward with tears streaming down his cheeks. The only words he could say were, “Thank you,” but his eyes said a lot more. Another young man that I had noticed the first night looked furtively around, like he didn’t want to be there, and he wasn’t singing. I have to admit I was suspicious of him. But during Friday night’s sermon, he was singing and looked less burdened. He came up to us afterward and said, “I was in withdrawal from drugs Wednesday evening. Now I know where I can find the strength to stay away from drugs, and I am determined to do so!” There was a peaceful smile on his face. Pray that he will remain strong!

On Saturday our hosts drove us to Ronald and Sarah’s house. The parsonage is on a three-acre lot, and Sarah grows all sorts of palms, vegetables, herbs, and flowers to sell. She is a true Proverbs 31 lady. The six of us went to a large game park over a long, bumpy dirt road an hour and a half away. After a BBQ buffet lunch, we boarded an open-air truck and saw lions, lynx, hyenas, and cheetahs in cages. Wandering around the 10,000 acres were giraffe, kudu, ostrich, zebra, waterbuck, impala, heartbeast, guinea fowl, kafue lechwe, wildebeest, bandit mongoose, sable antelope, and an elephant. We then took a boat ride on a beautiful lake and saw numerous species of birds, including a variety of cormorants, weaver bird, jacana, grebes, herons, paid wag, and kingfishers. Some of the birds were so different from ours, and so very colorful. God’s creation is awesome!

With Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa and Sylvester and Joyce Hibajene

With Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa and Sylvester and Joyce Hibajene

On Sunday, Joel spoke to the adult Bible class at Lusaka Baptist Church and then preached to the church of about 700 people about Jesus being the only one who can meet all our needs. Peter’s pride, denial, restoration, and subsequent usefulness are encouraging lessons for us. Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa and their three sons hosted us for lunch. After a short rest, we were off to a daughter church of Lusaka Baptist Church called Kabwata Baptist Church. Their pastor, Conrad Mbewe, was preaching elsewhere. Joel preached on how the Lord matures our faith. The theme of Jesus working through hardships to mature our faith always moves people, for suffering is part of the human condition, in some parts of the world more than others. Praise God, He works all things for good if we are His children!

On Monday we headed for home, arriving about thirty hours later in Grand Rapids, grateful for the Lord’s provision throughout our journey and for the great work He is doing in Zambia. We are also thankful for being reunited with family—our own, the church family, and the seminary family.

Lusaka, Zambia, Africa, Part 1 (August 24-26, 2015)

Zambia Conference

(The following post was written by my wife Mary.)

It was a long journey to Zambia; from Grand Rapids we went to Atlanta, then to Johannesburg, and finally to Lusaka (19 hours flying, 29 hours on the way). Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa were our travel companions. Ronald had just finished speaking at our Puritan Reformed Conference, and Joel then spoke at the Zambian Reformed Conference at Ronald’s church, Lusaka Baptist Church.

We stayed at the home of Sylvester and Joyce. He is an engineer who used to work for the government in the energy department; now he works for a private firm. She was a physical therapist and had a clothing business. They have two sons who are studying in Australia. They provided us with a comfortable, beautiful place to stay, and delicious food to eat! Other friends, Henry and Rosemary, an orthopedic surgeon and a secretary, also stayed a few nights.

A nation of 14 million, Zambia is surrounded by eight other countries in the southern part of Africa. Lusaka, the capital, has four million people. Zambia is a Christian nation by law. Poverty is a large problem, though the situation is improving. Some of the other problems that plague many African nations, such as HIV/AIDS, corruption, Islam infiltration, drugs, immorality, and unemployment are considerably less pronounced in Zambia. About 70 percent of the people attend church, though many are Arminian and Pentecostal. The presence of Christianity is attributable in part to David Livingstone, who ministered in Zambia and surrounding countries in the mid-nineteenth century.

With Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa

With Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa

Years ago, we heard of God’s blessing in Zambia. At that time, Joel overheard someone ask Conrad Mbewe, a well-known Zambian minister, how the church prospered. At first Mbewe ignored the question. When asked again, he humbly answered, “In countries where there is more prosperity, people relax in the evening with their TVs and other entertainment. In Zambia, many people don’t have those things. They basically only have their Bible, so they spend time reading and studying and having family worship.” Modernization has increased in recent times, but God is still blessing Zambia.

There are seven main tribal languages spoken in Zambia, but at least seventy-two dialects. Until 1964, the country was called Northern Rhodesia and was under the rule of the United Kingdom. All education is in English, which is a unifying factor for all of Zambia. The sad thing is that many children are too poor to go to school, so they only pick up a bit of English in society and are forced to find whatever menial labor they can find as they grow up. An elder’s wife is starting a non-profit to provide education and training for poor children.

The economy was as strong as Singapore’s in 1964, but due to the socialistic policies of President Kaunda until 1991, the country has become poverty-stricken. Nevertheless, we were told that Kaunda did promote concern for one’s neighbor and treating all Zambians equally. Since then, capitalism has replaced socialism, but they still have a long climb. The U.S. subsidizes health care and agriculture in Zambia. A lady at the conference said that under President George Bush, many lives in Africa were saved from HIV/AIDS and malaria. She was also glad that most African nations have stayed strong against President Obama’s threat to cut aid if they didn’t allow homosexuality.

Talking to Well-Taught African Children about Their Bible Lesson

Talking to Well-Taught African Children about Their Bible Lesson

The Zambian Reformed Conference started small twenty-six years ago. This year’s theme was The Godward Life. Three conferences happen simultaneously at the same venue: the School of Theology for ministers and church workers, the Family Conference for everyone, and (new this year) a conference for the youth. It was obvious from the friendly greetings and cheerful banter that this is a special time of fellowship and encouragement for many ministers and families. The 1,400 attendees come mostly from Zambia and Southern African countries, but also from many parts of Africa. Some even came from India, the U.K., and the U.S. Our dear friend Dr. Steve Lawson was the other main speaker.

We arrived Tuesday evening and on Wednesday, Joel spoke four times. He likes to hit the road running, and he surely did this time! God has given him a lot of stamina. He spoke at the School of Theology on the “Dutch Further Reformation” and at the Family Conference on “The Puritans on Receiving and Doing the Word of God,” “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” and in the evening, “The Only Way to Live and Die.” The first three were lectures with application, but he felt he needed to just preach for the evening session, when all attendees were there. First our hearts were primed as we raised our voices in singing some beautiful, familiar songs. Then our hearts were filled with the call to live for Christ and to anticipate dying as a gain. It was a blessed time!

A middle-aged Kenyan minister named Obed came up to Joel afterward and told him how his wife of twenty years had died July 2. She had had a headache off and on for two months. She was vomiting, but the doctor would not admit her to the hospital. He asked the doctor to just admit her for rest. He left and got called back two hours later, after she had passed away. He was devastated. They have a 19-year-old son. He has never gone back to his church; the leaders have been taking care of it. He had not been able to accept this, but submission broke through for him during this sermon. He emailed, “As I came from Kenya, I felt a desire just to join her (his wife). Your message has changed all that…. To die is gain… Praise the Lord, Thank you so much for that message. It was mine.” Please pray for this dear man.

(To be continued in another post.)