Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 30, 2006


Missions is all about love and the ministry of presence


          The trip to Zambia and back was exhausting. Underline that. In fact, it was more exhausting than we had imagined. It simply takes a long time to fly halfway around the world.

          Without any sleep Sunday night we boarded a Delta jet that took us to Dulles Airport in Washington. No problem. We made our way to the gate for Ethiopian Airlines where the problems began. Our flight departed three hours late so we missed our connection in Addis Ababa. An unplanned night in the capitol city of Ethiopia pushed our total time of travel to 55 hours before arriving at our destination – Lusaka, Zambia. We left home Sunday night and stepped on Zambia soil Wednesday afternoon.

          Our delay turned out to be a blessing. Physically worn out by the time of our arrival in Addis Abba, we got much needed rest. That helped us get ready for a grueling schedule that began a few hours after we arrived in Lusaka. After collecting our baggage we were greeted in the loading area by an ensemble of singers who welcomed us to Zambia in song. Dressed in their colorful native shirts, they humbled us with their beautiful greeting.

          We were taken straight from the airport for a worship service at the John Howard Church in Lusaka. The name of the church confirmed for me that we were destined to be in Zambia. John Howard is one of the finest Christian men serving the Lord at our home church – Saint James United Methodist Church in Montgomery.

          The people – especially the children – welcomed us with open arms and warm hearts. Dozens of children were eager to shake our hands then, and every time we arrived at the church to worship with them. Their awesome praise team was on the stage was we walked in.

          The music was loud, beautiful, and inspiring. We were swept away by the way they expressed their love for Jesus in song – and dance. Zambian Christians can hardly sing without swaying and dancing. Most of our team of 13 got into the rhythm with them.

          Impressed with the sight of so many children in the congregation, I preached about Jesus’ love of children. Later I realized that this was the reason we were there – the love of Jesus. Truth has never been more wonderfully expressed than in the simple song that says it all – “Jesus loves the little children, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

          The next morning we began ministry in several arenas. Some of us began working – in Vacation Bible School fashion – with a group of children that grew to more than 350. Others began leading a conference for women and a conference for pastors and church leaders. Still others began working on improvements at the home and headquarters of our hosts – Alfred and Muumbe Kalembo who direct the work of International Leadership Institute for Southern Africa.

          Another team departed for Livingstone to participate in conferences concerning the use of land. A forester in our group met with a Zambian forester to discuss wise and creative ways to use the land provided to the Kalembos by the government.

          Our team saw God at work. We did not take God there; He was already working there in ways we knew about and in ways we never dreamed. We learned so much from the people. We learned much about their land, their need, their shocking poverty, and the determination of God’s People to serve Christ faithfully there.

          We came home by way of another exhausting trip but this time missed no connections. We were back on American soil within 30 hours. Tired but thrilled with the positive impact of our mission to Zambia, at least on ourselves, we found welcome rest in our own beds.

          I slept for 12 hours but not before thanking God for the awareness that missions is not about serving other people. It is all about accepting people with love and encouraging them to remain faithful to the Christ. As much as anything missions is about a ministry of presence. Our host, Alfred Kalembo, summed it up: “The greatest gift you have given us is your presence, just being here with us to love and encourage us.” That says it all. + + + +