by Tim Beer
Tim and his wife, Joy, served in Zambia for over 24 years.1
The privilege and blessing of Christian mission is to see the pre-eminent power of Jesus Christ at work in this world. Therefore, the foundation of each commission should be the absolute reliance upon the ability of God to work out His purpose in our lives. The One who sends us into His harvest field stated, ‘…without me you can do nothing’ (Jn 15:5) and ‘Follow me and I will make you…’ (Mt. 4:19). These statements result in the freeing assurance that Christian life does not depend upon who we are or what we can do. Instead, it relies completely upon who Jesus Christ is and what He can do. Our part is simply to be available for God to use, being sure that we are living where He wants us to be and doing what He wants us to do.
For my wife, Joy, and I that has meant serving in Zambia for almost 25 years. Due to the diversity of needs and opportunities, the ministry decisions have usually been ‘what we are not going to do rather than what we are going to do!’ One of the key things that God needed to teach us was that people are more important than projects. This can be opposite to the western mindset but if there is to be progression in the Lord’s work then investment in local individuals must be understood. What may have appeared as a wonderful idea, from a western perspective has, at times, later fallen apart because there was no proper partnership with local people to ensure succession and sustainability. A hundred years from now most of the current infrastructure that supports mission will likely no longer exist – but individuals won for Jesus Christ will surround Heaven’s throne for all eternity. Therefore, any infrastructure must be seen as simply a means of achieving the goal of impacting many lives for Jesus Christ. It was important to take the time to include committed local believers in the work and mentor them, so that they could see the joy of evangelism for themselves.
Loloma Mission Hospital
Medical work has been a key part of Christian mission. This ministry of compassion has been a practical opportunity to share the love of God with many local people, resulting in large numbers of them being won for the Kingdom of God. The hospital at Loloma has been the foundation and means of acceptance throughout the surrounding areas, allowing us to share the message of salvation. The warm welcome we receive in the village work is due to the medical care the local people have received at the hospital.
Initially, we assisted in many practical needs that go with maintaining a medical facility. Then, during the last ten years, we have seen God building a strong management team of local African believers. Together with one missionary nurse, they run this facility on behalf of the Zambian government. The support of mission partners is still an essential component and God is glorified through quality medical care that is delivered on a strong spiritual foundation. One medical officer, Dr Abel Chikuta, is a local believer who was the first to graduate from a medical sponsorship programme. He is a great help not only in the hospital but also in the local assembly.
The hospital provides healthcare to a community of around 70,000 people. Staff devotions are held two mornings a week, the gospel is shared in the hospital wards morning and evening using the public address system and also via one-on-one patient visitation.
In His commission the Lord clearly instructed His disciples to go to where the people are in order to make disciples. Following this model has resulted in seeing God at work in many people’s lives. One of the blessings of living in Zambia is that the local people are very interested to listen to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ, particularly when it is in their own language. Learning one of the local languages was therefore vital, as it helped us to understand how Zambians think and what they believe, and ensured they clearly understand God’s amazing grace and salvation. Putting the ‘two roads and two destinies’ chart in the local languages meant people could see for themselves their position before God. Each week we visited villages in our area with the life-changing message of God’s grace and power revealed at the Cross. Most years we visited more remote areas for four to five days at a time with a team of local believers. This concentrated time in reaching people with this transforming message has been a great blessing.
This ministry of compassion has been a practical opportunity to share the love of God with many local people
Teaching in the Local Assemblies
Zambia is so open to evangelism that a multiplicity of false cults and churches exist. Some people in the more rural areas struggle to read and study the Bible for themselves, so they are vulnerable to false teaching. The small assemblies in these areas need help with Bible teaching, so we regularly visited them. Including some of the local believers in this work resulted in them developing their God-given gifts to teach the Word. We are thankful that they continue with this important ministry.
Kayombo Boarding School
In 2009, we had a great opportunity to partner with the government in running a new boarding school. While this was a huge step of faith, God gave clear assurance. Following years of prayer, preparation, and interface with the department of education, the church management of the school began in 2015 with about 14 students.
The remote location, poor road conditions, lack of electricity and a limited water supply, brought challenges but God has been faithful. Several years ago the government recognised it as a school of excellence. The spiritual opportunities are amazing. First thing in the morning of each weekday, all 350 students meet for a devotion. On Saturday mornings there is a gospel message and on Sundays they all attend the local assembly for the gospel meeting.
God has put together a good administration team of Zambian Christians, who have been greatly used of the Lord to grow the school both academically and spiritually. They come under the guidance of the church management board that is made up of mostly local believers. Some of the school leavers are now being accepted into university at Lusaka and we know that God has a plan for them in the years to come.
Managing a nursery school for 60 children provides initial education on a spiritual foundation. Children attend for two years before moving into first grade. Two committed Zambian Christian ladies teach and look after the day-to-day running of the school, receiving a little administrative assistance from one of the missionaries at Loloma.
We have been involved in caring for women at our village for the elderly, typically around 25, each of whom has no one able or willing to look after them. God’s Word is shared and He consistently provides for their physical needs. Two Zambian men, who have helped us in this work for the last 8-10 years, faithfully continue it in our absence.
The community radio station reaches into many villages within a 30km radius of Loloma. Each Thursday afternoon, the message of God’s salvation is systematically explained in the Lunda language. A Zambian brother, whom we worked closely with, continues with this special opportunity to present the gospel and he is supported by one or two others.
In Good Hands
Maintaining these different ministries involves a lot of behind the scenes administration and practical support including maintenance of vehicles, plumbing, electrics and building work. It is vital to train up local people to take on the many aspects of the work. Stepping back from this work for an indefinite period of time has not been easy. However, the same God who called us to Zambia is calling others to continue His work. He clearly opened the way for us to be with our three children, now aged 20, 18 and 16, during their transition to western life and to help care for Joy’s mother. The Lord’s work in Loloma is dear to our hearts and we are thankful that, due to technology, we are able to keep in regular contact with the believers there. We praise God that due mostly to the different teams of Zambian believers whom we have been privileged to work and partner with, these special ministry opportunities continue. Your prayers for all of them are greatly appreciated.