It is another beautiful day here in Zambia – delightful blue sky with huge, billowy, white clouds drifting lazily by.  A wonderful day to worship the True and Eternal High God of Heaven!

We had a great day of services today.  Our Sunday School was very full as we prepared to learn about the Passover memorial and the 10th plague on Egypt.  I think that the folks are enjoying the lessons because it seems that each Sunday there are more people in attendance.

Today we had two visitors – deaf ladies from our community.  We do not have regular deaf services or translation for our services into sign language, so we direct visitors to the one deaf Baptist church in town.  Jill and I are thinking and planning how we can do more for the deaf in our community.  Please pray with us that the Lord will give us wisdom and guidance.

In our morning service I preached on “The Heart is the Key to Man’s Relationship with God.”  It is a sermon that I have been working on for some time.  It is also a topic that the Lord has been speaking to me about in my devotions over the past few weeks.  I want a heart that is genuine in its devotion and love for God.  I tried to present this principle in the sermon today.  I would like to think that the Holy Spirit spoke to people’s hearts through the preaching.  Even though the church building became very warm, and I preached longer than what is typical, everyone stayed awake and gave me their full and rapt attention for the entire service!  During the invitation the altar was full.  I pray that I presented the topic well and that the Holy Spirit found fertile ground to implant His message.

Last week we were blessed to hear special music from the children of one of our families at Calvary Baptist Church of Ndola. What a blessing it was to hear these young people lift up their voices in praise to our Savior.

Yesterday at our men’s prayer meeting we also had a good turnout.  I love it when the men of the church come together on their day off to lift their voices in prayer together and pray for the country of Zambia and our church and families.  

The hot topic in Zambia is still the lack of electricity.  A local businessman told me that he was approached by the administrator of a hospital in the rural or bush area near Ndola and was asked for assistance in purchasing an inverter and batteries for their hospital.  He explained that because of the power cuts they see, on average, 3 children die each week.  The businessman sold him a good system at a huge loss.  

One of our members told us how he was having building supplies stolen from his house each night because there were no security lights.  Everyone has noticed an increase in criminal activity because of the darkness at night with no electricity for lights.  

One of our church ladies told Jill how her fridge will no longer keep her food cold.  It turns out that the frequent power cuts and spikes when the power comes back on has ruined her compressor and there is no money for repairs.  Please pray for our Zambian Christians during this crisis.  

Today in church during announcements and prayer requests the electricity situation was mentioned.  From where I sat on the platform I looked out into the audience and saw folks looking back at me who live in the very poor section of town and have never had electricity in their homes.  I am reminded what a blessing it is to have electricity even if it only is for 8 or 9 hours a day.

Thank you for your prayers for Allison.  She is doing well.  As we try to formulate a proper diet for her it seems as if sometimes we are “taking two steps forward and one step back”.  I think that she is having fewer bad days and we certainly praise the Lord for that.  Please continue to pray for Allison’s complete healing.  (When was the last time that you thanked the Lord for the ability to eat gluten, dairy, fruit or sugar?  The things that we take for granted are numerous.)

Some of you have written asking about Jill’s foot.  I am happy to say that it continues to improve.  I think that Jill is regaining some of the muscle that had atrophied when she had the nerve damage.  She still limps at times (especially if she is tired) and occasionally she has pain, but she is doing much better than she had been.  Your prayers are working!  Keep them coming!

Our other 3 children in the US are well.  Each are going through specific personal difficulties.  The transition to adulthood is tough at times.  Please pray for Judah, Andrea and Anna.

Thank you for praying for my arm.  I went to see the doctor.  It was on a Monday and of course the place was full to capacity.  I was able to see the doctor within 30 minutes of my appointment which was a huge blessing.  The doctor greeted me and we chatted for a moment and then he asked what was wrong and looked at my arm.  Imagine my surprise when he said “Say, this reminds me, I was just reading about Naaman the leper in my Bible this week.” !!!  No, it was not leprosy but the doctor was able to narrow it down to one of two possibilities.  We are treating for the easier diagnosis now and will see if the treatment works or if we have to go on to the more difficult-to-treat diagnosis.  Thank you very much for your prayers.  

The doctor kept me in his office for almost an hour and asked me question after question about the Bible.  Twice the nurse came in to remind him that there were other patients waiting.  I did not mind because the questions were so good and sincere, but I felt bad for the people in line after me.

Please continue praying for complete healing in my arm, and that I will take the opportunity to be a witness everywhere I go.

THE AVOCADO TREE

When we were planning to move into our house here in Ndola, one of the first things that we did was to plant some trees.  We like trees,  we like the shade, we like to see things grow, and here in Zambia we can have plants and trees that in the United States we never had.  One of the trees that we wanted for sure was an avocado tree.

Growing up in Illinois, I had never had an avocado.  I am sure that I saw them at the store, but I never tasted one.  At the Mexican restaurant guacamole was always extra and there was very little money for extras so I guess that you could say “I never knew what I was missing”.

The avocado tree in our yard. From a seedling all the way up to a fruit bearing juvenile tree. Plus, a sample of one of the delicious avocados.

When Jill and I arrived in Zambia we found avocados everywhere and immediately I fell in love with them.  In Zambia the avocados are large, tasty and plentiful.

So, along with some other fruit trees we made sure that we found an avocado seedling to plant. 

It was barely 2 feet tall.  Just a few leaves but slowly it took root and began to grow.  Within a few years it was taller than me.  Occasionally there would be a small bloom then an avocado pear, but really nothing edible.  

Time, care and patience – the avocado tree took a lot of all three.  We really nurtured that tree.  When we went to the United States on our furloughs someone else would stay at our house and they often would not care for the tree as we did.  Twice when we returned from a furlough we found it almost completely dead.  

Ants attacked it once and it almost died.  Still we kept caring for it.  Pruning it here and there, watering it during the dry seasons.  Showing it all the love that we could muster.

This year, over a decade later, the tree is full of avocados.  They are not huge, but they are very good-sized especially for a juvenile tree like ours.  

As a matter of fact, there are so many avocados we are afraid that the branches are going to break.  The branches are drooping lower and lower to the ground.  Allison and I were looking at the tree last week and discussing its growth and we decided to put some wooden supports under the branches to keep them from breaking.

As I considered this tree that we have nurtured for so long, that is just now starting to bear fruit (and not just some fruit, but lots of fruit) I was reminded of our relationship with our supporting churches and praying friends in the United States and throughout the world.  

For years your prayers have sustained us.  There have been some very bare years.  I am afraid that I have made a lot of mistakes in my service for the Lord – mistakes that have taken years to correct and some that I am still working on correcting.  There have been struggles and trials.  The church building burning down, the Zambian pastor in training passing away from AIDs, illnesses within our family, the tropical storm that destroyed our meeting place, the arson attempts (and arson successes) just to name a few.  We have done our best to stick with it and through the years you have stuck with us.  The Lord is beginning to bless and we are seeing fruit from our efforts.  And there you are.  Just like that timber, you are supporting us, helping us so that we do not break under the weight and stress of our labor and our harvest.

Thank you so much for your faithfulness.  Thank you for your support – your faithful prayers, your notes of encouragement.  Thank you for your partnership in the Lord’s Ministry here in Zambia and your partnership in the harvest.  You are truly a blessing.

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