Monday, April 4, 2016

Muri Bwanji

We know know enough Nyanja to make fools of ourselves. Nyanja is the language of the people around Lusaka and east. Fortunately, most people speak English. There are 72 tribal languages that are spoken in Zambia.

We are working in three areas.

Pastor with young couple
Bethel Baptist Church
1.     Kafue. Kafue is a small city of about 50,000 people south of Lusaka (I think). I want to look at Google Earth and find it on Google Earth. The church is only a couple blocks from the Steel Mill in Kafue. The church in Kafue is Bethel Baptist Church. They have a school (k-9). They have about 800 students, but hope to expand. The pastor is Rev. Bonface Mwalusaka. He works for USAID in Lusaka which is at the US Embassy. Their building is very nice and has potential of much growth. The community made of single family homes and multifamily units. Around the church, there are a number of industries where the people work. My teaching partner, Rev. Dwight Cook, formerly the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Honolulu, and I both preached at Bethel Church on Sunday. The music was awesome. I think it was Women’s Sunday because the Women’s Praise group led the singing, not the normal praise team. Rev. Cleveland Thompson of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs and Eleazar Z. are leading the stewardship workshop at Kafue.

Church in Chongwe
2.     Chongwe: We drove East of Lasaka to get to Chongwe. This church is located in the rural church of Chongwe. About two hundred people live in Chongwe. It is much what we imagine African villages to be. The homes are built of blocks with thatch roofs. The extend family lives in various houses, but in the center is a family kitchen, which has an open fire and a thatch roof. As the families are able, they put sheet metal roofs on their houses. Dwight and I taught on stewardship today and we will return tomorrow to Chongwe. We had a huge crowd for the workshop today. The pastor shared with us that many of the families are headed by widows. HIV/Aids is still a huge issue in Zambia.

3.     Lusaka: The third site is at the Garden Center Church in Lusaka, the capital. I cannot share any pictures of this church because we have not been to this church yet. Rev. Thompson preached at this church on Sunday and Rev. Rodney Perry from Central Baptist Church in Denver and Rev. Sean Tucker from Second Baptist Church in Mumford NY are leading the stewardship workshop at this church.

After years of traveling to Mexico and enduring the very roads, Zambia has been a breeze as far as driving. They highways are in great shape. When I commented on this, the President of the Baptist Convention of Zambia, Rev. Isaac Zulu, explained that Zambia has been taking out many loans from China to build the roads. Of course, this also helps China import their cheep products and export Zambia’s rich natural resources.

Well, I should go and prepare to meet with our team.

Zikomo kwa mbili,


Saturday, April 2, 2016

I Remember Why

            Sometimes we forget. We forget why it is important that as Baptist, we support our “Four Fragile Freedoms.” Sometimes we forget why we are proud of our heritage with our partnerships in International Ministries. Sometimes we forget the importance of our Covenant and Code of Ethics.

            Today, in one story, I was reminded of the importance all of these core values we have as American Baptists. In the early 1990s, Bernice was elected as General Secretary of the Baptist Convention of Zambiam(BCZ). Now the BCZ had been founded by another part of the Baptist family that has a strong history in international missions. The missionaries told the BCZ that they could not have a woman as their General Secretary. Interesting that they were telling the local community of believers what God could do in their midst. Hmmm.

            Then, one of the missionaries wrote an article for their mission magazine entitled “The Tail Is Leading the Dog.” In African culture, to call someone a dog is very insulting. The Zambian leaders of the BCZ went to this missionary and told him that he had offended them and Bernice and that he needed to apologize. He refused. He said that he had done nothing wrong.

            When this missionary left Zambia for furlough, the leaders of the BCZ went to him and said that they thought it would be best if he did not return. He told them that they had no authority over him and that he would return after his furlough. In the interim, the BCZ wrote a letter to the Zambian Immigration Department. They explained the situation and stated that this missionary no longer had status with the BCZ. The Zambian immigration department changed his status from permanent resident to 3 month tourist, making it impossible for him to work in Zambia.

            He and the mission agency went to the American Ambassador who scheduled an appointment with the President of Zambia. The President, after meeting with the missionary and Ambassador, referred the case the minister in charge of this department in the Zambian government. The Zambian government did not to offend the Americans, but they could not side with the missionary.

            The missionary then sued the BCZ. The case then had to be drug through the court system. Again, the missionary lost his case.

            The Baptist sending agency then formed their own convention. They threatened the churches that they had provided financial support that they would take their buildings back if they didn’t leave the BCZ and join the new Fellowship. Churches were split. Pastors were forced to choose between their Zambian brothers and sisters and the financial support of this large denomination.

            When this all started, the BCZ had 350 churches. Today, with the threats and the formation of a new denomination, some twenty years later, they have over 800 churches in the BCZ.

            This story is so troubling on so many levels. Do we support the four freedoms as Baptist.? Can we differ on theological issues and still be in relationship? Do we closet he door on those with whom we disagree? Do we serve as partners with indigenous conventions, or are we in control? And as American Baptists, we are bound by the Code of Ethics to fight against discrimination.

            In so many ways, the students grew up in this event. The BCZ practiced the doctrines of the Baptist church and the mission sending agency violated so many parts of our heritage as Baptist. The paternalistic attitude of this sen

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Three Amigos off to Africa

That title is just not right. I must be tired.

Tonight we begin our journey to Lusaka, Zambia

I am sitting here at DIA waiting to leave for Lusaka. We have a little over 24 hours of travel time ahead of us before we arrive in Zambia, so we will have plenty of time for Airport Food, Airplane meals, and sitting.

The three amigos on this trip are Rev. Cleveland Thompson of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, Rev. Rodney Perry of Central Baptist Church in Denver, and me, Mike Oldham. It has been a privilege to get to know these two men of God better as we prepare to fly out tonight. (Okay, tomorrow morning at 12:30 a.m.)

All three of us are over six feet tall. The idea of sitting for 15 hours is a little daunting.

However, the anticipation of meeting new friends in Africa makes the flight little more than a temporary discomfort.

I hope to post some pictures and write more tomorrow.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Visiting the Churches

Since arriving in Chiapas, Chuck Shawver and I have visited a number of churches and communities.

Some of the highlights.

  • Getsemani Iglesia is a thriving congregation near Ocosingo. Four brothers make up their leadership team with Pastor Alonzo serving as the teaching pastor.
  • They are trying to purchase land for a youth activity center/area.

Tacuba Nueva

  • Tacuba was heavily damaged by floods a number of years ago. OGHS (One Great Hour of Sharing) helped rebuild many of the homes that were destroyed by the flood.
  • The church is trying to finish a new building. They tore down their old structure in order to build the new one so they are worshiping in an open air structure.
  • One of the great moments was the girls of the church singing a song they learned from a Mission Team from Illinois. 


  • Yajalon is a good size city  near Ocosingo. Their streets would be comparable to San Francisco, just not as wide.
  • The Alfa and Omega church has started a number of churches in the area.
  • They are currently working with two missions and are planning to build a retreat center just outside the city.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Vehicle Travails Continue

Chuck Shawver and I continue to travel the mountain roads of Chiapas.

I am amazed at how bad the roads are right now. It is always difficult to maintain dirt roads in mountainous areas. The water naturally flows down the road, washing out many areas. This year the roads seem to be worse than I have seen them in the four years I have been coming to Chiapas. At one point yesterday, we had to creep along at less than 5 mph.

It doesn't help that we feel like we are nursing the vehicles along. Chuck is still not confident enough in the repairs to his pickup to take it out on these journeys. Therefore, we are taking the Seminary pickup which is a Chevrolet Colorado. They just had the engine rebuilt in it before I came to Mexico and it from near Puebla to San Cristobal. We had the oil changed on Monday, but today, the mechanic said that it was 2 quarts low. (Ok. He said it was a liter low.) It was also low on transmission fluid. Ugh. But, as soon as it gets back from the mechanic, we will be off to the Ocosingo region again.

One funny story about the roads. Their is one section of the road that had experienced a mud slide at some time. There is still mud coming down the hill and across the road, but not as much. Normally, this section has trouble with water, but not mud. We asked in La Ceiba about this section. The locals believe that their is a hog at the top of the hill who is rooting around in all the mud and sending it down the hill. I almost ask Chuck to stop so that I could hike up and see this amazing hog.

The church in La Ceiba is doing well. They have done quite a bit of work since we left in June. Right  now they are on hold. The cannot get supplies into the work site because the roads are so bad. They would love for us to bring another group down. The options now are April, early June, and late July.

Well I need to get ready to hop back in the Chevy for another day of driving.

By the way, I heard from Chris this morning. In Falcon, it is two degrees and they have a couple inches of snow on the ground. Suddenly, San Cristobal doesn't seem so cold.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

One Tired Preacher

It is late, and I am tired, but I feel I should update you.

This has been a busy weekend. After the travails with Chuck's pickup, we managed to make it out of San Cristobal de Las Casas.

Saturday morning we left in the SIM pickup, Chuck's is still not "right." We drove to Ocosingo and visited with a family. Following that we drove to Chilon. In Chilon, we attended the wedding of Victor and Elena. (I am really getting old. They seemed like children getting married.) It was a beautiful wedding in the Pentecostal church that she attended. Following the wedding, the whole wedding party and guests walked from the church to the municipal hall accompanied by a Mariachi band. It was great to see about 100 people walking down the main street with a Mercedes Benz dump truck at the end of the line patiently waiting for us to walk the five or six blocks to get out of his way.

Victor is the grandson of Pastor Manuel. His church is Emmanuel Baptist.

After the wedding, we drove 11 people back home (about 45 minutes). In my efforts to become a part of God's family, I was blessed with a ride in the back of the pickup.

That evening we stayed with Juan and Elivia. Juan is the local Cicim representative and a member of the Maranatha church in Chilon.

Sunday morning, we drove to Yajalon. Pastor Jose of Alfa and Omega  Baptist was the first pastor Chuck worked with in Chiapas. On the way to church, Chuck asked if I would share a word with the church. (What he meant was, would I share THE word with the church. I was thinking five minutes, he was thinking the sermon.) After church, we drove pastor and his family back up the same mountain as the previous night, but we let the kids sit in the back.

After a short visit with the pastor we drove back to Chilon. We stopped to visit with Pedro, a member of Emmanuel, and then back to church. Again, I was asked to share a word. (I really have to work with Chuck to clarify those prepositions.)

After church, we drove back to San Cris. Tomorrow, we will travel to La Ceiba.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Back in Chiapas

Many of you know that I am back in Chiapas. I flew in to Mexico City yesterday and spent the night with Chuck and Ramona Shawver in Puebla. I was able to have dinner with them and with Keith Myers.

I will be in Chiapas until the 24th of November.

Prayer requests:

  • ·         Chuck Shawver. His pickup seems to be on its last leg. The week before I arrived, he put it in the shop to have a head gasket replaced. We picked it up last night at about 8:00 p.m. We left for Chiapas this morning at 4:00 a.m. We had to stop along the way and have the radiator flushed and a new thermostat put in. That did not help. It still overheated. We made it to Tuxtla-Gtz. We left his truck in TG and drove in the Seminary pickup to San Cris. (I drove from about 2 hours outside of MX City to San Cris, 14.5 hours of driving.) Chuck needs to know what to do replace the engine or try to find a new vehicle for his last year in MX.

  • ·         Chris, my lovely bride. She always says that something happens every time I leave town, and when I am out of the country . . .  Well, this morning, on her way to work she was rear ended. She is OK, but her car is pretty heavily damaged. She is pretty shaken up about everything. She said that she had not been in an accident in 30 years.

  • ·         Eleazar and Dahlia. They were in an accident this summer. Dahlia had to have surgery. She is recovering slowly, but is not back in San Cris yet. Eleazar had severe whip lash and is still not recovered completely.

  • ·         The churches we will be visiting in Chiapas. Chuck was supposed to be at a regional meeting tomorrow, but because of the pickup, he will not make it.

  • ·       The people of Chiapas. Their bean crop was washed away with flooding. The corn crop was destroyed by drought this summer. And the coffee crop was damaged. This will increase the pressure to immigrate.

Grace and Peace,