FMZ revived! 2008 Spiritual Life Conference
Flying Mission Zambia first 'set up shop' in Zambia in 2004. Pioneering is a challenge and personnel have been working flat out since the inception of the project. Retreats had been discussed in the past, but only this year was it possible to arrange some time away from base as a team to refresh weary bodies, minds and spirits - and revive family life!
And was it timely! Pilots and support staff had been working flat out to assist ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority) to survey the stocks of wild animals roaming in the National Parks – a huge logistical exercise. A plane and pilot was even loaned by FMS in Botswana to help out. Pilots were gone for days at a time; families were apart more often than together. Other FM missionaries were covering the jobs normally done by those absent. Chief Engineer Joel Bolthouse was constantly working on planes with the pilot-mechanics to keep them in the air in peak condition. Roger Green was 'on loan' to Dipalata to oversee a new runway project way out in the bush. Volunteers, Scott and Dan Bleeker, were working their socks off to lay the base of the new hangar at Chilongolo in 4 weeks. The Guest House was catering for all the visitors. Bryan Wilson was wearing 10 hats as he held all things together and purchased supplies in Lusaka for the work going on at Chilongolo. In his words, ‘Man, it was BUSY!’ (He’s American!) Everyone was tired and in need of refreshment. And God came through for FMZ.
Susi and Ernst Schneider efficiently undertook the donkeywork involved in making an event like this happen. (They’re Swiss!). Diane Wilson (she’s British!) arranged a speaker, Victor Chibangula, Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Ndola. (He’s Zambian!) She also found some great young people (US Missionary Kids) to organise a programme for the children in the group.
And so it was that we all converged on a small fishing lodge by the Zambezi River for 3 days of ‘uplift’, rather like taking an uplift of fuel on our aircraft to get flying again. Pastor Victor undertook the task admirably. He spoke much about our role in Zambia, calling on his own experience of being in a different culture. He opened up the Zambian culture to us in fresh ways and challenged us in some areas. He encouraged us in our personal and corporate relationship with God. We had great times of worship together in the Upper Room – the loft of the cottage we used for our group meetings. Richard Wheatley led those times very sensitively on keyboard and was assisted by Abe Murray on guitar. Abe was one of the Children’s Programme Workers so we had a double blessing from him.
Afternoons were free times for families to enjoy each other again and for times of fellowship amongst us all. Those of us who had been away from Chilongolo particularly enjoyed those times of re-establishing friendships and making new ones with the new folk on the team. In the mission community people come and go: move stations, take furloughs, change assignments… flexibility is one of the requirements for success, along with a great sense of humour!
So the afternoons saw missionaries playing together in activities like volleyball, boule and swimming; also in passivities like basking in the sun or wallowing in the pool, fishing, reading, writing, playing table games or just chatting together. One afternoon a boat trip was arranged and a number of FMZ-ers went game-viewing for hippo, croc, elephant, and the plentiful selection of brilliantly-coloured birds which festoon Africa. They were not disappointed.
On the final evening a pig roast was arranged. Afterwards we sat around a camp fire, sang to our God and also enjoyed some fun together as Doug Hammes led us in an interactive game of guessing who did what in their former lives!
Who changed their name? Who had 5 bicycles stolen? Who sold the same homing pigeons several times over? Who went to prison – just briefly? Who kissed all the boys in her class? Who had a turtle for a pet? If you want to know the answers, you’ll have to come and visit us in Zambia!Pastor Victor and his wife, Grace, became our friends in the 3 day period we were together. We appreciated the ministry they brought us and were very happy to hear that they had enjoyed their stay. They said it was the first time they had been alone as a couple since their honeymoon!
On the final morning, Sunday, we shared in the Fellowship Meal of Holy Communion. It was reminiscent of the first ‘Last Supper’ in that it was the last group event of the Conference and it took place in the Upper Room. But then it became more reminiscent of another Upper Room experience of the New Testament, that of the prayer meeting which heralded the empowering of the disciples to ‘go and make disciples even to the ends of the earth'. Flying Mission Zambia, although a service organisation, is nevertheless predominantly concerned with fulfilling that commission. The conference helped us to stay on track. You can help us also, by praying regularly for us. Be a part of what God is doing in Zambia in these days!