Friends, Family and Partners,
Greetings to each of you from a hot, but a little rainy Choma, Zambia. We have just about made it through the hottest part of the year and we are really starting to enjoy the short rains that almost come each day. The cool air from the rains reminds us of Santa Cruz and we find ourselves sitting outside enjoying the breeze.First and foremost we owe each you an apology for the lack of communication in the form of monthly updates. Please forgive us. We have some new plans in place and some new internet that will help us do a much better job.Since it’s been a while, this update will be a bit lengthy. I’ll do my best to summarize the past several months and give you at least a small picture of what’s been happening here. I’ll break the update up into the following few sections: SPORTS MINISTRY, CHALLENGES, and WHATS AHEAD.
Our ministry here is focused on creating relationships in order to have the opportunity to lead people to Jesus Christ. We use sports in order to create those relationships. I was recently talking with a Zambian pastor who has been church planting in Zambia for years. He told me that in all his years of ministry he has never seen an evangelistic outreach that reaches people the way sports ministry does. From what I’ve seen, he is 100% right. In the past 10 months I have not met a Zambian who is not passionate about soccer (football). And when I say passionate, I mean they are all in. They love the sport, have their favorite teams and follow what’s happening in soccer all around the world. Each area of town has passionate supporters who go to every home game and cheer on their local clubs. For the youth of Zambia, many of them look at soccer as their only way out of poverty. In many cases, sadly they are right. With unemployment soaring around the 85-90% mark, a young Zambian has a better chance of earning money through playing soccer than he/she would going to college and getting a job. Kinda crazy, right. All of this has opened the door or maybe I should say a flood gate for us to create a whole bunch of relationships and has given us the opportunity to share the gospel.
Currently we have a Division 1 mens team (Division one is at the professional level, you could compare it to AAA team in MLB baseball), Division 3 mens team(most of this team is 18 years old and younger), a girls team, an Under 17’s amateur team, an under 14’s team, and under 12’s team and and last but not least a under tens team. The division 1 team competes throughout the southern province of Zambia. Many of the matches are featured on the local radio stations and the team has started to gain a huge following. The coaches and players are proud to be known across the country as christian team who is very disciplined and loves Jesus. On any given weekday we can have up to 200 Zambian youth participating in one of the above teams. We help run and organize over 30 practice sessions each week. Throughout the season each team has a team devotion each week and we encourage all of the players to go to church on Sundays.
Many of our Division 1 players are from remote villages or are orphans. We have decided to supply a home for some of the players to live in. In Zambia, a home where a team lives together is called a “Camp house”. Our Camp house has 12 players and 2 coaches living in it. We have the responsibility of taking care of all the needs for everyone in the camp house. We have plans for weekly devotions at the camp house and we are looking forward to seeing what God has planned.
Through the football ministry we have seen several dozen young men and women come to know Jesus and accept Him as their personal savior!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Recently we have had 3 young men tell us they would like to serve God full-time with their lives. We will continue to disciple each of them and pray about what is the next best step for full time ministry.
In addition to soccer, we recently started a volleyball club. We started by building a brand new, outdoor volleyball court at one of our local schools. We were able to find a volleyball net in Lusaka and also managed to acquire a few volleyballs. The initial plan was to focus on a small girls team. Within just a few weeks we had quite a few girls coming each day. Shortly thereafter a large group of boys started asking for us to have boys team as well. We now have both a boys and girls team. The teams played in the southern province league. The girls played extremely well and won the league. The boys also played well and will be finishing their season this coming weekend. We also took the opportunity to send two of our players to Mongu to play in a professional beach volleyball tournament. (Bryce was one of the players). The beach team played well and I can see that we will need to build some beach courts in Choma soon. The girls team requested that Kelly be the “team Madame” or team mom. She has had great opportunity to build a relationship with several the players. The volleyball club is truly grassroots and the potential for growth is huge. Recently the mens national team coach and the director of volleyball for Zambia visited our volleyball court and were very excited about what they saw with the club. They have committed to help us as the club grows. It’s amazing to me to watch as God works and to see His plans unfold. The sky is the limit with the volleyball club. You will be hearing many updates about volleyball in the future letters.
Our sports ministries are ministries of Grace Baptist Church Showgrounds. We have worked diligently to help get the choir started back up at church. They choir is amazing and a real blessing to our community. Approximately 85% of the choir plays soccer on one of the teams listed above. We are planning to have a live concert on Facebook in the next couple of weeks. As soon as we know the date, we will get it out to you. I promise you will not want to miss it.
In September we took the Division 1 team and coaches to Chipepo. Chipepo is a remote village about 4 hours from Choma. We had an incredible time of relationship building and ministry. The team played 6 games in 4 days. Most of the villagers came out to watch each game. They also spent time with some of the young village soccer players. The team pushed the young players to have discipline, to be good teammates and to glorify God with their lives. The division 1 players gave the young teams soccer balls, some cleats and used jerseys. Some the players also handed some bibles out to the elders of the village. I had the opportunity to teach on Sunday in the village church and the players were invited to sing up in front of the church. Our coaches and team officials decided to start a soccer academy in the village which we will support with an occasional ball and supplies. We have also committed to bring a couple of the soccer coaches from the Academy to Choma so that the can learn form our coaches. We spent 5 days in Chipepo and we are looking forward to going back soon.
We are super excited about what we see God doing here in Choma. We are blessed to be able to serve God and we work hard to glorify God through our ministry.
We have had a lot of challenges, but I want you to know something before I tell you about them. God has provided for us and taken care of us through every challenge. I debated on even writing this section of the update and I have written and deleted it several times. I know everyone has challenges, everyone experiences difficult times. My hope is that a transparent view at just some of our challenges will better inform you on how to pray for us and give you a little bit different perspective. Through the challenges our faith in God has grown and we’ve learned so much.
Our biggest challenge has come with leadership. We have had and are currently still struggling with some situations in regards to leadership with our church. We really believed when we arrived the local church would be established and prepared for our sports evangelism ministry. Instead we found a church that was open to work with us but significantly struggling with spiritual maturity. The ministry brings a ton of people to church, but the church struggles to facilitate programs for people to get involved in. We also don’t want to takeover all of the ministries within the church. If we takeover, we set the church up for failure when we have to leave or if God calls us to go somewhere else. This is about as much as I can say at this time in regards to the challenges we are having with church as this is an ongoing situation. I often don’t sleep as I think about how and where God wants us to serve. Please pray for this situation.
Culture shock is real. It’s difficult to explain but I can tell you it is real and the affects of it are challenging. Symptoms of depression, anxiety and even physical sickness come from culture shock. I have also noticed that anger comes as a result as well. I believe each of us (maybe not Brooklyn, she thinks she is Zambian) has had some form culture shock.
A difficult time for Kelly came early in our time here when she struggled with seeing extreme poverty and desperation. Everyday we are faced with making decisions on whether or not to help someone in need. Sometimes it’s life or death situation and sometimes we are being lied to just so that someone can get some money. Every time we drive to the store, 5-10 starving children come up and beg for food. We have also gone to so many funerals. All the pain and suffering really took a toll on Kelly both mentally and physically. It is sometimes hard to deal with all the suffering, it is heartbreaking. Kelly’s tender heart is often torn apart as she sees and deals with pain in our community.
Bryce has also struggled with culture shock. He thought for sure that he would be able to keep in touch with friends from the USA but the reality is that very few actually contact him. He often feels alone and has struggled to find just where he fits in. He loves the Zambians but longs for a deep and meaningful friendship with someone his age. Most of the girls here that are his age really want to talk to him but are so afraid to talk to him that they keep their distance. It is very challenging to be a teenager and to live in a completely different culture.
I (Bart) got COVID and was pretty sick. Isolation meant sleeping on grass mat in the yard. Thankfully I was prescribed a ZPACK and ivermectin and was feeling much better after just a couple days of taking the medicine. I also recently had a battle with malaria which wasn’t too much fun. But for me, the lack of friendship in Zambia is the most difficult. Of course I love working with our Zambian partners but the friendships like what I had in the US just don’t seem to be available here. I thank God everyday that Kelly is here with me and has consistently filled my need for a friend.
Over the last 11 months we have lost about 10% of our monthly financial support. COVID and other issues in the USA forced a few of our partners to stop their giving to our ministry. During the same 11 months we have seen the value of the Kwatcha rise from 1 USD to 22 Kwatcha to a ratio of 1:17. It’s amazing what negative affect that small amount of value change has on us. God is so good though and every month so far he has met our needs. We often start to get a bit stressed as we see that there is nothing left in our bank accounts and without fail, when we depend on God, He handles it.
James 1:2-4 says, “2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” We thank God for the various challenges we have faced and pray that through them our faith and endurance will grow. We also pray that we will use our challenges to find “great joy.”
-The Zambian soccer season is in full swing for the Division 1 team and the rest of the teams are getting started on the 4th of December. The start of the season means that we will be super busy planning and organizing.
-Since our ministry revolves around sports we have found ourselves constantly hunting for fields and courts that we can use. Typically we have to rent the facilities, pay for the maintenance, the water and any electricity. The costs of renting these facilities is quite high. We see not only the need, but the fiscal relief we would have if we had a facility of our own. Owning a facility would allow allow for us to give some much needed jobs and would also create a sustainable source of income as other teams would rent the facility. Please join us in praying for an opportunity to have a large sports complex in Choma. Specifically there is large piece of property currently owned by a US based mission agency. The mission agency is currently determining the next steps for the property as they do not have any missionaries in the area. Please pray that God will make it very clear whether or not we should be pursuing the property.
-Both Kelly and I are planning on taking a much more prominent roll in one on one discipleship and teaching. I have already started teaching Sunday school and we have had ongoing devotions with our teams. We believe that now we have been here almost a year it is time for us to start teaching more.
-In the next few days I will be sending out some letters to some business owners in the US asking if they would be willing to help sponsor the professional level team. Ultimately my goal is to have sustainable sponsorship from Zambia companies for the the teams that continue to rise to the professional ranks. Currently most prominent business owners in Choma believe we are crazy rich and do not need support. The fact of the matter is that we are not. Each month God has provided just enough to meet the needs we have and our bank accounts are empty. My thought is that if some US business owners would sponsor the team for a couple years, I could eventually transition sponsorship to Zambian companies. Please join us in praying that several businesses would be interested in supporting this ministry through team sponsorship. I estimate that annual sponsorship for the professional level team is $20,000.00.
-This next week I will be traveling to Kitwe, Zambia fro leadership conference. I am excited to be able to spend time with our mission agency director and the people who serve God full-time from all around Africa. I am praying the time will be refreshing and a time of learning. I am also looking froward to the opportunity to network with other missionaries and pastors from throughout Zambia. Please be in prayer for the conference and for all of the people who will be teaching.
I’ll finish up by saying thank you to each of you for your love for us. We are grateful for you. To those you who partner with us financially, thank you. And to those of you that have committed to praying for us, we are grateful.
With the USA holidays approaching, we will be praying you have an awesome time with your families and an time of being grateful to God for his grace, love, and provision.
I love you!!!