Fishers of men

Along the shores of Lake Tanganyika, new Jesus followers were not content to keep the good news to themselves. Instead, they started to share with neighbouring areas.

Charles Chansa (Zambia) is full of gratitude to partner with the many disciples from the early church planting movement along the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Zambia.

“They have the heart for the villages. That’s why for evangelism and discipleship, they are in the forefront, [with the OM team offering support and training],” said Charles who is the village ministry coordinator for the OM team. The desire of the believers to see other villages experience the same love of Jesus that they encountered is very encouraging to him.

Involved in many of the early village ministries, Charles shared how hard it was previously to build trust. In the past, people were sceptical and, in some cases, even hostile to OM teams because they were unsure about people who claimed to bring the good news. Today, trips to the fishing villages along the lake are quite different because people have heard of OM’s work in nearby villages and are interested and curious about the work. The early disciples paved the way for partnership by sharing the gospel in the villages and inviting the OM team to come alongside them to demonstrate how God’s love can meet the needs in their neighbouring villages.

Disciples making disciples

Chipwa, Kapembwa and Nsumbu were the main bases for the village ministry when OM started to engage in the work a decade ago. Through educational, medical and self-help ministries, many people along the lake experienced the love and power of Jesus in a holistic way. Those who decided to follow Jesus were not content to keep the good news in their own villages but started to share their testimonies and Bible stories with neighbouring areas. As the gospel of Christ spread, a new discipleship movement started in all three main areas with activities such as fellowship groups, DBSs and outreaches. “[The disciples] heard the cry of the people and asked the OM team to come and see,” said Charles, who was encouraged and moved by their initiative.

The Jesus followers invited the OM team to different villages for an outreach, and there was a noticeable difference in how the villages received the team. Even though there was no active group of people following Christ in these villages, the people were welcoming and interested in hearing the Word of God. While it is common for people living along the lakeshore to believe in the power of spirits, the openness to seek the power of Jesus for deliverance and healing was unique.

The team has seen multiple opportunities arise. In Chitili, the village’s headman provided accommodation for the outreach team on his own land and people were willing to connect with the team because they saw the testimony of Chipwa village where a school was established, medical outreaches held and training for the village’s youth conducted. In Chitimbwa village, up on the plateau where most fishing communities trade their fish for farm goods, the headman introduced the team to the chief of the whole area. After praying, the team decided to start their stay by cleaning up the surrounding area, which opened doors to connect with many people in the village.

'I needed to go'

Although the villages are all different, the challenges they face –– such as lack of resources ­–– are similar. That is why many of the disciples have the heart to see neighbouring communities also experience the love of Christ; they know that God has the power to restore broken families and provide in times of need. Through OM’s preschool, medical outreaches and self-help programmes, they know that God does not forget about the remote villages in this fast-urbanized world.

Many of the believers have become local partners of OM and are actively living out their lives for God. “After I became a Christian, I felt in my heart that I could not only stay in Chipwa. I needed to go to other villages to share the love of Jesus,” said Andrew Simusika, the first disciple in Chipwa, and now the OM team leader for the Chipwa area. He prayed for God to show him the person of peace –– a person who will help open doors and make connections ­­–– in Myamba, the next village over. His passion for helping others discover Christ grew, and now he facilitates multiple Discover Bible Studies in different villages. Through the interaction in Myamba, he discovered a huge need in Chitili. With a population of 4,000 people, there was only one school and one barely functioning clinic with a lack of supplies and medical personnel. The OM team has done a few research and prayer trips and connected with the local leadership of the village to partner with government medical staff for a medical outreach in the coming year.

The beauty of partnering with the first-generation Jesus followers at Lake Tanganyika has encouraged Charles. He compares how the disciples took steps to invite others to Apostle Andrew in the Bible, who brought his brother Peter along to follow Jesus. Andrew was also the one who brought the boy with five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus. The disciples in the villages understand the strengths and challenges of life along the lake. Like Andrew, they continue to bring people to Jesus and connect resources for Jesus to use. These ‘fishers of men’ desire to see all fishing villages along the lakeshore to experience a life of fullness in Jesus.

Please pray with us for the partnerships with disciples from the early church planting movement to continue to strengthen. Pray for a continued desire to see villages around the lake experience the love of Christ for themselves. Pray for local disciples to take full ownership of sharing the good news and ongoing discipleship and that multiplication occurs.

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