Partnering together to fulfill the Great Commission in Zambia
Saturday, May 28, 2016
Because You Prayed and Gave
As we prepared to leave Mongu, we were overwhelmed as we reflected back on all that the Lord had done in just 12 months. We want our supporters to realize that we did this together. We thought it would be good if you heard some of the impact you made from the perspective of a Zambian Pastor and how he saw God working through our ministry so we asked our dear friend Pastor Lubinda Sikufele to share with you the impact YOU have made. The following is his letter to you.
To all the supporters of Paul and Velda Rikel – My names are Pastor Lubinda Sikufele working as a Regional Coordinator for Kids Alive Zambia as well as serving the people of God at Imwiko Church of Christ as well as overseeing some church outreach program in the far flung area of the Baroste plain. I also serve a vice- secretary for the Mongu Pastors Fellowship. Since the arrival of Paul and Velda in our town we have hit as good friends in spreading the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ here in Mongu of the Western province of Zambia. The revival that is sweeping the other part of Zambia’ main cities unfortunately has not yet reached the Western part of Zambia which is neglected as only less than 2% of the population are Evangelical Christians out of the population of over 1 million inhabitants. Geographical barriers and the general lack of development has hindered the spread of the gospel as many people are under the influence of cults, witch craft and superstition, HIV/AIDS and poverty is on the increase with a high number of girls getting pregnant thus falling away from school.
With the spiritual gloomy scenario it has pleased our father in heaven to impress upon the hearts of the Rikels a burden to leave the USA for Zambia to join hands with the locals in evangelization of our town and villages. Since the arrival of the Rikels we have seen a tremendous change and another shift in ministry and a few of the following has been accomplishments.
• Done every Thursday discipleship course to local believers where my wife also attends
• Preached in various churches where he has been invited apart from the Reformed Baptist e.g Church of Christ, Vineyard Mongu, Union Baptist, Evangelical Church in Zambia
• Preached at various government forums where officials assemble for various national duties
• Preached at various Interdenominational gatherings of New Vine and Mongu pastors’ fellowship- New Vine is a conglomerate of various church groups in our town
• We have done ministry together in the Villages – outskirts of Mongu
• Paul and Velda have supported financially, materially and opened their home to our orphans at Kids Alive Zambia and NOAH’s little home
• They have preached at various overnights which is very rare for many Missionaries I have known to attend as nights are inconveniencing
• Have helped many with their car for evangelism as well as many times an ambulance for sick brethren
• Paul has repeatedly preached at Zambian works an American funded Micro finance scheme to their workers on spiritual development
• Have been involved with Youths at Mongu Youth Centre where youths gather for activities
• They have been prayer partners to many of the saints here in our town.
• They have preached at various government Schools in our town
• Conduct Monday bible study for events committee of the MYC
• Host kids and other adults for meal fellowships at their home
Brothers and sisters I mention these things not to add butter or speak well of our new friends but its truth and real stuff from my heart endorsed by heaven. Paul and Velda are very dedicated pair who loves the natives and loves God very much as seen in their daily devotion and faith in Christ. In fact many pastors and even Christians have mentioned that the Couple are among the most lovely and well accepted pair in our community. I know they can’t do it alone without your financial and prayer cover. May God richly bless you abundantly.
Pastor Lubinda Sikufele
I am in way over my head. That thought comes to me on a regular basis these days and although it is a bit scary, it is a very good thing. I pray that I stay in over my head so that I will remain desperately dependent on God. Most of the time this desperate dependence comes right after I hear the words, “They would like for you to preach”. That has definitely been the case over the past couple of weeks. I want to share two of those times with you.
We had heard about a crusade that the Mongu Pastor’s Fellowship had been planning and were very interested in attending. The local Pastors here have a wonderful relationship with each other and they put aside denominational differences and work together for the cause of Christ in many ways. We inquired about the details of the crusade with one of our Pastor friends and He told us it would be held at a location in Mongu known as Dark City. He told us it is called Dark City because of all the drug use, drinking, and witchcraft that goes on in that area. Then he said, “We discussed it at the Pastor’s Fellowship and we would like you to preach one of the nights of the crusade.”…Desperate dependent time!
It was Friday night, the third night of the crusade and the praise team was leading those who had come in a very energetic worship session. I stood behind the reed walls that I had helped put up just a few days before at the edge of an open area in Dark City. The walls were put up to give those who were intercessors a place to pray while the crusade was going on.
As I was standing there praying the realization of what was happening was overwhelming. I was asking God, “Why me? Here I am thousands of miles from home in a culture so very different from my own, I have no formal training in preaching, this is so big, this is so important, there are so many others who are more qualified who could be doing this, Why me?” I looked to the heavens and saw a full moon and stars that filled the sky with a brightness which lit up the Zambezi floodplain before me and I was once again reminded of the greatness of our God. Now I was no longer overwhelmed by the magnitude of my situation but overwhelmed with the magnitude of my God. He spoke to my heart saying that it is not about who I am, it is all about who He is and that it is not about what I can or cannot do, but what He wants to do and will do. About that time someone came to me and said it is time for you to preach. They also told me that the pulpit was to far from the people and that I just needed to come out front and preach. So much for the notes I had prepared. I took the microphone and felt led to say, “To the rulers, authorities, and principalities of darkness. Consider this your eviction notice. The children of God have come to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and tonight the captives will be set free!” I continued the with my message on Jesus is the way and concluded by saying if anyone is tired of being a captive, if they are tired of their addictions, if they are tired of being in bondage to darkness, tonight Jesus is telling them, He is the way. Before I could even finish saying that a young man was standing before me and as other began to come to the alter, I could see that this young man was truly being broken by the Holy Spirit and I closed my eyes and began praying for him. When I opened my eyes there was a large number of people standing before me with their heads bowed and their hands lifted in surrender to the Lord.
That night a young lady surrendered the items she had with her that she used for witchcraft and a man came forward surrendering the drugs he had on himself both giving their lives to Christ. It was more than amazing because I new God had done it all. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5″ And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Praise God!
The past few days have brought new opportunities to Paul and I. God sometimes puts us in situations we are not comfortable in but He will be glorified through it. This is one of those times.
It began Tuesday of last week. Our friend Mr Imwaka, the caretaker at the Youth Center, ask us if we could give him a ride to the hospital. His daughter had become very sick recently so they admitted her just a few days before. Mr Imwaka’s wife, Lumba, was there caring for her. He needed to take them some food. He said his daughter had stopped eating and had become very weak with a high fever. The doctors had not yet diagnosed her.
We had not yet been to the hospital in Mongu. I had hoped we wouldn’t have to but Mr Imwaka needed our help so of course we agreed. It’s difficult to describe the conditions there but they are doing the best they can. So as we walked into the ward of about 200 beds, I put my head down and just prayed for the patience and the hospital personnel. We finally got to the daughter’s bed. (We don’t know her name, they call her the daughter). She was so very thin. I had mentioned to someone about a month ago that I thought she was much to thin but they just said she was thin like her mother. Unfortunately I was right. We gave them the food, prayed, and said goodbye. But I had a feeling, something about the look in her eyes…
Then Friday, Mr Imwaka ask us to go again to take food to the hospital. We were busy doing something so we told him we could go in about an hour or so. He graciously said that would be fine. When we got there he told us that visiting hours were over and they might not allow him to enter. We apologized. We were not aware of the visiting hours. We let him out at the gate and he explained to the gate person he had food, thankfully, he let him through.
Lumba came out to the truck to tell us thank you and said the daughter was better. Mr Imwaka said they had diagnosed her and had begun treatment for meningitis. We didn’t think that sounded like good news but he was confident she was on the mend.
Sunday morning, 1:00 a.m., the hospital called and ask us to pick up Lumba and take her home, the daughter had passed away. Paul called a pastor friend of ours, Pastor Lubinda, who pastors the church Mr Imwaka attends, to go with him. Of course, Pastor Lubinda went with Paul.
Monday, we went to the Imwaka’s to bring food, love and prayers. In Zambia when someone dies, all the family comes to your house and you have to feed and house them until after the funeral. We drove up and people were everywhere. It is a great burden to have to care for so many plus how can you properly grieve? We gave Mr Imwaka the food and went into the house and I knelt down to Lumba, who was sitting motionless in floor, gave her a hug and prayed that God would just hold her in His arms. She looked at me but I am not sure she even saw me.
On the way back to the truck, Mr Imwaka ask us to pick the body up at the mortuary and take it to the graveyard Tuesday morning. We opened up the back of our truck and with the tailgate down, we could fit the coffin in the back. We had lots of first, first trip to the hospital, first Zambian burial, and now our first time delivering a body to its final resting place.
So this morning we arrived at the mortuary to pick up the body. The daughter’s body had not been prepared for burial. They were waiting for the family to arrive with the burial soap. Also the coffin was not there either. Someone asked us if we could go pick it up at the coffin shop. When we got back with the coffin strapped in, the family went inside the mortuary and began preparing “the daughter” for burial. Pastor Lubinda said the family always has to prepare the body. How hard that must be! I cannot imagine such a thing. Of course before during and after, there was lots of beautiful singing and then as you can imagine, lots of crying.
The women bring the coffin out and set it in our truck. Then they climbed in the back with her. As we traveled to the burial site, beautiful songs could be heard from the back. The grave yard is on Chisonga road just opposite the Youth Center. The children on that road, know our truck well. They run, waving their little hands, smiling ear to ear, yelling “hello, how are you”. Today, our mission was different. One of grief and sorrow for a young lady who had died way too soon. Someone said she was in her early 20’s.
We arrive at the graveyard and was asked to drive closer to the burial site. Our truck is not four-wheel drive and of course the ground is sand. At first we weren’t sure, but God pulled us right to it with no problem. We were so thankful.
The preacher spoke, prayers were said, songs sang. Of course all of it in Lozi so we didn’t know what was being said exactly. They opened one end of the coffin so the family could view the body. As Lumba tried to pass she had to have people on both sides of her to help her look at her childs face for the last time on earth. They closed the coffin, placed it in the ground, and began covering it with sand. They continued mounting the sand over the grave until it was built up a couple of feet. Then the women who had prepared the body began singing, knelt down around the mound, and began lovingly patting the sand until it was firm. It was so sweet and compassionate. The family had single silk long stem roses and the Pastor would call certain people to place one in the sand, standing up right on her grave. Like I said, we can’t really understand anything being said and all of a sudden we hear the Pastor call, “Bo Paul and Bo Velda”. The Imwaka’s had requested that we have the honor of putting a rose on the grave. How beautiful and humbling. After the funeral was over, Pastor Lubinda said that the Pastor told the family that the love we had shown them in this time of difficulty, was what love is all about. Wow, God, really? How awesome is He that He should use us to show His love to hurting people in such a way. We show the love of God to people and what do we receive, His love ten fold!!! Glory Be to God Forever!!
Wow! We have had so much going on since our last update it is hard to know where to begin, so we will just jump right in. In early January we received a team of 10 young professionals from Australia who spent a week doing ministry at the Mongu Youth Center. Every afternoon and evening they led sessions on a variety of topics such as dating and relationships, Excel, film and theology, photography, and team building games. They were such a blessing to us and generated much excitement at the youth center. We heard many of the youth who had attended every day say that after the team left, they felt a void in their lives. The impact they had and the momentum they generated will continue to be felt for months to come as we continue to build into the lives of the young people here. This past weekend we hosted a marriage enrichment seminar at the Mongu Youth Center led by our dear friend and local Pastor Lubinda Sikufele. Friday night we viewed the movie Fireproof followed by a time of discussion, and then all day Saturday participants were taught biblical principles on having a godly and fireproofed marriage. Afterwards we heard testimonies of how God had spoken to hearts and changed lives through the film and seminar. One lady reported that after the seminar, her husband cooked nshima for her for the first time in their marriage. In addition to the youth center activities, we have been invited to be a part of a local youth ministry called New Vine Ministry. We were given their calendar of events and told we were invited to all of them and would always be given the opportunity to speak if we want. This will give us the opportunity to speak to hundreds of young people every month and provide a good connection between Mongu Youth Center and New Vine Ministries as we work together to transform lives by empowering young people to be all that God has created them to be and to live for Him. Our Bible study group continues to meet every Monday evening and we have begun another bible study in our home on Thursday evenings. Four attendees of the Thursday evening group are students at the Bible College. As Paul was taking them home after our first meeting, they were almost giddy with excitement about the things we had learned and discussed in the group and continued the discussion all the way to their homes at the school. In addition to all this, we have spoken at a Sunday School workshop for teachers, a Family Matters training graduation, preached at a couple of churches, worked on getting our driver’s license, spent a few days with the Australia team in Livingstone and visited Victoria Falls, played with kids, visited our friend who sells ice cream a few times, and had friends over for movies, games and dinners. Whew! God is so good and we stand amazed at all the opportunities He is giving us to serve Him here.
You Have Made It All Possible
It is hard to believe that we have been in Zambia for five months. In some ways it seems like we just got off the plane and in others it feels like we have been here much longer. We have had so many opportunities to share the love of God with the people of Zambia and have touched many lives, but none of this would be possible without the prayer and financial support of so many of you. We receive a lot of likes and comments on our Facebook page from pictures we post of our lives in Mongu. As we try to tell the story of what God is doing here we want you to know that you are part of that story. When you see pictures of Velda holding and loving a young child, those are your arms and your love holding that child as well. When Paul stands to preach or share the Word of God, he stands with all of you and in the power of your prayers. Please know that you are making an eternal difference in the lives of many people as we serve together. Thank you for all the love and support and may God continue to richly bless you. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on how you partner with us.
Children are little sponges, we all know that. They are listening and watching everything we do and their little hearts and minds are always learning. We dare not lead them astray. McKinley learned about Jesus from the time he was 2 years old. At age 5, he stepped out into the long isle at Lone Oak First Baptist and headed toward Brother Henson. For those of you who don’t know Brother Henson, he is a large man in stature and voice! The Lord led McKinley to the front of the church where he gave his life to the Jesus!! God called Paul and I to impart His love into our home. McKinley witnessed, and was a part of, honoring God in all our ways. Was our home perfect? No! But God, in spite of our mistakes, used us to lead McKinley to Him. So I ask you, what are your children seeing in your home? Do they see the love and peace Christ brings to your life? It is our responsibility as Christian parents to instill in our children truth about the gospel. That responsibility is a gift from God and we should cherish it. We have been blessed countless times to hear of parents and children praying for us. My friend Dena was teaching her daughter Brooke the continents and the moment she showed her Africa, Brooke exclaimed with excitement, “That is where Paul and Velda live!” We have heard story after story of children asking their parents about Paul and I living in Africa. Some of the questions are quiet funny while others are remarkably mature. We are blessed beyond measure to know that God is working in their hearts!! This is a message we received this week on Facebook: “On the drive in to school this morning, out of the blue, Owen asks me, “Mom, you know Paul and Velda that live in Africa, do they have different voices now? And are they ever going to come back?” He was asking if you spoke in a different language. So that prompted a 15-minute story-telling session on what language you are learning to speak, having to go to school to learn it, the waterfall you visited, the children you’re working with, the crazy animals you see on the side of the road, whether or not the kids have any toys, what type of truck you drive on the dirt road…. and all for God’s glory! What a great lesson we had in the car this morning! Love ya!” – Kindra Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
What a year 2013 was for our family. It was by far one of the most difficult years we have faced, yet at the same time on of the most blessed. We saw the hand of God working in so many incredible ways. In the good times and bad, he was with us every step of the way. This morning as we looked back at all that happened in 2013 we were overwhelmed with thanksgiving for what He has done. Here are just a few of the events of our year:
The passing of Paul’s mother – Last January, Paul’s mother became very ill and passed away. Even though it was a very difficult time, we praise God that we were able to care for her while she was in the hospital and be with her in her final days. I blogged about it here http://rikels.with.sim.org/index.php/strength-for-today/
Raising our support – We began the year with only 30% of our support needed to move to Zambia and yet we knew 2013 was the year we would go. As we met with people and shared our heart and vision for serving in Zambia, we were so encouraged to hear how God was working in their lives as well. Through the process, we reconnected with friends that we had not seen in years, got to know others much better, and made some new ones along the way.
Trip to Chicago – We wanted to have one last vacation as a family before we headed to Zambia, so we asked McKinley where he wanted to go. Expecting to hear something that involved sandy beeches, we were surprised when he said Chicago. What a great idea! We had so much fun and are so thankful for the time we had enjoying the city and each other,
Quitting our jobs – Both of us resigned from our jobs before we were completely funded.That was quite a step of faith. Here is a quote from our blog about that, “So there it is. 53% funded May 7th. Resign from city July 5th and we are believing to leave for Zambia some time in August. Plenty more reality check points ahead; stay tuned.” You can read how God lead us to this by clicking here. Velda also gave a heartfelt farewell to her co-workers here http://rikels.with.sim.org/index.php/veldas-farewell-to-her-co-workers/
CIT training – In the early May, we had to make a decision. We were required by SIM to take a second language acquisition course at the Center for Intercultural Training in North Carolina. The courses were filling up fast and there were only a few openings left for the course being offered in July. SIM suggested that we not take the course until we were 80% funded, so that what we learned would still be fresh on our minds when we got to the field. On top of that, I did not have enough vacation time to cover the 2 week course. So we trusted God, set my resignation date from the city for July, and enrolled in the class. When we were at CIT, we reached 78% funding. It was a great course and we enjoyed our time there with some great people who are now serving all around the world.
Moved McKinley into his own house – This was another hard day. The realization that soon we would be leaving our sweet boy behind and moving to Zambia became all to real. We had several rough times in the following days, but God was always faithful to remind us that we could trust Him. Here is an amazing story of how He did just that .http://rikels.with.sim.org/index.php/from-the-pit-to-the-petals/
Fully Funded – Our bags were packed and our airline tickets were purchased, all we needed was the remaining 10% funding. Just days before we were to leave, we reached 100%
The passing of Velda’s father – This again was one of the hardest times of our lives. He had been suffering from dementia for some time and in August finally took his life. Although it was a difficult time, we were so thankful that we were still in the US and were able to be there for Velda’s mom and family.
Boarding the plane – The day had finally come. All the packing, all the goodbyes, all the preparing was complete and it was time to board the plane. Tears filled our eyes several times from so many mixed emotions as we left all we knew and headed into the relative unknown http://rikels.with.sim.org/index.php/mixed-emotions/
All in all it has been a great year and we look forward to seeing how God works in 2014. Thank you to so many who have prayed for us, financially supported us, and encouraged us in so many ways. We are blessed to walk this road together.
One of the things we enjoy reading are stories of great missionaries from the past. Stories of struggles and great victories on the mission field. Stories of incredible miracles and the moving of God among various people and in various places. We read of days filled with a great harvest of people coming to know the Lord. But you know what? I am sure there are many days that didn’t make the book.
We would love to write a blog and send an update about the great move of God we saw among the people of Mongu or about the hundreds of souls saved as the result of a big evangelism crusade we put on or about the converted witch doctor who is now the leader of his church and, while we may write of such things some day, there will be many more days which don’t make the book. Days like today.
Today was not a glamorous day on the mission field. Today was about doing the work. This morning Paul went to work with students from the Bible College. They weren’t doing door-to-door evangelism, but making concrete blocks. Digging sand out of the ground, shoveling it into a trailer, shoveling the sand out of the trailer, mixing it with bags of cement, adding water, and shoveling the mix into block molds.
From there, Paul and Rich went to help a group of men from a local church move a wood planer from out of the church sanctuary to a small building just a short distance away. The planer weighed close to one ton and had to be rolled on poles and maneuvered out the door onto Rich’s trailer.
Velda’s day was similar. Today was laundry day. Before we came to Zambia, laundry day was quite the chore. Now that we are here and do not have a washer or dryer, laundry day is work. Once the clothes were hung on the line, it was time for language study and trying to remember the difference between greeting someone in the morning as opposed to greeting an elder person in the afternoon. This followed by the sweeping up of the sand that always finds its way into the house. Our day was filled with the kind of stuff that doesn’t make the book.
But here is awesome thing about today. Those Bible school students making the blocks….they are on break from school and the money they are getting paid to make blocks is helping pay their fees for the next term. These are young Zambian men called to serve God who are being trained to be the next generation of pastors and possibly missionaries themselves. And the blocks that they are making…they will be used to build the Mongu Youth Center, where young lives will be transformed as they are discipled, taught life skills, and they hang out in a Christian environment. The local church with the one ton planer…I don’t know why the planer was in the church and what purpose it will serve in the other building, but we did get to work together with these brothers as we pushed and pulled as a team to accomplish the task, then celebrate with clapping and cheers of congratulations to one another. And learning the language…the more we know of the language and culture, the better and deeper relationships we will build, enabling us to better evangelize and disciple the people God puts in our paths.
That’s the thing. Not all days are going to make the book. Jesus had days that didn’t make the book as well. John 21:25, says “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.” But those days and things Jesus did that didn’t make the book were no less significant. When you serve God, and He asks you to shovel sand or do laundry it is not insignificant—it is extraordinary.
It’s not the size and scope of the task, but the size and scope of the one who you are doing it for. To me that is why the Bible says in Colossians 3:23, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”