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In this series, thoseinvolved with CLC foreign missions profile one aspect of our overseas endeavors.

A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

The last time I was in Zambia was in July of 2015 with the CLC Mission Helpers. One of the privileges we had on that trip was to meet a group of pastors and evangelists in the Livingstone area who were interested in the work that Pastor Ibrahim and the CLC were doing in Zambia. There were about twenty-four men who were loosely organized and working together to spread the Gospel in the Livingstone area and out in the rural villages. Pastor Ibrahim had met the leader of the group on one of his trips through the area on his way to visit a CLC contact in Zimbabwe. Livingstone is just a couple of kilometers away from the Zambezi River, which forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Before independence, these two countries were a British colony called Rhodesia.

Pastor Sait was the one who organized and led this group of pastors. None of these men, other than Pastor Sait, had been given the opportunity and privilege of attending a Bible college or seminary. They all seemed rather eager to learn. So, in 2015 Pastor Ibrahim asked me if we could travel to Livingstone with the Mission Helpers and spend a couple of days meeting with these pastors and spreading the Gospel among the children of the villages where they were working. The first day we had over twenty men in attendance. By the second day we were down to fourteen. These fourteen men expressed their agreement with what had been taught and their desire to continue training in Lutheran doctrine with the goal of becoming faithful preachers and teachers of the truth of God’s saving Word. We were thankful for what the Lord had done in Livingstone, and a recommendation to the CLC Board of Missions for a small amount of funding for travel and meeting expenses was approved. A few months later a new CLC-Zambia pastoral training center in Livingstone was established.

Fast forward about two years and things have changed quite a bit. What we thought was a well-laid plan actually fell apart when Pastor Sait suddenly died in December of 2016. Now there are only three from the original group who have continued to study with Pastor Ibrahim. In addition, five new men have joined in the studies. These eight men are committed to continued study with Pastor Ibrahim and would very much like him to move to Livingstone so that classes could be held more than just four days a month. They have also asked him to serve as the pastor of the local congregation until one of the other men is fully trained. There is definitely a strong desire among these men to dedicate themselves to the study of God’s Word, and to become faithful preachers of it.

In Pastor Sait’s sudden death, mentioned earlier, there was a suspicion of foul play. The evangelism work that Pastor Sait had been doing in rural villages had borne fruit in one particular village that didn’t have a Christian congregation. The details of exactly how he died are a bit sketchy, but they include a tribal chief wanting to give land to the CLC-Zambia so that Pastor Sait could build a church for the village. However, in the same village there was also a rather unscrupulous individual spreading lies and rumors about the CLC-Zambia, so that he could start a church of his own. Pastor Sait and the local tribal chief sat down to visit with the man to try to convince him to stop spreading lies about Pastor Sait and the CLC-Zambia. A couple of hours after the meeting Pastor Sait suddenly collapsed. He was taken to the hospital but he died not long after he arrived. It was determined that he died from poison in his system.

Upon the death of Pastor Sait, the group he had led disbanded and stopped meeting for classes. One of the men called Pastor Ibrahim and told him that he and a few others wanted to continue studying the Bible with him. And so, Pastor Ibrahim began making the eight- to ten-hour one-way bus ride twice a month to bring the truth of God’s Word to these men and the congregation that Pastor Sait had served. There are now eight men who attend classes with Pastor Ibrahim. These men all serve in different capacities and have a desire to spread the Gospel in Livingstone and especially among the rural villages that don’t yet have the truth of God’s Word. We don’t know exactly what the Lord has in store for this group of dedicated men, women, and children; but we trust that His Word will not return to Him void, just as He has promised: “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.’” (Isaiah 55:8–11)

The group currently meets in a public-school classroom that is made available to them on the weekends. This is not ideal, because every classroom is used by a different church group on Sunday mornings for worship, and it gets very chaotic and noisy as each group tries to out-do the others with the sound level of its speakers. The CLC-Zambia would very much like to buy or build a church building that could serve the congregation and also provide a space for Ibrahim to stay and teach on his semi-monthly visits.

Please pray for this fledgling group of Christians, the men who have been called to serve them with the Gospel, and their evangelism efforts in villages where the Gospel is not present. Pray also for Pastor Ibrahim that the Lord will provide him with the necessary dedication, wisdom, resources, energy, and commitment to continue his training of these men for the Gospel ministry.

Todd Ohlmann is a full-time visiting missionary for the Church of the Lutheran Confession.