Mark has just returned home from Zimbabwe where he had the opportunity to meet with Zimbabwean pastors along with some of the SIM Zimbabwe team.
The Southern African sun was a delightful change from the snow and freezing weather of Northern Ireland as I alighted from the plane at Harare airport on 13 February 2018. I was met as usual by Walter and Ella Madimutsa who again opened their very comfortable ‘missionary apartment’ for me to use. The purpose for the trip was 2-fold, firstly to meet with local pastors to help identify their needs in ministry as well as to meet with the SIM Theological Education and Discipleship team to discuss how best to proceed the Pastor Book Set project.
I spent the first week meeting with pastors from different denominations and learn about their needs, as well as their aspirations in their ministries as they seek to serve the Lord. The pastors identified 3 principal areas of need, sermon preparation, access to theological commentaries and dictionaries as well as help in the church leadership. Please pray for these pastors as they serve Christ despite of very limited resources.
The visit allowed for the SIM National Director, Caiphas Ngarvihume, Geoff Donaldson, Walter Madimutsa and myself to meet and think through the dynamics of the Pastor Book Set project. We thank God that the foundation for the project was set out and we all left the meeting satisfied that the Lord had been gracious in uniting our minds on how the project will proceed. Please pray for the project as we move towards piloting in 2 locations later this year.
As the news of the resignation of Robert Mugabe as president of Zimbabwe started to filtrate around the world one Zimbabwean political commentator described the enfolding events in the phrase ‘Zimbabwe has been given a second birth.’
The hope and aspirations of the ‘first birth’ of Zimbabwe in 1980 when the country was given its independence was that there would be equality, peace and sustainability. However, over the years that initial hope disintegrated into hardship and disappointment.
The frustration that Zimbabwe has experienced from hope at birth to disappointment in recent years has connotations with Job’s analogy of life in chapter 14 when he observed Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.
The hope that surrounds around the birth of a child is so often dispelled in adulthood where hardship brings disappointment. However humanity has been given an eternal hope through the birth of God’s son. His birth has opened the way where we can experience a second birth where we have purpose, meaning and the hope of eternal life. Because Unto us a Child is Born… we have in this life we have an everlasting confidence that even excels the optimism of Zimbabwe’s second birth.
We would like to wish you and your family a peaceful Christmas and 2018.
Pastor Book-set Ministry Update
Our vision to resource pastors in Zimbabwe with materials that will develop their walk with God which will benefit their congregations has made some progress. Along with the SIM National Director Caiphas Ngarvihume and Geoff Donaldson SIM Zimbabwe- leadership development we have made the decision to proceed in developing a project to issue electronic tablets to pastors. This is economically more viable and has been successfully rolled out in other African countries. Please pray as we start to engage with potential partners in this exciting project.
Personal support (presently at 35%)
Engagement with partners
The present political situation in Zimbabwe
I am writing this from Ulster Hospital, Dundonald where our son Matthew has had a flare up with his asthma. During our time in the Accident and Emergency Department side we had the advantage point of watching the effort involved in processing a patient. At the heart of this process was the partnership between doctors, nurses and the support staff. Watching the team go about their work within the department there was a willingness for each individual to pull together in the same direction for the benefit of those who were in need. Watching this brought to mind a phrase in Philippians 1:5 where the Apostle Paul commended the church in Philippi ‘your partnership in the gospel’. Here was a church that was willing to pull in the same direction to meet Paul’s need so that the glorious news of the gospel would be proclaimed. Today that partnership is still integral to the furtherance of the good news. of the Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot all go to foreign countries as missionaries but you have an integral part to play in praying and supporting those who God has placed on your heart. It is so reassuring to know that you take time out of your schedule to partner with us as we prepare to enter this next sphere of God’s work, may God bless you for that.
Mark and Lorraine Armstrong
All change is a phrase that has direct connection to a public transport vehicle which is not proceeding any further. In the designing of the timetable, the scheduler has made the decision that completion of the journey requires the movement of alighting from and boarding on a different vehicle with different passengers to travel on different roads to get to the required destination.
This process that leads to ‘all change’ on the public transport network has its similarities in life. There are times when life’s vehicle that we all travel stops and we find ourselves alighting and joining a different vehicle, travelling on a different route with different individuals. Over the past few weeks Lorraine and I have found ourselves being part of ‘all change’. The personal changes on leaving one employment and engaging in another, the change of having our eldest son get married and move out of the family home has all brought an impact to the Armstrong family.
Although these changes have an effect and it takes time to adjust, however by far the greatest ‘all change’ in our lives at present has been our acceptance to SIM to be associate missionaries in Zimbabwe. Boarding SIM means starting a ‘new journey’ with new ‘fellow passengers’ who have all the the same desire of reaching the same destination that ‘no one should live and die without hearing God’s good news’.
This change to work with SIM has the greatest bearing because it has an eternal dimension to it. The changes that we are experiencing now affects people who we may never meet in this life but attend congregations of pastors who we desire will be effective communicators of God’s Holy word. Our prayer is that as we prepare to join the SIM Zimbabwe team in the area of supporting these pastors and their spouses, the Zimbabwean church will be built and deepen as they come under effective preaching, so that hearts and lives will experience that ‘all change’ that comes from a Christ devoted life.
At this time, we are involved in a number of meetings in Northern Ireland exposing the need in Zimbabwe for pastors to receive grounded training in the Word of God and we have been greatly encouraged by the interest and support. We would ask you to pray that as we attend these meetings we would not become too familiar with the presentations that we deliver but that we will see every meeting as a fresh opportunity to present Christ, his church and call that is on each one of us to the ‘all change’ of being called out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9) that is only possible through Christ.
Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Welcome to the first Armstrong blog. You might be wondering why we have entitled the blog feedthebreadbasket? Zimbabwe’s fertile land has historically been the provider of a food source for Africa which gave her the name ‘The bread basket of Africa.’ Although Zimbabwe’s ability to be a food source for Africa had diminished our focus is not on the provision of physical food but rather that God would use us to partner with Zimbabwean pastors so that they would be the conduit to spiritually feed the Christian church. We desire to do this by directing pastors towards sound biblical teaching in co-operation with our SIM colleagues.
This is the post excerpt.
Mark and Lorraine Armstrong have been married since 1988. They have 2 grown up sons, Andrew and Matthew. They live in Bangor Co. Down and are members of Bethany Baptist Church.
God’s call for them to help the church in Zimbabwe began when Mark was a pastor in Belfast. he became good friends with a Zimbabwean bible college student who served along side him as an intern. Mark and Lorraine visited Zimbabwe in July 2016 and God challenged them to support pastors who lacked basic theological resources. since then under the name of Operation Yaats they have been helping supply teaching materials and also have led some teaching seminars in Zimbabwe in April 2017.
Now as associate missionaries with Serving in Mission Mark and Lorraine will continue to be based in Northern Ireland. They will help provide biblically sound material for pastors and travel to and from Zimbabwe to help organise and deliver pastor teaching seminars.