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Colorful story of salvation spreads in Zambian villages

LUSAKA, Zambia (BP)–One prayer for the boat, as it carries their family across the river. One prayer for the 4-wheeler, slogging through red African mud. And innumerable prayers for the people at the end of the trail.

This is the pattern followed by Daren and Shawna Davis, missionaries to the Lozi of western Zambia.

“To get to the Lozi is difficult. But once we get there, the people are excited that we’re there,” Daren Davis said. “They’re eager to learn the Word of God, and they’re eager to hear the gospel. And then they are eager to tell it to other people.”

Encouraged by that eagerness, the Davises work to share God’s love with the Lozi, who live in remote villages near the Zambezi River.

They plant churches and train church leaders. They disciple Lozi Christians, teaching them to grow in their faith in Jesus Christ, apply it to their lives and their culture, and share it with others.

Shawna has seen the investment pay off through her relationship with Mary Chipango, the wife of a Zambian missionary to the Lozi.

Davis teaches Bible lessons and stories to Mary during visits to the Chipangos’ village. They review the material thoroughly until Mary can teach it back to her, preparing her to teach it in other villages.

“I think that has such an impact — so much more than me going and teaching,” Davis said. “Some people would come and listen in just because I am the missionary. But she is able to really communicate it.”

Sometimes that communication takes place without words.

When a recent volunteer group left Davis colored fabric to make “wordless books,” she felt God had given her a useful tool for ministry.

Wordless books use colors to tell the story of Christ: black is for sin. Red is for Jesus’ blood, which cleanses believers, leaving a pure white heart. Green means to grow with God, and yellow is for heaven, when believers meet Christ face to face.

Chipango planned to teach the lesson to village women. She would give a felt book to each woman who taught the lesson back to her, much like her lessons with Davis.

But Davis and Chipango worried that when the books ran out, some women would be unwilling to tell the story without a tangible tool. They prayed about using colored beads, knitting with colored yarn, or weaving mats of dyed grass.

“I was just at home and I was thinking about it. And I said, ‘You know, there has got to be a simpler way,'” Davis said. “I decided to write the lesson up and get it in Solozi using just soil, black soil, for sin.”

Black soil led to other symbols the Lozi can see: red seeds or flowers for Jesus’ blood. The familiar white clouds of the rainy season for a pure heart, green grass for growth and yellow flowers, bananas or mangoes for heaven.

Using things the Lozi can see around them allowed Mary to teach the lesson without carrying supplies to each village. The story itself, rather than books or beads, became the tool.

“Mary said she was able to take the lesson about how to share the gospel with colors to 15 different villages and teach the women,” Davis said.

The Lozi women can easily remember and use the color story to tell their friends and children about God’s saving grace. The women have even begun to innovate, finding the colors all around them — even in the bright Zambian cloth they wear.

As the women spread the salvation story through the villages, Daren and Shawna Davis pray that more Lozi will experience God in an undeniable way.

“I know a lot of people pray for our safety and our health and pray for our family,” Shawna said. “And I would want them to include just praying for this area. Just praying that barriers would be brought down, that the walls would be broken down so that they could see and taste a little bit of what God has for them — that they would know God’s love.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: GOD AT WORK, COLORFUL GOSPEL, FISHING and WAITING.
— See Daren and Shawna Davis at work: http://real.imb.org:8080/ramgen/Media/zambia201.rm.
— Daren and Shawna Davis’ ministry among the Lozi is just one story told on a free new video, “Africa: Behind the Wall.” To order, visit http://www.imb.org/resources or call toll-free 800-866-3621.
— To find out how you can join thousands of believers around the world in concerted prayer for Africa on Aug. 3, visit http://2001pray.org or e-mail [email protected].
— A moving missions song, “Behind the Wall.” Listen in RealAudio at http://real.imb.org:8080/ramgen/Media/Wall2.ra.
— “Africa’s Hope,” the July/August edition of TConline: articles, photos, videos & more: http://www.tconline.org.

    About the Author

  • Jill Pittman