The city of Livingstone is known as the "tourist capital" of Zambia, due mainly to its proximity to the Victoria Falls, made famous by Dr David Livingstone, who, on a journey across the African continent in 1855, was the first European to see them.
Brother Ian Rees visited Livingstone on several occasions when he was labouring in Botswana, and he met a number of believers there. The teaching he gave was a help to them, and led to the planting of the assembly. That was over 15 years ago. None of the brethren who were there at the beginning are in the assembly now (most have moved to other parts of Zambia in connection with their employment). It has, however, been preserved by the Lord, and has grown over the years, so that now the number in fellowship is about thirty.
My wife Priscilla and I came to Zambia, to the North-Western Province, in 1992. Shortly before we left Northern Ireland, a young brother whom we knew met a Zambian brother in England, who told him, "Tell that couple that there is a tiny assembly in Livingstone, and a large area with no-one working there. They should come and start a work there"! Our friend passed the message on to us, and the Lord laid Livingstone and the little assembly there on our hearts. Increasingly, the Lord made clear to us that we should move to Livingstone, and we did so in 1995.
The city of Livingstone had, at the last census in 2000, about 160,000 inhabitants. The real number is greater, and has certainly risen since then. Thus, we find many in need of the gospel. As well as the weekly assembly gospel meeting, there is a weekly gospel meeting in the hospital, where I go with two brethren, to preach to the patients and visitors, and to distribute tracts. Weekly childrens meetings (and, on occasions, series of childrens meetings) take place in a number of locations. Several brethren are involved. Three weekly childrens meetings are in the city and townships, and one at a traditional village, where we have the use of a school classroom, which is usually packed which children. One brother, who is a teacher, was sent by the government to an area where there is no assembly testimony. He is also carrying on a childrens work there.
The assembly has an exercise to have special efforts of gospel meetings. We have found that the most effective way to reach most people is to have series of open-air meetings. Typically these would be held in a public place, such as near a busy market, or near a bus station, or, if it is in a village, near a water well, at a time of day (usually late afternoon or early evening) when many people are around.
In the past, the assembly has been invited regularly to go to a couple of large secondary schools and to hold a gospel meeting for the whole school. Sadly, such invitations have become less common lately, but we are glad to be able to go to some schools on a "one-off" basis, and we also still have weekly timetabled school Scripture classes, where we continue to be free to go and present the Word to the children.
Literature distribution is an important aspect of the work, and we have been sent many tracts, gospel magazines, and texts, as well as producing some of our own, which have been widely used in our own part of the country, and to help brethren in other parts. We have a Bible Bookroom, where Bibles and sound literature are available.
A dear brother, Evaristo Yamboto (who was commended to the work in 1998), has an exercise to visit remote areas, where there is no gospel witness, and, over the past few years, he and I have been doing visitation in the villages at a distance from the city. I have been greatly encouraged by going with him, and sitting down with the Word of God, explaining the gospel to the people in their villages.
From its inception, the assembly met in a rented school classroom. Conditions were (to say the least) not conducive. Through the great generosity of the Lords dear people, mainly in the British Isles and North America, the Lord graciously provided the means for the building of a lovely Gospel Hall, into which the assembly moved in late 2003. We are deeply thankful to the Lord for this, and to the saints whom He used to provide it.
The impression could be given that things are "rosy". It would be a wrong impression. There is an openness to the Word of God, and freedom to preach the gospel, for which we give much thanks to God. However, vices such as immorality, drinking, and witchcraft continue, and are on the increase. Materialism, long regarded as a Western problem, is rapidly increasing here, causing sinners to have less of an ear for the gospel. Other evil influences from the West, such as the godless lifestyles portrayed in the media, are also wreaking havoc on individuals and families.
While plenty of activity goes on in the gospel, we have seen few professing to be saved, and of those who have professed, not all have gone on well. As far as the assembly is concerned, we are thankful for the continued adherence to scriptural principles, but we are also conscious that the saints are subjected to temptations from different sources, all of which would corrupt them "from the simplicity that is in Christ". We earnestly pray that the testimony will be preserved in faithfulness to the Lord and to His Word, until He comes.
In conclusion, may I take this opportunity both to express heartfelt thanks to God for His great faithfulness and for His preserving hand upon us and upon the little assembly, and also to warmly thank many saints reading this article, who have been most faithful in the prayers for the work, and in encouraging and helping us in so many practical ways. We seek to continue simply, preaching the gospel to those who sit in darkness, and teaching the saints. Thank you for your effectual fervent prayers. Please continue to pray.