By Kathryn Wright
Over the last year and a half, our overseas work has been limited by our inability to go in person. Thankfully, this past May, we were able to make our first international trip since Covid-19.
For two weeks, I had the privilege to teach at Ambassador International University (AIU), about two hours outside of Lusaka, Zambia. The school is focused on training future pastors and ministry leaders.
This was GES’s fourth time to AIU in five years, and Lord willing, we will be back to teach four more courses next year.
For two weeks, I taught a “Progress of Redemption” course to a group of 27 students. During my time there, I was able to give each of my students a copy of A Free Grace Primer. I also donated a copy of The Grace New Testament Commentary and a few other Free Grace books to the school’s library. It was a fruitful two weeks.
My first weekend in Zambia, I attended chapel, which was held on campus. Two of our previous students spoke during the service.
The first was a student from our class in 2017. He has also been attending one of our courses over Zoom, which started in 2020. He spoke on Colossians chapter 3. He mentioned salvation by faith during his sermon, explaining that it was by believing in Jesus for eternal life. He also dealt with the word wrath, and brought up the fact that in Rom 1:18, it is dealing with present-day wrath and not hell.
Another former student spoke next. One of his main points was that we have to understand that not all the promises given to Israel are for us today. He also read Isa 55:1-2 and connected it with Rev 22:17. He spoke about salvation as a free gift that could not be lost.
Seeing both of these previous students talking about salvation so clearly, after so much time apart from AIU, was especially encouraging.
AIU has been a recurring location for us to teach at for five years. A big part of this is due to the students. We have been blessed with great classes who have a deep desire to learn. The lectures usually revolve around an endless stream of questions, and this year was no different.
Class days followed the same pattern: I would lecture in the morning, break for lunch, then have a final hour of lecture in the afternoon, for a total of five hours.
The course was dealing with redemption from Genesis to Revelation, allowing me to bring up many Free Grace issues.
I spent a significant time on eternal security.
We had many discussions regarding the term salvation and how it is used throughout the Bible.
The overwhelming response was positive, and I am still receiving emails and messages with follow-up questions. The greatest highlight of our trips to Zambia has been the excitement from our students and their desire to learn. We have been very blessed.
In the evenings, I would also meet with a smaller group of students. That group discussion usually lasted 2-3 hours. These evening meetings were primarily Q/A. I touched on subjects like salvation, eternal security, rewards, and spiritual gifts. One evening I did a whole session on end times. It consisted of older students from our past trips and some students we have never taught.
Sadly, due to Covid, the sophomore class has not been taught by anyone at GES. However, many of the students we did teach have been discussing Free Grace issues with the sophomores, and those that came to the evening group were solid on salvation being by grace through faith alone.
One of the best moments of the trip was in one of these meetings. I had a junior, whom I taught three years ago, ask one of the sophomores to explain when he was saved. The sophomore said he was saved when he believed in Jesus for eternal life. The junior had clearly been discussing the distinctions between salvation and discipleship with the others. I was able to give each of them a book as well. I gave some Chosen to Serve by Shawn Lazar and a few received Bob Wilkin’s new book Faith Alone in 100 Verses. And I also was able to take Absolutely Free by Zane Hodges to a student who specifically asked for a copy before I left for Zambia. They are hungry to learn, which is a refreshing response to the Free Grace message.
Second Sunday: (See pictures)
On the second Sunday, I went to a church off-campus and taught a Sunday school class with 70 people in attendance. I spoke on the Gospel of John, giving special attention to eternal security. I walked through John’s “never” statements (i.e. John 4:14; 6:35; 8:51; 10:28; and 11:26).
Because I had a translator, I wanted something simple and repetitive, and by their response, I think it went over really well. One member asked when do we receive eternal life, in the future or now? I went to John 6:47, and I wish I could have captured the look on their faces once they saw the present tense of that verse. Once the translator explained the verse, the whole group laughed and cheered. They immediately understood that they received eternal life right now.
The church was small with a dirt floor, wood beams and a thatched roof. The “walls” were just a mesh green fabric, and the back of the church was completely exposed. It was a very humble church, but it was a blessing to attend and speak to the group. They said I could come back next year. Lord willing, Ken Yates will also be joining me and will be able to do the sermon. We have also been invited to speak at two other churches in the area. Next year will be busy, Lord willing!
Following Up with Previous Students
These are just some of the highlights from the trip. I had countless conversations between classes and evening group meetings, and I was amazed by how many of our previous students reached out and asked to meet with me to ask questions and discuss issues.
One student, in particular, said that the Free Grace message had changed his theology completely. His father is a pastor, and he’s been funneling the material to him as well. He spoke about the Book of Hebrews. Before understanding grace, he was confused. But now that he understands eternal security and rewards, he can grasp the book’s meaning.
It has been a joy to see these young men understand the message of grace and not only have one class, but several go on and mature in these truths. The Lord has been so good, and I am excited to see what He does next in Zambia.
First, pray for students as they face the cultural clash that the Free Grace message brings. One of the consistent things we have faced in Zambia is the issue of eternal security. Sadly, when we first meet them in class, our students almost always hold to a loss of salvation. While we make strides in our classes, it is still a significant battle in their churches.
Another common teaching we see in Zambia is the prosperity gospel. Zambia is an impoverished country, and as a result, many pastors preach prosperity in this life by tithing. Many also inject into the Bible the Hindu concept of karma.
Prosperity teaching raises two issues: tithing is often connected to prosperity, so that people are told they will receive money by giving money, and tithing is connected to eternal security. In other words, if a person gives to his church, he shows that he is saved, and if he doesn’t give, he is condemned to hell.
Once our students leave our classroom, they are automatically faced with opposition. So pray.
Second, a few weeks after leaving AIU, Covid sadly broke out on campus. Several staff members and students have tested positive. The school has had to return to online classes. Obviously, the Lord protected my time there and brought me safely home. No doubt this is impacting other teams who are planning to fly out this year to teach. We want to keep the staff, students, and other missionaries in our prayers, as we are all still dealing with the impact of Covid.
Third, Ken Yates and I are heading to Kenya in August for a pastors’ conference. It will be our second attempt to go this year. We were thwarted last time, due to Covid. Pray that it goes smoothly this time. Also, pray for the pastors who come. Pray that they will have the fair-mindedness of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and that we will be clear in our teaching.
None of this would be possible without the Lord and our supporters. I am beyond thankful to those who prayed for this trip, gave books, supported, and encouraged us as we dealt with all the Covid craziness this year. I could not have done it without you all. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Kathryn Wright teaches for GES both online and overseas.