Each I look at this picture, it breaks my heart. There are multiple pictures of this cemetery. Some show row upon row of filled graves, some row upon row of freshly dug graves waiting to be filled. This particular cemetery is just one of several for the city of Livingstone, Zambia. There is little room left between the graves as there is so much room needed for the high rate of deaths just in this town alone. It is estimated that approximately 300 people per day die in Zambia, but may reach as much as 600/day during rainy season due to the increase of malaria during that period. Online demographics for Zambia state that the average age is 43 now, but for most areas, especially the bush, it is much lower. The average age for the bush is 32 years (town is nearer the 43 quoted). The mean age is 14. 49% of the population is under 15 years old. The number one killer in all of Africa is malaria, but even though strides have been made in treatment, HIV/AIDS runs a close second. There is still widespread disease such as cholera (especially in rainy season), and TB, Hepatitis, Typhoid, and various forms of plague claim their share of victims.
As I look at the graves in the picture, I can’t help but wonder how many died lost. The mound of dirt pulled over them separating them from the living of this life makes me think of the mound of sin heaped upon them separating them from the hope of Heaven. How many had heard the truth and rejected it? But how many had never heard? Or how many of them heard a lie told by one of the many cults in the region? Even after hearing, they hold onto their animistic beliefs, often incorporating all of it together to make their own “denomination” or collection of beliefs. The items you see on their graves are put there not as an adornment, but out of fear. These may be items the deceased was last using just before dying and could be inhabited by the spirit of the deceased and bring harm to the village.
Even though the Light has been shined in Zambia for years, the Darkness is still causing deep shadows. It is so difficult to break those bonds with which Satan has them ensnared. They have so many gods and spirits that a short evangelistic message brings little to them. They tend to add the one True God to their list of gods. It was a delight to see many with the little New Testaments in their pockets, but deep sorrow to find what they were used for. Charms are used by the Zambian people to ward off evil or “witching” from someone else. They give money or chickens, etc to the witchdoctor to buy a charm to protect them. They were using these Bibles as a charm. One more god added to their list, never understanding the things they had heard. Short evangelism doesn’t get it folks!!! Yes, we understand the role of the Holy Spirit, but you have to be there long enough for them to gain an understanding of who He is too! They need to have someone who stays with them, teaches them, reinforces what they hear, teaches them how to apply the Scriptures. In short…..they need to have someone DISCIPLE them!! We have heard short-term teams come thru with an evangelistic message and leave after a few days telling everyone there is no need to go back to Zambia because everyone has heard and all that will be saved have been saved. Do me a favor would you? STAY OUT OF ZAMBIA!!! The darkness is embedded with centuries of lies and has such a hold on their lives you would never understand. How many of you stayed long enough to see the demonic possession? Not real you say, just the effects of sin? Well, we’ve seen it and know the power of Satan. They have not come to an understanding yet of who God is, what He has done for us, and what He has for us. That takes time. The warfare has been going on for a long time, and Satan has claimed innumerable souls. The warfare continues. Yes, it is wonderful to hear of the love of God and His precious gift to us, and we teach it, but again…..who is God? Even Paul realized it took time to teach the people, staying years instead of days to TEACH. I realize not everyone is called to stay, but we were. We are content with our lives in Zambia. We love the land and love her people. They are what God has called us to, and we will STAY and witness, evangelize, plant churches for further learning and worship, train national pastors, and DISCIPLE the people. We love them too much to shortchange them! They need the full Word, not snippets.