Camp Life Zambia

As I write this post, the week four Ambassadors are unpacking their suitcases.  In the morning they will be attending church with 750 Tree of Life kids, some of the most vulnerable in our ministry.  Then, on Monday morning, dozens of buses will arrive, their doors will fling open and about 900 vulnerable and orphaned children will pour out; smiles on their faces, and anticipation in their eyes, excited to meet their Ambassadors and begin their week at Camp Life.  Over the next five days, the kids will be fed a nutritious meal each day, our Ambassadors and staff will care for them and together we will sing, play, pray, do activities and share the love of God that is displayed in the gospel of grace.

This past week, my wife Lynelle, my daughter Sarah Grace and I had the privilege to actually do camp.  Between the three of us, we had 30 kids.  During the first two weeks, I observed what happened at Camp Life, but during week three, I experienced it.

I was stunned by the heartache that most of my kids endure.  Many were physically abused. Some suffered from sickness and only two kids had both parents in the home.  By week’s end, nine of my boys trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior and the one left was a walking, talking, Jesus loving kid.  He chimed in with his own faith journey as I shared the love of Jesus with all of them.

Night after night as we recapped the day, I heard stories of life change about these sweet boys and girls.  Through the first three weeks, nearly 1,000 people have put their faith in Jesus.  To God be the glory for the great things he is doing at Camp Life. Seeing and experiencing the Holy Spirit at work in the Ambassadors, staff, and children here I can’t help but believe this is truly holy ground.

One of the key descriptive phrases at Family Legacy is “Live Transformed.”  That is an invitation to both the Zambian kids and the Americans who are ministering to them.  The number of people that shared that this was the best week of their life grows each and every week.

Lastly, I had one kid in my group named Edward who would not smile (well not his real name to protect him).  He shared with me early in the week that he did not think he could endure his father’s violent outburst and wondered if life was worth living.  I shared the gospel with him and, with tears in his eyes, he said that he wanted a relationship with God and he wanted desperately to go to school and receive an education. By Friday morning, this kid that did not smile was running around camp grinning ear to ear like he was a new creation in Christ, which of course he was.

As I hugged each kid goodbye, he grabbed me and would not let me go.  I could feel the emotion as my allergies began to act up (translated, I was crying).  He then said, “thank you Papa” and I lost it.  Edward looked at me as if I were his father.  What a privilege it was to care for and be with these kids like Edward.

If you have never been to Camp Life, start saving and when you come, I suspect your life will “never be the same.”  I know my life will not be.

Living Transformed,

Mario Zandstra
President & CEO

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The Murdered, Risen, Living Messiah

As a high school student, I was not the best in my English classes. That struggle continued with me all the way into my freshman classes in college. My struggle has many elements. English was essentially my third language as I was raised speaking Dutch and grew up in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood in Southern California.
What I do remember from all of my English classes, however, is the use of past tense, present tense, and future tense. As I read through the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, I am amazed by a past-tense description of something extraordinary that wouldn’t happen for another 700 years.
In Isaiah 53, Isaiah the prophet was describing the death of Jesus as if it had already happened. He uses all past tense language:
He was despised and rejected by men.
He was a man of sorrows.
He was acquainted with our grief.
He carried our sorrows.
He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for our iniquities.
The Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
He was describing in vivid detail what would happen 700 years later on the hill at Calvary: the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as He paid a debt He did not owe. It was the debt for you and me and all mankind. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the debt I could not pay and washed away my sins, making me clean in the sight of God.
Isaiah 53:6 says, “We, like sheep, have all gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This, of course, is a reference to the fact that all of us have failed. You lie once, you’ve failed. You cheat once, you’ve failed. You’re mean to your sibling, you’ve failed. If you don’t honor your mom and dad, you’ve failed. It doesn’t take big mistakes for us to go astray. We don’t have to be murderers or idolaters—one little mistake creates a problem between God and us.
That problem requires a price to be paid to satisfy the judgment of God. None of us can solve that problem and so God made a way. That way is named Jesus.
On Good Friday, He bore the shame, the nails, and the agony; the punishment we deserved was placed on Jesus. Then, Easter Sunday morning, He went from being a murdered, possible Messiah to a murdered, risen, living Messiah! The tomb was empty and Jesus had defeated death.
Isaiah 53 states the reality of the gospel: “Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” Jesus was born a perfect man, lived a perfect life, died a perfect death, and resurrected three days later.
The chastisement upon Him brought uspeace: “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
This Easter, place your hope in the One who paid your debt, bore your sins, and was the Man of sorrows. He has paid the ultimate price. Have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Isaiah prophesied 700 years before it happened. The life and death of Jesus gives us all peace and hope only a Savior can give.
Rejoice in His death and resurrection and the peace that gives us. Rejoice, for He has risen!
Copyright 2014 by Mario Zandstra. Used by permission. This article originally appeared on Mario Zandstra’s blog. All rights reserved.
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Why we need Christmas? Repost

Wood Cross and Wood NativityWe love to celebrate Christmas at the Zandstra house, do you? If you were to ask your friends and families why we celebrate Christmas, you will no doubt get varying answers ranging from, “It’s a time to celebrate family” to “Santa Claus” to “Jesus’ birth.”

But, I want to ask a different question… Why do we need Christmas?

If you are familiar with the creation story, you know that God created a perfect place and gave mankind the unique opportunity to tend to the earth and creation. Man was deeply loved and blessed. Our Creator only asked for love and obedience in return. Pretty simple, right? Yet, in absolute disobedience to God’s command, Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and that willful, sinful act created an awful dilemma for you and me: our relationship with God was broken.

But man was still deeply loved by God. In the wisdom of God almighty and in the face of the willful disobedience of two humans in the garden, God provided a way for us to have a new beginning and a second chance.

His name is Jesus. He is God’s one and only son, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and died a perfect death on our behalf so that we could be called children of God.

The essence of the Christmas story is that the dilemma was so great for mankind that we could not solve our own problem. There was nothing we could do to reach the God of heaven. So, the God of heaven came down to us.

Jesus came from heaven to earth; He stooped down low. He left the comforts of heaven and invaded the crisis here on earth. And He did not do it as a warrior dressed for battle, but as a humble servant, as a baby, born of a virgin and laid in a water trough, in a barn.

“Oh come, let us adore Him!” For He is much more than a baby, much more than a baby in a manger. As He conquered death and rose again and now sits at the right hand of the Father, He did so as Messiah, Savior.

If He was not born, He could not die. If He did not die, the penalty for man’s sinful disobedience that broke our relationship with God could not have been paid.

So why do we need Christmas? We need Christ’s birth to make a way for us to be right with God. The wood of the manger rubs up against the wood of the cross. The baby becomes our crucified Savior.

Don’t just believe in the birth, but also relish in the payment He made for us at the cross.

Merry Christmas to all, and may we make much of Jesus… Baby, Holy One, Savior, Light of the world!

Living in eager anticipation of Christmas and the return of Jesus Christ,


Mario Zandstra


Originally posted while I was CEO of Pine Cove.  December 5, 2013

Mario and Lynelle Zandstra

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Tough times? Feeling depressed… read this Psalm

I love the David’s honesty in this prayer! He has sorrow in his heart, depression has set in. His circumstances seem overwhelming.
Can you relate? Are you struggling?  Does it seem like the world is against you?
If so, read the Psalm all the way through. After crying out to God, David trusts God, he rejoices over his salvation. As David contemplates the Lord – he sings!
No matter the situation, please be reminded that the Lord has not left you nor forsaken you. He loves you. Cry out to him in your despair. Sadness turns to gladness for David as he is reminded of the steadfast love of the LORD.

I am praying that your sadness turns to gladness as you realize the steadfast love of the Lord in your own life.

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

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Mario joins Redeemer City to City

The Lord moves in mysterious ways.

In late 2005 I began to be burdened by the idea of an Awakening of sorts in our country. I studied revivals, talked about them, taught about them, dreamed about them, and prayed in eager anticipation of a great awakening. I have felt for some time that revival was soon to happen.  I have prayed that the Lord would show himself through the power of the gospel throughout our country and beyond.

This past January I stepped down from Pine Cove after seventeen wonderful years. It was an absolute privilege to serve as the CEO for all of those years and to see the tens of thousands of campers who trusted Jesus Christ as Savior. Over the years I have shared with our staff and our campers my burden for revival. I prayed that the Lord would Awaken a Generation at Pine Cove!

As I considered how I was to spend my vocational time after leaving Pine Cove, God impressed upon me the ministry of Redeemer City to City founded by Dr. Tim Keller, Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Redeemer City to City’s approach to finding and training church planters has been proven to impact urban environments throughout the world. They currently have been involved in planting nearly 350 churches in forty-five global cities. Their ambition is to plant 1,000 churches in the sixty-five global cities of the world and to invest in ten additional cities in the United States in the years to come.

To that end, I have accepted the responsibility of becoming the Regional Director – Partner Engagement at Redeemer City to City for Texas and throughout the Southeast.

My burden for the gospel being shared, leaders being trained and churches being planted is truly exciting to me and I would consider it a privilege to share the vision of Redeemer City to City with you. Call me at 903 530-2865 or email me at and let me come see you!

I continue to pray that God would Awaken a Generation and that tens of thousands would come to Christ throughout the world.

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To God be the glory! Time to go….

The last 17 years have been incredible. They have been challenging, rewarding and, I believe, God glorifying. I will treasure the memories associated with leading the great ministry known as Pine Cove. Tens of thousands of lives have been transformed by the Gospel during this time.

Recently I informed the Pine Cove Board of Directors that I believe it is time for me to pass the baton and allow someone else the opportunity and privilege to be Pine Cove’s leader. I am excited to share that Reed Livesay will be the Acting President of Pine Cove as I transition away.

We have all stood on the shoulders of great men and women who have led Pine Cove for nearly 50 years. I count it a privilege to be named among them.

Pine Cove is a remarkable place that I believe God has used in a mighty way for His glory and His purposes. Lynelle and I will remain its greatest fans and will continue to be ambassadors for this ministry.

Sincerely in Christ,

Mario Zandstra

 The following link is the Board’s letter about my desire to pass the baton as CEO of Pine Cove.
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Psalm 57 Prayer

Psalm 57:11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!

Father, our hope is in you and our hope is that your glory would be all over the earth. There is so much going on in this world. War in the middle east, Ebola in Africa, Hollywood stars taking their lives, marriages in distress, evil seems to be on the rise. Yet, in the end You will be exhalted O Lord. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So I pray that we would wake up and exhalt you today O God. Be exalted at Pine Cove, in Texas, in the United States, and beyond. We need you O God. We bow before you in the name of Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, amen.

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Awaken Us – Psalm 111

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever! Psalm 111:10

Lord, may we as a nation bow before you in awe. May we have a holy respect for you and your power. Let us practice being in awe of your power, your strength, your might, your holiness, your majesty, your Godness! You are great and glorious, and may we praise you forever! Lord, the world seems to be coming unraveled. It will not be solved politically. It will solved by the proclamation of and the understanding of who is the Living Hope. His name is Jesus, the righteous One. The one who died on the cross for our sins. He is the only Savior of the world. Lord, would you Awaken a Generation in the United States and throughout the world. Holy Spirit have your way with us we humbly ask in the name that is above all names, even Jesus, amen.

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Taste and See That the Lord is Good!

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
Psalm 34:1-9 ESV
Oh Lord, may many taste and see that the Lord is good.  May they be drawn to the throne of grace and take refuge in You Oh Lord.  May we bless your holy name, may we boast in You and not in ourselves.  Lord, would you be so kind to save the spiritually poor out of their troubles by helping them see that Jesus was not just a man, not just a good teacher, not just and example; but Savior of the world.  Jesus is all those things, but if we leave him there, we sell him short.  He is the Rock of our Salvation. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  That he is our hope, our help, our redeemer.  We lay our lives at your feet Jesus, amen.
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My Dependence Prayer

Lord, as I see the world, the enemies of God rage in the middle east, Russia is on the prowl, poverty is the watch word of Africa, drugs and violence are south of our border. We have articulated evil as good and good as evil. Even in our own country we have bowed the knee to idols. These idols come in many shapes and sizes; and if we are truthful, we all have idols. If we think about it long enough, we could become sad and depressed.
However, for many we have trusted in your steadfast love. We rejoice in your salvation. We sing to the Lord with joyous song. For you are good and your love endures forever. It may be independence day in America celebrating our independence from tyranny. However we have made our own tyranny and wholly submitted ourselves to it. Rescue us from our tyranny. Let us on this day declare “dependence” on the one true God, comfort in the grace of God and be thankful for the mercy of God. May we submit our selves to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Oh God be merciful to me, to us, sinners. On this day, have your way with us through the power of your Holy Spirit. Cause our hearts to be drawn to you whether we know you or not. Awaken our hearts to the reality of the gospel. Help us move from making much of ourselves to making much of you. We ask this in the mighty name of Jesus, amen

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