Seeds of faith: Profiles of growing ministries in Zambia
Early on a Sunday morning, the college’s students sing and spin, high-fiving each other in time with a rhythmic, a cappella hymn of praise.
After services, the students participate in a tradition found in Churches of Christ large and small, urban and rural, across this southern African nation.
One by one, they exit the building and line up along its brick walls, shaking the hand of every worshiper that follows.
Person-to-person contact has defined Churches of Christ in this nation of 13.4 million souls, once known as Northern Rhodesia. In the early 1900s, Peter Masiya, a native of neighboring Malawi, moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) to work for John Sheriff, a Christian stone mason from New Zealand.
One night Sheriff found Masiya reading his Bible and offered to study it with him. Masiya became a student in a preacher-training school operated by Sheriff, who later sent the African Christian to plant churches in Northern Rhodesia. Missionaries from the U.S. followed, including Alvin Hobby, Dow Merritt and W.N. Short. They planted churches and Christian schools in Sinde, Kalomo and Kabanga.
When the country gained independence from Britain in 1964, Churches of Christ operated 26 primary schools. The new government asked church members at Namwianga Mission in Kalomo to build and operate a secondary school.
By 1980, Zambia had 211 Churches of Christ, according to workers at Namwianga. In the next decade, Americans turned over much of the work to Zambian evangelists. Churches experienced rapid growth. Now the country is home to about 1,500 congregations.
“The Zambians are a zealous people … eager to share the Gospel with their fellow man,” said Roy Merritt, a missionary who grew up in Zambia.
Zambian Christians have transitioned from students to teachers. In 2007, Harding University in Searcy, Ark., launched a study abroad program at Kalomo. Twenty-six students returned to the U.S. recently after learning from Zambian church leaders for six weeks.
The country needs more leaders, said Wellington Mwanza, a native Zambian working as a missionary in the country’s eastern province.
“The opportunities for evangelism in Zambia are endless,” Mwanza said.
The 50 students at Mapepe Bible College are learning ministry and vocational skills, including farming.
“We are not a preacher-training school,” said missionary David French, who oversees the work. “We’re trying to train church leaders and disciple-makers.”
Dominic Kaoma, a father of seven who came to the college from Zambia’s northern Luapula province, said he’s eager to pass on what he’s learned as a student and to plant new churches.
“I want to be a part of this work that is of God,” he said. “The harvest is plentiful, but the planters are few.”
FeedbackScott: Thanks for the message. I just sent you an e-mail with some contacts. Appreciate your interest. Best to everyone in Falls Church (the city where I was born).Erik TryggestadMemorial Road Church of ChristEdmond, OK
USAJanuary, 11 2013Eight local Rotary Clubs here in Virginia are active in drilling wells and working with local schools in Zambia to improve water and sanitation. Would someone please send me a contact that would allow me to connect these Rotary Clubs with schools with the greatest needs in Zambia? Thank you.
Scott MillsScott MillsChurch of Christ in Falls Church, VAHerndon, VA
USAJanuary, 11 2013