Recently I made my first journey to Africa and to the country of Zambia. I knew very little about Zambia before our visit, but I soon discovered some overwhelming realities. The AIDS crisis has devastated the Zambian population. In this country of 17 million people, there are more than a million orphaned children. Extreme unemployment and governmental corruption are the norm. While Zambia has significant natural resources, including copper, the profits from these resources flow out of the country to foreign investors instead of enriching the nation. (For more information on this dynamic, read here)
The poverty in Zambia has a profound effect on the churches of the nation. While Zambia officially identifies as a Christian country, healthy churches are rare. Most pastors are unable to obtain any formal ministry training. Consequently, false teaching is abundant, and Christian beliefs are frequently blended with traditional superstitions. Prosperity theology, imported from the West, also runs rampant as residents long for a way to escape their poverty.
I traveled to Zambia as part of a team of six from my church. For years my church has supported Martha and Lawrence Temfwe and their ministry at The Jubilee Center in Ndola. During their time in the states, the Temfwes attended my church while Lawrence studied at Wheaton College, so our congregation has a deep connection with this family. Sadly, Lawrence passed away due to prostate cancer last year, but the ministry is still thriving under the leadership of Martha and her son David.
During my time at Moody Bible Institute, I studied with David, and I was thankful to deepen our friendship during this trip. We arrived in Zambia near the first anniversary of Lawrence’s death and were able to visit his grave and pray along with David and his family. Having lost my father to the same type of cancer 18 months ago, my heart was moved for David and Martha. While we live on different continents, God has recently brought us through similar griefs.
Our team served with the Jubilee Center in various capacities during our ten days in the country. The Jubilee Center is a distinctly Christian NGO that seeks to help Zambian churches care holistically for their communities. Their scope of ministry is quite broad. They help support local churches, work with community schools, and facilitate sponsorships for vulnerable kids. They also offer classes to help people manage their finances and even train farmers to practice more effective agricultural methods.
We began our visit by hosting a four-day training for Christian leaders. During this training we partnered with iTEE Global to help the students learn innovative methods for teaching the Bible. Our hope was to provide these church leaders with some of the training they eagerly desire. I was a table host for five leaders and I really enjoyed getting to know them.
We also visited schools and churches in the Jubilee Center Network. There are government schools in Zambia, but poorer families can’t afford the tuition. We were able to visit two church supported schools, and I got to teach math and Bible to a classroom of 3rd graders. The room was basic, and school supplies limited, but the children seemed eager to learn. When I asked if they had any questions about me, the first thing they said was; “why are you so white?”. I smiled and told them that I guess God likes to make people in various shades.
I also had the privilege of preaching in two churches in Zambia: Renewal Church – founded by Lawrence and Martha Temfwe; and Christian Bible Church – pastored by Bishop Arnold Chibesa, one of the men who sat at my table during the training. Many Zambians understand English, but Bemba is the primary language spoken in Ndola, so one of my sermons delivered with the help of a translator. This was a first for me.
There are many things I could say about what God did in my heart through Zambia but for the sake of brevity I will keep it to two.
First, I was humbled by God’s many blessings to me. My education and ministry training are incredible gifts. While I come from a family where my dad didn’t go to college, I attended college for 9.5 years and have two ministry degrees. I have also been blessed with multiple, high quality, ministry internships. I know many of my Zambian brothers and sisters would give almost anything for one of these opportunities. I also praise God for allowing me to be in full time ministry. Few Americans can go to Zambia and not have to take time off work, but this is my job, and it is an immense blessing. My education and my vocation are lavish gifts from God, and I long to steward them well during the life He has given me.
Second, I was impressed with the way the Jubilee Center seeks to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the Zambian people. The gospel is at the center of their mission, and because of the gospel they minister to the whole person. A Zambian pastor I met teaches his people better methods of growing corn. A program I heard about provides goats to families in need. The churches in Zambia know they need to care for their people spiritually, but like Jesus, they seek to provide for physical needs as well.
I was challenged by my Zambian brothers to think about how I, as a pastor, can care for my people more holistically. I want to teach spiritual truth to my congregation, but I also want to meet other needs. I want to be more effective in gospel fueled people care. I am not yet sure what this will look like for me in West Chicago, but it is something I will continue to pray about in the days ahead.
Perhaps something I have written has awakened something in you. If so, reach out. I would love to talk with you more about Zambia.
To see more Zambia pictures please check out: