A letter from Nancy Collins in Zambia
January 31, 2010
Dear Family and Friends,
The first week of January. Sounds of a hymn came wafting across the campus of Justo Mwale to my lovely little house. A familiar hymn but sung in the joyful Zambian way with call and response. Orientation week for the 2010 school year was underway. It was almost 7:30 a.m., time for morning devotions. I hurried across the campus, the music swelling with each step, to where students and spouses gathered with teaching and administrative staff in the “chapel,” which is actually a large multipurpose classroom.
The Friday morning worship leader was Dr. Edwin Zulu, the newly appointed rector of Justo Mwale. Dr. Zulu chose as his text Luke 8:22-25 — Jesus calming the storm. He spoke of the death of 4th year student Blessings Mseteka in a car accident as he was returning to the college from his home in Malawi — a shock to the student body and a loss to his family and to Livingstonia Synod. Dr. Zulu acknowledged the financial concerns of the students who struggle to buy food and clothing and pay children’s school fees with their limited resources. “Sometimes, brothers and sisters,” he said, “things get tough. Sometimes when we get frightened, we think the power of Jesus Christ is not enough. Tell your neighbor ‘Everything affecting you now is temporal. Don’t worry. Jesus is in control.’ Expand your faith. Believe in an abnormal way.” What a good message to hear.
I’m sure many of you are not familiar with Justo Mwale. The theological training of ministers of the Reformed Church in Zambia (RCZ) started in February 1951 in the Eastern Province in Zambia. In 1969, the “Reformed Church Theological College,&rduo; as it was called, moved to Lusaka, and in 1975, where it was officially opened and renamed Justo Mwale Theological University College in honor of the first Zambian to be ordained as RCZ Minister of the Word and Sacrament. In 1989, a multichurch University College Board was instituted, and other churches with students at JMTUC began to participate in governance of the College. Justo Mwale Theological University College is now one of the leading theological university colleges in southern Africa. It is recognized internationally as an institution offering quality contextual and holistic theological education. The College attracts students from Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. The student body, currently 53 students, feel privileged when they are selected to come because they know they will receive a quality four year education.
The training of church leaders is a critical need in southern Africa. The church is really exploding here. For example, since 1985 the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian/Synod of Zambia has grown from 10,000 members in 16 congregations to 57,600 members in 56 congregations. And each of the congregations is composed of a “mother church” with multiple “prayer houses” (congregations in formation) all served by one pastor. Each prayer house could also be an independent congregation but there simply are not enough pastors to serve them. Denominations are constantly faced with the challenge of church leadership. As a result, two year programs and short term evangelist training programs have been implemented to help fill some of the gaps.
Throughout southern Africa poverty is a fact of life. In Zambia chronic poverty affects 67 percent of the population; 46 percent live in extreme poverty. All theological students at Justo Mwale — regardless of home country or denomination — require scholarships so they can answer God’s call.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) scholarship program covers tuition (at $2,346 for the year it is quite a bargain), the women’s certificate program ($414/ year — assumes the theological candidate is male, which is generally the case), housing, living allowance, and book allowance. Housing and living allowance vary based on family size. The total scholarship package currently averages about $5,500 for the year.
I’m asking you to prayerfully consider sponsoring a student at Justo Mwale. For 2010, three slots had to be eliminated compared to 2009 due to lack of sufficient funds. As Jesus said in Luke 10:2, “The harvest is abundant but the workers are few.” This is a wonderful opportunity to provide workers to extend God’s kingdom. Pray about it. Email me for additional information. Contributions can be made through PC(USA) Extra Commitment Opportunity Account #404902 or to the Outreach Foundation’s Justo Mwale account.
During February and March there will be additional new learning curves for me. Tomorrow evening I will fly to Kigali, Rwanda, where I will stay until February 7 to meet staff of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda (EPR) and learn of the Church’s challenges in rebuilding and reconciliation after the 1994 genocide eliminated many church and lay leaders.
From there I will fly to Nairobi where, God willing, I will stay until 6 March. During that time I will participate in a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-sponsored training in Community Health Evangelism. I plan to take advantage of the opportunity to meet the PC(USA) mission personnel there and learn about their work. I will also meet the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (PCEA) and visit PCEA programs and projects. And I will attend the PCEA International Partners meeting scheduled March 2-5.
In the second half of March I will drive to Malawi where I will connect with Mr. Bob Ellis, PC(USA) coordinator of International Health and Development Ministries and Mr. Frank Dimmock, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Africa health liaison. Frank and Bob will introduce me to our Malawi partners and programs as we drive the length of Malawi.
Last week I received my shipment of household goods from Cairo. The last time I saw my worldly goods was June 2008. Nice to have rugs on the floor, art on the walls, dishes in the cupboard!!
Wishing you all the peace of Jesus Christ.
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 52