A letter from Nancy Collins in Zambia
Dear family and friends,
I continue to praise God for the work God has given me to do here in East Central Africa. It is a demanding job but it is such a blessing.
On October 15, after 30 minutes of bumping over increasingly narrow dirt roads, Africa area coordinator the Rev. Debbie Braaksma and I arrived in Bihembe, Rwanda, to find rows of schoolchildren lined up to greet us. Debbie and I thought we were coming to see the new water connection bringing clean water to Bihembe for the first time. Instead we found we were the focus of a joyful community-wide celebration of thanks. As “stand-ins” for Cedar Heights Presbyterian Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Debbie and I received the overflowing thanks for their partnership in the water project. Up the hill behind the school the whole Bihembe congregation was waiting to greet us — singing in celebration of our arrival. After we were seated, the schoolchildren all marched in singing, “Welcome, welcome, visitors from America.” Introductions and speeches by presbytery executive the Rev. Therese Makamakuza, Bihembe pastor the Rev. Kaliganya, previous pastor the Rev. Desiree Rutaganda, the clerk of session, village leaders and three schoolchildren were followed by singing and dancing.
In her speech, the clerk of session explained: &ldquolIt used to take the villagers six hours to bring water from the lake. Children missed school because they were bringing water. They missed school because they were thirsty and went from house to house in the village begging for a drink. Without water it was very difficult to clean the church, the compound and homes. Everyone is so happy now that there is water for drinking and cleaning homes and washing clothes. God has used our friends in America to respond to our problems and we praise Him for this.”
Four days later Debbie and I were In Lusaka, Zambia, where I introduced the new Africa coordinator to our PC(USA) Zambian partners. My highlight of the week in Zambia with Debbie was our visit to three of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian/Zambia (CCAP) community schools. Ten CCAP congregations in Lusaka sponsor community schools/volunteer-run schools established by congregations to provide education to orphans and vulnerable children who cannot afford to pay for uniforms, books and other expenses incurred by children attending public schools.
At Mtendere congregation on Lusaka’s east side, five volunteer teachers educate 306 children in grades 1-7. Overwhelmed by the ministry of these courageous, self-sacrificing Christians, Debbie gathered them together and spoke movingly to them, calling them her heroes and giving them some well-deserved recognition.
I have traveled pretty much continuously since July, when I went for a second visit to the Malawi synods of the CCAP. It was a great visit — I received a wonderful overview of the work of the three synods. In addition, I benefited from the special cultural insights of my traveling companions, CCAP/Zambia moderator the Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenje and CCAP/Zambia general treasurer Mr. Isaac Ngulube.
Four days after returning to Zambia from Malawi, I flew to Oklahoma to spend my 20 vacation days with 17-year-old son, Charles. Between January and July, Charles developed impressive shoulders and arms from weightlifting. It was quite a surprise when I saw him at the airport. We bonded during a couple of road trips to prospective colleges.
I also was able to reconnect with two Egyptian colleagues — Dr. Nabil Sisostres and Mr. Raafat Latif of the Together for Family Development Network — who were visiting the Presbytery of Des Moines in Iowa. That was a special blessing to me.
I remained in the United States through the end of September. I spoke in a dozen churches, attended Malawi and Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique (ZZM) Mission Network meetings and participated in PC(USA)-sponsored meetings for regional liaisons from around the world. The regional liaison meetings introduced the new Presbyterian World Mission (PWM) strategic plan, which focuses on three critical global issues:
- Strengthening the church’s capacity to survive, to thrive and to witness to the good news in Jesus Christ.
- Addressing the root causes of poverty, including the effects of economic globalization on the poorest and most vulnerable in every society, paying special attention to women and children.
- Engaging in reconciliation amidst cultures of violence, including our own.
The new strategic plan recognizes the critical involvement of PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries in international mission and emphasizes their involvement in communities of mission practice. In light of this direction PWM is continuing the process of resourcing these constituencies with materials that empower them in best practices of mission partnership. As an example, during my visit to the United States, I became familiar with "God’s Mission Matters," a wonderful monthly podcast available to network conveners, mission advocates, partnership teams and church mission committees. They can be found at the Mission Crossroads website. I had a great time selecting materials from "God’s Mission Matters" for some of my presentations.
While I was in the United States, CCAP/Zambia held its synod meeting. Reports I received about the meeting were very positive. The synod approved the three-year strategic plan developed by the synod office. After listening to a presentation on Community Health Evangelism (CHE) by national trainer Mr. Lovemore Zulu, the synod enthusiastically approved moving toward program implementation. Participants commented favorably on the overall constructive nature of the meeting and the progress made in the past two years.
When I returned to Zambia from the United States I was greeted by former colleague from Egypt the Rev. Dr. Dustin Ellington. Dustin, along with his wife, Sherri, and sons, Clayton (12) and Christopher (7), arrived in Zambia in mid-August. Dustin has begun serving as a lecturer at Justo Mwale Theological University College, where I live. I am very pleased to have them again as neighbors. And I am sure Justo Mwale will find Dustin to be a major asset to their teaching staff.
Now that the months of whirlwind activity have ended, I am working on my extensive To Do List!! Frequent lack of Internet access here at Justo Mwale is impacting my ability to get caught up.
Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving. I think the Americans here will have a community meal at Justo Mwale. Give thanks to God for His mercy endures forever.
The first rains have ended the six-month-long dry season. All the dust has been washed from the leaves of the lovely trees and shrubs, and the three inches of dust in the road has disappeared.
Wishing you peace and joy in Jesus Christ,
The 2010 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 52