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A letter from Dustin Ellington In Zambia

September 19, 2010

Dear Friends,

A photo of the Ellington family together, in a dry, grassy area.

The Ellington family on their first trip out to the Zambian “bush” for Dustin’s 42nd birthday. (Blue Lagoon National Park, Zambia)

Greetings from beautiful Zambia! Our family has now spent just over a month here at Justo Mwale Theological University College, where I'm a professor of New Testament. I’m in love with this new home and place of ministry. Let me share a few highlights that tell why.

One highlight has been worship with Zambians, whether it’s in our college’s chapel services or in the variety of churches our family has visited. Christians in this part of the world have a special gift of singing and dancing their faith. My students’ voices are so rich and full of life that I feel myself pulled into worship, even if I’m sitting in my office and only hearing one of our college’s numerous choirs practicing in the distance. The students use instruments only occasionally, but I don’t miss instruments; they almost seem superfluous because people’s voices are so rich and vibrant. And when people sing in church, they dance. Not just the choir but almost the whole congregation moves with the music. Two weeks ago a friend told Sherri and me that her muscles were really sore. When we asked why, she said that her church choir had had a particularly grueling practice the day before. Apparently, praising God can keep you fit in this part of the world! People here worship God with all that they are, and we feel privileged to witness and participate in such worship on this side of heaven.

A view of a large papaya tree with a pole and bag beside it, from below.

Bagging our first papaya with a stick and a bag.

Another major highlight is getting to live on the seminary campus. For one thing, the campus itself is beautiful, full of open green space, colorful birds, and all kinds of fruit trees. In our yard alone, we have mango, guava, papaya, and banana trees. Being on the college campus also means access to new relationships, since basically all of the faculty and students and their families live right on campus. It’s made getting to know students and colleagues much easier. Each faculty family has started taking a weekly turn having our family over for supper. Our sons, Clayton and Christopher, have begun making friends and always have other kids to spend time with. It’s touching to see our boys cross boundaries and begin to make African friends. It’s also been convenient for Sherri to explore ministry in and through the seminary spouses’ program. I regularly go running with students on the dirt roads surrounding the campus. I feel like living on campus frees me up to focus on key priorities.

Yet another highlight has been the chance to jump right into teaching and ministering to students. Since Zambia is an English-speaking country (alongside 72 African dialects!), I’m already able to teach. This has been my first chance to teach a group of students in my own language for over six years, and it’s wonderful to be able to express exactly what I want to say without first taking years for language study, as I did in Egypt. I’m already able to have in-depth conversations with students about sermons they’re preparing and papers they’re writing. I’m teaching one class of 38 students on the interpretation of the New Testament. I’m also facilitating a course for eight students on the practice of preaching. I enjoy the New Testament course because it trains students in the craft of interpreting the Bible for themselves, the thing I most like to offer future pastors. The preaching course has been just as enjoyable. One of my main goals these days is to find out what my students need to learn and what it means to teach in a way that works with where they are coming from. Hearing my students preach and critique one another has given me insight into my students’ needs and ways of thinking.

A young boy in a green shirt beside a tree. Christopher next to our mango tree.
A group of kids jumping on a trampoline, beside a large, flowery bush.Our popular trampoline (we have since had to set limits).
Three boys playing chess together in a slightly dark room.Clayton playing chess with a couple of friends on campus.

Finally, let me say that the greatest thing about being here may be the simple gift of actually having a place that we know we’re called to be and to have the freedom to do the ministry that we’re called to do. I think that this alone would make me be happy to be in Zambia. It was so difficult to say goodbye to our home in Egypt and to be blocked from the ministry that we had come to love. I’ve been given just a two-year work permit by the Zambian government, but everyone’s expectation is that this can be renewed. We now have a place where we can serve and the freedom to make a contribution to God’s work in a particular part of the world. That’s a gift I don’t take for granted. It’s a gift that makes me wake up early, excited to make the most of each new day for the ministry I get to do.

Our deep thanksgiving goes to God and to all of you who are making this opportunity possible through your gifts and prayers. Please keep praying...

  • For each of our family members’ continued transition to our new life here. The adjustment is difficult for different ones of us at different times. Sherri particularly covets prayers for her own adjustment, and for Christopher’s.
  • That we’ll be able to make the most of this opportunity to serve, and that our life and ministry here will bear fruit that endures.

Grace and peace,

Dustin and Sherri Ellington

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