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A letter from Dustin Ellington In Zambia

January 31, 2011

Dear Friends,

Photo of a large building and cars and people on the street.

Tahrir Square, downtown Cairo, as we remember it in “quieter” days.

Despite being gone (and barred) from Egypt ourselves, we have received more than a handful of emails from several of you asking what we think of the past week’s developments in Cairo. At first we were amazed — that the good-natured, easygoing Egyptian populace finally got fed up enough to take such a strong stand despite the very serious threat of jailing and torture. Next we were nervous, especially as we reached a few friends on their landlines and heard of husbands doing vigilante duty with sticks to protect their families and neighborhoods from looters, of families barricading themselves inside their homes with sofas against the door, of gunshots and tanks outside even as we spoke on the phone. We have been heartened by the community spirit and by the (so far, so good) interfaith nature of the movement, even when short-lived attempts have been made to Islamize it. And definitely we are excited for the freedoms that may lie ahead for Egypt … while also being nervous about what may lie ahead for Egypt if, God forbid, it all goes wrong.

Photo of a busy street with a large building in the background.

Tahrir Square

One friend asked us “Do you wish you were there? Or are you glad you are not?” I didn’t get a chance to answer him because it was on Dusty’s Facebook page that he posed the question. So here is my chance: we feel both ways. I feel that we are missing out on a momentous time in Egypt’s history, and after the deep investment of our hearts in that country, that is hard to miss. On the other hand, our family is obviously much safer here in Zambia, and we appreciate God’s care in bringing us here. God has given us a new people and place to love and serve, and for that we are grateful.

In fact, it has been pretty hard to contain Dustin’s joy lately. We are entering our third week of the new school year, and he is thoroughly enjoying his students, both in and out of class. He also returned two weeks ago from a road trip with three Zambian colleagues to a conference in Malawi. I’m not sure if he learned more from the wonderful conference on theological education in Africa or from the conversations while driving to and fro with his colleagues, which touched on African sexual mores (including polygamy), the AIDS crisis, farming, witchcraft and other topics generally foreign to our “former lives” in America and in Egypt.

This term I (Sherri) am teaching at the college as well. Our first year students are required to take an English course. When the scheduled lecturer had to cancel and I was asked to teach it, I clarified with the dean: “Is the course basically like Freshman English?” He replied “Yes, exactly! Refresher English!” I laughed. So it’s somewhere between ESL and Freshman English. I’m starting to figure out what the students most need to work on and am trying to tailor the lessons to meet their needs. Teaching first-years is a wonderful way to get to know the student body, and I hope I am contributing to their success here at the college as well as to their long-term success as pastors who thoughtfully and effectively help shape this young and energetic church in Africa.

Photo of hippopotamuses in a river.

“Traffic” in Zambia along the Zambezi River border with Zimbabwe.

You see, Egypt is not the only place in Africa going through a revolution. Here in Zambia, as all over sub-Saharan Africa, there has been a rapid spread of Christianity over the past few decades. This new faith in the one true God has caused a shake-up from the old ways to the new: from fear of witchcraft to trust in God alone, from polygamy to monogamy (how does the church choose to handle a family that is already made up of multiple wives?). The pieces are still settling into place as the church figures out the structures of how to live an authentically African life, under God.

Thank you for sending us to partner with our friends, colleagues and students as they seek to grow into the fullness God intends for the church here in this part of Africa.

Sherri and Dustin Ellington
Justo Mwale Theological University College
Plot 19, Munali Road, Chamba Valley
P.O. Box 310199
Lusaka 15301, ZAMBIA

The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 66


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