A letter from Nancy Collins, on interpretation assignment from East Africa
Dear Family and Friends,
I am now nearing the end of my 2011 speaking assignment in the United States. It has been a joy for me to share with congregations and individuals in the presbyteries of Philadelphia, Peaks and Plains, Eastern Oklahoma, St. Augustine, and Southern New England the wonderful ways God is working in East Central Africa. It is a gift to me to be able to tell stories of the spiritual richness and “aha” moments I experience in my spiritual journey as I work in Zambia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Kenya. And it has been a blessing to be received by congregations throughout my travels here in the United States with warmth and eagerness and genuine hospitality. Thanks to all of you who have prayed for me and listened to my stories and opened your homes to me. It has been a wonderful experience.
One of the stories I have enjoyed sharing with Presbyterians across the United States is the powerful way the Holy Spirit is at work in the community schools of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP)/Synod of Zambia. As two of the children indicate in the following descriptions, life for these students is very difficult:
My name is John. I am 12 years old and in 4th grade at CCAP Community School. My father died last year. He died at home because we didn’t have any money to take him to the hospital. My father was a street vendor. He went from door to door selling necklaces, belts and socks. At that time we lived with my grandmother, and from grade 1 to grade 3 she helped me with school fees. After my father died I stayed home helping my mother sell vegetables, especially tomatoes. I wasn’t going to school. Then a neighbor felt sorry for us and she told my mom about the CCAP school—that education is free and sometimes the school serves lunch. I started at the school. I am really happy when I am able to have lunch there because it is easier to learn when I am not hungry. Last term I was 4th out of 29 students in my class.
My name is Patience. I am 8 years old and in grade 3 at a CCAP Community School. I am the second-born. My father died in 2004 when I was 2 and a half years old. I live with my mother. She is a volunteer at my school. She doesn’t make much money, so food and clothing and housing are problems. We survive only by the grace of God. My mom encourages me with my education. I pray I will not disappoint her. I want to be a minister of education someday so I can help orphans and struggling children.
During 2011 the teachers, caregivers and students themselves have learned of God’s love for them in Jesus Christ through the richness of blessings being showered on them. These schools, which minister to 3,000 orphans and vulnerable children—such as the two above—operate on shoestring budgets and the love and dedication of volunteer teachers. Most classes are held in church sanctuaries. Teaching materials are in short supply.
Through the miracle of God’s love, God called a compassionate and talented American husband-and-wife team—a child psychologist and an elementary school principal, (PC(USA) members—to Zambia to assess the 25 CCAP community schools and to begin the multi-year process of building the teaching and counseling skills of teachers and caregivers. The newly organized CCAP Department of Community Schools made all the necessary preparations for school assessment visits and one-day training seminars. The PC(USA) provided funds for transportation, accommodation and food for teachers and caregivers who participated in the preliminary training programs. Rev. Kondwani Nkhoma, a former teacher who is now coordinator of the new department, is beginning a strategic planning process for the schools. PC(USA) partner congregations are being motivated to join together in a community of mission practice to support the schools in a more coordinated and strategic way. A second couple is seeking funding sources to empower the department to construct school buildings. It has been an awesome experience to see all of this coming together.
This project is just one example of the many ways PC(USA) congregations link with international partners. Whenever I travel to Malawi or Rwanda or Kenya, I visit education, health, and microfinance programs and theological colleges—many of which receive support from PC(USA) congregations and presbyteries. I also have the pleasure of visiting the ten PC(USA) mission co-workers working in East Central Africa. Funds for their support also come from PC(USA) congregations—just as mine does. Again, thank you for all you are doing.
Witnessing Christian faith and joy in the face of disease, poverty and death in East Central Africa has given stewardship a whole new meaning to me. I have become rich with the spiritual riches of the Southern hemisphere. I have received immense blessings in Jesus Christ. It is a privilege for me to share my resources—my education, Web surfing skills, contacts, and organizational abilities—to empower these Christians who have given me so much. I pray that you will experience what God has taught me in the past two years—that no one can outdo the generosity of God in Jesus Christ.
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11).
With prayers for a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Your sister in Christ,
The 2011 Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 66