A letter from Nancy Collins, regional liaison for East Africa
Dear Family and Friends,
Sunday, February 19. The day the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), Synod of Zambia, selected as the day members of the CCAP Women’s Guild—the umvano—in all its congregations throughout Zambia would rededicate themselves to Jesus Christ. It was a new concept and a new experience for me.
Rev. Kondwani Nkhoma, pastor of the CCAP Mandevu congregation in Lusaka, invited me to give an hour-long lesson to the women at the retreat held Saturday Feb 18. A challenging invitation but one I was determined to honor.
I decided to draw my lesson from Back to the Well: Women’s Encounters with Jesus in the Gospels by Frances Taylor Gench, a book that offers re-interpretation and re-evaluation of six New Testament stories involving women.
I focused on the story of the Samaritan woman found in John 4:1–42, emphasizing as did the author that (1) there are other possible explanations for the Samaritan woman’s five husbands than promiscuity, (2) the Samaritan woman had the longest reported conversation with Jesus of any person in the Gospels, (3) Jesus chose to reveal to this “unclean heretic and foreigner” that he was the Messiah, the living water, and to offer her this living water, and (4) the woman successfully evangelized her entire town.
After small-group discussion about what they heard, the women all reported seeing the Samaritan woman with new eyes. However, they were not particularly interested in possible explanations for the woman’s multiple husbands. The most important thing to these women was that the Samaritan woman evangelized. She left her work to tell her neighbors about Jesus. She left her water jar at the well and rushed back to town. The women of the CCAP Mandevu congregation recognized the Samaritan woman as an important model for them, and they prayed that they might serve Jesus as effectively as the Samaritan woman.
As the reporting session ended, the women spontaneously broke into song. The pastor translated the Nyanja for me. The women were singing, “Nancy is the servant of God, Nancy works for God, Who has sent her? God has sent her.”
The day was a wonderful and humbling experience of being used by God. The women saw what God wanted them to see. They understood the teaching as a powerful example of commitment to Jesus Christ—a message I had not foreseen as I made my preparations.
Sunday I rejoined the women for the service of rededication. After preaching and singing the women knelt as they took vows to read and study the Word of God; to make their homes Christian homes and to care for husband and children in a Christian way; and to wear their uniforms according to the rules of the church for meetings, funerals, and communion services.
I returned to Zambia from Interpretation Assignment at the end of December, and almost immediately traveled with CCAP Zambia Synod officers to Lundazi to attend a CCAP General Assembly Standing Committee Meeting. Each of the five CCAP synods sent moderator, general secretary and an elder to the meeting. The CCAP General Assembly has been dysfunctional for multiple years. Planning is now under way for a full General Assembly targeted to be held in Zambia in December 2012. Please pray that a spirit of unity and servanthood will prevail in this effort.
I am pleased to write that Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenje, moderator of CCAP Zambia and the Right Rev. David Gathanju, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, have been invited to attend the PC(USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh this summer as ecumenical advisory delegates. If you are attending, please seek them out and welcome them.
I am also very pleased that World Mission has approved a position for a mission co-worker to serve as lecturer at Zomba Theological Seminary, in Zomba, Malawi, and a second position for a mission co-worker to serve as Discipleship and Church Growth Specialist with the CCAP Synod of Zambia. The interviewing and discernment process is under way for both. Praise God!
In my end of 2011 newsletter I shared with you some of the wonderful work PC(USA) constituencies are involved with to strengthen and empower teachers and caregivers who work with orphans and vulnerable children in the CCAP Zambia community schools. We are looking for funds to continue the teacher and caregiver training program. If your congregation would like to contribute, please indicate “ECO E052127 – training” on the check memo line. Mail checks to PC(USA), P.O. Box 643678, Pittsburgh, Pa 15264. Thanks for your consideration. The program will bless more than 3,000 children through improved teaching and psychosocial care.
Son Charles, now 19, had a difficult first semester at University of Missouri, Columbia. As a result I find that I am much more anxious about him than I have been in the past. Major technology failures here in Lusaka have limited communication with him, and this is also a source of anxiety. He seems to be doing much better this second semester. Please pray that Charles is able to focus on academics and that he is supported by friendships with mature, spiritual students. Please pray that I am able to entrust him to God.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.
The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 105