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“For I was hungry and you gave me food.” Matt. 25:35

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A letter from Nancy Collins, regional liaison for East Africa

June 2012

Dear Family and Friends,

Shifting from the oxcart to the car.

Greetings from cool and dusty Zambia!! Its winter here—which means about 70 degrees during the day and 50 at night!! Not a bad winter!!

Recently I have been thinking of my spiritual journey—how hard it can be to see where we are going; how timid or fearful we are sometimes about being our real selves; about all the strands that, if we are willing, God manages to weave together to form the tapestry of our lives. I think of the times I have rebelled, the friends who have helped me on my journey, and the joy I experience here in sub-Saharan Africa, where I never imagined I would go. What a miracle God can make of our lives.

New church building

Journeying is very much a part of my work—the inward spiritual journey and the outward travel required by my position. The outward travel includes visiting the PC(USA) partners in Rwanda, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia. In April I drove from Lusaka to Malawi to visit the three Malawi synods of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP). My last stop in Malawi was Kanyankhunde, a village in the north, due west of Mzuzu, almost on the Zambian border. The CCAP church there is partnered with a congregation in Yuma, Colorado. Last fall, during my speaking assignment in the U.S.A., I promised the Yuma congregation I would find a way to visit Kanyankhunde.

Speaking to the gathering

Kanyankhunde is not far from Mzuzu “as the crow flies,” but oh my goodness, the roads going there are just not good. It seems the bridge of the “good road” was washed out. We took a series of “dust” roads just wide enough for one car to pass between the 6-foot-high grass on either side. It took us about three hours to travel 40 miles. There were three of us in my vehicle—our driver; Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenje, moderator of the CCAP Synod of Zambia; and me. In a second vehicle was our escort Rev. Brown Nkonje, who is coordinator for the CCAP Livingstonia Sunday School Dept. On this trip he represented the CCAP Livingstonia Synod Office. Rev. Maleka R. Kabandama, General Secretary of the CCAP Synod of Zambia, was riding with him. We stopped frequently to ask for directions to supplement the map CCAP Synod of Livingstonia General Secretary Levi Nyondo had drawn for us. Maybe two-thirds of the way there we stopped folks traveling in an oxcart to verify a turn. The young woman being transported in the ox cart was going in our direction. Imagine her delight to travel by car with us instead of in the wagon!!

A gift from the congregation—a handmade sugar bowl

The way was long and dusty and bumpy, but what a welcome was awaiting us in Kanyankhunde. As soon as we parked in front of the church, women—singing and dancing in welcome—began pouring out of the building. We were welcomed by the pastor and the presbytery clerk, escorted to the pastor’s house for formal introductions, then taken to see the very impressive and spacious new church building and the original small, shabby, sagging church building. What a contrast!

Tour finished, we entered the new church where 200-300 members and villagers were gathered. We never imagined such a turnout. Those gathered included eight village headmen and three choirs—one had walked miles to attend the celebration. After greetings from one of the village headmen the three choirs took turns singing wonderful, rhythmic hymns, and then the pastor gave a welcome speech. Then it was my turn! I spoke about partnership—about the spiritual riches Kanyankhunde has to share with Presbyterians in the U.S.A., about the Malawi congregation’s wonderful model of stewardship, and about ways the two congregations, in Malawi and in Colorado, might better open channels of communication.

Banner for the celebration

After a lovely meal prepared by the church women, Rev. Kabandama, Dr. Chilenje and I got into our vehicle for the trip back across the border to Zambia; Rev. Nkonje and the driver headed back to Mzuzu. We squeaked across the border into eastern Zambia just as the border station was closing (6 pm). We spent the night in nearby Lundazi, Zambia.

I hope that at the end of our spiritual journeys—long and bumpy as they may be—we will be welcomed with singing and dancing and joy into the presence of Jesus as we were that day in Kanyankhunde.

Wishing you the peace and joy of Jesus Christ,

Nancy

 

The 2012 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 105

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