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A letter from Nancy Collins in Zambia (Regional Liaison for East Central Africa)

Fall 2013

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

Boyd and Machelle with python and naturalist

Recently, during a pause from all my Regional Liaison busy-ness, I reflected on the meaning of Sabbath- a time of spiritual refreshment and refocusing, a time to engage in activities that encourage me to draw near to God, that- in the words of Lynne Baab, author of Sabbath: The Gift of Rest-“ nurture intimacy with God.” 

According to Baab, “God made an incredibly beautiful and abundant world. Because the world is fallen, we see brokenness and pain all around us. We can see what is missing, and we work and pray to help restore creation to its intended wholeness. On the Sabbath we are invited to set aside our concern for what is missing in our lives. We are invited to stop working and simply rest in the good and wonderful aspects of everything God has given us.”

Crocodiles sunning themselves

This message resonated very strongly with me. There is so much poverty and pain in Zambia. I and my church colleagues here work very hard to contribute to restoring the wholeness of creation. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the work that we forget God’s peace and beauty.

Lusaka is not a very attractive city. There are no city parks and few places of beauty. I had to really concentrate to come up with a short list of “peaceful places in Lusaka,” places where I might be intentional about resting, refreshing, renewing. Kalimba Reptile Farm was at the top of the list!

gift giving at the student picnic

The first time I went to Kalimba Reptile Farm, I was in the company of Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Zambia General Secretary Rev. Maleka R. Kabandama, his son Junior, and CCAP Moderator Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenje. It was in the spring 2012. The General Secretary had just been released from a two-day hospitalization for high blood pressure, and we were looking for a way to “depressurize” him. A stroll through the lush and tranquil grounds of the reptile farm turned out to be the program of choice. Of course watching the naturalist handle the mambas and seeing the seven-foot- long crocodiles might have raised the blood pressure of a few of the farm guests! But for us, it was a peaceful and restful day, enjoying nature. It was also Rev. Kabandama’s first visit to Kalimba, and one of his very few opportunities to relax in the beauty of God’s creation! The cost of transportation and admission to Kalimba-or any other tranquil place- are overwhelming deterrents for many Zambians.

My second visit to Kalimba Reptile Farm was in July of this year. Guests Machelle Bielke and Rebecca Foster and I took the Muwowo family there. Thirty-nine-year old Rev. Bannet Muwowo , a student at Justo Mwale Theological University College (JMTUC) in Lusaka, is upgrading his diploma in theology to a bachelor of theology degree. Rev. Muwowo, his wife Estelah, and their children Boyd and Treasure (13), Given (10), Temwani (8), Lusungu (6), and Uchizi and Vitumbiku (3) filled my Toyota Landcruiser to overflowing. The children giggled on the short but dusty and bumpy road to Kalimba. The family learned about the snakes and the crocodiles, and the children enjoyed the wonderful playground and spacious lawns. We all refreshed with drinks under the awning of the restaurant, but did not partake of the crocodile burgers! According to Rev. Muwowo, “I never would have believed we would have a day to relax and spend like this.”

My third visit to the Farm was on Oct 19. The visit was planned as a field trip for guests from the Presbytery of Philadelphia. But by coincidence, it was also the day theology students from JMTUC held an end of year picnic there to bid each other goodbye. The two groups merged on the Kalimba lawn as  the Philadelphia guests and I listened to the students’ farewell speeches. It turned out to be another “magical moment.” In the lush and tranquil farm setting, I experienced the wonder of what God is doing in this part of the world through those JMTUC students.

the Muwowo family

One of the mysteries and challenges of East Central Africa for me is working with Christian leaders- educated professionals- who have given their entire lives to Jesus Christ and His church, but who don’t own a home, a car, a savings account, a health insurance plan, any of the benefits we US Presbyterians take for granted. It is a gift for me to share with them a few hours of God’s grace and peace and love in a place where the good and wonderful world God has given us is evident. It is a real experience of Sabbath.

I want you to know that lives here in East Central Africa- my life and the lives of many from our international church partners- are being blessed.  They are being blessed through your response to God—through generous and sacrificial giving to mission workers like me, through continued prayer, education, worship, outreach and service that witness to God’s promise of that city coming, but also encountered and experienced here and now.  I would invite you “here and now,” if you’ve not yet stepped onto the path of regular mission support, to prayerfully begin.  Rejoicing at the prospect of what God is yet going to do, through all of us, I thank you for your participation, support and listening ear!

On the home front: I mentioned in my September newsletter that in calendar year 2014, I will be based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is a “special dispensation” I have been given by PCUSA!- to reconnect with 20 year old son Charles for some significant time together. We have been separated for four years now, and have seen each other only during limited vacation times in Zambia and in USA. The separation has been wearing on us, and we need to rebuild.

During the year in the USA, I will continue to handle all my responsibilities as Regional Liaison. I will make two trips to my region over the course of the year to visit mission coworkers and international PCUSA church partners. I expect to be available for speaking in September and October 2014, and I hope I will see many of you during that time. I expect the year will be a busy and rich time, while enabling Charles and me to be a family together again. It will be a real gift.

In Christ,
Nancy Collins

The 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 115
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