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Dear Family and Friends,
In 1988, Victor Chilenje graduated from Zomba Theological College, Zomba, Malawi, with a licentiate in theology and prepared to return from Malawi to eastern Zambia with his wife and two young children to begin pastoring a congregation of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Zambia (CCAP Zambia). Because the synod had not provided the Chilenjes with any travel funds, the family went by bus to Nkamenya near the Zambian border. From there, Chilenje walked three kilometers to a village where he was able to hire an ox cart to take his family across the border to the first village in Zambia. At the border, the family waited while Chilenje used a borrowed bicycle to ride three hours to his home village in rural eastern Zambia. There, he borrowed another ox cart from his young brother and returned to the border for his family and their belongings. The return of the family to Zambia in an ox cart confirmed the assumption of Chilenje’s father that, as a pastor, the Chilenje family was destined to poverty.
After three weeks in his village, Chilenje traveled two hours by bicycle to Lundazi in eastern Zambia to join church leaders driving to Lusaka for the 1988 synod meeting. Until 1984, CCAP Zambia was part of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia in northern Malawi, and in 1988 CCAP Zambia was still quite small. The 1988 CCAP Zambia Synod meeting was comprised of seven Zambian pastors (plus Chilenje and one other who came to the meeting to be licensed as pastors); seven elders; ten representatives each from the Men’s Guild, Women’s Guild and Christian Youth Fellowship (fellowship and service organizations within the church); as well as representatives from the two existing CCAP Zambia presbyteries. The general secretary at that time was Dr. W.H.K Jere from Malawi.
When Chilenje returned as a licensed pastor to Lundazi, CCAP Zambia Deputy General Secretary Rev. David Chiboboka took Chilenje, his family, and his young brother Lazarus by car to Chama, a town about 200 kilometers north of Lundazi where Chilenje was assigned by the synod to serve as pastor. Because the congregation did not have a manse, the Chilenje family was accommodated two kilometers from the church in an unfurnished two-room house — previously used to store tobacco. Congregation members borrowed mats from nearby villagers to cover the open spaces of the windows and for the family to use for sleeping.
Rev. Chilenje (now Dr. Chilenje) served three and a half years as resident pastor of Chama North congregation, comprised of 16 prayer houses, and simultaneously as visiting pastor of Chama South congregation, comprised of 21 prayer houses. In Zambia, each congregation is made up of multiple locations called prayer houses that are often many kilometers apart. Chilenje traveled regularly by bicycle with one of his elders 180 kilometers south to the furthest point of his parish and then worked his way back to Chama North, hosted in elders’ homes, visiting and teaching at prayer houses, then baptizing (often 60 infants and young children and 40-50 adults) and serving Holy Communion.
Dr. Chilenje remembers his posting to Chama as the lowest and most challenging point in the 30 years he has now served the church. He remembers the confusion of the Chama session members that the synod sent a young, inexperienced pastor to deal with declining church membership. He also remembers the numerical, spiritual and financial growth of the congregations he served as a result of a dedicated focus on evangelism and nurture. He praises God for God’s grace and love.
In my nine+ years in Zambia, I have gotten to know Rev. Dr. Victor Chilenje well. He teaches at Justo Mwale University where I live, and he served as moderator or moderator elect of CCAP Zambia during most of my Zambia years. I have listened to his stories of experiences he had during the 12 years he served as a pastor. I have learned of the progress of the synod during the term he served as general secretary, and I have heard of his bus trips from Lusaka to Stellenbosch, South Africa — three days and three nights — so he could take exams and meet with advisers as he worked on his PhD. He has mentored me in Zambian culture and in the history of the CCAP, and in the ways I could best make a contribution to the church during my time as PC(USA) regional liaison for East and Central Africa. I have found him to be a wise, compassionate and dedicated church leader who has served in multiple roles with Christian humility and a passionate love for Jesus Christ. I am blessed that he has been part of my life in Zambia.
My retirement as regional liaison has been moved back from December 31, 2018 to February 28, 2019 so I can spend two months mentoring Rev. Paula Cooper, my replacement, who began with World Mission October 1. She will attend a mission personnel orientation session in October and then speak in congregations through December, arriving in Zambia in January 2019. I will travel with her to introduce her to our international church partners in Zambia, Malawi, Kenya and Rwanda, and will help orient her to a myriad of tasks and details that comprise the work of a regional liaison.
I am looking forward to remaining in Zambia after I retire as regional liaison — to continue working with CCAP Zambia in a role that requires less travel and less juggling of responsibilities than that of the regional liaison.
It has been a joy to serve in the regional liaison role for almost 10 years, and I look forward to God’s peace and grace as I move into a new role with CCAP Zambia. As always, I am grateful for your prayers, concern and financial support that make possible the work I do participating in building God’s kingdom in East Central Africa. Thank you for your prayers and your continuing generous support to my ministry. Thank you for making it possible for me to grow in my faith as I witness firsthand the incredible love of God in Christ Jesus for his children in East Central Africa.
Please read this important message from José Luis Casal, Director, Presbyterian World Mission
Dear partners in God’s mission,
We near the close of 2018 inspired by the hope of Christ. God is transforming the world, and you are helping to make it happen.
Thank you very much for your support of our mission co-workers. The prayers and financial gifts of people like you enable them to work alongside global partners to address poverty, hopelessness, violence and other pressing problems in the name of Jesus Christ.
Every day, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-workers are blessed to be able to walk alongside their brothers and sisters across the globe. Listening to each other in faith and in friendship, they learn from each other how to work towards a world in which everyone flourishes. Acting upon what they discover together, PC(USA) mission co-workers and our global partners strengthen the body of Christ.
Because you are an integral part of God’s mission, I invite you to become more deeply committed to Presbyterian World Mission. First, would you make a year-end gift for the sending and support of our mission co-workers? The needs in the world are great, and World Mission is poised to answer God’s call to serve others.
I also invite you to ask your session to add our mission co-workers to your congregation’s prayer list and mission budget for 2019 and beyond. Your multi-year commitment will make a great difference in our involvement with our partners. The majority of our mission co-workers’ funding comes from the special gifts of individuals and congregations like yours, for God’s mission is a responsibility of the whole church, not a particular area of the church. Now more than ever, we need your financial support!
In faith, our mission co-workers accept a call to mission service. In faith, World Mission, representing the whole church and you, sends them to work with our global partners. In faith, will you also commit to support this work with your prayers and financial gifts? With hope and faith, I await your positive response!
At God’s service and at your service!
José Luis Casal
P.S. Your gift will help meet critical needs of our global partners. Thank you!
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