A letter from Sherri Ellington serving in Zambia
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Four of the bravest young people I know are moving from America to Lusaka at the end of this month, to spend a year immersing themselves deeply in a crowded urban African setting in order to serve with, worship with, and live with fellow Christians in a country and culture not their own. “A Year of Service for a Lifetime of Change” is the motto of the Presbyterian Church’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program, for which I am now the site coordinator in Zambia. No one will come away from this year unchanged.
The YAVs arrive August 30 as yearlong guests of their host families and of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. And so I also think their host families are some of the bravest people I know, as each graciously opens their home for ten months to a young white American stranger, with who-knows-what kinds of bizarre habits, and food preferences, and foreign perspectives.
For their part, the YAVs will have plenty of culture shock. Most will need to learn the art of “bucket bathing.” All will eat daily a white maize staple food called nshima, which probably none of them have yet tasted. They will quickly learn to break off a small piece of steaming hot nshima, roll it into a ball in their hands, make an indentation with their thumb, then use it as the means of picking up whatever side dish, or relish, might be on their plate.
Within several weeks the basic routines of life will start to seem more normal, as will the neighborhoods that begin to look beyond their white skin and see them as part of the community. But culture shock won’t end; it will resurface in other forms as entry-level differences fade away, allowing deeper differences (but also commonalities) to stand out all the more.
There is no telling what all God has in store for these young people, and for their host families and communities, and for me and my own family as we do this year together.
I am particularly eager and excited to see what God does this year because I feel that He has really been the one to make it happen. Some of those coming were originally interested in serving in other locations around the world, but changed their minds to also include Zambia in their discernment process—right around the time that our Zambian partners began to intensify prayer for God to bring the right young people.
So in the end I am expecting four young people whom God has beckoned, and who are up for an adventure…but not an African adventure of zebras and elephants and lions; rather, one of service, and issues of poverty and life and death in an urban African community, and coming to understand viscerally a part of Christ’s church and world that is very different from their own church and culture.
Please pray for these young people as they arrive August 30, and as they adjust, and as they serve throughout the year. They will be my first item on the list below, but as always we deeply value prayer support for Dustin’s work at Justo Mwale and for all aspects of our ministry here in Zambia.
We appreciate prayer:
• For the four new Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) who arrive in Zambia on August 30: Olivia, Susannah, Kim, and John—for their safety and security, their adjustment, their bonding with host families and communities, their support for one another, their spiritual growth and maturation during this year, their effective service, and their long-term development as Christian leaders and people who impact the world for Christ.
• For Sherri as she is in her first year of coordinating the YAV program for an entire year’s cycle. There is still a lot to learn and figure out, administratively. Pray especially that she will be effective in helping the young adults to grow deeply with Christ, with their African communities, and with one another.
• For our family, as we are currently split up between two continents…Sherri and Christopher are back in Zambia while Dustin is staying in the U.S., speaking in churches, through mid/late September, when he will get Clayton settled in college.
• For Clayton to get off to a solid start as a freshman at Stanford University, and that he will enter deeply into meaningful Christian fellowship there.
•For Zambia as results of national elections unfold (including a petition to revisit the results) and as the country continues to recover from economic setbacks and major electricity and water shortages.
• For Dustin and his ministry with Justo Mwale, that God will work through his courses this term (as soon as he arrives) and that God will use him to strengthen Justo Mwale as a place of faithful discipleship.
Thank you so much for your ongoing support of us through prayer, and through friendship, and through financial gifts to send us to Zambia and keep us serving here. We could not do this apart from your love, care, and support. It has been wonderful to see some of you this summer during our short time in the U.S., and we hope we can connect in person with more of you two summers from now when we are due back for another visit.
If you are not yet part of our financial support team and would like to be, please know that we continue to need support and would appreciate it! Gifts may be given online at https://www.presbyterianmission.org/donate/E200478/. (Find and click the GIVE box on the right side of the page where it says “Give to Professor at Justo Mwale Theological University College.” You may need to scroll down on the right.)
Blessings to all,
Sherri and Dustin Ellington
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