A letter from Dustin Ellington serving in Zambia

October 2015 – Challenges

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Dear Friends,

Greetings from Zambia. This lovely country where we live has been going through perhaps its most difficult time since we’ve been here. Lusaka, the capital city and our home, has gone without electricity for a minimum of eight hours/day since June—and it looks like this will continue much longer. For power Zambia relies on a large hydroelectric dam on the largest man-made lake in the world (Lake Kariba), but last year’s rainy season was too light. Almost all of the remaining water in Lake Kariba has been used, leaving little to pass through the dam. Apart from a very strong rainy season, it could take years to reach the normal level again. Meanwhile Zambia also depends heavily on exporting copper, and the worldwide price of copper has been dropping. The mines are also struggling with reduced electricity. Between lack of power and low copper prices, business in Zambia has been deeply hurt. The Zambian currency, the kwacha, has dropped half of its value relative to the dollar in only several months.

Drought even beyond seasonal fluctuations is deeply affecting Zambia’s economy.

Victoria Falls April 2015

Victoria Falls August 2015

Vegetables for sale in a typical market stall. Prices are rising even for basic food items.

Problems like these gradually affect the average person’s life. Most Zambians live on less than $2/day, which leaves little room for prices to go up. Yet in times like these prices gradually rise. Just this week a Zambian believer I rub shoulders with each day confided that he and his wife hadn’t had a meal in two weeks; they had only tea and sugar left. So for two weeks they had thanked God to have a cup of tea in the morning and one in the evening. My heart dropped as I thought about them going hungry even as I live in relative abundance. Their situation isn’t necessarily a result of the absence of electricity, but with drought and rising prices such scenarios may get repeated over and over throughout the country. Students at Justo Mwale frequently go days without cooked meals because finding the chance to cook when there is electricity is so difficult for them. This is also a season of water rationing, so it can be difficult to time the availability of water with the availability of electricity. While our family is in much better shape than most Zambians, we do struggle with the lengthy power outages and especially the effect that has on our access to water (which relies on electric pumps). There is much going on in Zambia that can wear one down.  We appreciate prayers for encouragement, for us and for our African colleagues and students.

Becca, a 2014-2015 YAV, surrounded by various YAV Zambia supervisors and host family members

Something that has encouraged Sherri and me in the past year is Sherri’s involvement in Presbyterian World Mission’s Young Adult Volunteer program. She served as interim site coordinator in Zambia for much of the past year, and we saw that she thrived in the position. Sherri loved working with the three young American women who came to live with Zambian families and serve in Zambian schools, churches, and communities. She deeply enjoyed studying Scripture with them and talking through their ministry and life in Zambia. She found it invigorating to re-experience the country and people through their eyes.

Now we have an exciting announcement. Sherri has accepted the offer to take on the position of Young Adult Volunteer Coordinator for Presbyterian World Mission in Zambia. She’s no longer the interim coordinator. We’re enthused about this as a couple. We both get energized by being involved in the lives of young adults, and while Sherri has the major responsibility, this is something that we can do together as a family.

We want to invite you, those who care about and pray for our ministry, to consider if there might be Christian young adults you know who are adventurous, not fainthearted, who want to go deeper as people who put Scripture and faith into practice. Perhaps they would consider applying for a year of intensive service and discipleship (August 2016 to July 2017). See here for more info on the YAV program generally.

Dustin with our two teenagers. Christopher is 13; Clayton is a senior in high school, applying to college.

We would appreciate prayers for our family at this time. This feels like an important year for receiving prayer because Sherri and I are now parenting two teenagers (!), and because Clayton is a senior in high school and transitioning toward going away to college within a year. He is working hard on schoolwork and college applications in the hot weather and without much access to electricity or showers. We sure appreciate prayers that God will sustain and lead him. We also appreciate prayers for our whole family to have courage, wisdom, strength, peace, and patience in this time of challenge and change.

We also appreciate prayer for Justo Mwale University’s role in shaping the minds of southern Africa’s vibrant Christians and in developing thoughtful pastors for Africa’s churches. Our faculty and students give sustained attention day in and day out to being engaged with Scripture and Christian theology on one hand and Africa’s problems and possibilities on the other. In Zambia and surrounding countries, Christians tend to understand God’s presence as tied to increasing levels of material blessing and provision. Most think that to be Christian means to be upwardly mobile. The idea that Christ could be powerfully present even amidst persistent needs feels like a very strange idea (for reasons I don’t fully understand). Times like the present can produce a crisis of faith, as people wonder why they are not accessing the power of God. Let us pray that more people can find Christ’s strength even in the midst of persistent difficulties. Let’s pray also for Africa’s many Christians to influence continued development of their countries’ infrastructures so the continent is less vulnerable.

We are so grateful to all of you who keep us in your hearts and prayers. We also thank all of you who support our ministry financially, and we invite you to continue. (To give, click here.) Despite—and even somewhat because of—the challenges we face in Zambia, we strongly believe God has called us here and are so thankful to be part of the gospel’s advance in southern-central Africa.

Yours in Christ,
Dustin and Sherri Ellington

The 2015 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, p. 154
Read more about Dustin and Sherri Ellington’s ministry

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