A Letter from Nancy Collins, serving in East Central Africa
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Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings to you in the name of Jesus Christ from Justo Mwale University (JMU), Lusaka, Zambia, where I have my home. It is quiet, very green, a lovely place to live. I enjoy having the theological students and faculty as my neighbors, and I appreciate when they stop by, calling “odi” to say hello.
The 2018 JMU Bachelor of Theology (BTh) program is well underway now, although it got off to a bumpy start. Cholera broke out in Lusaka in October 2017. By January 12, 2018, 2840 cases were recorded, with 64 deaths. At the end of December, the Minister of Health, Dr. Chitalu Chilufya, banned gatherings of more than five people (including worship) and outlawed street vending. Military police patrolled the streets to enforce the bans. At the beginning of January, Dr. Chilufya postponed the opening of schools nationwide. The ban on public gatherings was lifted Feb 3.
During the relative chaos create by the cholera outbreak, a new JMU administrative team was getting oriented to a new organizational chart and new responsibilities. The University Council appointed Dr. Lukas Soko, former Dean of Students, to succeed Dr. Edwin Zulu, who served as Vice Chancellor for eight years. Dr. Stephen Sitali Kakungu is continuing as JMU Registrar. He is joined by Dr. Victor Chilenje as Assistant Registrar of Academic Affairs. The administrative team is working to move forward to meet requirements as a university with Schools of Theology and Religious Studies, Education, Business Studies, and Humanities and Social Sciences.
JMU BTh students — coming from multiple countries in southern Africa — were scheduled to arrive on campus January 8. Due to the cholera, the university contacted them to postpone travel. Orientation actually began Monday, January 22, and classes started Monday, January 29.
At this point, the BTh students are all busy with classes; evangelists and pastors are on campus participating in the JMU Booth Center Sustainability Program, which teaches agricultural methods for self- support; and the week of February 19, master’s students in distance learning programs in theology and education were on campus for contact sessions with lecturers. Despite the different programs in session, the campus maintained its tranquil atmosphere.
JMU Administrative team with MCW/ JMU lecturer Dr. Dustin Ellington. From left to right — Dustin, Vice Chancellor Dr. Lukas Soko, assistant registrar Dr. Victor Chilenje and registrar Dr. Stephen S. Kakungu.
My main connection to JMU is as administrator of the scholarship program that serves Presbyterian students from five synods of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), two entities of Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (in Zambia and Zimbabwe), and the Presbyterian Church of Mozambique. There are currently 16 scholarships, which sounds like a lot until you realize they are divided among eight Presbyterian partners in the region.
I met with scholarship students at the end of their first week on campus to get acquainted and to gather the information needed to calculate their scholarships properly. The students came back to my house over the following few days to give me their information sheets and to have a photo taken. I emailed the photo and information sheet for each student to his/her sponsor in the United States. It is a pretty intense process for a couple of weeks!!
Jose Jaime Bazima is one of the scholarship students I met for the first time in February. He is from the Portuguese-speaking Presbyterian Church of Mozambique (IPM), established by the Swiss Mission from South Africa in the 1880’s. He lives in Maputo in southern Mozambique, so of the scholarship students, he has travelled the furthest to answer God’s call to Justo Mwale. He came to Justo Mwale with his wife, Obed, and their four-year-old son, Khensani. IPM blessed them with airline tickets, so they flew from Maputo to Johannesburg, South Africa, and then on to Lusaka. This mode of travel was much easier than three days on the bus, which is how some of the previous IPM students have traveled.
The biggest challenge for the Bazima family is their limited knowledge of English. Jose shared that he studied English in high school and his wife also knows some English, but it is hard for Jose to keep up with his theology courses and for Obed to understand what is being taught to spouses of theological students in the Christian ministry program. Jose has a wonderful attitude about learning. According to Jose, “In each of my courses, I am taking two courses at the same time — theology and English. For both subjects it is challenge and opportunity.” Jose expects by the end of 2018 that his fluency in English will have increased greatly. After completing theological studies at Justo Mwale, Jose looks forward to returning to Mozambique wherever IPM will send him. “I am not depending on self,” he says. He desires to work for the church and community.
Since the beginning of 2018, I have gathered information and photos for an article about primary and secondary schools for children with hearing disabilities run by the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in northern Malawi. The article will be published in the June/July edition of Presbyterians Today. In addition, I have been assisting the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in moving forward with a travel study seminar on reconciliation planned for March 11-23 2019 with the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda, which does amazing work in reconciliation. Think about participating! I am sure it will be extraordinary.
East Central Africa is a very active region. It is a great joy to see the many ways God is at work here. I appreciate with all my heart your care and concern, your prayers, your communication, and your financial support for my ministry. Thank you. Through your support, theological students are trained to serve the church, children with hearing disabilities experience being beloved children of God, Rwanda genocide survivors and perpetrators reconcile with each other and share their message with all who will listen, and wonderful work is done with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Kenya. I ask that you please continue your support of my ministry. You are my partners here, making my work possible.
Your sister in Christ,
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