On the Road of Exploration

A Letter from Paula Cooper, serving as regional liaison for East Central Africa

February 2020 

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The time had come, the plans were in place, and we even had a theme for our trip: “We are One in Christ.” So, we loaded up the Land Cruiser and headed out to Lundazi, Zambia. We were hoping to fulfill the request of the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa Synod of Zambia (UPCSA Zambia) who expressed a desire to visit the ministries of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian Synod of Zambia (CCAP Zambia). We were joined by UPCSA Zambia’s moderator Rev. Sauros Phaika, former moderator, Rev. Jane Nyirongo, CCAP Zambia’s moderator Rev. Chizason Chunda, and the general secretary Rev. Sevatt Kabaghe.

As we began our journey, we established that we needed a scripture passage as our foundation. I asked if we could look at Matthew 25:31-46. We also read 1 Thessalonians 5:15-17. The discussion revolved around what it would look like, or what it meant, to serve our populations by implementing hope, dignity, relationship-building, congregational vitality, eradicating poverty and dismantling structural racism within our different cultures.

During dinner, we continued our conversation. We discussed tribalism as compared to structural racism. We also discussed the societal issues that resulted from confronting vices such as drug abuse, prostitution, and alcoholism as well as other societal ills. We discussed what it might look like if we preached missiology from the pulpit; how it might look if our congregations were more engaged in the practical side of life rather than in the judgmental side; and how often we tend to judge when we see loved ones spiraling out of control. We realized if we spoke up about these issues that it could impact our positions as pastors. We discussed the fears that keep us from fulfilling God’s true calling on our lives. Do these factors hinder congregational vitality? Do we hide behind our fears, and keep silent as a way of protecting our own status or sense of call? Does this please God?

The next morning over breakfast we were led in a discussion by Rev. Phaika on the topic of either protecting our sense of call or pleasing God. Rev. Phaika spoke about the relationship between Esther 4:11-17 and Matthew 25:31-46. The first thing he said after reading the passage was, “We may be called here together for such a time as this.” He challenged us to think about the following questions: “What is it that makes us so comfortable? What prevents us from stepping out?” He said, “If we refuse to do it, someone else will and make it happen.” At first, Esther felt that Haman’s planned slaughter of the Jews was the Jews’ problem, not hers. She soon realized this was not true and did what she could to stop the massacre. As a church, we too can tend to be selective. The bottom line is that the peoples’ problems are the Church’s problems. There will be risks and pain. Esther was from the margins of society just like we are, and the many whom we serve. Rev. Phaika stated, “We need a Mordecai in our lives to poke us into action. Fears keep us from being one together, from working with one another. Or fear can paralyze us from moving from our comfort zones.”

After breakfast, we continued on our journey. It was time for us to rise up from our table and move out of our comfort zones to visit CCAP Zambia’s ministries and projects. We were taken to two different villages to see their shallow wells, built by the villagers and the Protected Water Program of CCAP Zambia, whose motto is “Water is Life.” The villagers are the ones who decide whether or not to have a well in their community. The community is responsible for maintenance and repair of its own well. They also provide a small sum for its upkeep. “Uchindami Kwa Chiuta” was written on the base of the wells. It means “Glory Be To God” in Tambuka.

We then went to the Chasefu Theological College, where the students are being trained in the work of God. We also visited two of CCAP Zambia’s rural health clinics, Egichikeni and Phalaza. CCAP Zambia’s Health Department was instrumental in building both clinics. We also visited a village where some of the men had begun a Village Savings and Loan Association under the training of CCAP Zambia’s Projects and Development Department.

Rev. Chunda led us in a discussion of Luke 15:1-10 and related it to how each department provided assistance to “the least of these.” He pointed out that the church has to change its focus to the “one who got away, and not so much on the 99 already in our churches. The mission of the church should focus on those who need the living Word of God. We need to move outside the walls of our churches. We tend to swim in the bank, not in the river.”

During our time together, we swam in the river of reflection and became more acquainted with CCAP Zambia’s ministries. On our last evening, we discussed Luke 10:25-37. Who are our neighbors? Both Synods agreed that their pastors should take the parable of the Good Samaritan to heart, and care for God’s people both inside and outside their congregations. However, they agreed that the transformation must begin at the Synod level so that change can trickle down to the congregational level. UPCSA Zambia talked about exploring some of CCAP Zambia’s ideas and discussed the impact these ideas could have on their churches’ communities. They applauded CCAP Zambia for being obedient in serving their neighbors.

The next morning, we were on the road again, heading home to Lusaka!

Please pray for the Synods of CCAP Zambia and UPCSA Zambia.

Would you consider supporting my ministry as the regional liaison of East Central Africa? Your prayers, support, and financial donations are needed to fulfill the mission that God has called us into together! This would be a true way to join me on this journey!

Blessings,

Paula


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