A Letter from Dustin and Sherri Ellington, serving in Zambia
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Greetings from Zambia. I’d like to share a few glimpses of what it’s been like to be back here for about a month after being granted an exception from our church headquarters’ COVID-related ban on travel and in-person ministry. I very much miss Sherri, whose continuation in the U.S. under the ban allows her to have an in-person presence supporting a family member’s journey toward health. Nonetheless, my level of happiness went up a sizable notch when I landed in Zambia and arrived back at Justo Mwale University.
I’ve so loved getting to be part of the Justo Mwale community again – being together with colleagues who’ve become good friends over the past ten or so years, living in our home on campus and enjoying our garden as a place of prayer, but especially teaching and relating with students. Since my arrival, I’ve been struck over and over with the reality that Justo Mwale is a community where important formation for ministry is happening. Playing a contributing role in that is precious to me.
There’s a sense here that while physical distancing and masking up are important, the ministry that happens is so vital that it really must somehow go on. At first, I must say it was a bit shocking to teach cross-culturally to people wearing masks. I’d been accustomed, when teaching and facilitating discussion with people from a different culture, to make the most of any and every cue from their whole faces. Now I have had to learn to focus on their eyes. This has actually turned out to be an encouragement because our students’ eyes are so intent. They tell me that our students care deeply about what’s in Scripture and about interacting with it for the sake of their lives and ministries.
Another day, a Malawian student named Khumbo approached me after class. I had made a mental note about his depth of questions and responses during class. He began saying, “Prof, I want my life to impact as many lives as possible. I want to have as much impact as possible, so I hope to be a theological lecturer one day. Think about our class today. If each student in the room becomes pastor of a thousand, and as a lecturer, you are touching their lives, imagine how many people you can touch in a lifetime. That’s my heart’s desire…” I could tell he was sincere. I was touched by his words and felt a sense of joy and privilege to get to do what I do. And may God make a way for Khumbo’s continued training!
I realize that at most seminaries, the average student won’t be a pastor of 1,000 all at once, but that statistic probably works for Justo Mwale. We had graduation (mostly virtual) a couple of weeks ago, and one of our graduates, Rev. John Mokotha from Malawi, came to visit and share about his first months as a pastor. He’s now the solo pastor of a few rural congregations with, in all, several thousand active members. People are responding to his ministry in exciting ways. His sharing was full of joy, conviction, and expectation. He believes his time at Justo Mwale prepared him very well.
I hope these glimpses can give you a sense of the spiritual hunger and eagerness here. The mainline church in this part of Africa is full of vitality.
I hope you can also see that I’ve felt myself buoyed by being part of this community again. It does significant work for the gospel, and contributing to this community is a source of joy and fulfillment. Thank you so much to all of you who pray for Sherri and me and enable us to do the work we do. To support us through Presbyterian World Mission, click here.
We very much appreciate your prayers for Justo Mwale University, which, as I’ve mentioned in the past, faces sizable challenges. We’d also appreciate prayers for our family of four as we are in multiple locations and dealing with health issues, adjustments, and transitions. Amidst the challenges I feel especially thankful for Sherri and her role. So often, it’s her commitment and practical help that keep the ship of our family and the ship of our ministry each sailing, and I certainly could not do what I do without her doing what she does. Thanks be to God.
Yours in Christ,
Dustin (and Sherri) Ellington
Please read the following letter from Sara P. Lisherness, the interim director of World Mission:
Dear partners in God’s mission,
I don’t know about you, but daily my heart grows heavier. News about the pandemic, wars, wildfires, gun violence, racism, earthquakes and hurricanes cloud my vision. It’s hard to see hope; our world is in a fog. Yet we trust that God’s light and love transcend the brokenness of this time.
God is at work transforming the world, and you, through your prayers, partnership and encouragement, are helping us share this good news. Thank you for your faithful and gracious support of our mission personnel.
How can we see through the fog? What will the church be after the pandemic? Could it be that God is doing “a new thing” and is inviting us to perceive it? Through all the uncertainty we know that God’s steadfast love and care for all creation will prevail and that God’s Spirit is at work in each of us.
We all have an integral part to play in fulfilling God’s mission. As we seek to grow together in faithfulness there are three important steps I invite you to take in supporting our shared commitments to God’s mission:
Give – Consider making a year-end financial contribution for the sending and support of our mission personnel. Your support helps mission personnel accompany global partners as together they share the light of God’s love and justice around the world. Invite your session to include support for mission personnel in its annual budget planning.
Act – Visit The Mission Yearbook for Prayer and Study to delve deeper into the work God is doing through the PC(USA) and its partners in ministry around the globe: pcusa.org/missionyearbook.
Pray – Include our mission personnel, our global partners, and our common commitments to share God’s grace, love, mercy and justice in your daily prayers.
Thank you for your faithfulness to God’s mission through the Presbyterian Church. It is my prayer that you will continue to support this work with your prayers, partnership, and financial gifts in the coming year. We hope you will join us and our partners in shining a beacon of hope throughout the world.
In the light of hope,
Sara P. Lisherness, Interim Director
Presbyterian Mission Agency
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To give please visit https://bit.ly/PCUSAmission
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16
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