Donna Sloan


Long-term volunteer in Malawi
Professor of church history at Zomba Theological College in South Central Africa

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About Donna Sloan’s ministry

Donna Sloan teaches church history and ethics as a professor at Zomba Theological College in Malawi. She serves students from all five Church of Central Africa Presbyterian synods: Blantyre, Harare, Livingstonia, Nkhoma and Zambia. Donna seeks to encourage students at Zomba Theological College as they train to be pastors who can share the good news of God’s reconciling love in Jesus Christ in ways that transform their communities.

Country context

Malawi is a relatively small landlocked country in southeastern Africa. Less than 1 percent of the population has access to a university education, one of the lowest rates in the world. Malawi has suffered from drought and floods as well as the spread of HIV/AIDS. In Malawi, unsafe drinking water is a severe and multifaceted problem.

The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) has a long history with roots in the Church of Scotland, the Free Church of Scotland and the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa. The CCAP grew out of a mission station founded in 1875 and named in honor of David Livingstone, the famed Scottish Presbyterian missionary. The CCAP is one of the oldest and largest churches in Malawi. This vibrant church has a great need for trained ministers. The CCAP has reported that the denomination has an average of one ordained minister for every 7,000 members.

Despite the many challenges and hardships Malawians face, the faith of people remains strong. In its ministry, the CCAP not only reaches out to communities with spiritual care but is also involved in education, health care, HIV and AIDS, water sanitation, food security and civic education.

Since beginning its involvement in Malawi in the 1950s, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has sent many long-term and short-term mission workers to serve in the country.

About Donna Sloan

Donna first felt the call to mission service when she was a child, telling anyone who asked that she wanted to be a missionary nurse when she grew up. After graduating from high school, Donna became a registered nurse, but did not have the opportunity to enter mission service. Instead, she earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology, master’s degrees in divinity, public health and theology, and a doctorate in interdisciplinary arts and sciences with a focus on the inter-relatedness of religion and health. Donna said her professional life has always had a missional character. She is an ordained minister and her experience in health care, ministry and education have enabled her “to have a positive impact on people at the most basic and fundamental physical, spiritual and mental levels.”

As an African American, Donna has always felt drawn to Africa as her ancestral home. After a DNA test revealed her ancestors were from the Oromo tribe of Ethiopia, she decided to go on a short-term mission trip to Ethiopia in 2014. After returning, she sought long-term mission service opportunities. When Donna learned about the teaching position in Malawi, she felt God was fulfilling her childhood dream to enter mission service.

Donna is teaching some of the same courses at Zomba Theological College in South Central Africa that she previously taught at Youngstown State University in Ohio. Donna says she is interested to see how “the material is engaged and digested by students from another culture,” and she may need to adapt her teaching methods accordingly. Although she teaches in English, which is the official language of Malawi, Donna is learning the native language, Chichewa.

Donna says a key scripture that guides her is Proverbs 3:5–6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge God, and God will make straight your paths.” She said this scripture is important to her because it describes how she lives her life, trusting in the Lord instead of assuming she has all the answers.

Donna is a member of First Presbyterian Church of Youngstown, Ohio, where she has served as a ruling elder.

Birthday: June 20