Transitions and Opportunities

A group of Samfya Bible School graduates.

A group of Samfya Bible School graduates.

Last week two faculty members and I traveled 60km into the Zambian bush to visit an old mission station in the village of Lwela. It’s a pretty old mission, founded by western missionaries in the late 30’s. All of the missionaries have left but the work continues! There is an active church of about 200 along with a health center. Both are lead by Zambian Christians. This station highlights a new opportunity for Christians in Zambia. As western missionaries retire and leave this country, the works they started are facing a challenge: will Zambian Christians carry on the work or will these institutions flounder. It’s a real challenge but it brings with it some very real opportunities. Historically the Zambian church has been dependent on the leadership, skills, and money provided by western missionaries. God has used this reality to get the gospel into Zambia. It has been successful. This is not an unreached field. Levy Kasoma, principal of the Samfya Bible School, estimates that there are around one thousand Christian brethren churches in Zambia! One of the unintended consequences of this arrangement is that a certain kind of dependency has developed where by Zambian Christians feel they can’t do things without western direction. It’s almost like a self-esteem problem. An inferiority complex if you will. But now the missionaries are gone. Apparently in this province, Luapula, there are two western missionaries left. It is a singular opportunity for the Zambian church to stand up on it’s own two feet and trust God for the strength to lead. He can help them do it. Is there a place for western help? I believe there is, but it will look different than it did 100 years ago.

One of the reasons we traveled to Lwela was to meet a group of Samfya Bible School graduates. I led a discussion about that involved assessing their experience at the school. These graduates are in this rural community using their training in volunteer ministry. Most of them are farmers or operate small businesses-they are not full-time pastors-nevertheless, their theological training makes a difference. One of the questions I asked the group was “What do you wish had been taught more  during your time at SBS?” One of them said emphatically, eschatology! I thought oh come on, how is that going to be helpful in this third world community? When I asked him he was ready with an answer, “It helps us refute the false teachings of the other churches!” I smiled and shut up. The truth is that there are lots of “other churches” in Zambia. The Jehovah’s witnesses, for one, are everywhere. These men and women are on the front lines. Pray for them!
  • Pray for the Christian community in Lwela.
  • Pray for the ministry of the health center (see pics). Their slogan is “We treat, but Jesus heals!” Many workers in the health center are sent their by the government. They are not saved. Pray that they will come to Christ and that they will NOT hinder the ministry of the Christians who work there.
  • Pray for the Board that is providing the leadership and vision for this large project. They need wisdom.
  • Pray for the Samfya Bible School graduates in that community (See attached pic – they are kind of like many of you just a little older!).
The road to Lwela was pretty rough.

The road to Lwela was pretty rough.

We treat, but Jesus heals!

We treat, but Jesus heals!

A church of around 200 meets in this building built in 1937.

A church of around 200 meets in this building built in 1937.

Meet my friend Levy Kasoma, Principal of the Samfya Bible School.

Meet my friend Levy Kasoma, Principal of the Samfya Bible School.

I wish my phone company would run a promotion like this. Zoom in to see the awesome prizes!

Random sign in town. I wish my phone company would run a promotion like this. Zoom in to see the awesome prizes!

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4 thoughts on “Transitions and Opportunities

  1. Sara Sanchez says:

    We are praying! So glad that you are there trying to help.

  2. Jeff Riley says:

    Thanks for this great update Steve. I really appreciate and respect the fact that you are encouraging the local believers to trust in God and be His people without dependence on others for help as far as money and leadership, rather to have their own people lead them and care for them. This seems to be the best recipe for the gospel to carry on to multiple generations as western missionaries inevitably will retire, etc. I remember the good conversations we had before you left on this matter and that a flood of large amounts of money may not be the best thing. I think Western Christians need to think through this reality and how they can best help overseas ministries. Blessings!

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