If sleeping on the ground outdoors in the cold, or with mosquitoes biting in the heat, will help him preach good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed, our student Mphatso Matemba is willing to do it. On one level I think any follower of Christ would be. But how often do we actually do so — put ourselves in places where we must make physical sacrifices on behalf of others?
Mphatso’s story of leaving his home in the city and taking trips to the rural areas of his country, where many have still never heard the gospel, is one of many that Dustin and I have shared the ministry we are involved in at Justo Mwale Theological University College in Zambia — where Dustin and his colleagues train pastors for the church in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi.
It is a story that inspires and challenges us personally. And it is a story that is indicative of the zeal of many of our students.
Take, for example, Dora, who checked with leaders of a poor community near our college to ask if any women might be in need of clothing. She then applied her flair for fashion by shopping in the local salaula clothing markets, sifting through piles of clothes arranged on the ground, finding the right sizes, and buying clothing out of her personal funds to take to these ladies.
Dora eventually had so many clothes that she asked for the help of my vehicle to get them to the community. I watched her come alive one Saturday as she preached vibrantly in the local language about the goodness of Christ before giving the clothes as tangible extensions of God’s love.
Other students give up their school breaks and/or their weekends to minister to youth in ways that go beyond the practical ministry experience our seminary requires of them.
Tabitha, graduating this May, even before she became a prospective pastor, would ask her parents for bus money so she could share the gospel with young people living on the streets of downtown Lusaka. When she didn’t have bus money, she would go door-to-door in a local neighborhood, looking for anyone who might be hungry for good news.
At the moment Tabitha is doing physical training for her next big outreach. In April she and a few members of her new congregation visited a village near them that has no church but is within the broad district their small-city church is responsible for. They are praying for God to bless the outreach.
And they are also training physically: Because the roads are impassable, Tabitha and her partners will need to walk five or six hours each way to get to the village. Lest her legs give out on the long trek, Tabitha has already been pushing herself to exercise, a month in advance, preparing herself physically as well as spiritually for the outreach. This is one of the most inspiring reasons for starting an exercise program that I have ever heard!
We are so impressed by our students. With African Christians like them, it is no wonder that in the countries our seminary serves ― and many other countries in the region ― the Christian faith has grown like wildfire in recent decades.
In the year 1900 about 0.3 percent of Zambians claimed the faith. Now more than 80 percent of Zambia’s population is Christian.
Please pray for our students and the people they disciple and minister to in these countries where Christianity has taken a strong root over the past 100 years. Pray that through the training they receive at Justo Mwale their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9). Pray for Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi (all of which have population-growth rates in the top 20 worldwide) that each new generation would be reached with an ever deeper message and understanding of Christ’s love and of the Christian life. And pray the same for your own nation and community.
The Revs. Dustin and Sherri Ellington serve Justo Mwale Theological College. This current assignment comes after serving for five years in theological education in Egypt.