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The Evangelists

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church - Outreach - Blogs - TEEZing Out The Roots

I sit here reflecting and writing in the cool winds of a much needed rainstorm.  It has been the bathe-twice-a-day kind of hot lately, of course using buckets of cold tap water.  Thank God for opening up the skies!  

The past 8 days have been a tornado of activity and blessings.  Last Saturday I was invited to speak at a fundraising event for the HIV/AIDS and Community Service work of the Mufulira United Church of Zambia Central Congregation.  Deaconness Mary Mwamba graciously extended this invitation with a request that I speak on the social problems in the United States for the sake or comparison.  Rev. Hopkins Changwe (the TEEZ Training Manager) and I headed to this district on the border of the DRC bright and early.  After several hours of practicing waitience (a term beautifully coined by the one and only Josh Orem while blogging from Kenya years ago), we finally started the event.  It was truly beautiful!  The guests were shocked to hear about systemic racism in the U.S.A., especially since the myth of a postracial society with a Black president has permeated so profoundly across the globe.  As I spoke it was solidified in my soul that the Church in the United States needs to start learning from the community systems that thrive in Zambian congregations.  For, this was not a gathering of the powerful seeking to give conscience-soothing charitable gifts in collection plates.  Rather, it was a community of people laboring together for each other’s wellbeing, with each livelihood being tied up in all others’ livelihoods.  There was no discernible distinction between the service providers and the served.  Imagine if U.S. American mainline congregations flipped the social paradigm from hierarchies of power to communities of righteousness!

The next day Rev. Changwe and I led a Service of Holy Communion at the Buchi UCZ Congregation here in Kitwe, en route to Lusaka.  He had requested that I preach the sermon on our way back from the aforementioned fundraising event.  I thus got some much-needed experience in manuscript-free preaching.  I am sure that such experiences will abound throughout the rest of my time here in Zambia.  Mama Holy Spirit is teaching me daily!  The Communion itself brought to mind the fish and loaves, the water-into-wine, and multiplication of the widow’s oil and meal.  As over 1,000 people came forward, elders worked furiously in a back room to keep up a steady flow of bread and juice.  It is amazing how much I am learning about abundance in a land considered to have such scarce resources! 

Immediately following the service we got into the Toyota Hilux and began our journey to Lusaka.  This was my first time seeing Zambia outside of the Copperbelt.  The Dixie Chicks, Shania Twain, Bob Marley, and Lack Dube made a fitting soundtrack for our ride through the countryside.  Our week in Lusaka was filled with training and many wonderful conversations—both with our students and PC(USA) mission co-workers who reside at the university.  The following is the blog I wrote for the TEEZ website:

This past week we went to Justo Mwale Theological University College (JMTUC) in Lusaka for a Tutors’ Training Course.  Our participants represented the Reformed Church of Zambia (RCZ), the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), and the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (UPCSA).  All 21 of them are training to be Evangelists for their respective churches at JMTUC’s Booth Centre.

Differing from most of our training groups, these folks have been together for much of the year, taking classes and doing ministry with each other.  They thus had a rich knowledge of the forming, storming, and norming stages of group development that we discuss so heavily in our course.  Over a week of shared classes, nshima, worship, and conversations in Nyanja, Tumbuka, Bemba, Chewa, and English, we also felt very much a part of their group process.  What a blessing this was!

The major mission of TEEZ is to equip and empower lay members to take leadership in the church so that the body of Christ might function at its fullest and so that people’s gifts to creation might be shared.  These evangelists live out exactly that life—leading the church as lay members with myriad gifts.  They minister in the far reaches of the Eastern Province and in the urban centers of Lusaka and the Copperbelt.  Hearing them share their challenges and joys in this work opened our eyes and hearts all the wider to the need for and the beauty of extending theological education.

The Reformed and Presbyterian traditions in Zambia are alive and well!  Their future can only get brighter with the leadership of these 21 evangelists.  May God bless their mission as they add “TEEZ Tutor” to their many roles in the Kingdom!

 

As many thousands mourn in Burundi, the Central African Republic, France, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen, may we remember that there is hope in a God who partners with human beings to bring about a Kin-dom of justice and love.  I am honored to meet many such people here in Zambia.

Posted November 18, 2015

 

Posted by Tyler W. Orem with

Being planted in the rich soils of Zambia to inspire regrowth at home. “Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit” -Matthew 13:8