Dustin and Sherri Ellington (PCUSA) - October 2014 Update
Justo Mwale Theological University College Lusaka, Zambia
It seemed almost like the set-up for a joke:
Q: How many jet-lagged Americans does it take to push-start a dead-batteried SUV on a bumpy dirt driveway in their Sunday clothes and then arrive at church late and receive a round of welcoming applause?
A: Four, with the 12-year old at the wheel
So went our morning adventure on the first day back in Zambia after being gone a year. Chris had to steer the car in neutral without hitting any bushes while the three adult-sized family members pushed it down our curvy, bumpy, and narrow hedge-lined driveway. When we made it to the slightly smoother dirt road encircling the main college buildings and playing fields we switched drivers, I popped the clutch, and with a jerk and a sputter we were off to church!
The car-starting incident turned out to be a bit of a metaphor for our adjustment back to Zambia. We had expected to encounter some curves and bumps after a year away – and we have. But with some effort and determination, and by the grace of God, things seem to be popping into place, and we feel life has revved back up to full speed quite quickly. Perhaps the most striking similarity is that once the car did get going that first morning, we marveled at how smoothly it ran despite a year without being driven. Similarly, we’ve been surprised by how well life and ministry are moving forward for us in Zambia, despite our year away.
Some “jump-starts” we are thankful for, or ways we have been able to “hit the ground running,” since our return:
Joy in teaching Dustin absolutely LOVES being back at his main work of teaching and mentoring students at Justo Mwale Theological University College. He has been able to jump right back in where he left off. Because this is our second term of service, all of the classes he is now teaching are ones he has taught previously. He still puts in preparation time, but his effort truly goes toward improving the courses, not just creating them from scratch. And his previous experience with the students, many of whom he knows well, is enabling him to set up meaningful, thought-provoking assignments that have led to fruitful in-class discussions. Equally important, his students seem grateful that he’s taking into account their upcoming reality – they will soon be preaching a whole lot – and that he has designed the class to help them develop interpretive skills and a preachable tool kit of biblical insights.
People seem to trust us more We (and especially Dustin) have been pleasantly surprised on numerous occasions when students or colleagues have opened up with us, sharing personal struggles and joys, even from the very day we returned. It feels significant, and, strikingly, is deeper than when we left a year ago. Dustin wonders if the increased trust stems from the fact that we spent three years building relationships, left for a good while, and then actually came back! (Like we said we would.) Whatever the cause, we are thankful for opportunities to share life more deeply with our students, colleagues, and friends. So far it feels like our second term of service may prove relationally rich because of the foundation laid in our first three years here.
Intensive language and cultural lessons I (Sherri) have spent the past month involved in intensive cultural and language lessons and will continue with intensive language through mid-November. Language learning is something we both began on arrival in 2010, but for various reasons it “stalled.” Recently a good, intensive language opportunity arose, and we decided it could be an excellent way to jump-start our second term of service in Zambia. Sherri is learning chiChewa/chiNyanja, one of Zambia’s 72 local languages, and the one most widely spoken where we live. She is NOT going to go on and learn the other 71 as well (!) – especially because our students all speak English, and we can easily survive in Zambia with just English plus a few niceties in local languages. But we realize that learning at least one local language can help our family communicate a deeper level of care and value for the people around us. Plus, having one person in language learning brings many cultural insights for the whole family.
Schooling and youth group for the boys Christopher’s school feels different because he is now in secondary instead of primary school. He is happy, though. Many secondary teachers know him or know of him through Clayton, and he is getting up to speed quickly despite having been away from the British curriculum for a year. Clayton has begun at a different school to finish out his last two years before heading to university in the U.S.A. He has thrown himself into academics and track/cross-country with characteristic intensity. We had a scare when he caught a water-borne illness in late August, but he has recovered. Perhaps the highlight for the boys is their youth group community. Jet-lagged Clayton even went off to Sunday afternoon frisbee and Bible study the first day we returned to Zambia, and both of our boys show a lot of enthusiasm for Christian fellowship with this group of peers.
Since we’ve been back in Zambia, we’ve so often felt appreciation for the many people who pray for us and whose gifts make it possible for us to be here. We feel a deep need for continuing prayer:
- for our cross-cultural ministry that requires significant wisdom and insight
- for strength and energy to make our schedule work each week
- for the character of our family to be shaped daily by God’s grace
- for Justo Mwale Theological University College, as it expands and offers more programs, that it will be centered in Christ and grow in faithfulness
Thank you for all the ways you support us through your thoughts, prayers, and financial gifts.
Sherri and Dustin Ellington
Amount needed in 2014
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