Dustin and Sherri Ellington (PCUSA) - April 2014 Update
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 (pictured here) 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 been telling as we visit churches in the U.S.A. to share about the ministry we are involved in at Justo Mwale Theological University College in Zambia. This is 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 Dora, for example, 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 will visit 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. For example, in the year 1900 about 0.3% of Zambians claimed the faith; now over 80% of Zambia’s population is Christian.
Dustin and I finalized our paperwork, so in July we are officially headed back for another four year term in Zambia. We and both our sons are all eager for what lies ahead. Thank you for your partnership with us, through reading our letters, praying for this ministry, and giving financially as God may lead. We are so thankful to be an extension of you and of your love toward the church in our part of Africa.
With love in Christ,
Sherri and Dustin Ellington
Amount needed in 2014
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