Dustin and Sherri Ellington (PCUSA) - October 2015 Update
Justo Mwale University
Greetings from Zambia. This lovely country where we live has been going through perhaps its most difficult time since we’ve been here. Lusaka, the capital city and our home, has gone without electricity for a minimum of eight hours/day since June – and it looks like this will continue. For power Zambia relies upon a large hydroelectric dam on the largest man-made lake in the world (Lake Kariba), but last year's rainy season was too light. Almost all of the remaining water in Lake Kariba has been used, leaving little to pass through the dam. Apart from a very strong rainy season it could take years to reach the normal level again. Zambia also depends heavily on exporting copper, and the worldwide price of copper has been dropping. The mines are also struggling with reduced electricity. Between lack of power and low copper prices, business in Zambia has been hurt. The value of the Zambian currency, the kwacha, has dropped half of its value in only several months.
Problems like these gradually affect the average person’s life. Most Zambians live on less than $2/day, which leaves little room for prices to go up. Yet in times like these, prices gradually rise. Just this week a Zambian believer I rub shoulders with each day confided that he and his wife hadn’t had a meal in two weeks; they only had tea and sugar left. So for two weeks they had thanked God to have a cup of tea in the morning and one in the evening. My heart dropped as I thought about them going hungry even as I live in relative abundance. Their situation isn’t necessarily a result of the absence of electricity, but with drought and rising prices such scenarios may get repeated throughout the country. Students at Justo Mwale frequently go days without cooked meals because finding the chance to cook when there is electricity is so difficult. This is also a season of water rationing, so it can be difficult to time the availability of water with the availability of electricity. While our family is in much better shape than most Zambians, we do struggle with the lengthy power outages and especially the effect that has on our access to water (which relies on electric pumps). There is much going on in Zambia that can wear one down. We appreciate prayers for encouragement, for us and for our African colleagues and students.
Something which has encouraged Sherri and me in the past year is Sherri’s involvement in Presbyterian World Mission’s Young Adult Volunteer (YAV) program. She served as interim site coordinator in Zambia for much of the past year, and we saw that she thrived in the position. Sherri loved working with the three young American women who came to live with Zambian families and serve in Zambian schools, churches, and communities. She deeply enjoyed studying scripture with them and talking through their ministry and life in Zambia. She found it invigorating to re-experience the country and people through their eyes.
Now we have an exciting announcement. Sherri has accepted the offer to take on the position of Young Adult Volunteer Coordinator for Presbyterian World Mission in Zambia. She’s no longer the interim coordinator. We’re enthused about this as a couple. We both get energized by being involved in the lives of young adults, and while Sherri has the major responsibility, this is something that we can do as a family.
We would appreciate prayers for our family at this time. This feels like an important year for receiving prayer because Sherri and I are now parenting two teenagers (!), and because Clayton is a senior in high school and transitioning toward going away to college within a year. He is working hard on schoolwork and college applications in hot weather and without much access to electricity or showers. We sure appreciate prayers that God will sustain and lead him. We also appreciate prayers for our whole family to have courage, wisdom, strength, peace, and patience in this time of challenge and change.
We also appreciate prayer for Justo Mwale University's role in shaping the minds of Southern Africa's vibrant Christians and in developing thoughtful pastors for Africa's churches. Our faculty and students give sustained attention day in and day out to being engaged with scripture and Christian theology on one hand and Africa’s problems and possibilities on the other. In Zambia and surrounding countries, Christians tend to understand God’s presence as tied to increasing levels of material blessing and provision. The idea that Christ could be powerfully present even amidst persistent needs feels like a very strange idea to them (for reasons I don't fully understand). Times like the present can produce a crisis of faith as people wonder why they are not accessing the power of God. Let us pray that more people can find Christ’s strength even in the midst of persistent difficulties.
We are so grateful to all of you who keep us in your hearts and prayers. We also thank all of you who support our ministry financially, and we invite you to continue. Despite – and even somewhat because of – the challenges we face in Zambia, we strongly believe God has called us here and are thankful to be part of the gospel’s advance in Southern-Central Africa.
Yours in Christ,
Dustin and Sherri Ellington
Amount needed in 2015
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