Dustin and Sherri Ellington - October 2017 Update
A church that supports our ministry recently sent us interview questions focused on prayer and God’s presence. I (Dustin) responded and thought I’d share the results with you. The questions are based on a book by Walter Brueggemann called Praying the Psalms. He says that Christians pray for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations, and he mentions three ways of knowing how to pray for others. One way is to attend to what’s happening in our own lives and surroundings, since we share a “common lot” with all people.
As you read my answers, Sherri and I would also invite you to consider: How might you answer the questions below for your own life, and for the unique place where God has placed you?
Q. What is the place where you minister like?
A. When we moved here in 2010, Justo Mwale University was on a dirt road at the outskirts of town, but it is now part of the urban mass of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia and one of Africa’s fastest growing cities. Lusaka was just over a million people when we got here seven years ago, but it now has about 2.5 million people. We live on a fairly calm and beautiful 22-acre campus, along with 200 or so others. Our students come from eight different African countries, speak many different languages, and can each preach in at least two languages, in some cases four or five. Our lecturers are mostly Zambian, but four come from the Netherlands, South Africa, and the U.S.A. (that’s me).
Q. How have you seen/experienced God’s presence in this place where you serve/minister?
A. I experience God’s presence while listening to my students preach in our Monday morning preaching practicum; while gathering in our Thursday morning spiritual companionship group, where we study Scripture, share about our needs, and pray for one another; and during the robust singing and preaching of our Friday chapel services. I also glimpse God in my students’ growth, my colleagues’ wisdom and maturity, and my everyday life with the people I love most – my wife and two sons. Also, early each morning I’m aware of God’s presence as I sit in our living room, read Scripture, pray, and watch the sun rise through the trees.
Brueggemann’s book on praying the Psalms says that a second way we know how to pray for all types of people and situations is through being attentive to what we read, which has a way of alerting us to the experience of others.
Q. What events in the local news have caused you to pray?
A. We’ve been led to pray by things such as:
- drought and resulting power shortages and crop insecurity (Though this past rainy season was, thankfully, abundant!)
- HIV/AIDS stories and realities
- outbreaks of diseases such as cholera
- Zambia’s precarious economic situation – fast growth, yet deep national debt
- instances when corruption comes to light and can feel sadly pervasive
- a recent “threatened state of emergency” being declared by the president, which at first left the country on edge, as people wondered what would happen next
But, frankly, recognizing my own neediness for God probably keeps me praying the most and leads me into praying for others, who almost certainly need God’s touch as much as I do.
Q. Brueggemann says that a third way we know to pray for all sorts of people and situations is through the Psalms, which give an authentic voice to varied yet common human experiences. Do you find this to be true of your experience of the Psalms?
A. Yes! I usually pray a Psalm each morning, and I tend to connect with some aspect, or several aspects, of the psalmist’s prayer. As I do that, the Psalm also opens me up to feelings and experiences mentioned that might not be my own but that I know others are going through. That way, it leads me into praying for others too.
Q. Is there a Psalm that has special meaning for you or your ministry? If so, please explain.
A. “I love you, O LORD, my strength” (Psalm 18:1). I have found myself saying this simple little prayer, over and over, for many years of life and ministry. It works both as praise to the Lord and as an affirmation that I’m utterly dependent on God. Especially when life presents stubborn realities that are difficult to change, I need to keep tapping into God’s strength. I also find myself reading Psalm 27, often focusing on verse 4: “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.” For me, Christian life and ministry focus on and flow from dwelling in God’s presence.
Q. How can we be praying for you?
A. We would appreciate prayer for daily wisdom and discernment for the work of training pastors and scholars for the African church. My family and I appreciate prayers for my father and stepmother, who both have serious health issues. Justo Mwale University needs prayer as it goes through an important time of choosing a new leader, for Professor Zulu’s term is ending. We would appreciate prayer for the Young Adult Volunteer program in Zambia, as Sherri and others reflect this year on how it can be improved. Also, as we get closer to the “empty nest” years (Chris, our youngest, is in 10th grade), Sherri appreciates prayer that God will inspire her with vision and guidance. And, as always, Zambia can use prayers for such items as mentioned a few paragraphs above.
Sherri and I so appreciate the prayers of all of you who stand behind our ministry. We also invite you to continue or begin financial support. Thank you so much for including us as you pray for “all sorts and conditions of” people!
Yours in Christ,
Dustin and Sherri Ellington
Outreach is seeking $10,000 for support funds for the Ellingtons and $22,000 for scholarships at Justo Mwale University.