Sunday, November 15, 2009

Death of Assistant Bishop Rev. Jean Kalonga

Photos from Rev. Jean's last Sunday sermon, November 8, 2009

I am sad to report that The United Methodist Church's assistant bishop over Zambia, Rev. Jean Kalonga, passed away unexpectedly yesterday morning in the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia. An open-casket service was held this morning outside the home of the District Superintendent of Lusaka. The main funeral will be held either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week in Kitwe.

Rev. Jean served as the de facto bishop of the Zambia provisional conference, having been appointed by Bishop Katembo of the South Congo Conference. The loss will be greatly felt here in Zambia and across the church.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Life in Luska: Part II

above: United Methodist young adult choir hang outing out after worship.
Most live in Matero (an impoverished part of Lusaka).

Hard to believe it has been two months since I moved to Lusaka, Zambia. Rainy season has begun, and my schedule has become overflowing with activity.

My District Superintendent continues to itinerate me between the five United Methodist congregations/preaching posts in Lusaka. It feels a bit like having a “five-point charge” (being the pastor of five communities at once); I’ve already been called to respond to everything from anguish within clergy families to disharmony within the district. –So much so that much of what I’m busy doing these days cannot be shared in detail.

The Spirit has continued to provide the appropriate lectionary text for each congregation I visit. Much to my surprise, the impact of these sermons is already becoming visible through the dramatic shift in mood and collaboration between congregations.

For the first time, the clergy of the Lusaka district are (of their own initiative) gathering regularly to support each other. Within a month after my itinerate sermon series began, the district’s pastors went from not being on speaking terms to proposing they start a business together and make loans to one another to alleviate clergy poverty. I am looking forward to hosting their next gathering at my house next week.

A few hours after I left the October 31st laity training day & district council meeting (where I had taught a workshop on Methodist History and Doctrine—particularly emphasizing our heritage of ministry with the downtrodden), the district voted to form a district-level projects committee and elected me as its chair. I am humbled to be chairing a committee whose members own children sleep on the ground, yet they desire to contribute their time and resources to assist the ‘less fortunate.” We have a lot of work to do, but there is a spirit of optimism in the air.

Yesterday, I met with the bishop’s representative over Zambia (Zambia is a “provisional” United Methodist conference; its official bishop is the bishop of South Congo conference). He was in town to complete the purchase a piece of property in Lusaka where we will someday have a training center, chapel, offices, and housing. There is much excitement, since all but one of our congregations currently meet on rented property—mostly in classrooms.

above: DS Rev. John Ilunga and his wife Pastor Mary.
They struggle to finance their ministry and are supporting several orphaned children despite that they themselves are surviving on God's "daily bread."

On a sad note, I am becoming increasingly aware of how high blood pressure is killing our church leadership here in Zambia and Congo. Their daily stress, poor diet and lack of quality medical care combine with other factors in a deadly way. On All Saints Day, we lost another United Methodist pastor up in Chingola to this disease; he collapsed mid-sermon.

I ask that you continue to keep our church leaders around the world and Friendly Planet Missiology in your daily prayers. With your financial support, we continue in this ministry.

Natasha [Thank you in Nyanja],

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Life in Lusaka

above: Jakarandas in bloom in Lusaka, Zambia

Taylor here.

Somehow a month has passed since beginning my surreal life in Lusaka, Zambia. I’m trying to be a supportive embassy wife (yes, I do attend the Diplomatic Spouses Association meetings) while keeping focused on my ministry, but it has been a big adjustment. Bouncing between Congo and the USA every few months can mess with your head. Bouncing daily between the social circles of Lusaka’s upscale neighborhoods and its slums---now that takes prayers for sanity. I pray a lot these days.

I’ve begun itinerate preaching in United Methodist congregations in the poorer parts of the city. District Superintendent John Ilunga selects where I go each week, and Brian, the District Secretary, serves as my fabulous interpreter. Brian and I meet each Saturday to reflect on that week’s lectionary texts (after spending the week studying them). Brian tells me what comes to his mind when he hears the texts—particularly in the context of the congregation we are about to visit. Then I propose a sermon outline, and he tells me if he thinks it will resonate. Brian has remarked that the themes I identify in the lectionary each week keep getting at the heart of the issues for congregations we visit. He says that we keep arriving in congregations at exactly the right week on the lectionary cycle.

above: Brian and DS Ilunga

The weekly sermon-prep Bible studies with Brian have been enlightening for both of us. He has asked that I start a study group with the other church leaders. I think I might do so soon. However, in addition to requests that I start offering classes, Superintendent Ilunga has dropped a big one on me: He is convinced that I am the person he has prayed for to come and start a United Methodist ministry on my side of town [i.e. expats and wealthy Zambians]. I am still discerning how to respond to this proposed appointment.

In the meantime, I am busy taking care of two dogs we just adopted from the shelter, cleaning our large government-assigned house (Come visit!), planting a vegetable garden, hitching rides to the open-air market, baking bread, e-mailing friends in Congo and the USA, attending embassy parties, taking ballet lessons (yup, you read correctly; the troupe’s winter production is raising funds for school construction), and eagerly anticipating the repair of the used car we imported from Japan so that I can spend more time out in the community.

Our new dogs adopted from the local shelter.

Please keep me in your prayers,