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],