January 26, 2020

How Churches and Schools in Zambia are Fulfilling the Gospel Commission

The New Testament in the Bible is filled with stories of the apostle Paul and other missionaries traveling by foot, by boat, and any other means of transportation necessary to spread the gospel to the world. 

Today, in the Shimukuni district of Zambia, Eddie Himoonde lives out this tradition while pastoring 55 Seventh-day Adventist congregations, spread out over nearly 125 miles, with no transportation.

“Sometimes I take maybe a week or two weeks just walking to the furthest church because I don’t have a car, I don’t have a motorbike — I walk,” Himoonde says. “And sometimes members come and pick me up on their motorcycle. They cycle me to that church. But if no one’s having even a bicycle in that area, then I have to walk through, sleep on the way, wake up in the morning, and continue moving until I reach to that church.”

Because his territory is vast and he has so many congregations to care for, Himoonde only sees each group once a year. When he visits, he focuses on training the members to carry out the work without him.

The 11,260 members in Himoonde’s territory love to worship together and praise God, but with limited resources available, most do not have a church building.

“Some of them are still worshiping under trees. Some of them just cut the grass and make some shelter around, and they begin to worship from there because they love their Lord,” Himoonde says.

Many church members there are passionate about spreading the gospel but are often hindered by the lack of a church building.

“[This is] the challenge that I face when such incidences happen where we evangelize, maybe a public campaign, and people give themselves [to God],” Himoonde says. “But when they come to the actual church, they find that actually where we are worshiping is not conducive. There are no seats. They are worshiping under the tree or maybe on the grass.”

Last year, Maranatha Volunteers International, a non-profit organization that works in conjunction with the Seventh-day Adventist Church to provide structures for worship and education around the world, began building churches in Zambia for the second time, after having worked in the country from 2009 to 2015. Recently, Maranatha constructed several churches in Himoonde’s district, and the members are grateful.

Lilian Naluminoz is a church member at the Lwendge Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has been active in spreading the gospel to her neighbors. “This structure will even change many lives of people, because what they were crying for has now come,” Naluminoz says. “God has answered our prayers through you. And I think next time [you visit], we shall have more members than we have right now.”

“Having a proper structure in this area is evangelism on its own,” Himoonde says. “Because like now [what] we are doing here at Lwendge, Maranatha is giving us this structure, it becomes easier for me even to evangelize because just the structure on itself will be preaching to the people around here. Already, people are coming and seeing what is happening. They just heard the noise here, the works that are going on. People are asking, ‘What is happening there? What is happening there?’ Then they believe that now we are worshiping a true God because they have given us a structure. And then the people will just come on their own.”

“It might look simple in their eyes, but it is big in this community,” Himoonde says. “Because it has never happened before. The people have never seen such a structure here. You see, even the houses around [here], there are no iron sheets. You just use the grass and stuff. So when they see just this simple structure, it's not as simple as it may look. It is big. It will go a long way.”

Evangelism in Zambia is also strong through Adventist education. In the fourth-largest city of Kabwe lies the only Adventist school in the province, where 65 percent of the 550 students or their families are not church members. Every day, students are taught about Jesus and a God who loves them, and families are eager to have their children enrolled because of the high quality of the education.  

But the draw is more than academic; there is a level of care and direction students receive at Kabwe that is unmatched in the area. Mawuse Michello is the school chaplain and provides spiritual direction not only to students and staff but for parents as well. 

“We do works like counseling for both staff members and pupils,” Michello says. “And even parents when they do see fit. We do talk to parents when they come to get reports for their children, and they do visit our office as well just to help them understand that we need a balance between the homeschooling and the actual space that we have here, between the teacher and the child.”

Yet, even with a great program and support staff, the school is limited in how widely they can share their mission. They have outgrown their capacity — classrooms are crowded, and the school cannot accept new students. 

“Parents, they really want to take their children at Kabwe Adventist School,” says parent Chileshe Steward. “But there is no space and the staff — they have restricted themselves in growing their number. They have put a control measure there. They don’t just accept anyone because of their space.”

In 2018, Maranatha Volunteers International agreed to build a new elementary campus for the Kabwe school, which will give more space for current students and provide more children with the opportunity for Adventist education. Construction began in 2019, with 132 volunteers helping to construct eight buildings, including an administrative office and bathrooms. When the final structure was complete, volunteers participated in a dedication ceremony, cutting a ribbon for each building and offering prayer for the students who would come through their doors in the future.

“This school, it is God Himself that is building it,” says school manager Peter Moyo. “But He cannot come from heaven to come and mold bricks. But through His agents, He’s able to do that. So the coming of Maranatha International, it’s not a human dream. No, God Himself puts things in place. He has got a plan for everything, and at every moment, He puts things in place. And they just fit in.”

This new campus will do more than expand the school. It has the potential to bring unknown numbers of students to God for years to come. Michello realizes that this new campus is a gift of eternal proportions. 

“When you go into the new campus, you see the new buildings that are coming up, it actually gives you hope that we have more space and more doors that are open to allow pupils to come through,” Michello says. “And the beauty of it is, for every child that will go through, they’ll have an opportunity to meet Christ in the classroom. So the more blocks you have, the more opportunities for Christ you have to expose Him to the community at large.”