Six young Adventist members of the Lusaka Conference in Zambia clasped hands as they drowned in Lake Kariba on the afternoon of January 1, 2022. Seventh-day Adventist leaders reported that the accident took place during a camping activity by the lake involving several church districts.
According to eyewitnesses, the six young men found a fishing skiff parked by the shores of the lake and climbed into it. As the skiff moved into the lake the young men jumped off, but the water proved to be deeper than they had imagined, and they drowned.
Church members and leaders have been sending condolences to the Youth Ministries Department of the Lusaka Conference. In a message from leaders of the Youth Department of the Woodlands Conference, they wrote, “words may not suffice to express what you and the bereaved families are currently going through. We can only imagine how depressing, tough, stressful, and challenging the past few days have been for the Lusaka Conference Youth Ministries Department and the families of the deceased.”
The Youth Ministries Department of the South Zambia Conference also posted a message of condolence. “Hearing about your loss has deeply saddened us,” they wrote. “Such an event and loss are a shock to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and especially to Youth Ministries. We mourn with you and write to you with heavy hearts. Our deepest sympathies, prayers, thoughts, and well wishes in this dark time go out to you and the bereaved families and the church at large.”
Conference leaders and other church entities called mourners to reflect on and find comfort in the Bible promises of a future resurrection and the final demise of death.
Funeral services for the six young men took place at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka on January 5. The government of Zambia was represented by Lusaka Province Minister Sheal Mulyata and the Lusaka district commissioner. Also present was Monty Chinkuli, Kanyama member of parliament.
Mulyata said the deaths of the six Adventist young men were shocking to Lusaka Province and the entire nation. “It’s a pity and great concern to see lives being lost in circumstances which can be avoided,” Mulyata said. She thanked the Office of the Vice President, through its Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), for covering all the funeral expenses.
In the heat of the funeral service, Lusaka Conference youth director Billy Mukombo announced that Adventist young people would never again hold any camping activities near bodies of water. He acknowledged it could be an unpopular decision, but Mukombo said he felt it was necessary to avoid similar incidents in the future.
A day later, however, Mukombo retracted his statement. In a release made available to Hope Channel Zambia, he acknowledged that his was an emotional statement. He explained that he is not the spokesperson for the Lusaka Conference or the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Zambia on this matter. Mukombo apologized while pledging to do all in his power to enforce safer camping practices from now on.
Mukombo also shared some details of the last moments of the boys’ lives. “The six exhibited unity as they clasped hands while fighting to survive,” he said. “It’s [tragic] that they eventually drowned.”