Zambia (Part 1)



Sabbatical 2010

Safari in
South Luangwa National Park




Through the Network for African Congregational Theology (NetACT) and Prof. Jurgens Hendriks of Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Theology, I received an invitation to teach at Justo Mwale Theological University College in Lusaka, Zambia. Conversations with Dr. Lameck Banda, their Dean ensued and Justo Mwale welcomed us as a family. Justo Mwale is a special place.

A mission started by the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa in the 1940s, it is now the primary seminary for the Reformed Church in Zambia, partnering with the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, and the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa. In 1969 the seminary moved from Madzimoyo (in Eastern Zambia) to Lusaka and in 1975 it opened at its current location on a large campus to the northwest of Lusaka. Rev. Justo Mwale was the first ordained pastor in the Reformed Church of Zambia. He was ordained in 1929 after he completed his theological studies at Nkoma in Malawi. Having received my seminary education at the Dutch Reformed Seminary in Stellenbosch (South Africa), I learnt this history in 1989 from Prof. Pauw, who previously taught at Justo Mwale. It felt as if a circle has been completed.

At Justo Mwale, I taught Pastoral Theology to the first year seminary students. In the class were students from Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. They were a special group of 10 men and two women, and I am indebted to them as they taught me much about being a person, a partner, a parent, and a pastor in Africa.

The campus is fairly large, with numerous faculty and visiting lecturer's homes, as well as lodging for the married and single students. Here, children play while men and women receive theological training, computer education, life skills training such as sowing, and more. The best part for me, however, was the singing during Friday chapel. These sisters and brothers sang tears into my eyes and warmed my heart.

I was welcomed by the faculty and we made wonderful friends in the Ellingtons, the Retiefs, the Moellers, families from South Africa and the USA who call Justo Mwale home. The memories of meals and asking what it means to be white and privileged in Africa will remain with me. Our girls loved the campus and with their friend Christopher explored every inch of the campus. Not even the killing of (what we were told) a spitting cobra fazed them much as they disappeared after school only to reappear around dusk.

While I taught, the girls attended Lusaka International Community School (LICS). Our gratitude to Mr. Whitfield who allowed us to enroll the girls for a month. The girls absolutely LOVED the school, made many friends and even attended birthday parties! We felt the school has a very high standard and is truly a cosmopolitan hub, with numerous nationalities represented in the student body. The girls played recorder and swam.

Michelle visited wonderful ministries. One was Chikumbuso, which consists of a school for orphans as well as widows. The women make beautiful handbags from plastic bags, single moms make clothing, and others learn to become baristas. Michelle also helped feed kids at an orphanage run by nuns from the order of Mother Teresa. These humble servants are doing amazing work in very sad circumstances.

A few general observations:

  • Zambians are friendly and welcoming.
  • The church in Zambia is vibrant and vital.
  • The dry season is WARM and DRY. You cannot fight the dust.
  • Zambians are an enterprizing people and you can do an an optical wheel allignment roadside or buy your bed there too.
  • Some Zambians have no qualms asking for money and we had a steady stream of people, with real life issues and crises, finding their way to our door. They are just as friendly and gracious when you inform them that your giving funds have been depleted. We were constantly reminded that finances and friendships are challenging. We decided upon an amount of money and when the money was given, we declined all other requests..
  • Zambia does not trigger our safety radar as South Africa always does. We felt safe here. We learnt that Zambians are not nearly as violent as South Africans.
  • The Zambian economy is growing at about 6-7% and we could see many new developments being built. I imagine the gap between rich and poor is growing at a rapid rate.
  • It is an expensive country to live in. We paid more than $6 for a gallon of gasoline, and when we left Holland, the price was $2.55 per gallon. In a country where most things are imported, all items are exponentially more expensive, unless your neighbors give you papaya and bananas.
  • Most families know death well and we learnt of many funerals. AIDS remain a primary killer but the stigma is such that the real cause of death is rarely mentioned.
  • Compassionate and caring individuals run orphanages and hospices with no real resources.
  • South African stores (of which there are MANY) do not even change their posters, so you find signsand advertisements in English and in Afrikaans!
  • Many cars are imported from Japan via Dar es Salaam or Durban. They typically have between 70-100K km behind them and are relatively inexpensive for Africa.
  • There are many NGOs where expats from all over the world work. We heard of some NGOs that do not function well, despite originating from a noble idea.
  • There are many mosquitoes.
  • South Luangwa National Park rivals any game park in Southern Africa and we saw more predators than in any other park I've every visited. See the South Luangwa Page.
  • I would recommend a visit to Zambia to anyone!

I am deeply grateful for the welcome that Justo Mwale, through the Rector, Dr. Zulu, and the Dean, Dr. Banda, extended our family and myself. Already I look forward to the time when I might return to teach again at Justo Mwale.


Here are a few images from our time at Justo Mwale Theological University College.

The campus, where in the future, the new chapel will be the center of all activity. Students in campus housing plant their own vegetables.

Wonderful dinners

Daily temperatures moved between 35-40C. It was hot as we experienced the end of the dry season in Zambia. We grilled boerewors (South African sausage), chicken, and steaks in front of our home under the shade of a BIG tree.

The students, faculty and the children love playing soccer.

We visited two Reformed Church in Zambia congregations, one Afrikaans service meeting the needs of South African expats and one English service. The English service of Kamwala Congregation near downtown Lusaka was vibrant with singing, choir groups, and even a drama group. Extra chairs were brought in and every space was filled. I was struck by the LARGE number of young people between the ages of 12-18. Also that the visitor's card, which asks your age, does not have a little box to mark beyond age 50. AIDS remain a major killer of people here in Zambia.

The Jacaranda trees were in bloom, and so too the bougeanvillas. As you walk over the flowers that fell down, a rich fragrance enveloped you.

We slept under mosquito nets and protected ourselves as best we could. We heard many stories of persons suffering from malaria.