"Random Thoughts" from Zambia...

Posted by Colin Corbridge on Tue, 29 Jul 2008 | 1 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Robert Ferris is a final year student at the Church of Ireland Theological College in Dublin and is currently undertaking a STEP placement in the diocese of Northern Zambia. Robert is working alongside CMS Ireland Mission Partners, Keith and Lyn Scott and recently took a few minutes to share some of his experiences and thoughts so far…

“It is quite a strange thing to be doing – sitting down writing to those whom I know very little about, some of you of course I do know … people from my home parish of Seapatrick in Banbridge, however for those who don’t know me let me first introduce myself:

My name is Robert Ferris, I am soon to be returning to my final year as an ordinand studying down at the Church of Ireland Theological college in Dublin, at the moment I am spending my summer break out with CMS Ireland Mission Partners Keith and Lyn Scott and their family at the Anglican Seminary in Kitwe, Zambia on a CMS Ireland STEP (Short Term Experience Programme). In the past I have been involved in META Teams to both Uganda and Zambia as a participant and leader.

So what is happening over here?

Well, there is quite a lot to report…

Keith, being an Anglican priest has duties in 2 parishes in Northern Diocese: Both in and around Chambishi which is a mining township. The church is looked after by Keith and an evangelist Wendy. It was great for me to preach at their harvest thanksgiving service and to carry out some pastoral visiting within this community. It is a real mix of people living in this parish but many do live on the bread line – poverty and alcoholism are rife within the township – please do pray for the church in this area and pray for the church members as they seek to be a light in their community.

Keith and Lyn’s other main area of responsibility lies at the seminary. Keith is currently lecturing Ethics, “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation” and Homiletics. These classes I have been sitting in on when I can. It is for me, a time away from the familiar environment of Dublin to get a chance to discuss some of the issues with others and continues to give me valuable insights into many of the issues affecting the African and the world church. Lyn also assists at the college in running English classes for the students. I have also been asked to assist the students with their IT Skills it has been good to use both my computer Science degree in sorting out some systems for the college library and my secondary teaching experience in teaching some basic IT skills to the first year students.

Below are some of the random thoughts of this Ordinand as he continues to come to terms with the issues which are raising their head here in Zambia.

A few ponderous thoughts

As time does move on here in Zambia, it is actually amazing to have time out, time to step back and think as days go by. In the past either as a member of a CMSI META team or as one of those helping lead a team, time in Africa has been so precious and so necessarily organised that thinking time has been at a premium. Being on a STEP has given me the space to organise my own time around various necessary things as well as do some thinking.

The structure of my day is quite similar to that in CITC – worship, breakfast, morning activity, coffee, activity, lunch, activity, afternoon coffee, activity, worship, dinner, chatting, communicating with home, quiet time and bed!

So Africa, some people at home have asked me what it is about Africa that I really like? ... mmm … it is a difficult question …

It can be a frustrating place – try being a computer geek in a place that looses power on a regular basis … the cost of the essentials can be soo high … the infrastructure can be a bit haphazard sometimes.

It can also be heart breaking place … when you see and know people who are dying of HIV/AIDS, when you meet people who have lost hope, who are turning to drink, people who are living on only 50p per day. When you enter school rooms which have absolutely no resources whatsoever only a few hundred metres away from main roads which are carry multimillion dollar machines daily.

The contrasts are huge – In Kitwe for example you have people living in huge houses with swimming pools and air conditioning and then in less than an kilometre away there are townships where people are living in extremely poor conditions.

It is an interesting question about what can be done… what can we as western Christians do, should we indeed be doing anything about the situation here in Zambia, in Rwanda, in Uganda, in Nepal?

Well, surely the answer has to be a distinct YES- surely the gospel is GOOD NEWS, good news for all, the Good News which Wendy, the evangelist in Chambishi township is proclaiming on a Sunday morning, is the same Gospel which the Rwanda team is proclaiming, which is the same Gospel which is being proclaimed in Kiwoko, which is the same gospel which is being proclaimed in Banbridge, Belfast, Dublin, Cork and Derry – Good news, hope and essentially the incarnational gospel, the fact that Jesus came and walked amongst the people here. We as Christians are called into partnership, to work alongside and exchange ideas, resources and relationships.

So what is it I like about Africa? ... the sunsets – most definitely!, the giraffes – indeed! But there is something deeper, something I just can’t put my finger on – It is difficult, being a different colour, being seen as someone who has money, in the street is a strange, strange feeling. Knowing that you cannot fix the problems of society, even of one life is extremely heart-wrenching. One just thinks at how things might be different for that child who is growing up in the compound if only they were living on the Malone road or in Cultra or even Dublin 14.

And then what about the villages? the remote parts of the African bush … the stereotypical mud huts and thatched roofs and when we think about them my mind wonders to those who have been called to minister to them – the support that they should receive – when I think of my book shelves in college packed with soooo many books, commentaries – what resources, what are we in the church doing to further the spread of the gospel to people in these sorts of situations???

Hundreds and hundreds of questions all probably without any adequate answers – but I do feel it is these sort of questions which I will have to think seriously about for a theological reflection of the idea of empowerment and equipping people to help themselves so that they can indeed turn round and help others. I do believe it was that sort of thing which Jesus himself was up to when he sent his disciples out to the nations.

So… how to conclude this ??

I don’t know what it is about Africa that has gotten into my blood, maybe it was something which bit me on my first trip to Uganda, maybe it is the idea that something can change, maybe it is the realisation that there is indeed hope in what sometime seems like a hopeless situation, maybe it is the sunset, the animals, the landscape, maybe it is the locals I have met, maybe it is the infectious Mission Partners and staff members I have come across in CMS Ireland, maybe it is the passion and vision of the African bishops, maybe it is the vision of growth and community awareness of the local churches, maybe it is friends in Ireland who have shared their African stories, maybe it is God stirring something up in me … maybe, just maybe it is all of these things and lots more besides … but one thing at this stage of my trip here is mightly clear – God is indeed working here in the college, in the lives of the students and with Keith and Lyn as they minister in the college and in the local community.

Please, please, please do continue to pray for all the students in their studies, these guys are very special people – they are to be the next leader’s of the church in this nation, people who will be not only priests but also community leaders with influence in so many aspects of life, they will be needing vision of empowering people through community projects, education, health care. What these guys will be doing will have an impact on all aspects of community life. Pray that they each grasp the enormity of the calling to which God has called them to and that during their time here in college they will pick up the necessary skills and education which will stand them in readiness for the parishes to which God has called them to.

Mmm… come to think about all of this maybe it is not so random after all – maybe there is a bigger picture at work here! Mmm… “

The text of this letter, pictures and updates also appear on my CMS Ireland Blog


Jules said Mon, 18 Aug 2008 08:56AM
Wow Bert sounds like you are having an amazing time . . . have been keepin tabs on you as I tour the world - in Singapore at the mo thinkin & prayin 4 ya