A Plea for Simple Churches
Zambia’s Need for Places of Worship
Pastor Harrington Akombwa is one of the very, very few outsiders who have ever set foot in the village of Mata, in Zambia. ‘It is so remote, the pastor only visits once every five years,’ he says. The tiny settlement is hundreds of miles from the nearest town and it takes at least four hours to drive a four-wheel-drive through the sand to reach Mata. But many pastors don’t have any kind of car. ‘By ox cart it takes four days. One pastor who walked that distance … when he got back the skin was peeling off his feet,’ says Akombwa, president of the Zambia Union of Seventh-day Adventists.
Akombwa visited Mata recently, on a constituency visit. He tries to get out and visit as many Zambian churches as possible, to let them know they are not forgotten. But it isn’t easy. Zambia has almost 6,000 congregations meeting every Sabbath. More than half of those are just ‘companies’ rather than churches. ‘It is because they don’t have the financial muscle,’ says Akombwa.
The companies need their own building to be considered a church. Many do not have the finances to provide a suitable building for a large group of 75, or more people. Maranatha is already involved in providing church and school buildings in Zambia and praying for the funds to do even more.
Akombwa arrived at Mata with four other church representatives and found a group of believers waiting.
Some of them had been waiting for two years to be baptized. During the pastoral visit, even more decided for baptism. One man walked a kilometer on crutches to see the baptism.
‘I want to see!’ he said. ‘All my life I have lived here. There is only one church here – the first Apostolic Church. … We are with them because it is the only church we know.’
After the visit, Akombwa’s small group had planned to return to the city that same night, but it wasn’t possible. They slept there in Mata, though the people were too poor even to offer them water to bathe.
Many congregations like this one exist in the north, east, and west of Zambia. There are even places where no Adventist has ever gone–villages that are only reachable by driving a high-powered vehicle eight or more hours through sinking sand. It is for remote villages like these that Akombwa pleads for simple churches. He describes many village church buildings as ‘smearing mud onto trees to make a wall.’ These congregations average more than 75 members each.
‘We would like to see a new Zambia, where they have a roof over their heads and finished walls. That will come as an answer to prayer,’ says Akombwa.
Some of Akwomba’s prayers have already been answered. Maranatha’s crews live and work in the harsh, sandy bush. On another long journey across northern Zambia, Akwombwa spotted three different One-Day Church structures. He is praying for many, many more.
Officials at the Zambia Union have requested that Maranatha build 1,900 churches and 200 school campuses in Zambia. Maranatha has not yet determined how many we will build in the country, but we have already started work on the first 120 church buildings. The scope of what we can do depends on donors like you. How many of these people can we help?