From the moment the plane touched down on Zambian soil last July, a CMSI META team were on the move and for two weeks hardly stopped! The visit was part of the Church Mission Society Ireland (CMSI) Mission Experience Teams Abroad (META) Programme, in partnership with the Diocese of Northern Zambia at the invitation of the Diocesan Bishop – Archbishop Albert Chama who is also the Primate of Central Africa. The team were commissioned by the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross – the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton – during the Diocesan Synod in Cork on 11th June, 2016.
Made up of Church of Ireland members – 10 from Carrigrohane Union of Parishes from Cork, Cloyne and Ross, one from Bray (Diocese of Dublin) and another from St. Columba’s Knock (Diocese of Down) – the group’s destination was Kitwe in Zambia. Their purpose? – to walk alongside the church in another part of the Anglican Communion, and to get involved in projects that parishes had taken on board in local communities in and around the city of Kitwe.
It meant meeting people and getting involved in church and chapel Services, pre-schools, secondary schools, Mothers’ Union, building site work, making blocks, and youth ministry. There were visits to a farm, hospital, seminary, women’s empowerment projects, and meeting locals in their own homes. In turn the team had the honour of hosting some of our hosts at the team quarters!
The team have many stories from each of these experiences – here is a taster:
I have brought back so many memories that I will never forget. I now tell people I meet in shops etc.that I have been to Africa and what lovely people they are, so alive with God’s love and always praising and giving thanks to Him. So I am trying to be more vocal about God in public. (Laurel)
Visiting St Barnabas Parish and the Kasompe church plant because of the faith & dynamic leadership of Fr. Ponda – how that was translated in vibrant worship, evangelism, youth work as well as feeding / clothing the vulnerable. Truly the gospel in action!
One of the things I connected with was seeing how the teachers in the Pre-schools and the secondary school gave so much of their time to help some of the most vulnerable children and how much they wanted them to succeed and develop to their potential. Seeing how thankful the teachers were with the gifts that we gave them, which seemed so little to me, was just so humbling and made me question how much I did actually appreciate all that I do have.
For many, one day especially shines out.
It was spent in St. James’ Parish in a suburb of Kitwe where the parishioners are very active in the local community. They started a pre-school class with committed teachers but absolutely no resources. This is hugely challenging when we think of the vast array of toys, games, and learning materials, we have in abundance here in Cork. But what they lack in resources they have in drive, energy and faith, shining out especially in Rita, a wonderful, godly Mothers’ Union member, who has a vision to feed the hungry and clothe the naked in her community, which she’s been doing week in, week out, for the past 8 years and is now caring/looking after over 30 individuals
The church in Zambia faces many challenges – some unique to themselves and some similar to the church in Cork. The visiting team was exposed to both the joys and the reality of the church ministering in an impoverished nation compounded by Climate Change and environmental mismanagement. It is hoped that as the stories are told about our unforgettable experiences last summer, others might see the needs and respond – through prayer, giving, or even going to serve God in Zambia.
The team’s thoughts and prayers are with Keith and Lyn Scott as they leave Limerick to go to Kitwe in 2017. They will be serving as mission partners at the Theological Seminary which the team visited.
Team leader Revd Robert Ferris commented.
It was fantastic to see this group of diverse individuals from the parish and beyond come together, be built up as a team ready to live and work together for 2 ½ weeks as we discovered more about what it means to be part of the world wide family of God. When you explore the world church you discover brothers and sisters in Christ who are doing what we are all called to do – sharing Jesus’ love with those on the margins of society. We have so much to inspire us for Christ’s mission in Ireland.