Ds Regina Tembo-Shawa is sedert 2020 in die bediening vir die Reformed Church in Zambia, een van die NG Kerk se familiekerke. Haar gemeente is so arm sy boer met hoenders vir ’n inkomste, dog hulle bou kerke en stig nuwe buiteposte. Lees gerus haar storie.
My name is Rev Regina L Tembo-Shawa, resident minister for the Reformed Church in Zambia at the Maamba Congregation which is in Sinazongwe District (Gwembe Valley) in the south. My stay at this congregation has been interesting and challenging, but by God’s grace and the knowledge I acquired from Justo Mwale University I have managed to pull through.
Our congregation is located about 90 km from the highway and over 130 km from the nearest other congregation (Choma). It is very hot here.
This congregation has five sections with two preaching points which are about 15-30 km from the main church. We are planning to open another three sections.
We have about 200 members. They have zeal and love for the work and Word of God. I have been able to do a good number of activities because they are always backing me.
Some of the things we have done together include:
- Completed building a church at one of the preaching points which was at window level.
- Started keeping chickens (poultry business) as a source of income.
- About to open four branches (from July to August) this year.
- Pushed for the social cash transfer program to the less privileged.
- Pushed for relief food to be distributed to church members at the preaching points that didn’t have food last year.
- Constructing a new church building to replace the old one which is in a dilapidated state.
Challenges of working here
In our congregation there are only a few members with jobs. This is so because it is a rural area and located near the mine. The mine workers are here just for a short period while on a short-term contract. Two of our members are teachers and two are from the public health sector but they are looking for transfers to urban areas.
It has been exceedingly difficult for me to have a stable income apart from the poultry business which we started up in February this year. The land in this place is not good for farming as it is mountainous and very hot. People only manage to cultivate crops in small quantities. Drought and floods are a constant threat. In fact, since 2018 the rainfall has been so poor that it caused a famine to strike them so badly that I had to make an urgent request for relief food.
The area sees extremely high levels of unemployment and a high incidence of alcohol addiction, child abuse and gender-based violence. There are many early marriages and a lot of people are HIV positive. All this happens because people do not have much to do so they keep on loitering around.
The other challenging part is that since the church was built in 1982, it has never been renovated. The building was built in a hurry as the founders were told they would soon have to leave. Now this building is almost falling apart because many of the asbestos sheets are worn out. It is so bad that when it’s raining heavily, we do not congregate for fear of the building collapsing and afterwards, we still can’t fellowship because of all the water that leaked inside.
We started building a new structure with our little resources and we have tried to seek for help but there has not been a response yet. Now we have run out of funds as the people who promised to help us failed to do so due to circumstances beyond their control.
The church has never had a church manse. It is a challenge for the congregation to rent a house for the minister. I commuted the whole of 2020 because there were not enough funds to pay for a house nearby. This meant I had to commute a distance of about 130-150 km every weekend or whenever there was a program that needed my attention. To make matters worse the road is in a very deplorable state for about 90-110 km. There are
no buses over the weekends, so I had to wake up as early as 04:00 to catch lifts with private vehicles. I would often have to use three different vehicles to reach my destination.
My transport money was provided mainly by my husband with some top up from the church since there was not enough money. Up to now, apart from a little money I received after some months, I have never been given a stipend due to the circumstances mentioned above.
The knowledge I acquired in theology through the sponsorship from the Netherlands (through KerkinActie) at Justo Mwale University, has really helped me to work extra hard in this place despite all the challenges. As a result the church grew from 112 members to over 227 members as we crossed over into 2021.
However, I would like to suggest that when students are about to graduate and be sent to congregations, they are given some help. For instance, motorbikes (not bicycles) should be provided to new ministers to make it easier to move around as some congregations are spread out over a wide area where no proper means of transport nor funds for transport might be available.
In this place I would like to work with the sick, GBV cases, early marriages issues and many other issues as I preach the gospel, but it has been difficult for me due to the distances I have to travel and the lack of funds. Don’t stop sponsoring the ministry in this country as the vineyard of the Lord is still big with very few workers.