A Global Mission Fellow reflects on time in Zambia
By Mae Anne Lee N. Biasbas
April 2020 | ATLANTA
Mulishani! That’s “hello” in Bemba, one of the three main spoken native languages here in Zambia. I am Mae Anne Lee N. Biasbas, from Central Luzon Philippines Annual Conference, now serving in the beautiful country of the Republic of Zambia with the Council of Churches in Zambia.
The Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ) has existed since 1914. It was first called the General Missionary Conference and later changed to the Christian Council of Northern Rhodesia in 1944. Upon independence in 1964 (the same year the country was renamed “Zambia”), the CCNR became the Christian Council of Zambia. Finally, during the 26th General Conference, the name Council of Churches in Zambia was adopted to conform to the current duties and composition of its member churches.
As of now, the council includes 24 member churches and affiliates across Zambia. The CCZ enjoys strong links with the World Council of Churches, the All Africa Council of Churches and the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa. Our current motto is: “A holistic ministry to people for the glory of God.”
Most of the time I work with the CCZ secretariat and rapporteur team for conferences and trainings. My official job title is Assistant Program Officer, with a primary responsibility of providing support for administration and operations of programs and assisting with planning and implementation of program activities, including training, advocacy and capacity building.
Because of my educational and professional background, I work closely with the communication officer. I contribute in the publishing of CCZ newsletters and reports, events documentation and raising awareness through social media. My work cuts across different programs of the organization, such as Youth, Gender and HIV, Social and Economic Justice and Properties.
Work of the CCZ
The work of the CCZ includes participation and cooperation on many events throughout the year. Some events the CCZ hosts, such as the District Alternative Mining event in Southern Province, last June. The last half of 2019, our work concentrated on social justice events, economic development and public health.
The District Alternative Mining Conference (“Indaba” in Zulu) brought together the mining community to hear from the people involved in the extractive industry. Mining companies were also present in the meeting. At the culmination of the event, we marched to commemorate the World Environment Day on the June 3.
In cooperation with the All Africa Council of Churches (AACC), CCZ held an international forum for youth and women regarding entrepreneurship and self-sustainability. It was encouraging to hear the success stories as well as aspirations of the participants who came from 13 different African countries.
International Widows’ Day is commemorated on June 23 annually. Women who lose their spouses form one of the most overlooked groups in Zambia. They often experience discrimination and stigmatization because of their loss. CCZ church leaders, with the help of AACC, came together to create a resolution on how the church can help and uplift widows in Zambia. They now prefer to be called “surviving spouses.” Our 3-day commemoration of the international event was held June 21-23. The activities included a march, a workshop for church leaders and widows and an ecumenical church service.
Concerning public health, CCZ participates in the Religious Leaders Orientation on Malaria Prevention. Malaria is the leading cause of death in Zambia. Faith-based groups command significant influence on Zambians, so they are urged to help in the efforts to eliminate the disease. During this orientation and workshop, faith groups resolved to follow through an action plan for increased uptake of the intervention and close the financial gap for malaria elimination in the country.
In November, we returned to this topic again to raise awareness and encourage people to support malaria prevention programs offered by the church and the government.
CCZ partnered with the Center for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia (CIDRZ) for a church leaders’ workshop on HIV and AIDS Prevention, Care and Treatment. Held on August 8, the workshop was designed to specifically target adolescents, women and men, giving more focused insight of HIV and AIDS on each specific group.
On November 2, CCZ called for an Extraordinary General Conference to elect a new president. Rev. Sauros Phaika from the United Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, who served as a member of the CCZ board of directors, won the election.
“Nganamona ukomwamfumwa mwe tata ndamonamo ubukulubwenu.” This is a Bemba song that means “When I look back at where you’ve taken me from, Father, I see your greatness”
Indeed, I can only sing of testimonies of God’s goodness and greatness to me during the past year.
I named my missionary newsletter “Resonance,” hoping to convey the lasting messages and reflections that resonate from this mission journey I am walking with God.
I am amazed by how the Zambian people worship. We experienced worship in South Africa during missionary training, but it is refreshing each time I experience it here in Zambia. Music is embedded deeply in this culture, especially in worship. People in the congregation also focus on the preaching, even taking notes in their notebooks as the preacher speaks.
The praise they give as they sing resonates in me more deeply than I would have imagined. Ever since I was little, music has been my source of comfort and joy – the lyrics and the beautiful melodies. In musical terms, “resonance” means the intensification and enriching of a musical tone by supplementary vibration; it also means a quality of richness. When they sing, there is conviction and power in their voices. The sound is intense and rich. More than thinking of what great singers they all must be here in Zambia, I thought, “what great hearts they must have, singing for the Lord.”
In simpler terms, “resonance” can mean the power to evoke enduring images, memories and emotions. I know that after a year and a half here in Zambia, I have a resonance from the works of God that will stay with me forever.
Mae Anne Lee N. Biasbas is a Global Mission Fellow, class of 2018-2020, from San Jose City in the Nueva Ecija Province of the Philippines, where she is a member of the Palestina United Methodist Church, Central Luzon Philippine Annual Conference. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from Wesleyan University, Philippines.
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