Archives For Africa

In my last post, I introduced you to a vital ministry brewing here in Zambia: African Christian University (ACU). I also made the bold claim that this school has the potential to put a real dent in the spiritual and material poverty in Africa. It may seem absurd that one school has such promise, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it does. ACU, I believe, could be a major catalyst toward Africa’s solution. But before we talk solution, let’s look at the problem.

kids for sale

The future of Africa

After 40 years of dumping trillions of western dollars into Africa, the continent is still struggling. Hurling money oversees hasn’t helped African in the long run. Such (often) mismanaged charity has created an attitude of dependency and stripped away the need or desire for self-sufficiency, not to mention fostered wide-spread corruption both inside and outside the church. Therefore, many experts locate the solution to Africa’s demise in three main areas: leadership, education, and the gospel. Here’s an oversimplified explanation.

Leadership has been a major problem across the continent, as African Economist George Ayittey pointed out quite thoroughly in his book Africa in Chaos. Bad African leadership has crippled the continent. The solution therefore is raising up a new generation of African leaders who will better manage the vast resources in the country. Such influential leaders, who can strategically fill such a weighty role, generally come from the educated class.

This leads to the second point: education. Many Africans who want (and can afford) quality education leave the country to get it, but then they typically don’t come back. What Africa needs, therefore, is to focus on improving higher education in Africa. Quality African education will cultivate a more sustainable solution to Africa’s problems. The hope of Africa lies in Africa.

But as a Christian, educated leadership may improve Africa’s material problem but it won’t change people’s hearts (which actually may end up hurting the material condition as well.) What is needed is theological education. But not just theological education that trains pastors—though this is still a tremendous need!—but liberal arts education that’s governed by a Christian worldview. We need doctors, engineers, lawyers, businesspeople, journalists, chemists, historians, and school teachers, who can receive a top-notch education in Africa that’s focused on the Lordship of Jesus in all things so that this next generation of leaders can transform Africa for Christ. All three areas (leadership, education, gospel) are necessary.

Patricia and John

Patricia and John, two of ACU’s board of directors

And all three areas beautifully converge at ACU. The school wants to provide a top of the line education in all subjects—including theology—that are taught from a Christian worldview. So when students study business, they will learn how businesses should reflect kingdom values and further God’s reign over the earth. Aspiring journalists will look into the complex fabric of human affairs and testify to God’s stamp on human nature and history. Chemists will cultivate worship as they explore the ingenuity of God’s creation. In all of this, ACU will maintain the same academic rigor of any university in the West. Africans won’t need to go to Europe or North America to receive credible training. They can just go to Zambia; they can go to ACU. And they can seek to bring Africa under the rule of Christ as they pursue gospel-centered vocations.

But this is just the beginning. Ken has come up with a “Student Labor Program,” where students will not only learn in the classroom, but on the ground. The ACU campus will provide opportunities for students to learn agriculture by farming the land and caring for livestock. They will learn value-added business skills by selling their goods that they harvested from the earth (think: creation mandate, Gen 2). They will learn basic work skills by taking ownership of their own campus: upkeep, repairs, and other operation needs. They will even learn how to run a fish-hatchery from the lake that Ken wants to build. In all this, these students—the future of Africa—will experience discipleship both inside and outside the classroom, so that they can go out and disciple others. In the long run, Ken wants to work himself out of a job. He would love to see ACU’s alumni return to the school to take

Me with Ken Turbull, the director of ACU

Me with Ken Turnbull, the director of ACU

ownership of the project. How cool would it be to not only see the vision of ACU come to fruition, but ultimately see Zambians take ownership of the school.

Once again, I’m reminded that God is on the move around the world. Sometimes it’s tough to see this when we race around in our own little world with tunnel vision. I know, because I fall into that trap almost daily! I would love to see the global church reach across oceans to join arms with one another so that Jesus’ kingship over the globe would be unmistakable to the nations.

Next Stop: Zambia

Preston Sprinkle —  January 21, 2013 — 3 Comments
African lady walking

Outside Lusaka

My trip from Nepal to Zambia felt like a time warp. You can go ahead and erase all those images in your mind from UNICEF commercials and BrAngelina adoption trips. They may reflect other parts of Africa, but they don’t reflect much of life in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. There are poor people here for sure, especially outside the city, but there are also quite a few middle-class and even upper-class Africans who haven’t earned their wealth through corruption. My trip from the airport witnessed many SUV’s, BMW’s, and well-dressed businessmen on their way to work. There are plenty of American sized grocery stores, a few malls, and many large homes all with high electric fenced walls. As far as the church goes, unlike Nepal which is 2.5% Christian, about 80% of Zambians confess some sort of faith in Christ and in 1996 it was declared a Christian nation. You may think this is great news. And in some ways it is. But just as the post-Constantine Christianization of the Roman Empire created mass problems for the church, the lip-service many Zambians give to Christianity presents its own challenges to the gospel here. And then there’s the whole “health and wealth” movement that has infiltrated so many countries in Africa. Zambia is no different. Apart from the nominalism and the prosperity gospel, others Zambians will repackage traditional animistic beliefs in Christian lingo, making it tough for westerners to sort out a genuine confession from renovated voodoo. There’s still much work to be done here.

And the Zambians are doing the work. I’m shocked—as are most western missionaries who visit Lusaka—at how self-sustaining and theologically rich

Me with pastors Kalifungwa and Mbewe

Me (white guy) with pastors Kalifungwa (left) and Mbewe (right)

many churches are here. There’s an informal network of Reformed Baptist churches in Lusaka that are extremely healthy compared to many churches in Africa. Heck, compared to many churches America. To put it in perspective, two of these Reformed Baptist pastors, Robert Kalifungwa and Conrad Mbewe, have raised up and sent out 20 fully supported missionaries in the last 10 years! They have planted churches all over Zambia and beyond. And all of this is home grown. Pastor Mbewe, whom Desiring God labeled the “African Spurgeon,” told me over lunch that “most Americans think we’re running around chasing elephants.” I about coughed up my burger in laughter—partly because his booming laugh shook the room, and partly because he’s probably right. The fact that the restaurant was playing Kenny Rogers’ “the Gambler” only added to the irony.

Once again, the church of Zambia doesn’t need us to come show them how it’s done. In many ways, I’d love for them to come here and show us how it’s done. However, they are inviting the west to partner with them in what they are already doing. And the one main area where pastors Kalifungwa and Mbewe said they could use a lot of help is with Christian education.


Conrad Mbewe, the “African Spurgeon”

And that’s why I’m here: To explore potential ministry opportunities with African Christian University (ACU), a Christian liberal arts school that’s looking to launch classes in 2014. And to make this leg of the trip super exciting, my own pastor Matt Larson flew all the way out to join me!

I can’t wait to tell you about this amazing school. It has the potential to drastically improve both the spiritual and material poverty of the continent. I’ll talk about ACU in the next blog, but first let me introduce you to our host Dr. Ken Turnbull.

Ken is an American missionary who’s heading up the ACU project, and he has a fascinating journey. Ken has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and a post-doctorate from Cal Tech. He spent a number of years as a tenured professor at University of Arkansas where he had a vibrant and promising career. And then, at the age of 40, God called him to the mission field. A few years later, he and his wife packed up their 5 kids and moved to Mozambique where he spent 3 challenging years working as a church planter. Long story short, he got connected with pastor Kalifungwa who told Ken his vision about the college and the rest is history. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever seen a scholar of Ken’s caliber with such a promising career do what he did. Move over Albert Schweitzer

So Ken has come here in his own words as a “support to what God has already

My pastor Matt Larson (left) talking with Ken Turnbull on the site where ACU may be built

My pastor Matt Larson (left) talking with Ken Turnbull on the site where ACU may be built

been doing in the hearts of these African pastors.” He’s truly serving, not controlling, this African-based, thriving ministry. He’s adamant that he’s here not as the big boss, but as a servant to the local pastors. The indigenous nature of this thriving ministry is enough to get me excited. But it’s ACU’s fascinating vision that’s put hope in my heart that in spite of the corruption, in spite of the poverty, in spite of the violence, in spite of the theological anemia that’s swept across much of the continent, there is yet hope for Africa. And after talking with Ken over the last few days, I’m becoming a believer that such hope lies in ACU and ACU-like projects. They have the potential to transform a continent. I’ll tell you why in the next post.