Zambia: the joy of student ministry
By Naomi Mbewe
Kalidas Bwalya says, “ I got saved in my teens, so I feel passionate about young people. I believe it’s the time that they either lose or find their way. Being in a position where I can share Christ with them is something I count as privilege. ”
Kalidas, a student at Copperbelt University in Kitwe, Zambia, works with ZAFES, the student ministry of IFES in Zambia. The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) has a vision to see students built into communities of disciples, transformed by the gospel and impacting the university, the church and society for the glory of Christ.
“My life as an on-campus evangelist is one that I really enjoy,” she says. “Apart from being a student in the School of Business, studying economics, my other important reason for being here is to win souls for Christ.
“You can only give out what you have. I have Christ in me. He saved me and, therefore, I have to let someone else know Christ as well.
And students are the best people to evangelize the student world because we know and understand our own context.”
Overwhelmed by love
The beginning of a new academic year is filled with many uncertainties, especially for those who barely know their way around campus – the first years. For this reason, and in response, to the Great Commission, every year ZAFES Copperbelt University Fellowship (CBU) does evangelistic outreach during first years’ registration.
This year was no exception. From 14 to 18 August, 16 CBU missionaries, as well as members from 19 other campus fellowships, turned up for this glorious mandate. Kalidas and others shared the gospel of Christ with 208 first-year students. Many of them said they were already Christians, and pledged to be part of the fellowship.
Registration can be nerve-wracking, and first years are faced with numerous challenges. These include accommodation, food, stationery costs and directions to major offices around campus. The presence of ZAFES eases some of these burdens by providing shelter, food and any other needs that can be met.
First-year students who have not found permanent accommodation by the end of the day are taken in by the missionaries. Many are overwhelmed by the services rendered and the love they see in action.
That evening I didn’t under stand much about how I should live as a Christian. But one thing I was sure about was that I had
Along with the opportunities and joys of student ministry in Zambia come the challenges. Those that particularly hinder ZAFES work include a lack of both human and financial resources. Currently there are five full-time staff workers for 75 Christian Fellowships throughout the country. The ratio is 1:15, which makes it very difficult to be effective. Please join us in praying for mature and committed staff, funds for staff salaries and literature production, and committed student leaders.
Despite the challenges, there is total joy in serving God through student ministry. Not everyone wants to do it – it has to be a calling from God.
Because the government has declared Zambia a Christian nation, we have an open door to freely share the gospel. We have partnerships with like-minded institutions and churches, and we enjoy the good will of associates all over the nation. Today there are many students who are ripe for the word of God!
A Life Changed
A student at Apex Medical University describes how she came to faith during her first year:
One day, as I was about to go out for a drink with a couple of friends, I heard a knock on my door. It was two ZAFES members going round our boarding houses doing evangelism. I hesitated about letting them sit down because I knew my friends would be at my door step soon. But they insisted that they needed to pray with me before I could go out.
Reluctantly I gave them a few minutes. They started praying with me, and asked God to help me realize how important it is to put Him first and to receive the Lord Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. Somehow I felt conviction and when my friends came to pick me up, I told them that I would find them. But I never followed my friends.
That evening I didn’t understand how much about how I should live as a Christian. But one thing I was sure about was that I had received the Lord Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I was a changed person. The Lord started working on me, and the desire to do the things I used to do was no longer there.
The ZAFES people continued to visit me, and eventually invited me to their weekly fellowship meetings. Reluctantly, I went along, and found a number of students who seemed to be enjoying themselves in the presence of God. That evening I found myself singing and dancing to songs that made a lot of sense and had meaning for the first time. Since then, I have been a committed member of ZAFES and, by God s grace, I keep learning on a daily basis.
Naomi Mbewe is General Secretary for ZAFES, the IFES ministry in Zambia. In this role she oversees the work of the movement at a national level, and is in charge of the ZAFES management team. “Our call is to the students,” she says, “so my overall job is to make sure that our staff, associates and volunteers are on campus to nurture the believing student so that they can share Christ with the non-believing student.”
She grew up in a Christian home, and committed her life to Jesus in 1990. Five years later she left for college to study mechanical engineering, and right away joined the vibrant ZAFES group. “I learned that the zeal I had for prayer was to be coupled by the Word of God if I was to be effective,” she says. “I also learned how to do personal devotions, and search the Scriptures, and at the end of my first year, I was given a leadership position that continued until the end of the three-year programme. After that I worked with ZAFES as volunteer staff at the head office in Lusaka.”
In 2001 Naomi went to Copper-belt University to continue her studies. She served as Deputy General Secretary for ZAFES from 2012 to 2014, and was appointed General Secretary in 2015. “It has been challenging,” she says, “but God has been my strength.”