Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Urban churches

Urban churches

I have written about visiting the little rural church of Fisenge. About its village setting, the sound of worship under rain pelting a tin roof, the appeal of native worship in Bemba music, the illumined life of Bible stories understood in a rural setting.

We have also visited urban churches. In fact, John and Kendra Enright started several churches in the urban sprawl of Ndola, a city of over a million people. Five of those thirteen churches meet in former bars, curious places indeed for worship, especially in Zambia where tradition places all churches on the same street. But it remains a really good picture, don’t you think, of the transformed life?

The largest of the churches in size is called the City Center Church. It has a large gathering room with a foyer on the side—with “the bar” still in it. A perfect place to practice hospitality it seems. Another large room remains in much disrepair, but carries the vision of a place where young people can gather off the streets. An attractive location right on the main highway, with a store attached to help support its ministries, committed leadership and a city in need—all are pieces of what can be exciting ministry in Ndola.

We also visited two other churches that were former bars. Both (as is true of most of the Methodist churches here) serve the really desperate people living in sprawling townships (in the city) or compounds (outside the city). These are truly marginalized people, often migrating toward the city in the hope of jobs, but ending up instead in the crowded squalor of township life. These are the falvellas of Brazil, the slums of India, the townships of Africa; they are the picture of life at the surviving edge of the Majority World (or, as we like to call it, the Developing World). Here in the very center of this dangerous pulse are churches occupying the former center of town life, the tavern. It is poetic justice.

Pmodzi Church is one such place. Its potential is yet being realized, but the large mural of the “Tree of Life” gracing its walls is a hopeful symbol of the life it brings. Unfortunately, the pastor seems beaten down right now—and who can blame him? He is almost as hungry and desperate as his neighbors, his congregation without funds to support him and jobs illusive at best in the township.

Ndeke Church (ndeke means bird; this church is near the airport) is a lively congregation in the very center of the noise, dirt, and crush of humanity of Ndeke’s market. It is literally surrounded by market stalls (some even attached to the church) and noisy bars. Its young pastor, John Pintu, and his wife, Rhoidah, live in three small rooms in the building along with their toddler son, Gift, and new baby. I was truly moved in this place—with tears of admiration for the courage and love of this pastor and tears of pity for the plight of his poverty. He shared his story of the call that caused him to leave a job in Congo and journey to Zambia for school and a pastorate. That inner call obviously sustains him in the difficult work of urban ministry and the oversight of his congregation of over 200 bursting out at the seams of their little building. I think John Pintu’s ministry here will fly, much like the “ndeke” for which the community is named.

These and hundreds of other churches in simple settings are also the story of Kafakumba. It is important to know that its reach is beyond the walls of the Training Center, Pastor’s School, its varied businesses that support ministry, its United Methodist connection, or the many people involved in the work here. Its reach is into the very heart of African communities with what looks like, sounds like, feels like, tastes like--Good News.

1 comment:

Bonnie said...

So envious of all your experiences. Can't wait to hear your voice and share in your stories. How great is each and every day? Are you even thinking about coming home or have we lost you forever? Bonnie