MIWC Exploring Ministries in Zambia
Music and leadership training considered in Africa
MIWC President Steve Benham and MIWC Board Member Phil Bratten just returned from the African country of Zambia, where they explored opportunities to partner with Music Mission Zambia for music and leadership training and outreach. (Bratten, Benham pictured here with local musicians.)
Their September trip taught them much about the passions and challenges of the believers in Zambia, and how MIWC may be able to work with them to accomplish God's plans for their churches and communities.
On one Sunday, they visited three different churches in four hours. They found three very different approaches to worship but the common element was a focus on the worship of the great and mighty God.
"Zambians have rich and diverse expressions of worship across their churches," said Benham, who saw worship styles ranging from the very austere, solemn and conservative to the very demonstrative, celebratory and expressive.
Some congregations dressed solely in black and white, while others donned bright colors. Some church members were reserved, other believers danced. Service lengths ran anywhere from 90 minutes to more than 5 hours.
Whether the songs were of the older-style common to European and North American hymns or in their unique local style, Benham discovered the Zambians to be excellent singers.
"The choral singing was magnificent. Everything is learned by ear and Zambian singers seem to be naturally gifted with beautiful voices," he said. Benham attributes this, at least in part, to the fact that they speak their 70 regional Bantu language variations in the upper part of their vocal register, something that is ideal for everyone to do for vocal health. The tone of these local languages are also neither guttural nor harsh, again allowing the Zambians to adapt their natural speaking voices easily to singing.
The biggest challenge to church growth in this area is that while Christianity is professed by most people, evangelical Christianity is represented by a wide spectrum of practice.
"Our biggest concern is what we see to be syncretism between the mystical pagan beliefs of tribal life and modern Christianity," said Benham, who pointed out that syncretism is by no means a new problem for the church as the Apostle John wrote about it in his letters.
Benham said there seems to be great comfort for many of the Zambians to be Christian in the more public or urban settings, but to adopt the traditional religion when they return to their small villages.
The Zambian population is quite young because the average age of death is also young. Meanwhile, education costs are very high and many young people desire to study at universities or bible schools but lack the funds.
"There is tremendous vitality, though, in the youth," said Benham.
"They are enthusiastic, energetic and passionate about what they do. We were so impressed by those who have great visionary and entrepreneurial spirits, but lack start-up capital or other resources to see their dreams come true." The local response to MIWC's trip was extremely positive. Many have already been in contact regarding music lessons as well as practical needs such as sheet music, rosin, violin bows, instrument accessories and space for music studios.
"We will continue to find ways to meet the material needs while also providing the practical training that is essential," Benham said.
"God is at work here, and He has raised up strong local leadership to help accomplish the work that needs to be done."
- Formerly the territory of Northern Rhodesia, it was taken over by the UK in 1923 and became Zambia upon independence in 1964.
- Almost 5 times the size of the U.S. state of Georgia; slightly larger than Texas
- Landlocked with the Zambezi River forming a boundary with Zimbabwe. Mostly high plateau with some hills and mountains. Tropical.
- Population: Almost 16 million
- Youthful population primarily consists of people from 70 different ethnicities who speak Bantu. The high fertility rate is offset by higher death rates resulting from HIV/AIDS, which is prevalent.
- One of the highest levels of urbanization in Africa
- Protestant 75.3%, Roman Catholic 20.2%, other 2.7% (includes Muslim Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha'i), none 1.8% (2010 est.)