I arrived in Ndola, Zambia, in May 2016 to be greeted by Alfred. The weather was warm and the greeting was too.
We drove in his car the hour or so northwest to Kitwe, and then another half an hour further north to a remote location, where a new Bible training college had begun its first term in January that year.
Alfred Nyirenda is the first principal of the Proclamation Institute Zambia (PIZ), a new college in Zambia training people in expository Bible ministry. It is particularly focused on training men for preaching ministry, but is also accepting others for a variety of ministries, such as evangelism, and children’s and women’s ministry.
Alfred trained for ministry in London in the 1980s. He has served as pastor at Lusaka Baptist Church and Kitwe Chapel (and is also head examiner for mathematics in Zambia).
He is the first principal of PIZ and excited to see students arrive and begin tuition. I had the privilege of teaching for a week during that May, and returned next February, when it was considerably wetter, to see how the college had developed and to spend some time teaching the 2017 intake of students.
In the first year there were 11 students; this year there are 23. Alfred has been joined by Tryson as a second full-time lecturer, who has just retired from pastoral ministry in nearby Nkana East Chapel, a plant from Kitwe Chapel.
The college is the brain child of Andrew Muwowo. He and I studied together at the Cornhill Training Course in the year 2000. He was himself pastor at Kitwe Chapel before coming to the UK to study at Cornhill, and then, after a brief time back in Kitwe, working with Friends International.
Andrew has an expansive vision for the college and it is to the glory of our Father in heaven that so much progress has been made so quickly. The college draws in students from a wide range of churches and sinks them deeply into the Scriptures. Students from last year were very vocal about how much they were learning and how much they had been helped by the course. Some of them are already involved in church plants and ministry in local churches.
There is a consistent readiness to hear the gospel in Zambia that is so different to my experience in the UK. The church in Zambia is growing quickly and so, sadly, is ‘prosperity gospel’ teaching. PIZ aims to divert people away from this dangerous non-gospel by providing leaders who will handle the Bible with integrity and who have no reason to be ashamed of its true message of Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Alongside the regular teaching of students (the course syllabus lasts one year) there is an annual conference in November. In 2016 Conrad Mbewe was among the speakers. Pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka and known to many internationally, Conrad supports the project and is encouraged to see it getting started.
There is, however, still a long way to go. None of the students currently have the financial support needed to fund a place. Churches and individuals internationally are helping with funding to enable them train.
There is more building work required to provide all the necessary facilities. This includes development of a farm on-site that will enable the college to grow some of its own food and sell food to raise money, helping the college to become self-supporting. The college is looking to build a base of committed supporters, who will pray for the work and, where possible, support financially.
Zambia borders eight other southern and central African countries and is politically fairly stable. There is enormous potential for such a college to be a blessing, not only in Zambia, but in each of these other countries as well. There is much work to be done. If you would like to know more, please visit www.proclamationzambia.org
Chris Hawthorne is Pastor of St John’s Wood Road Baptist Church, London.