Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA
MISSIONARIES who came to Zambia in the 1800s have left a lasting legacy. They not only established churches, but they went further to establish schools which are still standing today.
A number of us are beneficiaries of these mission schools. For one thing, they were considered far much better than government schools.
Unlike government schools, whose funding has not been consistent and they faced a shortage of teachers, mission schools were better off.
This, coupled with the discipline pupils were exposed to, made them produce better results for a long time. They were the automatic choice of parents for their children.
These schools are still standing today as a sturdy reminder of their labours amongst us. Their standards may not match those of yesterday, but they still have some life in them.
Most of them are grant-aided but they continue to offer better educational services than government schools.
Apart from schools, the missionaries set up hospitals. While they shared the word of God, they also sought to minister to the other needs of the local people amongst whom they settled.
Both schools and hospitals provided a vital service to the local people. The schools transformed local people into literate individuals who could read the Bible and other literature.
Education widened the local peopleâ€™s understanding of issues. Hospitals introduced a novel way of treating illnesses and taking care of patients. It was a revolution the local people had never seen before.
Today, the missionaries are springing from amongst us and the mission of the church has never changed: to spread the word of God.
Sadly, we are seeing a number of churches coming up with their leaders assuming high sounding titles.
They are most revered among their members. They are held in high esteem and whatever they say is binding amongst their members. They wield a lot of authority.
In contrast, the missionaries of the 1800s were humble and mingled freely with the local people. This is how they learnt the local language.
They were men and women of little means. Their mission was to share the gospel. Some of them left their wealthy settings to be part of the poverty of Africa in an effort to carry out missionary work.
From church history, most of them had better education but the desire to bring the gospel to this part of the world drove them to forego their engagements. For example, the famous David Livingstone was a medical doctor.
While he was here, he preached the gospel and at the same time helped the sick people.
When we look at these men and women, we see a commitment to work for those they came to serve. They lowered themselves to the level of the local people.
However, what we see today from the â€˜missionariesâ€™ who are springing from amongst us, stands in great contrast to the earlier missionaries. We hear some of our preachers boasting about the numbers in their churches. Having a church appears to be lucrative.
The preachers of today have many advantages. Among these is the fact that people are now literate. That is why most preachers use the English language as a medium of communication. This means they do not have to teach them to read and write.
A missionary sets out to preach the gospel so that people may turn away from their sins and believe in Jesus Christ. However, the departure from this mission today leaves many of us scared. Some of those who are supposed to be brought into the fold are left confused. But the true gospel must be preached in church.
Today we see an emphasis on money and a life free of hardships, what is referred to as the prosperity gospel. Through this gospel, some churches have grown in number because the message is just what the people want to hear.
People are desperate for money, jobs, marriage and a better life. Some are sick and they need healing. So they flock to church in their numbers in search of an ideal life.
The more people flock, the more they are urged to give and the more money such preachers get. Some churches urge their members to â€˜sow a seedâ€™.
Consequently, the so-called men of God are ushered into lavish living; owning a mansion, possessing a fleet of cars and so on.
Government is always in need of partners in development and churches are not an exclusion. Just as the early missionaries, the preachers of today have an obligation to set up schools and hospitals.
There are some churches that are already making an impact, but there are still many more which can partner with Government and contribute to development by running schools or hospitals.
The healing sessions desperate people are exposed to can be better conducted in hospitals. Here, as patients are attended to, it becomes an opportunity to share the gospel with them. And this is what Christ did. He healed the sick and shared the gospel with them.
Schools based on Christian principles train students in a wholesome manner. The number of primary schools run by churches is more than secondary schools and let alone universities. Let the works of the church be seen in contributing to development through setting up schools and hospitals.
The author is Sunday Mail editor.
Analysis: JUDITH KONAYUMA