YANDE SYAMPEYO, Lusaka
AS A young and seemingly spoiled boy growing up in Kafue with his grandmother, Father Emmanuel Chikoya had no clue he would turn
out to be a reputable man of God.
Born at Kafue Mission Hospital on November 27, 1969, Fr Chikoya was regarded as a delinquent child linked to all the wrong behaviour in the neighbourhood’.
His performance at school was nothing close to good, not to talk of his behaviour that the school authorities at Nangongwe Primary School were at the verge of expelling him in grade five.
“I was staying with my grandmother and you know we love our grandmothers and they love us too much, and this sometimes spoils us.
“At Nangongwe, I remember being given punishment to write my name every day at 13:00 hours on a big piece of paper in the senior teacher’s office because I used to dodge classes. This was to ensure I never missed classes,” he recalls.
However, just when people thought this naughty boy was headed for disaster, he began to build up for the better after he was relocated to Lusaka’s Kanyama township by his father.
“I was in grade five and that was the turning point. The culmination was I could have been expelled from school and so my father was summoned and that was the change, I had to relocate to Lusaka.
“My initial attempt at grade seven was not successful, I could not meet the cut-off point but I passed. I remember crying and after that, I never failed an exam. As the first born in a family of seven boys and two girls, I had to be a good example, and my brothers were quite brilliant,” he recalls.
Upon arrival in Kanyama, he became involved in the church as an altar boy, and also participated in the boys brigade and at this point, his life began to be streamlined.
“From Sunday school days, I found myself being given leadership roles and that began the journey towards priesthood. I was a member of the church choir and every time we attended funerals, I would be the one conducting prayers or giving our encouragement, so people began to jokingly refer to me as ‘Abusa’ (Man of God)
Fr Chikoya began to make a positive shift towards his education and church and today he is a priest in the Anglican Church.
He is also the newly elected general secretary of the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), an ecumenical body presiding over 22 churches.
However, his life and education journey was not a smooth ride as his father, who was a fine sorter in the mining sector passed away while he was in grade 11 and so Emmanuel had to work extra hard during the weekends to raise money to further his studies.
His dream was to become an accountant but the limited financial muscle forced him to venture into other career opportunities.
Prior to his ordination to the diaconate in 2001 and priesthood in 2002, Father Chikoya worked for the National Airports Corporation (NAC) as a switch board operator.
However, Father Chikoya did not stay long at NAC as an opening emerged at the Zambia National Commercial Bank (ZANACO).
He had a fulfilling job and future at ZANACO, where he worked for eight years until he had a turnaround.
Fr Chikoya had just been promoted as a supervisor at the Bank and so when he broke the news to his superiors that he was quitting to pursue priesthood, they were puzzled.
This decision was also not well received by his relatives especially his wife, Enelesi Banda, as they thought he was running mad.
“In 1998, the church assigned certain priests to go in search of people who had some kind of calling and I was approached by deacon reverend Edward Ricks. I used to interpret a lot for visiting non Nyanja speaking persons, meaning I was closer to the pulpit. That is how I accepted as I could not keep dodging the calling.
“I resigned from the Bank and I remember people thinking I was out of my mind. They wondered how I would leave the bank and join priesthood. It meant surviving on a quarter of what I used to get and all the privileges were gone,” he recalls.
The journey into priesthood was not as easy as predicated but Fr Chikoya, with the support his wife and five children pulled through.
Fr Chikoya possesses a Master of Theology and was first posted to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross after his studies.
He was seconded to the Council of Churches in Zambia in 2004 where he served as the Ecumenical Chaplain until 2006.
During the same time, Fr Chikoya also served as University Chaplain at University of Zambia (UNZA) and provided pastoral care to CCZ staff.
Fr Chikoya also held the position of Diocesan Synod Secretary from 2007 to 2009.
He has also served as parish priest for Chawama and he is serving as parish priest for Livingstone West, Project director for Livingstone Anglican Children’s project and Archdeacon for the Southern Archdeaconry in the Diocese of Lusaka
He has served as the Vice Chairperson of the Hope for the Grieving Child Board that promotes holistic ministry to grieving children, among other positions.
Assuming the position as CCZ secretary general, Fr Chikoya’s desire is to be agent of change, a relevant and meaningful contributor to communities.
He wants to foster the legacy of the past secretary generals by enhancing the church in the area of unity as a priority.
Fr Chikoya wants the church to be united as it currently appears to be divided due to perceived competition.
He cites personal agendas, emperor building and ‘sheep stealing’ as some of vices dividing the church.
Fr Chikoya says his administration will also seek to capacitate member churches by ensuring theological training institutions are properly equipped and network.
This administration will also review the existing curriculum and endeavour to promote properly trained personnel to man churches.
Fr Chikoya says the council will also focus on areas of human dignity, justice, governance, transparency and accountability and gender equity among others.
Fr Chikoya says as a mouth piece of the Council, he will endeavour to speak the truth in a firm but fair manner.
“So we would rather hurt people with the truth than comfort them with lies,” he says.
His administration will also seek to make people understand that the church is not just about gathering but that it has a responsibility to speak and pray for the marginalized.
He cites prison ministry, human trafficking, sustainable development and prudent utilization of resources among other areas that should be enhanced.
It is also Fr Chikoya’s wish to have CCZ meet its own operations as an equal partner and not as a dependent.
“I come in humility but of course I know each person is unique and there will be a lot of comparisons but I respect and thank God for all the people I have served and the immediate past General Secretary Suzanne Matale did a commendable job. She is uniquely gifted and she will always be treasured and remembered for her contributions to bring the CCZ to where it is today.
“Our aims are to ensure the dream that has been there to have sustainable and high impact CCZ is made a reality,” he says.