Do I really want to go to Mongu?

As I write this we are enjoying the beautiful and much quieter town of Mongu. What are we doing in Mongu, you ask? We are on a vision trip to see the town for ourselves; to see if this is the place where God is calling us to come live and work longterm. We also wanted to see what the SIM team are currently doing here to see if we could envision ourselves in any of these ministries. (See Michael’s picture-rich travel journal)

To be honest when we first arrived in Mongu I wasn’t convinced that we need to come here. Although Michael seemed confident that this would be our future ministry location, it seemed like there was no place for me. I quickly discovered how wrong I was.

View overlooking the Barotse floodplains

Mongu is a hot and sandy town overlooking the floodplains of Barotseland. The people that live on the floodplains have adapted their lives to be nomadic and move where the floods drive them. The nomadic lifestyle and difficult unpredictable terrain makes it hard for people to live there. Consequently the plains have remained under-developed compared to the rest of Zambia but they are famous for their amazing rice.

Abandoned house in the water
Mongu rice
Mongu rice

Please don’t send me to Mongu…

As I said before, I was personally not convinced that this is where God wanted us to be. Of course I was attracted to the natural beauty of Mongu and my hearts strings were tugged by the plea for us to come work here from the other missionary but does God need us here? We had no intention to come to a place where local Zambians are doing good work and take over or interfere with what they are doing. Is this really where the Lord has called us?

The floodplains are calling

On Sunday we attended the Evangelical Church in Mongu. At church we met Alick Kalonga, the regional bishop of the ECZ (Evangelical Church of Zambia). He shared with us the needs of the rural churches on the plains. In fact, he is actually traveling this week on a long journey by canoe and oxcart to go and train rural pastors on the plains. He tries to do this once or twice a year if he is able. 

Meeting with Bishop Alick Kalonga

Monday morning we took a drive across the vast plains to see what we could see. This is when I started to feel something speak to my heart. (I think Michael must have been praying for me) On the plains people were living in very hard and difficult conditions. They also needed to hear and understand the Gospel. I realised that if we came to serve in Mongu, we weren’t coming to minister just to the people of Mongu. We were coming to minister to the people on the flood plains. I could definitely see that this could be where God wanted us to serve.

Michael and Renee walking on bridge at Zambezi River

Barotse Bible Campus

Tuesday morning we popped in at the Barotse Bible Campus in Mongu and met with the principal and pastors who are currently there being trained for ministry. This Bible school was started by SIM missionaries. At this school they use a module system where they teach one module over two weeks and then take a two week break so that the men can go work to take care of their families and pay their tuitions. Lecturers are sought from all over country and even internationally to come and help teach some of these modules. They only had one or two fulltime lecturers at the college. I could definitely see Michael thriving in this role.

Barotse Bible Campus students and faculty 2024

The Bible school also provides boarding for the students and their families who don’t live in Mongu. This enables the students from the rural plains to bring their families along while they study. When I saw the women and children of these pastors living there on the campus, I saw a ministry opportunity. I felt that God could use me to minister to these women (and maybe even children) on the campus.

The principal of the school also expressed their need for English language teaching for many of the rural students who were not able to keep up with their academics because of their lack of English. I could put my teaching skills and TEFL course to good use if we were to serve here.

BBC student accommodation

Mongu Youth Centre

We also had the opportunity to stop in at the Mongu Youth Centre to see the wonderful work being done there. This is another ministry started through SIM. The staff there also reiterated the ministry needs and opportunities that were available there. We are excited to see how God could use us in the future with the youth ministry that they are doing there. Both Michael and I had opportunity to speak to the youth and it was evident that learning the Lozi language would be very beneficial to our future ministry there.

Renee talking to youth at MYC

Why Mongu?

The town of Mongu is actually seen as the capitol of the western province of Zambia because many of the provincial and government offices are based in Mongu. It has quite a few tarred roads, fuel stations as well as a ShopRite supermarket and a Hungry Lion fast food place. These ‘advancements’ are what locals would use to identify whether it is a big and advanced town or not. So according to those measures, Mongu is an advanced town.

This is what makes Mongu ideal for future ministry to the people on the floodplains. It is central and situated close to the plains but has the ‘advancements’ necessary to make a good base for supplies and a stable home from which to do outreaches onto the plains. We met some other South African missionaries based there at Village of Hope and The Zambian Project in Mongu. They are using Mongu town as their base while working on Bible translations as well as planting and ministering to the rural churches in many villages on the floodplains of Barotseland. Our conversations with them were so encouraging and we look forward to a time that we could share in fellowship and ministry with them.

Get out of the water!

Although officially governed by the Zambian president, Barotseland also has a Litunga (king or prominent chief) who is recognised as their local government. The Litunga of Barotseland has two homes in the area. During the rainy season he moves from from his ‘summer’ home at Lealui in the flooded villages of the Barotse Floodplain, to his ‘winter’ home in Limulunga on the higher ground, until the flooded plains subside in June/July. Actually it is quite a cultural festivity when the king moves. People all over Zambia come for the Kuomboka festival. (Kuomboka means “get out of water”)

The Litunga’s boat used to move during Kuomboka festival

This reminds us that some seasons in life do require change. Sometimes even big changes. We have become comfortable in Lusaka but the seasons will change and it will require us to move. The winds are starting to blow and we can feel the call getting stronger for those rural parts of Zambia. But for now we have a job to do here in Lusaka and we pray that we will do it faithfully until the time comes for us to ‘get out of the water’.

1 thought on “Do I really want to go to Mongu?”

  1. We continue to pray for you both in our Sunday School and of course privately. I love you detailed honest blogs and in heart just lift you both up to the Lord asking Him to give you wisdom on what yo do for the future. One thing we know…whatever we do or decide if it’s right or wrong God will still be there with us. Keep up with a daily time with God, even when we don’t ‘feel’ like it and His love just surrounds us. Lots of lov to u both and to those around u

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