Act Five in Zambia
Alyssa Zilney ’19, Act Five resident staff member and Zambia trip leader, reflects on the work God is doing in Zambia and how it impacted the inaugural students of the Act Five gap year program.
6 min. read
March 10, 2020

I had the privilege of visiting Lundazi, Zambia with Act Five to spend one month living and serving alongside the education department at Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), a long-term partner of EduDeo Ministries. CCAP, in addition to being a healthy and growing church, lives out their mandate as followers of Christ by working for holistic community development across the country through education, clean water, health care, theological training, conservation agriculture and more.

During the visit, Act Five participated in classroom activities and helped build a new science lab at Hoya primary and secondary schools. Beyond this, there were opportunities to sing in local choirs, shop in the local market, visit CCAP health clinics, development offices and agriculture sites, and experience an absolutely remarkable Zambian Safari. A couple of the students even got to spend a night with a high school student and their family in a local village! These four weeks contained significant experiences that brought a new and widened understanding of God and his church.

“We arrived in Lundazi, awed by the red dirt and green mango trees and the rural villages that dotted the road.”

After three long days of travel we arrived in Lundazi, awed by the red dirt and green mango trees and the rural villages that dotted the road. As everyone settled in, we were struck by an overwhelming gratitude toward the communities that warmly welcomed us in and around the CCAP compound in Lundazi. The host team, Moffat, Nehemia and Collins, as well as Dorothy, Roida and Cristobel, were absolutely wonderful and did their very best to make us feel at home. Almost immediately, we noticed how the life of the church weaves through nearly every facet of daily living. People sing, dance, shout and laugh together. Churches are bursting at the seams and are often the wellspring of community life.

Settling into this new culture, we quickly experienced the discomfort of being asked to stand and give greetings (or dance!) in front of a room full of people, and the excitement of being gifted live animals as signs of welcome and thanksgiving. There were stretching moments, yet these moments were held within an overall experience of seeing God’s beauty around us and in each other. Time is a very different concept outside of the West, and so we were forced to slow down and be patient. We were invited to take deep breaths, and ask God each day, “How might I be present here?” The students began to throw themselves into where they were, building relationships through cooking with their hosts or playing soccer, and spending time exploring the town of Lundazi. Being disconnected from technology forced us to be face to face with one another to an extent that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. This led to reaching a beautifully deep level in our relationships as we sang, prayed and reflected together daily.

At Hoya, we shared a number of learning sessions with the teachers to exchange ideas and questions about culture, government, education and other issues facing our respective communities and countries. To further the cultural exchange, later in the trip the group hosted a Canadian night, making a meal for the many people who had so graciously hosted us during our visit. The students chose to embrace being immersed in another way of living—and life, in many ways, was deeply good.

Even in this goodness though, ideals began to break. Why did it feel like our days were fun, but unproductive? Is just “hanging out” worth the time and money that family and friends spent for us to be here? What were we even doing here? These became common questions. We were living. Just living. Was that enough?

These were some of the students’ reflections as they grappled with these questions:

“Poverty doesn’t mean we are up here while they are down there. It’s coming alongside while saying, ‘I’m broken too,’ that brings true transformation. It can happen in our own city just as easily as across the ocean.” Jamie Bouwman

“We were taught some of their dances, played some of their games, learned how to make our own skipping rope out of tree fibres and were shown how to cook their favourite food – which, in case you’re wondering, is incredible. Sharing meals is what Act Five is all about. We often say that the best experiences we have in the program are around the dinner table, and that’s the place where we feel most like family. So it’s cool to see that, despite a slight language barrier and very different food, the familial feeling carries to halfway around the world.” Arissa Vandeburgt

“We often say that the best experiences we have in the program are around the dinner table, and that’s the place where we feel most like family.”

Maybe this helps answer that question, “What are we doing here?” Perhaps our presence actually did matter. Perhaps the purpose of this trip was not to do something or to help someone, but rather to encourage one another as believers who are part of one big, messy, global church. Many students returned from this trip with a heightened sense of what it means to come alongside others, wherever we are. Believe it or not, living in Lundazi actually taught us how to love Hamilton. We returned to Canada carrying beautiful (and funny!) memories of new experiences and reflections on the Zambian church, schools, poverty, food and development.

This has been a small taste of what we experienced as a family on pilgrimage. In a very real way we are sad to have left, but feel confident that the Lord has shown himself to each of us in new ways through this experience. Over the next months, it will be encouraging to see our time in Zambia continuing to shape this program and the lives of each of these young people. May we continue to become citizens of a bigger story—followers of Jesus in our own place, whether it’s Blake Street, Ancaster, Lundazi or elsewhere, knowing that in each of our places, as we go deep into them, God is at work there. May the mission of Jesus Christ continue to be ushered in on earth as it is in heaven.

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