In Zambia, volunteers start rebuilding a destroyed church

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After a tragic start to the new year, the Seventh-day Adventist Community of Bethsaida in Zambia closes out 2022 with new hope and new possibilities as Maranatha volunteers build a new church to replace the one that was lost.

In January, a severe storm passed through the town of Kasama in northeastern Zambia. The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bethsaida had just finished its worship and lunch as dark clouds gathered over our heads. People scattered, eager to get home before the flood, but some were forced to take refuge inside the church building. Unfortunately, the downpour weakened the already failing structure and the whole church collapsed, crushing the members inside. Five people died and many others were injured.

Adventist Church leadership in Zambia has reached out to Maranatha, asking for help in rebuilding the church, “as [the nearly 500] members have nowhere to worship and it is the rainy season,” said Samuel Sinyangwe, president of the Adventist Church in Northern Zambia. In June, Maranatha launched a US$600,000 fundraising effort to build a large church complex that will include 500 seats, six Sabbath School classrooms, bathrooms and a well. More than 900 people donated to the effort, enabling Maranatha to reach the goal.

In November, 19 volunteers traveled to Zambia to begin construction in Bethsaida. After a grueling 15-hour bus ride that lasted two days, the team arrived on site and swung into action. Halfway through the project, they had already completed the block walls of two classrooms and started work on another set of rooms and the church itself.

On Saturday (Sabbath), the volunteers worshiped with the Bethsaida congregation at a nearby school. After the service, they met members who had been hurt by the collapse of the church.

“It was an absolutely incredible, meaningful, heartbreaking and empowering experience for everyone,” said Susan Woods, Maranatha Medical Services Coordinator and Project Coordinator. “In some homes we were invited inside to sit on their best little benches or chairs. At other times, we sat on canvases or sacks of cornmeal spread out on the ground next to the house.

“We had the opportunity to visit each one, hear from them, meet their families, share comforting Bible promises, sing…and pray for them. We ended the tours with hugs, handshakes and big smiles – and all of our hearts warmed for tasting a little taste of heaven.

When completed, the structures will not only serve the congregation, but will also have an elementary school. There is an Adventist school in the area, but it has 1,200 students who meet in three shifts each day. The Bethsaida campus will contribute to overcrowding by providing a second school in the area.

The original version of this story was published by Maranatha Volunteers International.

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