by Wathabu Simfukwe
Wathabu serves as the Principal of Samfya Bible School.
What started in 1930 as a Bible study at the home of Horace Coleman, a Scottish mission worker, grew into what is Samfya Bible School today. Initially, when the school opened in 1960, it only offered a one-year discipleship course, preparing graduates to be useful church workers in their rural villages and to influence the people under their leadership with sound biblical teaching. Over the last decade, due to increased demand and need, the school has grown in terms of enrolment of students and programmes offered.
The vision of Samfya Bible School (SBS) is to equip men and women for Christian ministry with the local church in rural Bemba-speaking areas of Zambia and southern Congo (DRC). We take a threefold approach to teaching, providing students with a biblical foundation, experience in Christian ministry and equipping them with life skills. We seek
to raise and develop qualified and credible church leaders who will meet the challenge of providing effective leadership to God’s people in a way that is relevant to the current needs of society. To meet this aim, the school has designed programmes and courses that are accessible and relevant to the local people. We have introduced youth and church-based discipleship programmes, Bible studies, literacy classes for students’ wives, practical agricultural courses and health information. We thank God for changed lives.
After a Friday chapel, one of the students approached the preacher to say that the message on Jeremiah was relevant to him. The student’s name is Gift Mwelwa. Like Jeremiah, Gift felt inadequate for God’s work, as he was born with a hearing and speech impairment. However, this challenge did not stop him from coming to the course as a first-year student. Gift surprised many people by proving himself not only able, but an above-average student. He is always joyful and mingles with everyone. At home, 90km away in Miponda, he is involved in evangelism, preaching and teaching, and serves as a deacon. In order to help support Gift through the course, his family remain at home and work in their fields. Gift has a heart to learn more of God’s Word and make a meaningful impact in Miponda.
Discipleship Extension Programme
The church-based Discipleship Extension Programme was introduced to fulfil our mandate to ‘equip men and women for rural ministry’. Based on the book Knowing and Doing by John McQuoid, which has been translated into Bemba, the ten-month course seeks to:
- train local church members to effectively disciple new believers in their church
- encourage students and graduates to work together, to unify and strengthen the church
- identify those who may be suitable candidates for on-campus biblical training.
In 2014, we ran our first programme in Mwewa, 80km east of Samfya. Since then training has taken place in more than 18 locations. At each site they share their own unique experiences and inspiring stories.
Bible and literacy classes help to develop their knowledge and understanding of Scripture
Building Biblical Marriages
In November 2017, a discipleship class was introduced in Kalundu with 36 participants. We observed a negative attitude among some of the men towards the women, which was contributing to dysfunctional family relationships in the community, even within the church. The participants agreed to couples’ classes, focusing on rebuilding a relationship based on biblical principles and understanding the roles that both parties play in the family structure. The results of these classes were excellent and led to more women getting involved in the discipleship training.
Kapenta, aged 53, thanked God for this opportunity and testified to how his family has been transformed by the couples’ training. Kapenta lost his sight three months before graduation and he related how it has been easier to cope with his blindness now that he and his wife have a stronger relationship.
A young woman named Memory was deceived into marrying a man in 2007, unaware that he was already married until after they were man and wife. Now a 28-year-old mother of three, Memory said that her husband was a caring and loving man, who provided well for the family. However, after undergoing discipleship training, Memory made the hardest decision of her life, to leave her polygamous marriage, based purely on the understanding of what a Christian marriage designed by God ought to be. Memory decided to go back to school and finish her secondary education. She is currently in the 10th Grade and hopes to go on to college. She says, ‘It’s not easy as I am the oldest in class. I am the village laughing stock, [so] I had to leave and settle closer to the school.’ Pray for Memory as she seeks to obey the Lord and take on these challenges.
Skills Development for Women
The school works to empower rural Christian women with the skills and knowledge to help support their family and gospel work. The Students’ Wives Programme offers classes in cooking, knitting, tailoring and other practical skills. For the first time since introducing the Bible and literacy programme, God has sent us women who are already able to read Bemba. However, many still need help with fluency and reading comprehension in order to read and learn from the Bible themselves. Bible and literacy classes help to develop their knowledge and understanding of Scripture. Some mothers bring their little ones to the class and one of the students’ daughters, Loveness, attends the class before going to school to keep the children occupied while their mothers learn. We are thankful for these women who are eager to learn as much as possible.
Youth Leaders’ Training
Samfya Bible School has recruited young people and started the Youth Leaders’ Training Course to help run church youth groups. In addition to a variety of other community development projects, we run a Matrons and Patrons Programme to help mentor young people and guide them to make wise life decisions and grow spiritually. We thank God that through this training, churches are becoming more open to the value of this work and have shown a desire to develop their young people. Pray for the youth programme to effectively help those working with children.
‘I attended Samfya Bible School (SBS) in 2013 and was awarded a certificate in Biblical Studies. Based on the solid foundation from SBS, I went further to complete my bachelor’s degree in Theology at an evangelical university. Throughout my studies, SBS has been supportive and has provided the opportunity for me to teach as part of my practical learning. Now the time has come for me to work with SBS and be a blessing to the ministry. I want to acknowledge that my success has come because of God working through SBS’s ministry.’
Faithful to His Word
The Bible is a mighty weapon in God’s hands. The world will do everything to stop the work of sanctification. We cannot begin to imagine what the final harvest will be. What we do know is that God remains faithful to His Word, using it for His glorious purposes.
The Bible is a mighty weapon in God’s hands
- for the Lord to send the right students to participate in the training
- for the students as they learn and serve in their own communities
- for Patrons and Matrons and for the Youth Leaders’ Training Courses
- for the staff as they work to meet increased demand and teach and disciple the students
- for the gospel to have a wider impact in Zambia through the staff and students.