Barry and Ephraim Phiri's Work Throughout Zambia and Surrounding Areas
Arguably, Skillman’s busiest international mission fields is in Zambia with our support of Barry and Ephraim Phiri. Barry is now 71 years old and continues to transfer more and more of his legacy efforts to Ephraim. However, during the past couple of years, due to the Covid pandemic and Zambia national laws passed in 2019, new and growing demands have been placed on these two in-country missionaries. Skillman has been a steady supporter to Barry for 12 years, and for 6 years have been Ephraim’s only primary support. During these years Skillman has not increased its support to either of these two in-country missionaries above what was first budgeted.
Due to a food riot that was caused by a church (which unfortunately was a charismatic group, based out of the Philippines, and referred to itself as “The Church of Christ”) the national government passed laws that require certification — and continued education — of anybody holding themselves out as a preacher, minister, apostle, Iman, etc. Due to Barry’s 40 years of preaching and his previous efforts in working with the government prison ministries, he had set-up the required non-profit certified organization for the prison ministries.
This “prison” certification became the conduit to allow Barry to then provide the certification to in-country church of Christ preachers. Barry, with Ephraim’s, assistance now provides over 30 preachers with the needed training, consultation, and certification to allow evangelistic efforts to continue in Zambia. There are currently only three church of Christ organizations which offer certification in Zambia. Barry and Ephraim are now spending the bulk of their time to assist area preachers in compiling with the national law in the Zambia districts of Chipata, Chipangali, Kasenengwa, Katete, Sinda, Nyimba, Petauke, Lundazi and Lumezi. This is the only church of Christ certified organization located in those districts.
Skillman’s support to Barry has been used primarily to cover cost of fuel and maintenance of his transportation requirements. Skillman’s support still covers most but, not all, of these transportation costs. Barry and Ephraim appreciate Skillman’s support, and each would appreciate additional funds. However, each wishes their support to remain as is if the Skillman members can find the heart to support the following needs.
Ephraim’s initial support was based on assisting him in starting a new church and nursery school in Jeke village. Although Jeke Village’s church continues to grow (with 55 members and over 60 children), transportation to Jeke Village has become almost impassable and Ephraim now visits the village only once every other month. Jeke Village is, even in Zambia, the “poor of the poor”, with the village arising from survivors of a hospital for lepers which was in the near-by area until the early 1960’s. Survivors who had nowhere else to go founded Jeke village and today their off-spring are the inhabitants.
Ephraim, Jeke Village inhabits, and the church members make pleas for the continued support of the nursery school. The village supports the orphans within the nursery school by donation of food grown by the village, but the villagers do not have the means to supply others with the charity needed for school uniforms and needed teaching materials. To supply the needed seed, fertilizer and supplies for the orphans and noon food to the other students, to pay a tribute to the nursery schoolteacher, to provide uniforms and teaching materials, and some additional cost to the Ephraim for transportation of $4000 is prayed for as a special need to continue the support of Jeke Village.
To speed the certification of new preachers and ministers, Ephraim and Barry ask for support in developing a Chipata based in-person continued training and education program facility – to be located at the Chipata church. The concept of this training facility is that up to 20 preachers and ministers would travel to Chipata every 6 months to meet and receive required continued education credits for up to one week of training. The start-up of this effort for roundtrip transportation, lodging, feeding, facility improvement needs, and printing of materials is currently $18,000.
Finally with Ephraim’s inability to reach Jeke Village he has spent most of his other Sundays with travel to Petauke Village. Although Petauke Village is further than Jeke Village the road is mainly paved and only takes one additional hour to both get to and from Petauke. However due to fuel cost an additional $1000 is requested to defray this expense. Petauke Village has over 120 members but unfortunately has over 200 orphans living with family members (usually grandparents or uncles and aunts).
A plea to help the village raise the food for the orphans, to provide for school uniforms and teaching supplies, and again a tribute to the nursery school teachers, the village, members, preachers and ministers pray for an annual support of $7500. In addition to this annual support the village is in need of approximately $3500 for needed facility improvements to allow the facilities to meet the government’s minimum requirements for nursery school requirements (The nursery school already exists but is not recognized by the government and therefore is not supplied with government textbooks.) If Skillman members cannot support both (annual cost and facility improvements) the facility requirements is the first need.
Barry and Ephraim are both assisting each other and tending to their individual efforts and find these times energizing. Although they both are willing to forgo additional support the Missions Committee intends to increase Ephaim’s support as we view Ephraim as a needed successor to ensure Zambia evangelism continues for the next several years.
As just an item of interest Barry and Ephraim are members of the Chewa tribe which we mention noting that the Chewa tribal area encompasses the world’s largest, per capita concentration, of people calling themselves members of the church of Christ. Let us all say a special prayer of encouragement and thanksgiving for the Phiri’s the and members in Zambia, while we think of how we can do our part to support Ephraim, Barry, and the members in Zambia.