Happenings, News

Missionaries aim to boost Asian-African church ties

The Rev Hazra at the I’Chimpi Congregation. — KKMC picture by LYNDON GAN.

Rev Ajit Hazra and wife due back from Zambia after 15 years of mission work there

A SINGAPOREAN missionary and his wife, who had been serving in Zambia for the last 15 years, are committed to nurturing an ongoing mission partnership between the Church in Asia and the Church in Africa.

The Rev Ajit Hazra, together with his wife Kim Hong, had served in Zambia since 1988 as missionaries sent from Kampong Kapor Methodist Church (KKMC). For the last five years, they had served as tutors at the United Church of Zambia Theological College (UCZTC), training men and women to become ministers in the United Church of Zambia (UCZ).

The Hazras embarked on their adventure in September 1988 when they returned from Bible studies at Regent College and were challenged to do student work in Zambia. Opting for a two-year term that eventually stretched to 15 years, the Rev Hazra became Acting General Secretary, and Kim Hong began serving as Training Secretary for the Zambian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (ZAFES).

After several years with ZAFES, they moved on to student ministry in the Southern African region, Kim Hong as Regional Training Secretary, while the Rev Hazra became Regional Secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students.

Their responsibilities covered a region that included Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa, while they started new work in Angola and Namibia. Their ministry – to challenge graduates to make a Christian difference in their society – resulted in a number becoming full-time pastors and missionaries.

After nine years of student ministry, the Hazras moved into the training of pastors to serve in the UCZ and across Southern Africa, where the acute shortage of pastors required many to oversee several churches and many thousands of members over a vast area.

In March 1999, they moved back to Zambia as tutors to the UCZTC. As the Dean of Studies, the Rev Hazra was instrumental in developing the Bachelor of Theology programme whose first batch of students will graduate this month (November 2003).

The Hazras also served as the ministers of two congregations at Itimpi and a daughter congregation at I’Chimpi. While giving his service, the Rev Hazra found himself licensed and ordained as a minister of the UCZ.

The Synod Bishop of the United Church of Zambia, Bishop Patrice Siyemeto, had this message for Methodists in Singapore:
“Allow me to say words of appreciation for our brothers and sisters from Singapore. We want to thank you on behalf of the UCZ and indeed on my own behalf for sending the Hazras not only to Zambia but also to the UCZ in particular.”

After 15 years in Zambia, the Hazras will to return to Singapore next year with plans to nurture an ongoing mission partnership between the Church in Asia and the Church in Africa, which share similar traditional philosophies about family life, social kinship and religion.

It is a vision shared by Bishop Siyemeto.

Lyndon Gan is a Lay Ministry Staff at Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.