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Former Zambia Union Conference Office, 1972-2014.

Photo courtesy of Zambia Union Conference.

Zambia Union Conference (1972–2014)

By Harrington Simui Akombwa

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Harrington Simui Akombwa, D.Min. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan), currently serves as a vice president at the Southern African-Indian Ocean Division. Since 1980, Dr. Akombwa has served as a literature evangelist, assistant publishing director, district pastor, union publishing director, union executive secretary, field and union president. He is married to Monde Simate and they have five young-adult children.

First Published: May 2, 2022

Zambia Union Conference was a church administrative unit of the Seventh-day Adventist Church from 1972 to 2014.

Territory and Statistics

Zambia, formerly known as Northern Rhodesia, is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is located between latitudes 8° and 18° south and longitudes 22° and 34° east and covers a total area of 752,612 square kilometers. It is a country endowed with abundant natural resources including one of the Seven Wonders of the World--the Victoria Falls. The population of the country in 2021 stands at 18,920,651.1 The last recorded statistics of the Zambia Union Conference before the creation of two union conferences were as follows: Churches–2,401; membership–1,037,439; population–15,111,000.2 

Background to the Organization of the Union Mission

Around 1903, W. H. Anderson, Jacob Detcha, and several other Africans set out for Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) from Solusi Mission in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) to explore the possibilities of establishing a mission station.  They reached Monze after a challenging trip during which Anderson was even taken ill with dysentery. Anderson and his team were well received in Monze; and, on his making known what he desired—a place for a mission station, with good land and plenty of water—the chief furnished him a guide, who finally brought him to what he later described as the most beautiful site in all of Africa.3  The total area given to him by Chief Monze at that time was 5,346 acres at the present site of Rusangu. 

On July 1, 1905, Rusangu Mission started operating, and by September, a school was opened.4  The mission station was initially called Pemba Mission Station or the Barotse Mission, but between 1912 and 1913 the name was changed to Rusangu. From then on work started to extend to other areas in the Southern Province.

In 1917 another missionary by the name of Samuel M. Konigmacher and his wife Ruth Mason left Rusangu to open work in the Chitina area not far from Ndola District in Musofu.  Before building the first church in 1918 at the station, Konigmacher would gather the people under the trees and taught them how to sing and pray.  He also taught them how to read and write. Musofu has now grown to be a secondary school.

Another mission station that was established in the early years of Adventism in Zambia was Chimpempe Mission.5 This station is located in the northern part of Zambia known as Luapula Province. Work at this station began in September 1921, with the arrival of H. J. Hurlow and two African workers, Lawson Endaenda and Isaac Galwele. In this area other mission societies had already been established; thus, the local chief was opposed to the Adventist church’s establishing a station, as well. However, through his services as a nurse, Hurlow broke through the prejudice. Through medical contacts and public meetings held in villages, converts were won (among whom was James Muyeba, who in 1962 was appointed vice-president of the Northern Rhodesia Field and later became the first Black president of the Zambia Field in 1964). In 1923 a school was opened at the mission.  By 1926 a church had been organized with 27 members, and there were three Sabbath Schools and a one-day school in the area.  From 1926 to 1942, the area was organized as the North-Eastern Rhodesia Mission Field, with headquarters at Chimpempe Mission, administered by the Zambesi Union Committee, under the South-East African Union Mission (Malawi Union Conference). The territory of this mission field consisted of the north-eastern part of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) that lay east of longitude 31º (including Mwami Mission near Chipata).6 The administration of this territory continued under this arrangement until 1943 when it was dissolved and became part of the Northern Rhodesia Mission Field.7

Yet, another area opened by missionaries from Rusangu was Barotseland. This area is found in the south-western section of Zambia.  S. M. Konigmacher was the first Adventist missionary who began the work in the Katima-Mulilo-Sesheke area in 1921. Konigmacher and his wife, both of them nurses by profession but serving as teachers at Rusangu, left Rusangu in 1917 and headed for Livingstone. From there they went upstream the Zambezi River to German South-West Africa (now Namibia) and set up a station at Kalimbeza, opposite present day Sesheke town in Zambia. Konigmacher used Kalimbeza as a launching pad from which he set up work in Barotseland. From there he opened Silolo Mission School. In 1927 he traveled north to Lealui to ask the paramount chief for some land for a school in Kalabo district. His request was granted. On April 20, 1928, he and his team set from Livingstone for Liumba Hill where on June 2 they held their first Sabbath worship with 275 local people in attendance.8 He pioneered the opening of other schools in the region.9 

In 1944 W. P. Owen pioneered the work at Sitoti Station. In 1946 Barotseland Mission Field was organized into a field with headquarters situated in Mongu, the provincial capital for Barotseland (now Western Province). 10  Barotseland had two mission stations. The first one in the northern region was Liumba Hill Mission, and the one in the southern region was Sitoti Mission. There was also a four-grade out school, 11 organized churches, 33 companies, and a number of branch Sabbath Schools. Barotseland Mission Field was made to be part of Northern Rhodesia Mission Field in 1958. 

Factors that Led to the Organization of the Union Mission

During two periods, two sectors of Zambia functioned as separate fields as indicated above: the area surrounding Chimpempe Mission and the rest of the north-eastern part of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) that lay east of longitude 31º (including Mwami Mission near Chipata) known as North-East Rhodesia Mission Field (1926–1942) and Barotseland Mission Field, which comprises the modern Western Province of Zambia (1946–1958).

The third territory existing between the two mentioned above was known as Northern Rhodesia Mission Field, which was formerly part of Zambesi Union, Southern Rhodesia.11  It was set up in 1921 with J. V. Wilson as the first president.12 The headquarters was in Lusaka under the Zambesi Union. The two fields, i.e., North-East Rhodesia Mission with headquarters at Chimpempe and Barotseland Mission with headquarters in Mongu were operating separately until they became part of the Northern Rhodesia Field in 1943 and 1958 respectively. In November 1945 the new Northern Rhodesia Mission Field headquarters were being erected at Chisekesi siding a few kilometers from Rusangu Mission.13 In 1946 the headquarters office relocated to Chisekesi siding where they were to remain until 1972.

During the division council meetings held in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia, from April 28 to May 6, 1947, Elder A. W. Austen, superintendent of the Northern Rhodesia Mission Field reported that there were 3,816 baptized members in the field, 2,111 baptismal class members and 2,490 Hearers’ class members. The tithe collected from the African membership in 1946 was about one thousand pounds, and 600 baptisms had been conducted during the previous camp-meeting season.14

In 1964, when Northern Rhodesia was granted independence from Britain to become the Republic of Zambia, Northern Rhodesia Mission Field became Zambia Field under the leadership of Pastor James Muyeba, who had been serving as vice-president since his appointment at the end of 1961.15 This period saw a concerted training and advancing of African workers into departmental and executive responsibilities.

In 1971 the Zambesi Union Executive Committee met on June 9 at Bulawayo and “[v]oted to appoint a sub-committee to enquire into the desirability of Zambia Field being divided into Fields.

Official Organization of the Union Mission

Through the vote of the Trans-Africa Division Executive Committee that met in Blantyre, Malawi, on May 23, 1972, a new union was formed comprising the country of Zambia. The new union had 140 churches with over 22,000 believers and more than fifty thousand Sabbath School members in 568 Sabbath Schools.16 The new union was to begin its operations from June 1 from the office at Chisekesi until the new office building was completed in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. Thus, on June 1, 1972, Zambia Field was organized to become a separate union of the Trans-Africa Division.17  Its headquarters was set in Lusaka, which was a more central location. Then the new Zambia Union Mission recorded its vote of thanks to the Zambesi Union Mission for the support given to Zambia during the past years (1916--1972) and for the fair distribution of funds that would enable the new union to get started on a good note.18  Pastor Albert Bristow was the first president of the Zambia Union from 1972--1978. W. M. Webster was the secretary-treasurer,19 and S. Shapa was the administrative secretary.

At organization time Cornelius Matandiko states Zambia Union Mission’s total membership stood at 24,101 with three Mission Fields; namely, South Zambia Field (13,286), North Zambia Field (9,584), and West Zambia Field (1,231).20  The North Zambia Field had its headquarters in Mansa in the Luapula province, and its territory was comprised of the Copperbelt, Luapula, and the Northern provinces. The South Zambia Field had its headquarters at Rusangu Mission, in Monze, and its territory was comprised of the Southern, Central, and Eastern provinces.  West Zambia Field was attached to the Zambia Union Mission in Lusaka because of its largely rural location and small membership and was comprised of the Western and North-Western provinces.

With rapid growth in evangelism came the need to reorganize the union in order to enhance membership growth.  As a result, East Zambia Field was organized in 1986, making it the fourth field. Two years later, in 1988, the Zambia Union realigned its territory into six mission fields from the initial three. These fields were; Central Zambia Field, comprising Lusaka and Central Zambia provinces, with its headquarters in Kabwe; Copperbelt Field, comprising the entire Copperbelt and parts of Central Province with its headquarters in Ndola (the North-Western Provinces was later in 1996 detached from West Zambia Field and attached to Copperbelt Field); East Zambia Field,  comprising the entire Eastern Province, with headquarters in Chipata; North Zambia Field, to administer the current Northern, Muchinga, and Luapula provinces with headquarters in Mansa; South Zambia Field administering the entire Southern Province with headquarters in Monze; and finally, West Zambia Field, with its headquarters in Mongu overseeing the entire Western Province. At the time of realignment in 1988, Zambia Union membership had increased to 81,190 members worshiping in 478 churches.21  This proved that having smaller entities had increased the opportunity for growth. 

Organization of the Zambia Union Conference

The preparations toward the attainment of union conference status in Zambia may be traced back to the reorganization of the Zambia union territory into six fields in 1988. This led to so much growth in membership. The growth of membership was largely due to public evangelistic campaigns that were conducted annually. Church members, especially those who belong to the Dorcas Society and the Adventist Men’s Organization (AMO), actively engage in soul winning activities that were held annually.

The Dorcas Society is a subsidiary of the Personal Ministries Department. Its mission is to represent God through outstretched hands that provide care to the homeless, orphans, widows, and the vulnerable in the community, while sending God’s message of love to them. The society has set parameters within which its members work in reaching out to the communities and attend to the needy within and outside the church, which enhances their opportunities to preach the gospel. Through activities such as hospital visitations, prison and assistance to the vulnerable, Dorcas workers attract people to join the church. When the Dorcas workers go out for retreats and camps, they also organize community-service activities that attract more people to attend their meetings, leading them to accept Christ as their personal Savior.

AMO is another subsidiary of the Personal Ministries Department. Its mission is to preach the three angels’ message of Revelation 14:6-11 in fulfillment of the gospel commission of Matthew 28:18-20 and to passionately do community-service activities in collaboration with other church departments and societies. The organization has also been conducting its evangelistic activities through attending to the needy, providing spiritual and material support to the vulnerable in hospitals, prisons, and communities.

Another aspect that has contributed to the growth of the church in Zambia is literature evangelism. The impact of the ever growing literature ministry cannot be denied. Literature Evangelists and their leaders conduct Bible studies in homes and churches. The Literature Evangelists also enroll people in Voice of Prophecy lessons after which some get baptized. Souls have been added to the church daily, so to say. It has been observed that most of those who have the inclination to attend evangelistic campaigns are mostly those who have first read the Adventist Church’s publications.

The mission work in the Zambia Union Mission was also carried out through its many subsidiary organizations, such as conferences and fields, the publishing house, several hospitals and clinics, schools, and the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA). The ever increasing membership growth eventually led the leadership to entertain thoughts of becoming a conference.

Ten years after the reorganization of the territory in six fields in 1988, on June 2, 1998, during the union’s mid-year committee meeting, the executive committee “voted to encourage ZBU and fields to work toward self-reliance and conference status.”22 Central Zambia Field had already been granted conference status in 1994. It was however noted that many lower entities were owing trust funds to the union and an enquiry was made.  In order to adequately arrest the financial crisis, Zambia Union in its mid-year Executive Committee seating formed a subcommittee dubbed “ZBU Restructuring Subcommittee.” The terms of reference for the subcommittee was to study the merging of Fields in order to conserve funds, consolidate and improve the operational levels of the fields and expand the evangelistic thrusts therein.    

On November 24, 1999, the Zambia Union Executive Committee voted to record the Restructuring Subcommittee’s report and recommendations that included formation of two fields; i.e., South Zambia Field with its headquarters in Lusaka and North Zambia Field with its headquarters in Ndola.23

This recommendation was reached at in order to reduce administrative costs, reduce salary disparities among organizations, provide decent accommodation to church employees, and transportation to pastors. Despite this challenge, Zambia Union Mission was eager to grow in terms of its territory and operations.   However, this proposal did not come to fruition. The union’s alternative approach was to develop and implement a union-wide uniform wage factor. This was realized after each entity agreed to contribute a portion to the central salary account in line with its financial capacity to enable the implementation of a uniform wage factor throughout the entire union territory. Following this, South Zambia Field applied for conference status.  South Zambia Field qualified for local conference status and was organized in December 2003.

Zambia Union Mission applied to the Division Executive Committee for the granting of union conference status and also established the conference status sub-committee to look into various data needed for the Eastern Africa Division (EAD) to study the eligibility for union conference status. After submitting the required data to the division, the union’s application for organization into a union conference was approved, and the General Conference appointed a commission to visit Zambia from January 26 to 29, 2004, to evaluate the standing.  The report of the commission recommending approval of conference status for the Zambia Union Mission was voted by the General Conference spring meeting in April 2004.  The Zambia Union Mission adopted that action and also voted the action with dates to formally organize the union into a conference. The organizing session of the Zambia Union Conference was held from August 11 to 13, 2004, under the theme “Organised to the Glory of God.”  Zambia was the fourth union mission to attain conference status on the African continent (after Ghana Union, Southern Africa Union, and Zimbabwe Union Conferences). Pastor Passmore Hachalinga was the last president of the Zambia Union Mission, having served from 1998 to 2004 and was therefore the one who steered the union mission to its organization as a union conference in 2004.

At organization, Zambia Union Conference had a total membership of 455,209 in 1,470 churches and 3,322 companies.24 The late Dr. Cornelius Mulenga Matandiko (perhaps the best evangelist ever produced by the church in Zambia) was elected the first president of the Zambia Union Conference. He served until April 2008 when he met his untimely death.  At the mid-year executive committee meetings in June 2008, Dr. Harrington Simui Akombwa was appointed president of the Zambia Union Conference.

Membership continued to grow in conferences and fields, resulting in Copperbelt Field’s attainment of conference status and organization as a conference in 2011.  Central Zambia Conference was realigned into two conferences in 2012; namely, Central Zambia Conference, which maintained Kabwe as its headquarters, and Lusaka Conference, with the headquarters in Lusaka.

On April 25, 2015, the Zambia Union Conference celebrated the attainment of 1,000,000 members.  The colorful ceremony was held at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.  The Republican president, His Excellency Edgar Chagwa Lungu, was the guest of honor. Other government dignitaries and church leaders also attended this grand celebration.  The SID president, then Dr. Paul Ratsara, and other senior division leaders attended the celebration. This historic occasion was also attended by many local church members from across the country.

Realignment and Creation of Two Union Conferences

Dr. Akombwa’s administration led the Zambia Union Conference to its realignment and creation of two union conferences; namely, Southern Zambia Union Conference with a membership of 547,70125 and Northern Zambia Union Conference with a membership of 489,73826 in September 2015.  At the realignment session, Dr. Akombwa was appointed president of the new Southern Zambia Union Conference (overseeing the southern part of Zambia with three conferences, two mission fields, and other institutions). Pastor Samuel Sinyangwe was elected president of the newly organized Northern Zambia Union Conference. This entity is in charge of the work in the territory north of Zambia from the Great East Road in Lusaka. It has five conferences and one field. The birth of the two union conferences therefore marked the end of the Zambia Union Conference.

Institutions

The following are the institutions that were operated by the Zambia Union Conference according to their categories (other institutions are reported under their respective supervising church administrative units): 

Medical Institutions: Lusaka Adventist Clinic, Lusaka Adventist Eye Hospital, Lusaka Adventist Dental Hospital, Yuka Adventist Hospital, Mwami Adventist Hospital

Educational Institutions: Rusangu University

Adventist Development and Relief Agency: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Zambia

Publishing/Media Institutions: Zambia Adventist Press (ZAP), Radio Maranatha, Hope Channel–Zambia (formerly known as Voice of Prophecy), Adventist Book Centre/Home Health and Educational Services

List of Zambia Union Officers

List of Presidents: Albert Bristow (1972-1978); Henri E. Marais (1978 to 1979); Kenneth E. Thomas (1979-1985); Dennis Lassew Raelly (1985-1990); Loston Hans Makeleta (1990-1994); Pardon Kandanga Mwansa (1994 to 1995); Webby Matakala Mukoma (1995-1998); Passmore Hachalinga (1998-2004); Cornelius Mulenga Matandiko (2004-2008); Harrington Simui Akombwa (2008-2014)

List of Administrative Secretary/Executive Secretaries: S. Shapa (administrative secretary) (1972-1980); Executive Secretaries: D. Lufungulo (1980-1986); L. H. Makeleta (1987-1990); F. V. Chimoga (1990-1995); W. M. Mukoma; P. Hachalinga (1996-1998); H. S. Akombwa (2000-2008); B. Ndatoya (2008-2014)

List of Secretary-Treasurers/Treasurers: W. M. Webster (1972-1975); D. Brenneman (1976 to 1977); A. E. Harms (1978-1982); A. D. Lopes (1983-1985); N. Joel (1986 Assistant); ____ (1987); I. Cargill (1988-1990); B. D. Mwanahiba (1993-1995); G. Nthani (1996-2000); R. P. Musonda (2001-2008); George B. Siamuzoka (2009-2011); Robert Himaambo (2012-2014)

Sources

Anderson, W. H. “Word from Barotseland [Rusangu].” The South African Missionary, November 1905.

Biggs, Lloyd E. “After Sixteen Years.” The African Division Outlook, January 15, 1924.

Editorial, “Around the Zambesi.” Trans-Africa Division Outlook, July 15, 1972.

Editorial “The Division Council.” The South African Division Outlook, June 1, 1947.

Heald, B. M. “A New Mission.” ARH, October 18, 1928.

Heald, B. M. “Northern Rhodesia Mission Field.” The African Division Outlook, April 1, 1928.

Hills, Desmond B. “Division Committee Members Delayed by Hijackers.” Trans-Africa Division Outlook, July 15, 1972.

Zambia Population Growth Rate (1950-2022). Macrotrends.com

Hurlow, H. J. [Letter]. The African Division Outlook, July 15, 1922.

Matandiko, Cornelius M. Seventh-day Adventism in Zambia. Lusaka, Zambia: Zambia Adventist Press, 2003).

Reid, F. G. “Report of the Zambesi Union.” The Southern African Division Outlook, February 15, 1963.

Spaulding, Author W. Origins and History of Seventh-day Adventists. Vol. 4. Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962.

Staples, A. W. “A Visit to the East African Union.” The South African Division Outlook, November 5, 1945.

Thompson, Ronald C. L. “A History of the Growth and Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southern Africa, 1920-1960.” Ph.D. Diss., Rhodes University, 1977.

Zambia Field of Seventh-day Adventists (Chisekesi, Zambia), Minutes of the Zambia Field Executive Committee meeting held on July 5, 1972. Available in the Southern Zambia Union Conference Archives, Lusaka, Zambia, Africa.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, various years. https://www.adventistyearbook.org/.

Notes

  1. Zambia Population Growth Rate (1950-2022). Macrotrends.com.

  2. “Zambia Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2015), 348.

  3. Arthur W. Spaulding, Origins and History of Seventh-day Adventists. Vol. 4 (Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1962), 17.

  4. W. H. Anderson, “Word from Barotseland [Rusangu],” The South African Missionary, November 1905, 3-5.

  5. H. J. Hurlow, [Letter], The African Division Outlook, July 15, 1922, 5-6.

  6. Ronald C. L. Thompson, “A History of the Growth and Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Southern Africa, 1920-1960” (Ph.D. Diss., Rhodes University, 1977), 59.

  7. Cornelius M. Matandiko, Seventh-day Adventism in Zambia (Lusaka, Zambia: Zambia Adventist Press, 2003), 119.

  8. B. M. Heald, “A New Mission,” ARH, October 18, 1928, 8.

  9. B. M. Heald, “Northern Rhodesia Mission Field,” The African Division Outlook, April 1, 1928, 6.

  10. Matandiko, Seventh-day Adventism in Zambia, 119.

  11. Editorial, “Around the Zambesi”, Trans-Africa Division Outlook, July 15, 1972, 6.

  12. Lloyd E. Biggs, “After Sixteen Years,” The African Division Outlook, January 15, 1924, 8.

  13. A. W. Staples, “A Visit to the East African Union. The South African Division Outlook, November 5, 1945, 2.

  14. Editorial “The Division Council,” The South African Division Outlook, June 1, 1947, 9.

  15. F. G. Reid, “Report of the Zambesi Union,” The Southern African Division Outlook, February 15, 1963, 15.

  16. Desmond B. Hills, “Division Committee Members Delayed by Hijackers,” Trans-Africa Division Outlook, July 15, 1972, 1.

  17. Editorial, “Around the Zambesi,” 6.

  18. Zambia Field of Seventh-day Adventists (Chisekesi, Zambia), Minutes of the Zambia Field Executive Committee meeting held on July 5, 1972 (available in the Southern Zambia Union Conference Archives, Lusaka, Zambia, Africa).

  19. Matandiko, Seventh-day Adventism in Zambia, 152.

  20. Ibid., 153.

  21. “Zambia Union Mission,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1988), 76.

  22. Zambia Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists (Lusaka, Zambia), Meeting of the Zambia Union Mission Executive Committee held on June 2, 1998.

  23. Zambia Union Mission of Seventh-day Adventists (Lusaka, Zambia), Meeting of the Zambia Union Mission Executive Committee meeting of November 24, 1999.

  24. “Zambia Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2005), 314.

  25. “Southern Zambia Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016), 370

  26. “Northern Zambia Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (2016), 363.

×

Akombwa, Harrington Simui. "Zambia Union Conference (1972–2014)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 02, 2022. Accessed February 03, 2023. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JHB.

Akombwa, Harrington Simui. "Zambia Union Conference (1972–2014)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. May 02, 2022. Date of access February 03, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JHB.

Akombwa, Harrington Simui (2022, May 02). Zambia Union Conference (1972–2014). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved February 03, 2023, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JHB.