I was sad to learn of the recent death of United Methodist missionary Tshala Mwengo—who represented the modern-day mission field and had a relationship with the Minnesota Conference. He worked for many years, along with Rev. Paul Webster (another one of our missionaries), at the Mujila Falls Agricultural Project in Zambia. The two were the project’s co-directors and best friends.
Tshala leaves behind a wife, two children, and a large extended African family. He was one of many General Board of Global Ministries missionaries supported by the Minnesota Annual Conference through the missionary covenant relationship program. Through that program, churches can partner with a missionary and provide financial, spiritual, and emotional support; the church and the missionary pray for one another and communicate regularly.
I never knew Tshala but learned about him through Paul. Tshala was 18 when he first went to work on the agricultural project. Paul and his late wife Roxanne raised money to put Tshala through a bachelor’s degree program in agriculture from our United Methodist-affiliated Africa University in Zimbabwe. Afterward, Tshala ran the project for four years while Paul and Roxanne took a leave of absence preceding her death. His special interests were poultry projects and the pine tree nursery plantation, although he was involved in every part of the agricultural project. He also was a gifted preacher who could inspire people to action.
At age 14, Tshala was moved by God to serve God. After he received his education, he stayed in Africa and worked as a rural economic development specialist, serving the needs of the poor and addressing the community’s social, economic, and health problems holistically. He helped empower participants through sustainable agriculture, education, and evangelism. The area around Mujila Falls went from having the highest infant mortality and lowest life expectancy to having healthy, well- nourished children and adults. More than 150 people gather for worship each Sunday.
Tshala could not have done what he did without our financial support. The same is true for all of our other missionaries. When we pay our apportionments, our “first-mile” giving, we are helping to fund missionaries and their projects around the world. Our “second mile” giving through the Advance and the covenant relationship program helps expand their ministries to reach more people.
Paul is going to be itinerating in Minnesota in August. Perhaps you want to meet him and learn more about his good friend, Tshala, and their ministry in Zambia. There are a couple of dozen others, too, that the Minnesota Annual Conference helps support. I’ve met several. There isn’t one I haven’t liked and appreciated. If you are interested in meeting with a missionary and/or would like to learn about how your church can form a covenant relationship, contact Rev. Paul Bosshardt, our conference secretary of global ministries, at (763) 767-5753 or email@example.com.
Lyndy Zabel is director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
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