In 1980, a retired Seventh-day Adventist Pastor, Pastor A Walubita, who lived in Jesmondine, a residential area in the proximity of the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Road Campus, mobilised Seventh-day Adventist believers in the area to form a fellowship group. Pastor Walubita, the Katongo Family (John and Jean) and Sister Martha Kamoto Phiri (now Mrs Shimba) and Brother Anthony Zimba (now Shimba) were among the small group of believers that formed the nucleus body of a Branch Sabbath School that began meeting at Munali Secondary School under the Mtendere SDA Church and with a membership of 40.
In 1983, several thefts occurred at the School. The School authorities consequently argued that the presence of the Adventist group had made it easier for thieves to enter the School grounds on the pretext of being worshippers. Soon after these problems began, the group was robbed of the church funds collected following worship on a Sabbath from the Treasurer’s home who lived at the School. These were clear signs that it was time to move.
At this time, the Branch had matured into a Company with a membership of 51. Owing to the growing number of University staff and students who were now members, it was deemed appropriate to consider relocating to the University’s Great East Road Campus. This was done in 1985 and the Company secured authority to meet in the New Education Lecture Theatre (NELT) of the University. In 1989, the Company was organised into a fully-fledged Church under the name “The University of Zambia SDA Church” with Elders John W Katongo (First Elder) and Alvert N Ng’andu serving as the inaugural elders of the new church with a membership of 85.
Complaints from members of staff in the School of Education of the University concerning the noise made by the Adventist children led to the School administration to demand that the Church should leave the NELT in 1991. Like a true nomad, the Church relocated to Lecture Theatre 1 (LT1) in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University and worshipped in that room from 1991 to 1996. In between the two lecture theatres, the Church faced inconvenience to the extent that on more than one occasion, Sabbath services were conducted either at certain members’ homes or on the lawns of the Goma Lakes in the Campus grounds.
Between 1993 ad 1995, two important developments took place. Firstly, the Church was, in 1993 and for the first time, subjected to payment of rentals for the use of rooms on the Campus for worship and other meetings. The payments were required to be made one (1) year in advance. Secondly, the Church was offered a plot by the Commissioner of Lands in the Mass Media area of Lusaka in 1995. However, squatters erected structures on the plot and efforts to demolish the buildings proved fruitless. In fact the Church holds title to this piece of land albeit it has failed to take possession of it. Attempts to secure another piece of land through the Lusaka City Council proved futile and were eventually abandoned. In 1996, Lecture Theatre 1 underwent renovations and the Church faced yet another eviction by the authorities.
Following this turn of events, the Church resolved to return to Munali Secondary School. This move was both ill-timed and short-lived as the Government of the Republic of Zambia issued a directive that school buildings were not to be used for worship anymore. The Church returned to the University in March 1997 but this time to the Uppermost Dining Hall for which payments continued for Sabbath worship and other meetings. The cost of this expenditure was K4.5 million* in 1999 alone.
Worship at the dining hall was not without challenge as the hall was usually rented out to other organizations and individuals for functions such as weddings and discos. Usually, there was a shortage of water and the ablution block was locked. The Church did not have storage facilities for equipment and benches and inevitably had to move the equipment and benches from the place of storage outside Campus to the hall every Sabbath thereby incurring additional expense. The nomadic nature of the Church had created an environment for some members of the Church to drop out leading to a loss in membership and revenue. Also, the constant threat of eviction always loomed large.
Over the years, the Church had continued to grow both in numbers and spiritually. This maturity was not lost on the Leadership at the Central Zambia Conference and in 1999, culminated in the Church becoming only the third congregation in Zambia to be assigned a full-time pastor. Pastor Rueben Muyunda was assigned to be the first University of Zambia Church Pastor following his graduation from Solusi University. Since then, the Church has been blessed with the ministry of Pastors Hamilton P. Mulendema, Joe Silishebo Lubasi, Edwin Shimunzhila, Daniel Chunga, Lubinda Ngenda, Goliath M. Naini and Tommy Susiku Namitondo, each adding their contribution to the spiritual growth and well-being of the Church. Some of the Pastors were at the University Church for very short periods, the shortest stay having been 35 days for Pastor Shimunzhila!
The allocation of a dedicated Pastor to the Church came with the challenge of where to accommodate the family. Accommodation made available by the Central Zambia Conference was too far away from the University while the Church desired the Pastor to live in the vicinity of the University in order to facilitate easy contact with the members, particularly the students. Therefore, in order to ensure that this was achieved, the Church opted to supplement the rental fees for the Pastor’s accommodation. This expenditure and the rentals for the worship and meeting venues cost the Church about K23.4 million between 1997 and 1999.
While experiencing physical and spiritual growth, the church simultaneously embarked on fund raising activities in anticipation of building a sanctuary to the honour and worship of God one day. Fund raising activities embarked upon included collections from the members individually, collections from various groupings in the Church such as Sabbath School classes, the Dorcas Society, Adventist Men’s Organisation and the Church Choir on designated Church Building promotions. Other projects included the buy-a-brick project and music audio tape sales by the Church Choir. These efforts did not raise significant amounts since the Church membership largely consisted of non-working members. In 1999, 60% of the members were students, 10% were pupils while 30% were working members.
The loss of the Mass Media plot did not discourage the Church in its search for a plot on which to build God’s house. In 1998, following sustained prayer, the Church was able to acquire another plot through outright purchase in a much better location of the City of Lusaka (Manda Hill area) and of larger dimensions than the one allocated by the Lusaka City Council in 1995. A member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lusaka, Sister Mutinta Shimaponda, sold the plot which is now home to the University SDA Church at K15 million. This was much lower than some offers she had received for the piece of land which was in effect two residential plots on Katima Mulilo Road behind the Mulungushi International Conference Centre. This acquisition completely exhausted the church building fund and the Church was now faced with the challenge of raising funds to construct a church building. Efforts to raise funds resumed in earnest to the extent that by May 1999, the Church had just over K10.5 million in its church building fund.
By June, 2000, the Church had a little over K30 million in the church building fund. Based on this and the continued threat of eviction from UNZA, the Church was in September 2000, pushed to resolve to move out of the University of Zambia grounds to its plot on Katima Mulilo Road. However, this posed a serious challenge as the Church had not started any construction work at the plot nor did it have sufficient money for this purpose. The Church resolved to step out in faith and decided, through God’s grace, to construct a temporary structure to move into.
The Church Building Committee was tasked to design a structure to house 500 worshippers which was to be constructed at minimum cost over a very short period of time to facilitate movement to the site before the onset of the rain season. The Committee sought the expertise of an Adventist Architect, Sister Kasonde Katengo of Lusaka Central Church, who designed a wooden temporary structure. The temporary structure, the guard’s house and the toilet block including all fittings were constructed at a cost of K36.2 million.
Construction work at the site started in Mid-September 2000. Members of the Church volunteered to carry out whatever work their skills could allow them to undertake while the more specialised works were left to skilled craftsmen. The works were supervised by Brother Charles Muwe Mungule, who committed himself to take time off work to supervise the construction. Through God’s provision, the temporary structure was completed in exactly 21 days! Praise be to God!
It was therefore a very tearfully joyous day on 7th October, 2000 when the University of Zambia SDA Church first worshipped at 25210 Katima Mulilo Road. Brother Charles Hamalambo led the Sabbath School, Brother Ben C Musonda was the Elder on Duty and Pastor H P Mulendema preached that Sabbath day. Of note was the fact that, Musa Shabeenzu became the first recently born baby to be brought to church for the first time that Sabbath. The slogan for the day was “There is no place like this place, anywhere near this place, so this must be the place!”
Following the “liberation” of the Church, fund raising activities took a new turn with a new sense of emergence. The first church building promotion at the Church’s new home took place on 4th November, 2000. Additional fund raising ideas included car boot sales and tee-shirt sales. This promotion was followed by the Ground Breaking Ceremony on 5th November, 2000. On this day, a symbolic march was organised from the University of Zambia to 25210 Katima Mulilo Road. Later that month, the Church resolved to change its name to the “University Seventh-day Adventist Church” and also launched its web site.
As the church building fund began to grow, albeit slowly, the Church resolved to prepare to begin construction of the permanent church building. In 2001, Sister Katengo was commissioned to design the permanent church building. The new building, an imposing structure finished in red pan bricks on the outside and generously endowed with cathedral glass and special purpose rooms, was intended to accommodate 1000 worshippers, seated comfortably. Upon completion of the design, which was estimated to cost USD167,400,000.00 (K753,3000,000.00 at the time), the decision was made to begin construction works. The work plan for 2001 was to complete the substructure, the access road and the footings. It was also resolved that the title deed should be obtained.
At about the same time, on 14th July, 2001, a watershed church building promotion to the theme “And the Wall was Finished in 52 Days” was held. The promotion was conducted by Breath of Truth and introduced a new concept in fund raising which involved all worshippers, from the day-old baby to the oldest, using envelopes. The congregation was categorised according to age groups and potential to earn income. Each category was assigned a minimum target and envelopes were numbered and issued to everyone (the receiver of the envelope was recorded). On the promotion day, the worshippers were invited to personally return their envelopes, with or without money for the record. Using this approach, the collections went up from an average maximum of K2.5 million per collection to K23 million on this day. From this day on, this became the most effective fund raising tool yielding not less than K30 million at each collection and culminating into a maximum collection of just over K150 million in one collection in December, 2007! Other successful new ideas included the appeal to willing worshippers to give not less than K1 million per month or to commit to give the equivalent of their annual salary over a given period. These approaches were by and large responsible for the handsome in-flow of funds for the construction works. Another major innovation over the years was the appeal to all former students of the University outside Lusaka and in the diaspora to contribute to the building fund. This approach also yielded significant success.
In 2002, construction works progressed in earnest leading to the construction of the strip footing and foundation wall by Mr Misheck Sakala and sinking of the footings by Velos Enterprises Ltd. In 2003, a model of the new church building was built and displayed at all worship services in order to share the vision with the membership. The year 2004 saw the casting of the slab (by Cornerstone Heritage Contactors), construction of the structural columns and completion of the roof. Following completion of the roof, the walls (by Lind Construction Ltd) were erected in 2005 and 2006. Early in 2006, the rest rooms were furnished and made available for use by worshippers. The ceiling (by Zaminliny) was fitted in the later part of 2006 and early in 2007. Glass was fitted (by Glassworld) and Tiling works (by Zaminliny) were also completed at this time.
Having reached this stage and given the growing number of worshippers who were unable to find sitting space in the temporary structure as the membership had by now reached more 1000 members with nearly 1200 worshippers at the peak, the decision was made to begin to use the new building for all worship services in the first quarter of 2007 despite the fact that there still were works to be undertaken. From then on, the Church continued to use the building while allowing the works that needed to be done by the contractors to continue. These works included installation of the staircase leading to the balcony, wiring, fitting of internal doors, parquet tiling on the balcony floor and installation of electrical fittings (all by Zaminliny). In August 2008, power was connected to the building. At this stage, more than K1 billion had been spent on this magnificent tribute to the worship and glory of God.
20th September, 2008 was another joyous day when at the end of the first ever music crusade to be conducted in the new church building, nine (9) individuals were baptised in the brand new baptistery which was being used for the first time ever. The event brought tears of joy to the eyes of the worshippers and brought the membership of the University SDA Church to 1053.
The months of July to November 2008 saw intensive planning for the Church Dedication Service scheduled for 30th November, 2008. In August 2008, an order for the church furniture was placed and processed and the furniture was shipped in October, 2008.