Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

December 9, 2012


Teaching the art of marriage in another culture is a challenge


      Our primary assignment in Zambia last month was to lead a marriage enrichment seminar. Our host, Bishop Alfred Kalembo, invited Dean and me to share major lessons learned from our sixty years of matrimony. No one there had ever seen a couple who had married that long. I realized we were the “odd couple” on display.

      Our audience for the first three days consisted of pastors and their spouses of the Pilgrim Wesleyan Church in Zambia. Bishop Kalembo is the respected leader of the denomination. He was born in a remote village and is the first Pilgrim Wesleyan pastor to earn a doctor of ministry degree. He received this degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY.

      The Pilgrim Wesleyan Church grew out of a mission project sponsored by the Pilgrim Holiness Church in the United States. The denomination has grown to more than 11,000 members with 212 churches and 53 pastors. Pastors are trained at Pilgrim Wesleyan Bible College in Jembo, Zambia.

The PWC operates one hospital and several primary and secondary schools in partnership with the government. Zambian schools freely teach the Bible. The religion of Zambia is 87% Christian. Adherents of Islam number barely two per cent. Though English is the official language of the nation many of the people are illiterate and speak Tonga, one of primary native languages. For that reason we had translators helping us several times.

      Dean and I were concerned that cultural differences would hinder our communication skills. And we became aware that some of our “stories” did, in fact, not make much sense to our Zambian friends. However we soon realized that the basic marital issues are common to people everywhere. So we focused on the basics and were led to believe that we communicated fairly well.

      My primary theme was “servant leadership.” Though the Bible teaches that the husband is the “spiritual leader,” this does not mean that the wife is in a subservient role or is inferior to her husband. I like the word “partner.” It is a good word for marriage.

Dean and I are partners “in the gospel,” serving Christ together, and we are also partners in marriage. Each of us has an important, God-given role. The key to providing effective leadership is to find ways to live as a servant. When I humbly serve Dean genuinely, and affirm and encourage her in the use of her gifts, then I am exercising real spiritual leadership. One excellent way to ruin a marriage is to assume that you are “the Boss” and when you say “jump” your wife should say “how high?” Wise are the husband and wife who choose to live as partners who have made Christ the Lord of their home and marriage.

While leading the marriage seminar Dean and I prayed a lot. It was deeply humbling to have them come and listen to our stories and we kept asking the Lord to help us get it right. We wanted the Lord to use what we said to strengthen the marriage partnership of those wonderful Zambian servants of Jesus. If our prayers were answered then many of our brothers and sisters in the Pilgrim Wesleyan Church will be blessed in days to come. + + +