THE HISTORY……………The Namwianga Mission was started in
Northern Rhodesia (now called
Zambia) by Roy’s father, Dow Merritt, back in 1926.
The original plan was to accompany
(the future president of
Harding College) to
China, but the country’s new Communist regime quickly squelched the
idea as all missionaries were ordered to leave the country.
The Bensons subsequently traveled to the Philippine Islands, whereas
Africa to join others to the work in Rhodesia, Africa.
Originally, the area was three different farms, the first of which
Eureka. It was owned by the
Scott (missionary) family that had a private
English speaking school there that catered to mainly “white”
farmer kids and children of the missionaries. A primary school for
the native black children was built during the 30s which was one of
the first works established. Although apartheid
was primarily in the Republic of
and not in Rhodesia, the social awareness of the time was
to encourage black children not to go to school with the
whites. Since this was a sign of the times worldwide, the schools
were segregated. Thankfully in time, all of this would change.
The two other farms were owned by other missionary families, the
Browns and the Merritts, and were consolidated sometime during the
1940s and 1950s. The entire consolidation of property
was around 3000 acres.
Dr. Benson returned back in the 1960s and he and brother Merritt
raised enough money to build a high school.
Through their tireless efforts, Mr. Merritt and Dr. Benson kept the
school going by their encouragement and constant fund raising. The seed had been planted for greater things to come!
OF THE TORCH………………..Roy, who was the fifth of eight children, was
educated in Zambia and came to Harding in the mid 1960s for his
college education. While studying at Harding he became the
minister of the Balch /
Midway Church of Christ in northeastern Arkansas. I
have fond memories of him preaching at our congregation and eating
at our house many times. He and my dad,
Jerry Carlew, Sr., remain the best of friends. (I shall never forget
the time he came back to our congregation for a visit, after he had
returned from Zambia, wearing native clothing with a large head
dress. I was a teenager at the time and was quite surprised at
his appearance; but we all were impressed by his genuineness……that
was Roy Merritt. He wanted to show us what his world
really looked like and we definitely took notice of that.) He
returned home to Africa
to begin his work and married Kathi Ann Brown Kumalo.
THE WORK CONTINUES……………Roy returned to the Namwianga Mission
sometime in 1968 / 1969 to teach at the high school and has been
there ever since. He has continued the work of his father by
converting the original
private school building into an orphanage. It is called
Eric’s House which houses his family of three, plus five foster
children and thirteen others. He has since built two other
“baby” houses with a third currently under construction.
(Click here to view
construction progress of the baby house.)
A fourth baby house is planned for the future with the funding
coming from a couple from Searcy, Arkansas, whose aunt was the first wife
of Dow Merritt. The house will be named Alice’s House and
will more than likely be the last orphanage built. The
four houses will be able to take care of 100 or more infants.
It costs approximately $75.00 per month to fully support a child.
a hospital clinic has been built
and a radio station under construction is soon to be completed.
also a preacher’s college there (named after Dr. Benson) which has
trained many of the preachers working in other parts of the country.
One of those preachers is Jerry Sullins in Livingstone who is another
missionary work the Prescott congregation supports. Many of the churches and missions
have been started by young men who have come through the Preacher’s
as well as other professionals who have come
through the Namwianga
High School to be policemen, nurses, and etc. Although
a number of these
high school graduates are not specifically preachers, they
are trained in the Bible and influence as well as teach the
to people they come into contact with.
Zambia has been a huge
Christianity in Africa and these
Each summer, two groups of American doctors and dentists travel to
the area to help with the enormous medical needs of the people in
the hard to reach areas and teach the Bible. Children are
being taught, people are being baptized, and the
local churches are being strengthened. The newly
trained Zambians serve as helpers.
DESPAIR………………How chilling it was to receive a report last year that
featured names…….just names. The list of names went on and on
of children who were part of the orphanages at Namwianga. At
first glance, it appeared to be the new arrival of the infants at
the baby houses and I thought how wonderful it must be to be able to
accept and take care of so many orphaned children; and then teach
them about Christ and give them the hope of a new life. But
as the report came to a conclusion, I learned that this list was not
about new arrivals but a list of the infants who had passed away
with the AIDS virus. The stark reality is that one out
of three Zambians today is HIV positive, and that many of the
orphaned children have already lost their parents to this dreaded
disease. The struggle is long and difficult, but through
education and Christianity the battle can be won.
Prescott Church of Christ started supporting this work
in late 2006 and has now made the Namwianga Mission a permanently
funded work. Extra funds became available and we decided to
support brother Merritt because we knew it would be money well
spent. The decision was simple since we were happy to be a
part of the success of this missionary work.
THE HISTORY IS RICH, THE FUTURE IS BRIGHT, THE TIME IS NOW
By: J. C. for Georgia Estes (sister of Roy Merritt)