Article | Missions magazine

Born from a Prayer

Mar 18, 2024

By Dr. Patrick & Sherry Coleman

Upon uniting our families and ministries in 1997, Sherry and I established the Christian Resource Center (CRC) in downtown Luanshya, Zambia. We prayed the prayer of Jabez together as a family to determine the direction in which we believed the Lord would take us: “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” (1 Chronicles 4:9–10)

One of our goals in this joint ministry is to equip local believers for service in the Lord’s work, as 2 Timothy 2:2 instructs us: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Zambian church leaders have told us repeatedly of their frustration over not having the skills and tools to train young believers, encourage them, and prepare them for a life of service in their daily activities.

Comprising what we call the Reading Room, Counseling Center, and Youth Center, as well as a seminar room, the CRC has become a vital resource to a diverse clientele, spanning believers, sincere seekers, and casual inquirers. Our passion for reading, study, and personal application underscores the CRC’s role as a hub for church activities, counseling, discipleship, and youth ministry. Emphasizing that books are tools for serving the Lord, we aim to make these resources accessible to those who might otherwise lack the means. The CRC not only provides a space for learning but also hosts discipleship courses, community Bible studies, marriage seminars, Sunday school teacher education, and Child Evangelism Fellowship programs.

From teeming bookshelves to audible offerings
Books are our primary tool. Our extensive library of more than 4,000 books covers various genres, including Christian fiction, children’s books, and Bible commentaries. Many of the books we have acquired over the years are unavailable locally or are too expensive for national believers to purchase. With the help of Everyday Publications, not only does the CRC have books for believers to read and understand, but we have helped Christian leaders create personal libraries at home so they can have the tools required to study, learn, and disciple new believers.

Additionally, we offer Christian films, training videos, and sermons, enhancing the breadth of resources available at the CRC. In partnership with Growing Christians Ministries, we received recordings of “Talks for Growing Christians,” a radio program covering the entire Bible with Dr. David Reid (author, radio presenter, and professor at Emmaus Bible College who went home to be with the Lord in 2012). These contributions expanded our audible offerings and have reached into the local Christian radio station.

A listening ear and prayerful support
For more than 25 years, the CRC has served as a haven for church leaders, youth leaders, theology students, and the broader community. Despite inquiries about relocating to larger cities, we remain committed to Luanshya, where we have been called to minister for God’s kingdom. The CRC’s accessibility, visibility (it is literally in the center of town), and unique addition of Sherry’s therapy dog, Bear, make it a welcoming space for biblical learning, spiritual development, and counsel.

Regarding the latter, Sherry and I are qualified counselors. We offer formal and informal counseling, depending on the person’s needs. Some simply walk in the door because, on a banner outside the building, we let people know we offer counseling. Others phone in to make appointments. Some are in college or work outside of Luanshya and, due to the distance, speak with one of us using WhatsApp videoconferencing.

Topics range from dating, premarital counseling, and marriage issues to parental matters and interpersonal relationships. Those who come know we will keep our conversation confidential. This is key, for many will not go to their local church leaders for fear that their issues will be made public. A third party like us alleviates that concern.

The power of silent comfort
Where does Bear the Therapy Dog come in? Bear helps in the comfort aspect; he calms the distraught. Often, he is lying on his bed in Sherry’s soundproofed office when clients come in weeping. They sit on the chair, and Bear comes alongside them and puts his head on their lap. The next thing they know, they are either petting him or crying into his fur. Recently, a mother brought in her 10-year-old daughter, whose grandma had passed away. The girl already knew Bear, and he became part of the grieving process as she told him her story of how lonely she was now that her grandma had gone to Jesus.

Most Zambians are frightened of large black dogs, which are often used here as guard dogs. But, as Sherry walks down the street with Bear on his leash, children know that he is safe. They will run up to pet him and then hold a conversation with Sherry. Others will stop Sherry and Bear along the roadside and request a picture.

What does this do? It offers silent comfort to those in distress. We didn’t plan to have a therapy dog, but God knew what we needed when we acquired Bear eight years ago. Sherry has worked diligently to train him to serve alongside us.

A positive environment 
Role models are an important part of a person’s spiritual development. All too often, young people emulate high-profile actors, musicians, and athletes whose lifestyles have a negative influence on their fans. After one of the high school students from our assembly commented that he had no place to relax with his friends except the local bars, the Youth Center came into existence. In the Youth Center, designed for high school and college-aged youth, we offer recreational activities and spiritual development—board games, music, and sports in a safe environment free from negative influences.

Sherry herself is a prime example of this method of evangelism. When Sherry was a young person, a friend invited her 

to play volleyball. During those activities, a short Bible study was conducted. Unbeknownst to Sherry, the seed was planted, and the lifestyle of the other young people contributed to her coming to faith and recognizing Jesus as her Messiah. 

Our interaction with the youth follows the same format: the young people come to the Youth Center, enjoy the activities, and before leaving, hear a devotional followed by contemporary Christian music and singing. This intentional approach has seen many young individuals grow in spiritual strength and establish a firm foundation for life. 

Next door or 200 miles away 
The CRC’s impact extends beyond Luanshya, notably through the Source of Light Bible correspondence courses. This program, which has nearly 3,900 participants in Luanshya, has influenced sermon preparation and community Bible studies and has even prompted individuals to enter full-time ministry. 

While in high school, a young man, Benjamin, walked by the CRC. He came in and inquired about what was going on and what was available for him as a new believer. On the spot, he enrolled in Source of Light. This program became the catalyst for his future calling. The correspondence lessons transformed Benjamin’s life, and he began developing his personal ministry. His local church recognized his gift and sent him to a new church in Kalumbila—a mining town more than 200 miles away. There, he introduced the courses as an evangelistic learning tool. 

Today, he is one of the key leaders in this church, which ministers in areas beyond our physical reach. When Benjamin visits Luanshya, we fill a suitcase with books, lessons, and other resources for him to use in his congregation. Sherry gave him the grading keys so he can mark the completed courses where he serves and build up the ministry locally. 

Another example is Happy. He also completed Source of Light’s entire catalog of lessons. He then began serving the Lord through his local church’s youth ministry, and the believers noticed his gift of serving among the young. The local church commended him to the grace of God and sent him to plant a church in a rural farming community called Nampamba, about an hour and a half from Luanshya’s town center. Today, the local church is thriving, using the same lessons Happy grew up with at the CRC. Happy is now married and has a family, and he continues to serve the Lord faithfully. 

Beyond what we could ask or think 
Currently, the Christian Resource Center is open Monday through Thursday for three hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. Sometimes, we are open on Saturdays for various seminars. As for discipleship, that is a one-to-one program conducted by either of us, depending on the student’s gender and their schedule. 

The Lord’s blessings have been evident in the CRC’s transformative impact on our community and ourselves. As we express gratitude for God’s provision, we acknowledge the thousands of lives touched through the CRC’s diverse ministries, reflecting the broader significance of our journey beyond the borders we initially envisioned. 

Recently, Sherry received this note from a young person she counseled: 

Not everyone recognizes the CRC and its significance. However, those who do are led there by God’s Spirit because there is someone and something He wants them to discover. Firstly, His Son, and secondly, you. God has been using you in our lives. Your nonjudgmental approach, attentive listening, genuine care, and prayerful support make a difference. I can’t imagine what I would have done if the CRC hadn’t been there. I walked through that door, and my life changed forever. 

That is why we stay! Your prayers and support make this work possible. 

Dr. Patrick and Sherry Coleman are commended from Bethany Bible Chapel in Toms River, New Jersey.

Originally published in Missions magazine, March 2024. For more content, sign up for a free subscription (US) to Missions at