Awakening in Zambia
The story of Rabbi Alex Yalenga and the Zambia Messianic Fellowship
By Alex Yalenga with Debra Green
Alex and Fay Yalenga have three daughters: Tamar, who is eight years old, Eliana, who is five and Gabriella who is three. Since their marriage, they have also raised several orphaned nieces and nephews, making a total of nine children in the home. Alex is the senior Rabbi of the Zambia Messianic Fellowship, which is comprised of nine Messianic Jewish congregations. Their ministry includes a radio outreach called Shalom Zambia, which goes out to over two million listeners each week. Fay runs the Jerome Fleischer orphanage that provides free Messianic based education, meals and school supplies to over 150 children. They are working on the completion of government certification to open the orphanage, where they will be able to also provide housing for the orphans.
Zambia once had a large Jewish population. Only Zambia (which was then called Northern Rhodesia) and China took in Jews when the rest of the world closed their doors during World War II. As a result, Jewish people built almost all the infrastructure in Zambia. Zambia had excellent diplomatic relations with Israel, and Israel built the first and biggest university in Zambia, the largest hospital and the international airport. In 1973, after the Yom Kippur War, the Arab countries pushed the rest of the African countries to break off ties with Israel. Unfortunately, Zambia broke ties with Israel, and six months later the economy collapsed as many Jews left the country. Zambia became friends with people like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi. Streets were named after them.
Zambians were all brainwashed and taught that the enemy was Israel and the Zionists. The church also played a major role in demonizing the Jews by calling them “Christ killers.” Alex was brought up in such an environment. When his father left work after working for 32 years as a clinical officer, poverty caught up with them. They lost their house and ended up living in a mud hut about 45 kilometers outside the capital city, Lusaka, without electricity, running water or plumbing. With an income of $12 a month they could not buy food to feed a family of eleven. Disease and death caught up with them, and within a short time Alex lost five members of his family, including his mother, Angela, as they were unable to pay $65 for her medication.
These events pushed Alex to begin asking and seeking for meaning in life. He tried the different gods of Africa and nothing was satisfying. With a borrowed Bible, he began to study. He would walk to the university library in Lusaka 45 kilo-meters away to study and try to learn more about the God of Israel. For seven years he walked back and forth and read and read about the living God. The living God was different from the over 2,000 African gods. The living God could predict the future and events would unfold as He predicted. He had a moral code different from what Alex knew. He was a God of love. He sent His Son for us, and Israel was His people.
Alex joined a church and was soon kicked out for standing up against the teachings that Israel and the Jewish people were irrelevant. His family soon disowned him after he refused to participate in rituals that contradicted Scripture. Most of his friends disowned him after he turned down a job that involved bowing to an idol. He was dying outside, but inside he was being renewed by his new faith in Yeshua and the God of Israel. He tried to join the Jewish community in Lusaka, and after reading more about Yeshua he became convinced that He is truly the Messiah according to the Scriptures. He could not continue pursuing conversion.
He lived among the poorest of the poor, did not have adequate clothing, ate only one meal a day and at 25 years of age weighed only 31 kilograms. His life was spent in study, prayer and lots of work. Being the only son, he had to be at the forefront. His family had to grow all the food they consumed. At this time, he read in Romans 11 that there still is a remnant of Jewish believers in Yeshua and that he was grafted into that tree. He began looking for Jewish believers in Yeshua. Most of the books he read stated that they existed until the fourth century and didn’t exist anymore, but the Bible was clear that there still was a remnant as stated in Revelation 14:12 – they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. He began looking for those who had faith in Yeshua and observed Torah.
Finally, in 1996, he stumbled upon Jews for Jesus. He had walked for over ten hours to another library and was praying and complaining to God. “How long will this search take? He says to seek ye first the kingdom and His righteousness.” Alex felt his entire world was crumbling. He pulled a large green book off the shelf, and it was an encyclopedia of American religions. This got him excited. He was looking for righteous Gentiles like those found in Mathew 25:31 who loved Israel and the Jewish people.
He wrote to Jews for Jesus asking if they were aware of any Jews and gentiles in Africa who loved the God of Israel, believed in Yeshua and observed a Biblical lifestyle. They wrote back and said they did not know any at that time; however they were happy to send him their newsletter, but since he lived outside Canada and the USA he had to pay $6 for postage. It took Alex three months to raise the $6, and he literally begged on the streets to get the money.
Alex received his second newsletter, the February 1997 issue. There was an article about a Jewish woman having fellowship with other believers using the Internet. That is exactly what he wanted – fellowship, to be part of the olive tree of Israel. The trouble was that he did not know what the Internet was! So he set out to look for this thing called “internet.” Eventually, he found it at the University of Zambia, which had five computers at the time and over 5,000 students, of which Alex was not one. He sought permission and was allowed usage with a fee and only 20 minutes at a time. With no knowledge of how to use a computer, he had to pay and split his time with someone conversant in how to use the Internet. This was how he found the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS). Rabbi Judah Hungermman was very gracious and answered all his questions. Rabbi Dr. Ruth Fleischer discipled Alex, and he was invited to visit the USA for the Messiah conference. By then, the Zambia Messianic Fellowship was born in his one-room village hut. In 2002 Alex was ordained by the IAMCS.
Today they meet in a modern part of the capital city of Lusaka and God has used them to take His Word out and to feed over 50,000 starving Zambians. They have lobbied their government to be pro Israel, fought anti-Semitism to the point where they obtained great results, taken care of orphans, drilled boreholes and given seed to peasant farmers. The God of our fathers has not let them down as they have seen Jews come to faith, as well as over a hundred Muslims including two Imams. They have also been instrumental in the coming to faith of the 30,000 strong Goba tribe of southern Zambia, who have embraced Yeshua and the God of Israel.
To learn more about this ministry, check out their website at www.zamf.org. For $25 a month, you can be a part of taking care of the children by sponsoring a child. They are greatly in need of regular monthly support for their personal needs as well as financial support for the ministry. You may also contact the USA Ministry Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This article was featured in the Spring 2013 issue of Messiah to the Nations newsletter.)
©2013 Messiah to the Nations