The Blantyre Synod of the Church of Central African Presbytery (CCAP) has its first female minister with PhD (pastoral care and counselling)-basically majoring in Widows and Church Administration.
She is Reverend Dr Gertrude Aopesyaga Sulumba Kapuma. She obtained her PhD at the University of Capetown.
While she narrates her remarkable journey, Kapuma, the third born child in her family, says she has always felt the need to work for God in church, a calling she says she felt when she was in her last days of secondary school education.
After finishing her secondary school education in 1976 and having gone to college the same year, the passion that the Blantyre-based Reverend had kept on growing.
She, however, says it has not been an easy road for her to accept her calling.
She says: “I felt that I needed to work for God in my church. I felt strongly that God was calling me to work in his Vine Garden. It was not easy for me to make this decision at that time but I managed to convince my parents who supported me throughout.
“In college, I was the only female student-young and fresh from secondary school.”
After graduating from the Theological college in 1980, Kapuma started working at the Synod in the same year where she did some women’s work within the synod but based at Chigodi Women’s Centre.
She says being a pioneer, things were not easy back then as they were many challenges and when she looks back she laughs and thanks God for taking her through.
In 1996, she went for further studies in South Africa at the University of Fort Hare where she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Theology majoring in practical theology.
Later, she was also given an opportunity to teach at the same university in the Faculty of Theology where she taught practical Theology and Gender and Theology for a period of five years. She, however, decided to return home afterwards.
She describes her late husband, Paul, who died in a road accident in 1998 in South Africa as being supportive throughout all her endeavors as he stood beside her all the time.
“I got married after training to a handsome good hearted man who always stood by my side in my journey of leadership in the church. He was more than a husband; he was a friend, companion, a good father to the children and a soul mate,” says Kapuma.
Kapuma, who got married in 1981 to Paul, has two children-Kondwani and Atupele.
From 2005 to 2010, Kapuma was administering full-time at Chilumba, Nthemba, Namiyango and Mulanje CCAP churches respectively before she joined Zomba Theological College in October 2010.
While teaching at Zomba Theological College, Kapuma was also a minister at Matiya CCAP church and at Masika CCAP.
She describes being in the position of a lecturer who is trying to advance oneself as a motivation to the students on the other hand.
She says in previous years, she has tried to register for a doctorate programme with University of Kwazulu Natal but to no avail.
“I always believe that God’s time is the best. When time was ripe, God opened doors for me to go for my PhD studies,” she further says.
On her decision to major in widows and church administration for her PhD, Kapuma says the motivation came about after coming across many women who were struggling after the death of their husbands.
She says as a widow, she felt God was calling her to this ministry to bring change to many widows’ lives and bring back their dignity as created in the image of God.
“So in my research, I looked at the life of widows and came up with a pastoral care model that can be used by the church to help widows as they mourn their husbands.
“Yes, death separates them with their beloved husbands, but this does not mean that they should be treated as less human and living in fear” she says.
Kapuma further states she is grateful to God that she managed to achieve more than what she thought through her research. She says her research has been practical where she visibly saw results in lives of widows she worked with during the period of study.
The significance of her study according to the Reverend, has led to opening of a ministry for widows which the synod and other churches will be able to use.
She says students that come through Zomba Theological College will be empowered with knowledge on how they can assist widows in their communities and churches.
Further, she says people are called as a church to move with widows in all the situations they go through and giving guidance where there is need up to the time healing has taken place.
She further says: “Our destiny is in the hands of God. There is no way that I could achieve this at my age, a grandmother. But God took me through and helped me to understand. My song in my head was Psalms 121. I have realised that age helps you to understand things better because of the experiences you have.”
On her word of encouragement, Kapuma says the sky is the limit; that women can do it and that they should never give up.
Kapuma has worked with the synod since 1980 and was ordained in 2003.
She says she is grateful to God for the opportunity to come this far with her life; the Presbyterian church in Ireland and her family for supporting her throughout her journey. She also extends her gratitude to her promoter Professor Maake Masango for supporting her.