A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Monday, September 9, 2019

“Ba Mirriam” has become a celebrity!

The whole clan—parents, children, spouses, grandchildren and dog—with "ba Mirriam"
Two weeks ago, our family held a surprise party for our house keeper (maid). She is popularly called “ba Mirriam” by all of us in the home. The party marked her working with us for 20 years. As I often do, I shared pictures of this event on my two Facebook accounts.

To our utter amazement, my official Facebook page (which keeps a counter) showed that by yesterday the posting had reached almost a quarter of a million people, with over 600 individuals sharing it with their own Facebook friends. News has it that this event was also featured on radio and television. I readily admit that we did not expect such popularity.

Every party must have plenty of food and eating!
We must have gotten onto something here. I have personally read each of the comments. Most of them are either grateful to God for also having virtuous maids or complaining of having landed themselves with irresponsible gold-diggers. Let’s face it, such is life.

Many wrote on behalf of maids who have had a raw deal and have been ill-treated by their employers. The cry was very loud in many of the comments, basically saying, “If we treated maids with more dignity and honour, they would give us the best of service too.”

Every party must have plenty of food and eating!
We are glad that while the post was “trending” we gave the nation a chance to air their views on this matter. As long as sin remains in human nature, we will never reach perfection in employer-employee relations. However, talking about it helps us to re-examine ourselves.

Many thought we are a great family. I hurry to say, we are not. We have all the flaws that any human family has. Any semblance of good about us as a family is a fruit of the grace of the Lord Jesus in our lives. We try to obey God but have also failed lamentably many times.

A 20th anniversary cake being cut by "ba Mirriam" and her sister
When an institution organises a party to acknowledge the longevity and excellent work of an employee, the limelight is not on the employers. Rather, it is on the employee who has given so much to make that institution what it is today. That is how we feel as a family.

It is not our family that must get any glory here. It is ba Mirriam. Thanks for each of those 4,000 likes and 800 comments that have made her day. Since I recommenced blogging recently, I decided to share some of what our children have said to her on this occasion. Their comments speak more eloquently of their appreciation of the now famous “ba Mirriam” than my wife and I could have done.

"Ba Mirriam" and Mrs Mbewe hug
BWALYA: Ba Miriam, congratulations for working for 20 years. I remember I was in grade 9 when you joined us. You have been very hardworking and neat especially in cleaning the house, washing and packing clothes. Now that I am married and managing my own home, I wish I can have someone like you because such commitment to work is rare. You should come to my place to help me when you are next on leave!

MWILA: Ba Mirriam, thank you for your love and excitement. I remember how when I started my first job you were excited for me. I also remember when I first moved out of our parents’ home, you excitedly cleaned my new home for me. And recently, when I moved into my matrimonial home, you excitingly wanted to clean it all by yourself. Oh, ba Mirriam, may the Lord bless us with 20 more years with you!

"Ba Mirriam" also hugs "yours truly"
MWINDULA (“BIGGIE”): Ba Mirriam, I remember how committed you were to ensuring that my school uniforms and shoes were always flawless when I started Grade 8. I ended up getting the award for "Cleanest boy in school" at the end of that year. That really was your award! You are now part of the family and we dearly love you. As an honorary member of the family you can rest assured that we will always be there for you!

MWANSA: Ba Mirriam, you have been more than a housekeeper; you have been a friend. We have shared so many jokes and laughed together from the time I was in primary school as we talked about school to the times when you always had hope for the Zambian national football team. Indeed, we finally saw them win the AFCON. The years have flown past and we have so many good memories because of you. Thank you!

Mwila soothes "Ba Mirriam" as she is overtaken with emotions
MWAPE: Ba Mirriam, thank you for being the addition to the family we never knew we needed.  Thanks for being “furniture” in our lives. I can’t describe any season of my life that you weren’t in. You’ve been with us that long and I’m so grateful to God for you and your servant heart. I love you so much that I’m carrying you with me to my house. That’s where you’ll do your next 20 years. Haha!

MWINDULA (“SMALL”): In the 8 years I have been in this home, I have come to learn much about ba Mirriam. I have learned how she started work here, how she has provided guidance where needed, how she has seen each one of us grow under her watchful eyes, her struggles with health, her relationship with the church, and her relationship with each family member. All that can be said is that we have been BLESSED to have her!

If you want to see the Facebook post, click here.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

A Praying People—2019 Sola 5 Conference


A glimpse of the attendance at the conference
The 2019 Sola 5 Conference in Manzini, Swaziland, has come to an end and we are all getting ready to head home. The theme of the conference was “A praying people: The centrality of prayer in the life of the church.” We are still processing the bountiful spiritual meal we have feasted upon. From him to whom much is given, much more shall be required. These are sobering thoughts…and rightly so.
 
"Yours truly" with Karabo Msiza at break time
Karabo Msiza (of Central Baptist Church in Rustenburg, South Africa) preached on the pattern of prayer on the opening night (on Wednesday), using what we call “the Lord’s prayer” from Matthew 6. The following morning, Chipita Sibale (my fellow pastor at Kabwata Baptist Church) preached on the purpose of prayer from 1 Timothy 2.

Chipita Sibale preaching on the purpose of prayer
That evening, Charlie Ramfumedzi (from Christ Seminary, Polokwane, South Africa) preached on the priorities of prayer. Essentially, he dealt with what issues we need to address as a priority in order to ensure answered prayer, e.g. genuine repentance from sin, faith in God, forgiving others, and a pure heart.
 
Charlie Ramfumedzi preaching on priorities of prayer
Today (Friday), was the last day of the conference. In the morning, Richard Peskett (from Nelspruit Bible Church, Nelspruit, South Africa) preached on the people of prayer. This was the only session I missed because I had to work on my newspaper article and send it in to beat the deadline. References to it afterwards confirmed that I missed a rich meal.
 
Richard Peskett preaching on the people of prayer
Thankfully, there was a second preaching session this morning. It was handled by Desmond Cramer (from Coastal Bible Church, Muisenberg, Cape Town, South Africa) and it was on praying in the will of God. He expounded the experience of our Saviour in Gethsemane.
 
Desmond Cramer preaching on praying in the will of God
Finally, this evening, Desmond Venter (from Grace Baptist Church, Amanzimtoti, Durban, South Africa) preached from Psalm 25 on peace through prayer. He showed us from this psalm how trust encourages peace, obedience breeds peace, grace ensures peace, hope awaits peace, and faith petitions for peace.
 
Desmond Venter preaching on peace through prayer
On Thursday, prior to our lunch break, we held the Sola 5 annual business meeting, which gave us a bird’s-eye-view of the last one year in terms of both activities and finances. We also voted in 4 new member churches and saw two new individuals voted into the steering committee to replace two others who were cycling out. Churches shared about their church-planting and revitalization efforts. I had the opportunity to share about the African Christian University during this slot. Finally, we heard about sister churches that had pastoral vacancies.
 
Chris Mnguni sharing about progress in Daveyton, South Africa
Before each sermon, we heard church planting and church revitalization reports from various parts of southern, central, and eastern Africa. This was in addition to the ones we had heard about during the business meeting. It was most encouraging to see that the churches were not just talking doctrine but were indeed busy extending the kingdom of God through such efforts.

Dubeka Milandu sharing about church planting in Tanzania
What I found most refreshing was that at the end of all the preaching sessions, we divided up into small groups and spent time praying for one another, for the missions reports and for the messages that we heard. So, we not only heard about prayer, we actually prayed!
 
Stuart Chase making announcements at the conference
Let me thank the steering committee of Sola 5, and Stuart Chase as the coordinator, for putting together such a short and sweet conference. Manzini Fellowship Church also went out of their way to look after all of us in terms of transport, accommodation, and meals.
 
Conference attendees enjoying a meal together

Next year’s conference will be in South Africa in the first week of September. The specific venue and theme of the conference will be announced in due season. I cannot wait for yet another soul-enriching time. Until then, au revoir!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Paul the Leper—The first indigenous Baptist leader in Zambia

A new foreword to PAUL THE LEPER
By the Zambian Baptist Historical Society

When the Zambian Baptist Historical Society was formed on March 20, 2010, we had no idea what Baptist historical treasures laid buried under the soil of Zambian history. We were simply concerned that as Baptists in Zambia we should preserve our history. We knew that if we did not know where we were coming from we would not know where we should be going. We also knew that if we did not know facts about the mistakes that our Baptist fathers made we were bound to repeat them. So, we got this society going and it has now been eight years since our inaugural annual general meeting.

One of the treasures we soon dug up was the biography of the man who can rightly be credited as the first indigenous Baptist leader in Zambia. This is Kaputula Kasonga. He was born around 1902 and showed up in 1916 at the first Baptist mission in Kafulafuta. The mission was started in 1905 by Henry Masters and William Arthur Phillips—the first Baptist missionaries in this country. Kaputula came from one of the nearby villages looking for education at the mission school. He was converted to Christ that same year but it was not until March 1920 that he was finally baptised and was given the name of Paul.

The title of this book is Paul the Leper. It is deliberate. Paul Kasonga suffered from leprosy almost all his life. In fact, it was the debilitating effect of this disease that finally took his life. There were many times when he was too sick to do any work. Yet, as soon as Paul marshalled enough strength, he would rise up and continue his work of preaching and teaching. He went village to village sharing the good news of Jesus and saw many individuals converted from sin to salvation in Christ. Like Paul in the New Testament, it was probably partly because of his health struggles that he ended up being such a champion of the faith.

In 1931 Paul was distinguished as the primary indigenous leader of Kafulafuta mission. He appeared on the front page of Lambaland, the official newsletter of the mission. Paul was listed as one of the leaders. It was the first time that an indigenous leader ever appeared on that list. The next name, of Anasi Lupunga, appeared there three years later. Yet, it took another 22 years before the Baptist Union of South Africa finally ordained Paul as a pastor, together with Anasi Lupunga and Bob Litana. This was in June 1953. Paul only served in this new capacity for one year before the Lord took him to glory on August 3, 1954.

Often, God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chooses what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor. 1:27-29). In Paul Kasonga, God proved this eloquently.

This biography, which was written in 1968 by Olive Doke, contains the remarkable history of Paul Kasonga. Olive was a first-hand witness of this man’s life. She joined the Baptist mission in Kafulafuta in 1916, the same year that Paul arrived. She remained there until her retirement a few years after Paul Kasonga had gone to his reward. He was her closest co-worker and she lived long enough at the mission to see something of the fruit of his labours. If anyone was qualified to write Paul Kasonga’s biography it was her.

It is now fifty years since this book was last published in Zambia. What an apt time to re-introduce it to the Zambian reading public! It was buried for fifty years in the proverbial dust. The Zambian Baptist Historical Society feels very privileged to now dig it up and make it available to the spiritual children of this great man. We do so with the prayer that the reading of this book will inspire a new generation of God’s children in Zambia and beyond to give themselves to serving our Saviour no matter what impediments they may have. Amen!
   
Misheck Zulu (Rev.)
On behalf of the ZBHS

(If you wish to buy a copy of this book, contact Phillimon Ndhlovu on +260 977 809 157)

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We must keep the work of evangelism central


The more I climb the ecclesiastical ladder the more I am disturbed by the discovery that many Christian leaders tend to abandon the gospel while still claiming to be faithful to it. They tip their hats to the gospel but do not preach it. It is almost as though the gospel was simply the first rung of the ladder of Christian ministry and should be left to those who are still cutting their teeth in pastoral work.

I do not want to be judgmental, but I find it instructive that I cannot remember the last time I met someone who, in sharing their testimony of conversion, mentioned the name of some of the loudest ministers of religion in my own country as the instruments that God used to bring them to himself. The names that are often mentioned are those of the “small boys”. This bothers me. Does it mean the big fishermen are no longer catching fish? I ask myself, what can be more glorious than preaching the gospel and seeing souls saved?

The “big fishermen” are quick to comment on Zambia as a Christian nation, or on the Zambian “firegate” scandal, or on the need for the church to monitor elections, or for the church to love homosexuals, or be involved in opening universities and hospitals, etc. It gains them a lot of mileage in the media and secures the attention of politicians but I keep asking myself whether this is what their primary calling is supposed to be.

Do not get me wrong. All these issues I have listed are important but my point is that we preachers must keep first things first and remain red-hot preachers of the gospel. There would be no church worth talking about in the first place if there was no gospel being preached regularly and effectively. All the the issues I have listed would even be worse if there was no church to start with.

It is a sobering fact that every generation must be re-evangelised. We should never take today’s statistics in Africa or anywhere in the world for granted. If we do not maintain and build upon the evangelism of the previous generation we will lose ground and Christianity will dwindle despite the fact that the number of church buildings may remain the same—at least for a little while longer before they become empty and start getting sold.

Again, I do not want to be judgmental, but the African church needs to look at what is happening to Western Christianity. The publishing houses are still there, churning out many good books as before. Christian organisations are still there, doing their works of charity. Bible Colleges are still there, fighting for the dwindling numbers of individuals answering the call to the preaching ministry. But ground has been lost. Many churches comprise octogenarians tottering to their graves. There are hardly any new converts!

I am not sure how the Western church found itself in this situation. My concern is for Africa. If we are not evangelising but simply talking about evangelism and the gospel we will soon find ourselves in the same situation as our Western counterparts. Sadly, I am observing that there is far too much of talking about the gospel but precious little of fervent gospel preaching. We need to reverse this before it is too late. We need to get back to red-hot gospel preaching.

Think about this: What would happen to a nation if all adults were simply talking about the science of childbearing and child upbringing but not proceeding to actually marry and engage in the activity that produces children? Well, before long there would be no nation to talk about because all would be well past their childbearing age!

It is not rocket science to know that for a nation to prosper, married couples should bear children while in their prime and then nurture them into adulthood. Once midwives run out of work, you can start preparing the coffin for that entire nation. It will soon be no more.


I fear that this is what is happening with the Christian church. We are majoring in minors. Do not get me wrong. Social, economic, and political issues are important. Thankfully, the preaching of the gospel will have social and political ramifications. Benevolence comes from hearts that are converted and are overwhelmed by the love of God. This is because the greatest enemy that people have is sin. The news of how sin was defeated by Christ on the cross ought to be defended and sounded forth all around us as the world’s best news. Preachers ought to be challenging the people of our generation to respond to this news through repentance and faith. Sadly, that is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule.