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!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The death of a pet

A few days ago I stood by my study window and saw our youngest daughter, Mwape, standing helplessly as she saw her pregnant dog, Chelsea, breathe her last. Mwape had taken a day off from work because she was not feeling well herself. Little did she know that it was going to be her last day with her dog.

It was evident that the exceptionally territorial dog had been poisoned on Sunday while we were at church. (Thieves often do this when they want to steal and find your dog too ferocious). The whole day Monday Chelsea was not her usual active self but we all thought that perhaps she was getting close to delivering her puppies. Tuesday morning she was gone.

Mwape had tried her best to save Chelsea’s life. She brought in a vet who gave the dog all the attention and medication possible. The vet stuck around all morning. Chelsea slightly revived and we all became hopeful but it was only for a few moments. The poison had already done too much damage. Chelsea died.

As I looked at Mwape standing motionless and teary-eyed halfway between the lifeless body of Chelsea and me, I walked over to her and hugged her. What more could a dad do? I shared with her my own pain when a hit-and-run car killed my dog when I was only nine years old.

That was forty-five years ago, but retelling Mwape the events of that day revived those painful emotions. My dog’s name was Cary and I loved him like a brother. I always looked forward to his warm and enthusiastic welcome whenever I returned from school. I would only leave him when I was called in for lunch.

One Saturday morning, I woke up and rushed outside only to find Cary lying on the driveway dying. I sat down at the edge of the veranda and cried my heart out as I looked at my childhood companion breathing his last. I stroked his fur until he breathed his last. Time stood still. Many thoughts went through my young mind that day.

The biggest question was, “Why?” “Why did God allow this? Why did the people who did this not stop and take Cary to the vet? Why do people do such things? Why haven’t the police gone after them?” To my little mind these questions were overwhelming and my tears flowed freely. I remember one song going through my mind again and again:

What the world needs now is love sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

Lord, we don’t need another mountain
There are mountains and hillsides enough to climb
There are oceans and rivers enough to cross
Enough to last ‘till the end of time

What the world needs now is love sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of
What the world needs now is love sweet love
No, not just for some but for everyone

As the events of forty-fives years ago caused my chest to heave, I realised that I was standing with Mwape about a metre from the exact spot where I sat as a nine-year old boy mourning my first major loss in life. The body of Mwape’s dead Chelsea was now lying in the same driveway that my Cary’s lifeless body lay in 1971.

The one major difference, though, was that I was nine years old while Mwape is now in her early twenties. Another was that whereas I could take a moment to hug my mourning daughter, I do not remember anyone hugging me. Perhaps they did. All I recall is that all the big people were busy preparing to dispose of Cary’s body.

I recall dad, uncle, and our domestic servant (“ba Lazalo”) getting a spade and a sack. They put Cary’s body in the sack and carried it to its last resting place. I followed. As I sat on the grass nearby, I watched them with teary eyes as they dug a hole in the ground, let down the sack, and covered it with soil. “Good-bye, Cary,” I cried as we headed back home.

When my family returned to occupy my childhood home in the year 2012, the first place I visited was the place where Cary was buried. It was about 300 metres from our home. In 1971 it was the edge of a forest but it is now a built up area. I stood at the spot and let the emotions of those days touch my heart afresh.

It is amazing how much pets mean to us. They are animals but they are not just animals. There is a real bond that takes places between us humans and those animals. In a very strange way, they love us and we love them too. We look forward to being with them and they also look forward to being with us everyday. Amazing!

And I think this is true of dogs more than any other animal. No wonder they have gained the title, “Man’s best friend.” I think cats are not as attached to individuals as dogs are, but I am willing to be corrected. Dogs will fight to protect their owner and their owner’s territory, whereas cats will get onto the laps of anyone who gives them the chance.

Is there any biblical example of this attachment between humans and animals? I can think of at least one. Here it is (2 Samuel 12:1-6): “And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought.

‘And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

The Bible says, “Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, ‘As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’” Why did David respond with such anger? Could it be that he understood the emotional attachment between that man and his ewe lamb? Perhaps.

I am sure our daughter, Mwape, feels like David towards the thieves that poisoned her dog a few days ago. I certainly felt that rush of anger back then as a little nine-year old boy. How we can get so attached to pets is yet another puzzle we will only unravel when we are seated by the side of Jesus in eternity. Come, Lord Jesus. Come!

Friday, July 8, 2016

The 2016 KBC pastoral internship programme

(...through the eyes of the interns themselves)

The pastoral internship programme at Kabwata Baptist Church continues to be one of its most important ministries because through this avenue the church gives individuals who are preparing for a lifetime of pastoral ministry an opportunity to be in a church that deliberately seeks to operate in a biblical fashion. They see in practice what (hopefully) they were being taught theoretically in the classroom at Bible college. For many of them, the coin clicks within the first three months. After that, they can hardly wait to get back home and begin to practice their Bibles in church life. Here are a few of the testimonies from the 2016 interns that we were able to gather for you.

Mzwakhe is in red trousers while Peter is in blue trousers

Mzwakhe Qozeleni (recently returned to South Africa)
The internship programme helped me big-time. I was struggling to pray in English when I came here. But after a few months staying with fellow pastoral interns I was able to speak and pray in English quite confidently because they would insist that I pray in English when giving thanks for meals in our home. However, I also learned to pray according to the acronym ACTS—adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. When it came to studying the Bible, I have learned "the five looks" and the process of preparing sermons. Today I can read the Bible with confidence that I never had before. On Tuesdays, we met with Pastor Mbewe in his office to review the previous week. This caused me to ensure that I was out there evangelising and at the church school sharing the Good News with the pupils in Grades 5, 6, and 7. I was able to see where my gifts lay as a result of all this. Attending elders prayer meetings and going with them for oversight visits was a great encouragement to me. I belonged to one of the home groups and through that I was able to build good relationships with both the younger and older members of the church. I must admit that this built my self-esteem.

I am now back in South Africa. I have already ensured that we start having Bible studies on Friday nights, prayer meetings on Sunday mornings, and a church officers' prayer meeting at 05.15 hours on Saturdays in my home. Last weekend we did outreach work at the local shopping mall and in the surrounding homes. God gave us some immediate converts and I am keen to see them go through a baptismal and new members class. The work that God has started in my soul, he will surely bring to completion. Thanks to KBC for the internship programme. I look forward to seeing all of you at the Sola Five Conference next month!

David Kasonde (from Luanshya, Zambia)
My internship at KBC has been good, encouraging and challenging. At the church officers’ retreat in February I learned that church leaders must be prayerful, planning ahead, reviewing the plans, and there must be a good relationship between elders and deacons. During members' meetings I noticed that members must be fully involved and engaged. I learned that leaders must update members on the happenings in church. During the missionaries' prayer retreat that followed I also learned the need to maintain a constant check between missionaries and the sending church. I have been exposed to the life of the church by how ministries are organised and function. I have learned that church must be outward looking in order to win lost souls. My internship has helped my personal walk with Christ to be Bible focused, prayerful, and evangelistic. It has also helped me to develop integrity.

Peter Joshua (from Nigeria)
I came to KBC from the London Theological Seminary (LTS), London as a final year student. The internship for me was an opportunity to deepen my walk with God and to come under a Reformed church's tutelage. I wanted to practically lay hold of some things that may not be learnt in the classroom. In addition to that I was seeking for an honest, practical example of how a Reformed congregation can be in an African context because such an example was non-existent in the part of Nigeria where I came from. My time at KBC answered all my questions and it went far beyond my expectation. In the future if I come back I would love to be assessed on my preaching because my training here at LTS has focused on that. What I am saying is that a uniform internship curriculum may not be suitable for all candidates at all times.

Samuel Kasonde (from Luanshya, Zambia)
My internship at KBC has been very helpful to my Christian faith and walk as well as an eye opener on how the church must function through its ministries. I have been attached to both the media ministry and the play park ministries. In the media ministry I have been helped to see the importance of the media today and how to record and air sermons on radio so that the world at large is ministered to and evangelised. The play park ministry uses a play park in the neighbourhood as a venue for evangelistic efforts to reach those souls that come there by interacting with them and getting into their lives. Through this ministry I’m able to talk to people with confidence and courage and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. There have been times when we have had lessons on family devotions and how to read or study the Bible effectively. This has been helpful each time I go back home to be with my family. What a joy it has been to bring my family to "the altar"!

David Oure (from Kenya)
My heart celebrates after six months of internship at KBC. It’s the rare opportunities the Lord opens for his people in need of tools necessary for sound and godly ministries. The exposure I got in the ministries that make KBC strong and a spiritually attractive cannot be learned in any other way. Some of the areas that my eyes were opened to were church-based missions work, equipping members for godliness in all circumstances, effective outreach to all classes of people through the powerful preaching of the word, and biblical leadership. I want to thank the KBC leadership, Anchored in Truth, and HeartCry Missionary Society for financially supporting my pastoral internship. It is my prayer that I will serve the Lord with the same soundness, zeal, and godliness I experienced at KBC.

David Oure leading worship at Kabwata Baptist Church
(If you are interested in joining our internship programme for 2017 contact Francis Kaunda via email. His address is fkaunda@gmail.com. He will give you all the details and requirements you need to make an informed decision and to finish your application process successfully).

Friday, May 6, 2016

Some common birds of India

"Look at the birds of the air..." (Jesus, in Matt 6:26)

As my time in India draws to an end, I thought of sharing with you the photos of some of the birds I came across. Between my preaching and my surgery, my schedule was too packed for me to have time to go bird watching and so these are birds that literally brought themselves to me. I was still obedient to the Lord’s injunction that I should “look at the birds of the air” and be refreshed by them.

Oriental magpie-robin

This is the female Oriental magpie-robin. As with most birds, the female tends to have duller colours. The male Oriental magpie-robin is black-and-white. It has a long narrow tail (like a wagtail) that it normally holds upright. The Oriental magpie-robin is a very common bird in India, whether in city gardens of rural forests, and has a beautiful song. It is the national bird of Bangladesh.

House crow

This is the House crow, a very common bird in India and has been exported around the world. It is a smaller version of the famous Mwankole of Zambia. Like most crows, it is very invasive and causes damage to crops and other wild life. They are normally found together in flocks and are found around human settlements in villages or cities because they tend to scavenge human leftovers.

Indian Myna

I first came across the Indian Myna in South Africa. Its reputation was not good. It is certainly not a bird you will describe as “friendly”. The United Nations has declared it one of the top three invasive birds on the planet. It is stated that the Indian Myna has been exterminated in Australia, where it was also exported from Asia and where it gained the name “The most important pest/problem”.

Jungle babbler

This is a picture of the Jungle babbler—a bird that is hardly ever seen alone. Both males and females have the same dull colour. They are often in small groups and have gained the name of “Seven Sisters” or “Seven Brothers”. They are found in both cities and forests, and are very noisy. We have babblers in southern Africa (e.g. the Arrow-marked babbler). You cannot miss them when they are around!

White-naped woodpecker

The most colourful bird that I managed to capture on my camera is the one I have left for last—the White-naped woodpecker. This one is male, identified by its bright red “hat”, while females have their “hats” in yellow. Their ability to balance themselves on vertical trees with their toes and tails and then use their strong beaks and long tongues to dig and dart into trees for insects is what sets woodpeckers apart from other birds.


Rock dove

I had already posted this blog post when this Rock dove came to peep through the window at the home of our hosts (the Nsendulukas) as though to make sure I was still alive inside the home. Rock doves (sometimes called Rock pigeons) are common all over the world and are identified by their grey colour and two dark stripes on their wings. They are found in huge numbers among humans, especially in parks where they are being given free food (seeds).

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Let’s revive the lost art of Christian polemics

The tragedy on today’s ecclesiastical landscape is the number of heretics who are thriving inside evangelicalism. They are having a field day and hardly anyone is raising a voice against them. Behind closed doors we all seem to agree that these “brethren” are spreading serious error. But as soon as the door opens and one of them walks in, suddenly, we seem to be unsure and would rather be silent for the sake of Christian love.

This begs the question, “How should we as Christians respond to the many wrong teachings that surround us, especially those serious heresies being propagated by people who are in the church?” This is an important question because we are living in days when the very nature of evangelical Christianity is being turned upside down. This is especially true because of those who are teaching what we call “the prosperity gospel” in its various shades. Many lives are being destroyed. The way of salvation is being confused. How should we respond to all this?

We should respond to this by deliberately engaging in Christian polemics. What does the word “polemics” mean? Polemics means a strong verbal or written rebuttal of someone else’s belief. It is an argument that disputes another person’s opinion and shows that it is not true. It is the opposite of apologetics, which is a strong verbal or written defence of one’s own belief in the light of the attacks of other people. In other words, polemics and apologetics are two sides of the same coin. An apologist begins with the truth under attack and seeks to defend it, while a polemist begins with an error being propagated and seeks to refute it.

Church leaders must be polemists

The Bible teaches that one of the responsibilities of a church elder is that of polemics. The apostle Paul said to Titus, “[An elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9). Notice that it is not only the positive but also the negative. An elder must positively give instruction in sound doctrine but he must also negatively rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine.

Why is this important? The apostle Paul said that this must be done because “there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach” (Titus 1:10-11). If we keep quiet, heretical teachers will continue to upset the faith of many because of their personal quest for shameful gain. So, it is the responsibility of those who are in charge of Christ’s sheep to silence them.

That is what polemics is all about. At one time, it was taken for granted that Christian pastors and teachers would engage in polemics as part of their duty. Being politically correct was not a virtue in those days. Error needed to be vanquished. The great American theologian B.B. Warfield held the chair of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1887 until his death in 1921. There was nothing extraordinary about that in those days.

Jesus the great polemist

The question is often asked, “How should we engage in polemics?” Thankfully, we have the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus spent some time refuting the teaching and lifestyle of the scribes and Pharisees. A whole chapter in the Gospel of Matthew is occupied with seven woes that Jesus issued to these men because they were leading many astray. Let us look at one section of it, Matthew 23:16–22, to learn how we can resurrect the lost art of polemics today by following Jesus’ own example. There are four lessons we learn from this…

Stating the wrong teaching

Jesus stated plainly what the wrong teaching was. What were the Pharisees and the scribes teaching? Jesus said, “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath’… And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath’” (Matthew 23:16, 18). What Jesus was opposed to was this clever way of telling lies or making false promises and getting away with it. Men were seeking to remain religious while they were inwardly ungodly. Jesus was not willing to let this go unchallenged. He pointed out that it was erroneous teaching. We too should not be afraid to point out the wrong teaching that is upsetting the faith of God’s people.

Using strong language

I will take a little longer on this because we are living in a day of political correctness that is turning even God’s servants into wimps. Jesus used very strong language when referring to these false teachers. He said to them, “Woe to you, blind guides…. You blind fools! …You blind men! (verses 16, 17, and 19). In the same chapter, he also called them “Hypocrites, children of hell, serpents, a brood of vipers…” (verse 13, 15, 33) and he likened them to “white-washed tombs” (verse 27). Let us admit that Jesus was using very strong language here. Such language is not politically correct. Gentlemen do not normally speak like this.

How should we explain this? First of all, this was not how Jesus spoke everyday. He was normally one who spoke with gentleness. However, it is evident that Jesus had been teaching true spirituality for about three years and these men were bent on resisting this and instead teaching error. This was Jesus now removing his gloves and telling it like it is. That is important. Sadly, there are some Christian teachers who seem to possess a perpetual split spleen and their entire ministry is full of nothing but vitriol, sarcastic contempt, and hurtful scorn. Hiding behind Jesus’ example here is to swallow an entire camel and strain a gnat.

Having said that, Pharisees and scribes were not Jesus’ sparring partners with whom he needed to be gentle so that they could keep coming back to give him a good sweat. They were enemies who were destroying souls. They were rejecting the truth and teaching error, leaving destruction in their wake. They were closing the door of heaven on other people and making them twice the children of hell as themselves (verse 15). It was crucial that Jesus shows something of his feelings about these teachers of heresy. Paul did the same thing when he said that those who were teaching another gospel should “go to hell” (Galatians 1:8, 9). In fact, elsewhere he calls them "dogs" (Philippians 3:2).

Jude was more scathing when he called such heretics hiding in the church as “…hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever” (Jude 1:12–13). All I am saying out of all these citations is that let’s not be shocked when strong language is used in polemics against heretics. Jesus and other inspired writers led the way in the use of strong language.

Appealing to logic and reasoning

The Lord Jesus Christ used logic and reasoning when showing the error of the scribes and Pharisees. He asked, “You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred?” and “You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (verses 17 and 19). Jesus was essentially asking, "How on earth can you make the gold more important than the temple when it is the temple that makes it important? In the same way, how can you make a mere gift more important than the altar when its very value depends on the altar on which it lies?" His message was clear: The logic is faulty. You simply need to think to see through it.

Herein lies the power of polemics. It is not in simply stating the wrong teaching or using scathing remarks. It is in showing the absurdity of the doctrinal position taken by those who teach error. You see, human beings have brains that still function, especially when the grace of God has washed them from sin. Appeal to those brains. Heresy is irrational. Through logic we should show the absurdity of wrong teaching and win back those who are willing to think.

Giving the right teaching

The Lord Jesus Christ finally gave the right teaching to those who were listening to him. He said, “So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it” (verses 20–22). Jesus was stating the truth here. It was not enough to state what the wrong teaching was, or to use strong language to give a verbal slap to those who are dosing, or to argue logically and thus show the error of the false teachers. He needed to finally state what should be believed.

In the same way, one reason why error is thriving today is because we are too apologetic about the truth. We are living in a Post-modern age when there is no longer “true truth”. Thus, all we seem to be willing to do is question the correctness of others but not state unequivocally what the truth is. Our church members are thus left in doubt about the teaching of others but they do not know what to believe. We are telling them that they should not believe what others are teaching but then what should they believe instead? What is the truth?

A final appeal for polemics

O that we may follow the example of Jesus. I plead for the revival of polemical teaching and preaching today. We are living in a very dark day. It is very sad what is being propagated in many a Christian pulpit in the name of evangelicalism. I say this with love: Many of the followers of the prosperity gospel are not Christians at all. This movement has become a sordid moneymaking enterprise. It is full of scandals. Its advocates must be publicly rebuked. Souls need to be salvaged from them through following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I close by saying, thieves love dogs but they love dogs that do not bark. If you have a dog that wags its tail when thieves come into your home to steal you had better sell it off quickly. God once described the prophets of Israel as silent dogs that cannot bark (Isaiah 56:10). Could he be saying the same things about us? Thieves have entered into the church. They are stealing from people’s pockets and destroying many lives. Are we barking at them or are we wagging our tails as they wreak havoc in the church? O that we may revive polemics again!