Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Conferences in Zambia, South Africa and the USA

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

My sincere apologies for this rather prolonged silence on my blog. My August, September and October can best be described as “run away” months. It has been one conference after another. And since I was preaching in most of them, I needed all the time I had for my preparations. Things have slowed down now (though I am writing on my way to Botswana to visit our missionary) and so let me give you some idea about how the conferences have been. Generally speaking, all of them were great encouragements to my soul and so I share news about them for the purpose of testimony to the glory of God.

The Zambian Annual Reformed Conference

As I said in my previous blog, we had the 20th anniversary of this conference last August. The theme was “The Whole of Life under the Whole of Scripture” because that is what the Reformed Faith stands for, and that is what this conference has aimed to foster in its twenty years of existence. I was asked to be the main preacher together with Alfred Nyirenda, an elder at Mount Makulu Baptist Church. Choolwe Mwetwa (pastor of Central Baptist Church in Chingola) and Ronald Kalifungwa (pastor of Lusaka Baptist Church, see photo of him preaching at conference) opened and closed the conference, respectively. It was an all-Zambian affair in terms of preachers—for the first time in twenty years! The conference had to take place in two venues—the University Christian Chapel (during the day) and the Lusaka Baptist Church (in the evenings). The attendance, especially in the evenings, was over 700. A few comments have been posted on the Kabwata Baptist Church website about the conference. You may want to check them out here and here and here.

The Sola 5 Annual Conference

Kabwata Baptist Church belongs to a growing family of God-centred churches in southern Africa called Sola 5, and the weekend of September 4th to 6th was the annual conference of this association of churches. The conference was held at Brackenhurst Baptist Church in South Africa. The theme was “Six Attributes of God-Centred Churches” and the preachers were Doug van Meter, Grave Singogo, Isaac Makashinyi, Peter Sammons, Jeff Gage and Nico van der Walt. All of them gave excellent sermons, worth listening to again and again. The pastors that I meet with at this conference are among my closest ministerial friends in southern Africa, and so this is a time for rich fellowship for me, quite apart from the rich exposition of God’s word that I always listen to. One highlight for me at this conference was that I was able to finally see the book I had recently written, Maintaining Sexual Purity, for the first time. It was published in South Africa and is being vigorously marketed there. For more on the conference please click here and read the report of my ministerial friend, Joachim Rieck, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church, Windhoek, Namibia, who was also there. His blog is worth visiting regularly if you want to hear Reformed commentary on the nation of Namibia. Below is a photo of the newly elected steering committee.

The Evangelical Forum

On 23rd September I left for the USA where, apart from preaching in a number of churches, I preached at two conferences. The first was the Evangelical Forum in Virginia, which took place over the weekend of 26th September. It was hosted at the Jefferson Park Baptist Church (Pastor Jeff Riddle) in Charlottesville. I had the pleasure of preaching together with Dr Derek Thomas, whose writing ministry had already enriched my life. I handled the topics “The Sovereignty of God and the Love of God” and “Does Calvinism kill Evangelism?” Dr Thomas handled the more difficult subjects: “Is God the Author of Sin?” and “Double Predestination: Biblical or Heretical.” Apart from the warm friendship of Jeff Riddle and his family, and the most edifying experience of sitting under the ministry of Dr Thomas, I had the joy of spending quality time with Byron Glaspy (see photo), a young African American who is aspiring for the Christian ministry and is presently an intern at Jefferson Park Baptist Church.

A Church-Based Missions Conference

The first weekend of October was spent at the Grace Fellowship Church where I was preaching at their annual missions conference. What a joy it was to link up with Dr Tedd Tripp, best known for his book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. He preached at our annual Reformed conference in Zambia in 1992. The concept of the Zambia Reformed Baptist Building Trust Fund was his brainchild after that visit, and so the Zambian Reformed Baptist churches that have benefitted from this ongoing building fund owe a lot to this servant of God. His heart is still very much in Zambia, as he expressed a lot of interest in the Sovereign Grace Theological Seminary and the African Christian University. The icing on the cake for me was when I met Steve Graham (see photo, he is pastor of Pioneer Valley Baptist Church, in Chicopee, Massachusetts) at the conference. He had driven no less than four and a half hours to just come and be with me for one evening. Steve and I first met in Canada in 1992 and our friendship has been rock solid since then. After the Friday evening meeting, we talked right into the night about how God had watched over and blessed our families and our churches since we last met. I thank God for such Christian friendships!

Zambians in the Diaspora

I always tell people that the Zambian Reformed movement is one big happy family, even if we are scattered around the nation and around the world. Hence, wherever I go, I meet Zambian Christians who espouse the Reformed Faith and we spend precious time together. They ask me about individuals back home in Zambia, showing that, although they are far away, their hearts are still “at home”. On the recent American trip, I spent time with Mirfin Mpundu (and his daughter Tasheni), Stuart Yikona, Charles and Gina Chowa (and their boys, Nkumbu and Temwa), and Isaac and Ruth Sakala (see them on photo at the missions conference). All of these travelled great distances in order to be with me. All I can say is that we need to pray for these brethren because it is clear to me that they play a very significant role in the churches they attend, carrying the fragrance of Christ (and that of the Zambian Reformed movement!) with them. On this USA trip, I also had opportunity to spend two precious days with my sister, Mwaba Barcelos, who lives with yet another relative, Priscilla, in Durham.

As I conclude this blog, I find that the text of Scripture at the beginning of this entry puts into biblical perspective what conferences mean to me. They are not just a time to engage in “holy” gossip. They provide a golden opportunity to meet with God’s choice servants and to spur one another on to love and good works. The days in which we live are evil and Christ’s return draws near. We must make the most of our conferences in order to rekindle the flame of sacred love upon the mean altars of our hearts. Amen!

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