It was on 9th July in the afternoon, when I got a text message on my cell phone from one of my fellow elders, Charles Bota. It read, “Brethren, Levi Zulu’s wife, Abigail, (both of Lilanda Gospel Hall) has died today in a car accident in Mansa. Contact Misheck Daka for details”. My reply was, “Noooooo!!!!!!!” The sad news was soon confirmed by one message after another. I had to pause and pray. If I ever doubted that first message, I could do so no longer when on Tuesday, 13th July, we laid Abigail’s remains to the grave. Abigail leaves behind a husband (Levi Zulu), two sons (Isaac and Daniel), and a daughter (Tamara, see the next two photos below of mom and daughter).
My purpose in this brief blog entry is not to write a eulogy, but to recall “the memory of the righteous”. My memories of our late sister, Abigail Zulu (nee Tembo), go back slightly more than a quarter of a century. I had just arrived at the University of Zambia (UNZA) to study Mining Engineering in 1979. Just prior to my arrival there, I had experienced a transformation that had a seismic impact on my whole life. I had just been converted to Christ! I was a new creation; the old was gone and the new had come. And now I had no clue how I was going to survive the infamous UNZA, ill-famed for its abundant iniquity.
Among the many means that God used to keep me in the straight and narrow was the example of mature and godly brothers and sisters in Christ, who were a few years ahead of me in their studies, and who were attending Lusaka Baptist Church. When I got to UNZA there was a whole galaxy of them! Levi Zulu and Abigail Tembo were in that group. These were the role models I looked up to. In those days, Lusaka Baptist Church used to have a church bus that picked us up from UNZA and dropped us back after church activities. These two gracious souls were sure to be in the parking lot when the bus arrived—come rain, come exams, come...you name it, they were there! The consistency of their lives spoke volumes to me, especially because I knew that Engineering (which Levi and most of the other brothers were studying) separated men from boys. Yet, it did not matter whether the church meeting was a morning or evening worship service, a Bible study, a prayer meeting, or some evangelistic outreach event. If they were absent you knew that something very big had happened to them.
Also, the fruit of the Spirit radiated from the lives of Levi and Abigail in a way that would be difficult to describe. Love, joy, peace, patience…, were all oozing out of their beings whenever I was with them. To me, as a young Christian, I felt that here were two lives, among many, that showed how Christianity was to be lived. I wanted to be like them! Whereas Levi always won my respect by the way he sought to faithfully divide God’s Word in small group Bible studies in our halls of residence, Abigail won my admiration by her modesty and propriety in dressing and general demeanour the whole period that I was at UNZA. Hence, I related to Levi as my elder brother, and to Abigail as my elder sister. They acted as moorings for me in the tempests of campus life. By the time they left UNZA, I had found my feet.
So, when Levi and Abigail got married, I always thought that they were a perfect match made in heaven. I never once doubted that their home would be a well where the thirsty would draw water and a table where the hungry would find bread. Soon after their graduation and their wedding, they moved from our Baptist circles and joined the Christian Brethren circles. Hence, our paths rarely crossed. Although I never had opportunity to spend more than a passing visit in their home, wherever I came across their names being mentioned, the testimony remained the same. It was a testimony of the fruit of the Spirit being poured out immeasurably from their lives in faithful and consistent Christian service. And, of course, each time we met, their love for the Lord and for his people continued to deeply impress me.
Although Levi and Abigail had made their way to the top of the corporate ladder long ago—as was fairly evident from the people who attended Abigail’s funeral—they remained down-to-earth in every respect. Not once was I ever conscious of their high station in life when I was with them. The fact that they maintained their membership at Lilanda Gospel Hall all these years is enough testimony to this fact. Add to this, Abigail’s love for her Eastern dialect, and you can see why some of us felt so much at home with her (smile!). Apart from that, the joy of the Lord continued to radiate from their faces up to the very last time I saw them—prior to this tragic accident. [Look at Levi’s face on this photo that I took of him at the Lusaka Baptist Church Golden Jubilee Celebrations, a few days before Abigail went to be with the Lord. You cannot miss the joy, especially when you contrast his face with that of the grave Gevara!]
Now Abigail, “my elder sister”, is gone to her reward. I want to join my voice with the many others that are thanking God for the impact of her life. I wonder where I would be if the Lord had not brought into my life individuals like her soon after my conversion, to put ballast into my walk with the Lord. Indeed the Bible is true! “The memory of the righteous is blessed.” May every recollection of her spur me on to pray for Levi and their children that God himself may fill that void that her departure has left! Amen.
Let me end with two testimonies from friends whose acquaintance with Abigail spans the same years that I have spoken about, if not longer! They were sent on the occasion of Abigail's funeral.
Morgan Mulenga (Canada): “As we grieve over the tragic loss of our dear sister in the Lord, Mrs Abby Zulu—a devoted family woman, a devout Christian, a woman of impeccable integrity and an unquestionable passion for lost souls—let us continue to seek guidance in God’s wisdom. Let us also rejoice in knowing that Abby has simply stepped out of this life into the presence of her Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, whom she served whole-heartedly while he lent her breath. May Levi and the children [seen above and below on the day of the burial], and indeed the rest of the natural and spiritual family, be comforted by the knowledge that God is in charge and sits on the throne of grace in spite of this painful experience. May the Almighty Triune God continue to be glorified even under these difficult circumstances!”
Joyce Hibajene (visiting Australia): “[Abigail] was a loving daughter, wife, mother, sister, aunt, and friend. A rare jewel to behold! The counsel she gave was always wise, full of love and encouragement. Age was never a hindrance to her. The young, the old and her peers were all embraced with both hands. All who called her ‘Friend’ and ‘sister’ can testify to this fact. Her laughter was captivating and being in her company was a treasure to be remembered. Such was the woman we are mourning today. She was snatched from our hands like dew vanishes when the sun rises—quickly—but to God it was perfect timing. It is something we have to accept, though hard it might be. Though gone, sweet memories will linger on and on. She touched, ministered and occupied a special place in many a heart—including mine. A rare jewel! I will miss Abigail. For all the above, I say, ‘Thank you, God, for such a rare jewel.’”
A rare jewel indeed!