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!

Friday, August 27, 2010

DAY FIVE: The 21st Zambian Annual Reformed Conferences

I was running late this morning. Somewhere between updating my blog and finalising my sermon for the evening, hours flew by like minutes. So I missed the prayer meeting. Felistas was not very impressed with me because she really wanted to attend the prayer meeting. When she let me know about this, I did not answer.

When the attendees split into the two conferences, I decided to attend the Reformed Family Conference and so that is what this blog is about. Edwin Mpande (shown above), a member of Kabwata Baptist Church, led the meeting. I tell people that he is the most important person in the church because, being the church accountant, he pays my salary!

Choolwe Mwetwa (shown above), the Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Chingola, was the preacher in the first session and he was finalising his series on Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” He dealt with the content of the teaching that makes up much of the training. He was quite comprehensive. He said that parents must teach children honesty, integrity, settling debts, hard work, industry, time economy, budgeting, orderliness, contentment, management of passion, etiquette, prayer, Sabbath observance, family and national history and culture, management of friendships, hygiene, sex, etc. He urged parents to use the Scriptures. He also emphasised the need to be Christ-centred in the training.

Bruce Button (shown below), the Principal of the Sovereign Grace Theological Seminary, was the second preacher in the morning. He too was completing his series based on the same text (Proverbs 22:6). He emphasised the need once again for parents to teach wisdom to their children, as of prime importance. He pointed out a number of ways to do this. Firstly, establish a relationship of relaxed trust with your children, so that they can share their innermost struggles and feelings knowing that they will be helped rather than condemned. Secondly, allow your children to be exposed where they can make choices in a controlled way. Do not be over-protective. Thirdly, allow your child’s own natural response to be evident. [I missed his fourth point]. Fifthly, let this process be repeated over and over again. Sixthly, control the influences that are shaping your children’s thought patterns and affections.

Bruce asked some heart-searching questions: Have we parents left too much to the world’s influence on the minds of our children? Have we been allowing our children to express what is inside them? Have we been guilty of self-righteousness?

During lunch time we took some photos. Due to the large number of people, we took the photos in two groups. The family conference had their own photo taken (shown above) and the school of theology also had their own (shown below). I missed the afternoon session because I had a meeting with one of our missionaries (and his wife), which took the whole afternoon. While we were talking about their challenges in ministry, the conference delegates were listening to reports on inter-church projects.

The meeting in the evening commenced at 18.30 hours. Charles Bota, an elder at Kabwata Baptist Church and chairman of the conference organising committee, went forward as the song leader. Isaac Makashinyi (shown below) shared with the congregation about the African Christian University. He gave a bird’s-eye-view of the history of the ACU. He also gave the ethos and vision of the university, and ended by sharing various prayer requests for the ACU.

Bruce Button (shown below) also went forward to speak about the Sovereign Grace Theological Seminary (SGTS). He gave the history of the seminary up to the present day and also talked about the vision of the seminary. He talked about the method presently being used for the studies. Bruce also spoke about the Copperbelt Ministerial College (CMC), although he is not directly involved in the college. He ended with some prayer needs for both the SGTS and the CMC.

Victor Kanyense, the Pastor of Mount Makulu Baptist Church, then went forward to interview Pastor Walid Bitar from Lebanon about outreach work among the Muslims (see photo below). He shared with us how he moved from Lebanon and found himself in the USA. God brought him to conversion and got him back to Lebanon. He also explained how he got involved in Muslim evangelism in Lebanon. He ended by pleading for prayer for more missionaries in Lebanon.

Charles Bota (shown below) then read Psalm 29:1-2. Isaac Makashinyi then led the whole meeting in prayer for the ACU, SGTS, CMC, and brother Walid’s work in Lebanon. Then we sang together “Jesus paid it all”. Chikondi Phiri, an elder at Lusaka Baptist Church, told the meeting about the passing on to glory of Muntanga Mwasambili, the wife of Reece Mwasambili who was presently out of the country. Mr John Mthetwa’s mother also passed away today. Chikondi prayed for the mourning families and also for me as I got ready to deliver God’s Word.

I preached from Ephesians 6:1-3 on the obedience of children. I dealt with three issues. The first was the simple fact that children are commanded to obey parents. The second was the first incentive for doing so, i.e. that this is only right. And then the third was the second incentive for doing so, i.e. that God promises long life to those children who obey their parents.

At the end of the meeting, a few statistics of the conference were given. There were 64 churches represented at the conference. An average of about 400 individuals attended the two conferences during the day and an average of about 1,000 attended the combined meetings in the evenings.

Victor Kanyense gave the closing remarks. He quoted “He has brought us this far by his grace”. He then thanked all our preachers, all those who travelled long distances to come to the conference, the caterers, the medical team, the Lusaka Baptist Church workers, the ushering teams, the donors (in cash and accommodation), the hosting churches, the musicians, and the organising team. Charles Bota ended by reading 1 Cor 15:58. That is how the 21st Zambian Reformed Conferences came to an end.

We now go home to put into practice what we have learned about the Christian family. Many of us have serious adjustments we need to make in order to lead more God-glorifying lives in our homes. Pray for us, that God will give us the grace of repentance and faith in order to do just that. Amen!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

DAY FOUR: The 21st Zambian Annual Reformed Conferences

The first meeting today was the combined prayer meeting. It was led by Thandika Chirwa (seen below), a deacon at Mount Makulu Baptist Church. We had a better attendance than we had on Tuesday, and as for pathos in prayer it was equally refreshing. It was good to see the Namibian women coming to the conference in their Herero traditional attire (see their photo at the end of the blog). Jealousy aside, it is certainly better than our Zambian Chitenge attire.

Later, we broke up into the two conferences—the Reformed Family Conference and the Reformed School of Theology at 09.30 hours. I attended the Reformed School of Theology which took place in a tent next to the old Lusaka Baptist Church building. Bruce Button, the Principal of the Sovereign Grace Theological Seminary, was the first to speak. He read from Proverbs 31, the famous passage of the excellent wife, and dealt with the work of a wife in the home and in the community. This woman in Proverbs 31 was busy both at home and in the community. But clearly, her priority was the home.

Bruce (picture below) took us right back to Genesis 1 and 2. He said that we give expression to the image of God in us when we multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. This command is what is called the cultural mandate. And we fulfill it by creating a society and then using creation itself to develop a culture. In doing our work, we are being truly spiritual. This has tremendous implications with women working at home—especially with little children. Working with dirty nappies does not feel very spiritual. And yet it is! By washing nappies, you are subduing germs.

Bruce made the point that when Christ sets us free he enables us to once again obey the cultural mandate. So, he said, approach your work as a homemaker with the dignity it deserves. Be ambitious with your work as a homemaker. Don’t just make ordinary meals—make them delicious and excellent. Be creative—decorate your home so that it is beautiful.

Bruce handled the issue of women working outside the home in a sensitive and balanced way. Finally he made the point that the virtue was not in staying at home but in working hard at home!

Choolwe Mwetwa (picture above), the Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Chingola, took us in the second session in the morning. His message was on the work of husbands and fathers as priests in the home, using the example of Job (in Job 1). Choolwe showed how Job did not respond to the possibility of his children sinning, and then went on to show how he instead responded. In the latter, he showed that Job prayed and taught his family the ways of God. Finally, he pointed to Job’s integrity and urged us not to contradict our teaching by our example. He applied all this to the work of a husband and father as the priest in the home.

Meal times are always a good time to catch up with some consultation and counselling. Hence, above, you will notice James Williamson (our part-time missions coordinator at Kabwata Baptist Church) consulting with the leaders of the two Reformed Baptist churches in Western Province.

The meals themselves were well-cooked and tasty. We had three feeding points around the church grounds and usually within 3o minutes, the queues were gone and everyone looked well fed. We thank God for the catering company that was hired to provide the meals. They were efficient, joyful and very hardworking.

After lunch, both Choolwe Mwetwa and Bruce Button formed a panel and answered questions. They started with questions that were written down prior to the session. After that they proceeded to answer questions from the floor. After an hour in the Q&A session, I excused myself because I had to work on a newspaper article that needed to be submitted that same afternoon. So, I missed the second hour of the Q&A.

The evening session began at 18.30 hours sharp with a song by the Kabwata Baptist Church music ministry. They sang “Jerusalem” with heart and soul and vigour. Then Misheck Daka came forward and did a powerpoint presentation on one of the joint projects among the Reformed Baptists in Zambia—the Zambian Reformed Baptist Building Trust Fund. His slide show of complete and incomplete church buildings across Zambia was an eye-opener. He appealed to the churches for faithful subscriptions to the Fund, faithful repayment of loans, and generosity in gifts to the Fund.

Jerran Phiri (picture below) then took up the podium as our song leader and led us in singing “In Christ Alone” and later “I’m pressing on the upward way.” We then listened to Dr Grave Singogo, the pastor of Evangel Baptist Church, who was the preacher for the evening. In his usual humorous manner, Grave preached from Ephesians 5:31-6:4. He told us that parenting necessitated the control of anger and the tongue. There was also a need to inculcate godly discipline in children. Finally, it involved teaching children both socially and spiritually.

Grave (picture below) ended with some pastoral comments. I will just list them to you: (1) Avoid over-protection. (2) Avoid comparisons between your dependents and also with other children in other homes. (3) Avoid favouritism. (4) Avoid saying that a child was a mistake. No child is an accident. In his characteristic humour, Grave asked, “If it was an accident, did you call the police?” (5) Avoid being old fashioned. (6) Avoid confrontational meetings. (7) Avoid attacking actions, but rather attack the heart (Mark 7:21). (8) Avoid self-blaming. “Where did I go wrong? Is God punishing me for giving me such a child?” (Gen 4:1-2). (9) Avoid disunity between husband and wife in the instruction of children (Eph 5:31). (10) Avoid choosing careers for your children. (11) Avoid pride (Phil 2:3ff).

It was on that note that we ended this fourth day of the conference. The evening service was packed out. The bottom floor of the new Lusaka Baptist Church auditorium was completely full, and so some people had to sit on the balcony. We thank God for the numbers in attendance.

Tomorrow is the last day. Make a date with me to hear how the Lord will visit us on this last day. I have also been told that it is the T-shirt day. What it means is that all those who have bought conference T-shirts will wear them, especially for the conference photograph. I just wish that the conference photograph was taken today when the Herero women were in their magnificent attire!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

DAY THREE: The 21st Zambian Annual Reformed Conferences

As I said in my previous blog, I have to disappoint you with the news that I missed the morning session of the conference today. I had a funeral on my hands which I just had to handle. It was a good gospel opportunity because many members of staff at the Lusaka SOS Children’s Village were present, together with some of the older children.

The young man who died--Brian Phumulo--was a member of the Boys' Brigade, and so they came with their brass band to give him a colourful send off. I preached from Titus 2:11-14 on the blessed hope that Christians have due to the grace of God the father, the converting power of the Holy Spirit, and the redeeming work of the Son of God. It is this hope that we want to share with the children and staff at the SOS Children’s Village, especially in the light of the death of their parents that has left them as orphans and the death of Brian Phumulo.

Byron Glaspy (who came from the USA to attend our conference) and I arrived at the conference just in time to partake of a late lunch that was kept for us. I was asked to lead the afternoon session which was about inter-church news. Due to the many Reformed Baptist churches in Zambia and around the sub-region, we concentrated on the newer works and those churches which recently got pastors.

So, we heard testimonies about the Reformed Baptist works in Chipata (Pastor Albert Ngoma, seen above), Chipulukusu (Ndola), Kaoma, Katete, and Mansa. On the international scene, we heard testimonies about Reformed Baptist works in Botswana, Kenya (Pastor Sam Oluoch, seen below), Malawi, and Namibia. We could not exhaust all the churches that wanted and needed to share. We also spent time in prayer for the churches.

We then went out for supper. Meal times are a very good time to catch up with inter-church fellowship, consultation and counselling. You could see scattered in the church auditorium, under the tents, and around the church grounds, small groups of brethren talking together. What I appreciated the most was that they were hardly ever from the same church. It was clearly a time of cross-pollination.

The evening session began with a few more participants being welcomed. We specifically welcomed attendees from Lebanon, New Zealand, and from Ndola Baptist Church. Ronald Kalifungwa (seen below), who was very concerned that our entire conference bulletin did not have a hymn on the family when the theme of the conference was on the family, took time to teach us a hymn, “O happy home, where Thou art loved the dearest.” Charles Bota introduced Ronald thus, “What the church gained in preaching in Ronald, it also lost in the world of music. Ronald is an accomplished musician.” Anyone who doubted this soon had his doubts removed as Ronald taught us this wonderful hymn!

Kangwa Kutemba (seen below), a member of Evangel Baptist Church, led our evening meeting with his characteristic passion. Our preacher in this final session of the day was Bruce Button, who preached from Ephesians 5:25-31. Having shown us the context of Paul’s instructions to families, Bruce took us straight to the directives of Paul to husbands. He listed down a number of ways in which Christ is an example for husbands.

Having listed them, Bruce (seen below) spent the rest of the sermon taking us through each one of them. We saw that (1) Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (2) Christ loved the church and cleansed her by the washing of water through the Word. (3) Christ loved the church and will present her to himself in splendour.

Bruce took a few moments to apply this at a spiritual level to those of us who were present in the meeting. Do we have an inheritance in Christ? Are we united to Christ? If not, he pleaded with us to come to Christ and inherit this gloriously rich adoption, forgiveness, redemption, etc.

Bruce applied all this to husbands. He urged us to (1) share all our wealth (both physical and spiritual) with our wives, (2) take a special delight in our wives, and (3) live a life of sacrifice for our wives. Recognising that this was a very high standard, Bruce urged us all to be filled with the Spirit because only the Holy Spirit can produce such fruit in us.

It is on this note that we ended the day at the conference. Ronald led us again in singing, “O happy home, where Thou art loved the dearest”. How blessed must be the children (such as the ones below) who come from such homes! Tomorrow, I will be with the Reformed School of Theology and so expect to read a report on that part of the conference at the end of the day. Bye for now!

DAY TWO: The 21st Zambian Annual Reformed Conference

The second day of the Zambian Annual Reformed Conference began with a combined prayer meeting at 09.00 hours. From the prayers one could tell that the saints gathered longed to meet with God, especially during the preaching of his Word.

For the sake of this blogging exercise, I decided to spend the day with the Reformed Family Conference, which comprises all those who are attending the Annual Reformed Conference but are not in church leadership or called to the work of ministry. (Everyone else was attending the Reformed School of Theology and I will report on that tomorrow, the Lord willing). Pastor Binwell Chibesa (picture above) of Kambule Baptist Church in Mongu, Western Province, led the singing at the family conference.

Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa (picture above), the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Chingola, was the first preacher in the morning. He expounded Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” He reminded us that parenting can be a joy or a grief, depending on how your children turn out. In his sermon, he basically described who a child is both negatively and positively.

Negatively, he said that a child is born intellectually empty, directionally blind, inherently unstable, characteristically foolish and congenitally wicked. And then positively, he said that a child is a divine image bearer, a heritage from God, an emblem of virtue, a respecter of parents and enjoys the blessing of belonging to Christian parents. Each of these points was opened up and proved from the Scriptures in a refreshing way so that we could know the nature of the children we seek to train.

Bruce Button (picture above), the Principal of the Sovereign Grace Theological Seminary, was the second preacher in the morning. He handled the same text that Choolwe handled. In his case he showed us the biblical method of child training. He emphasised that the number one method of child training is that of imparting wisdom. Biblical wisdom sees the world as orderly. It comes from the fear of the Lord and is foundational in understanding the nature of the world. Bruce also emphasised that wisdom teaches a view of life that is characterised by sowing and reaping.

Finally, Bruce gave us six general principles for training our children. He warned us not to try to plant bananas and reap pawpaws, i.e. he discouraged quick fix solutions. He said that we need to teach our children the difference between wisdom and folly. Our children also need us to inculcate in them a profound awareness of God. He warned Christian parents against emphasising primarily the specific commands of Scripture instead of developing their children’s appreciation of the Bible’s redemption story. He also warned us against distancing ourselves from our child’s sin, as though when we were growing up we never used to be disobedient ourselves. Finally he urged us to create a loving family environment.

After lunch we had two seminars. Alfred Nyirenda, an elder at Mount Makulu Baptist Church (and a former pastor of Lusaka Baptist Church), took the seminar on “Intimacy in Marriage”, while Raphael Banda (picture above), the pastor of Central Baptist Church in Mazabuka, took the seminar on “Foundations of Courtship”. Since I could not split myself into two, I attended the seminar being led by Raphael Banda (picture below). He emphasised that being the right marriage partner is more important than finding the right marriage partner. He then gave four pillars that help young people to become the right marriage partners. Only after that did he deal with finding the right marriage partner. He contrasted the Western and secular method (i.e. dating) with the biblical approach. It was evident that he has done a lot of work on this subject!

After supper, we had a full auditorium, as those who were unable to be with us during the day due to work-related commitments also came to join the conference. Renford Gombwa (picture below) led us in worship. I had the opportunity of welcoming those who were attending the conference by continents, then by countries and then by provinces. We had attendees from the USA, the UK, and Lebanon. We also had attendees from Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. From within Zambia, all the provinces were represented except for North-Western Province—again!

Choolwe Mwetwa (picture below) preached from Ephesians 5:22-24 on the submission of wives. He defined for us what submission was and then went on to show us what a wonderful privilege it was to be in a position of submission in any relationship and especially in marriage. He then spent more time breaking down what submission for a wife in the home looked like. Some of the characteristics of this submission were: recognising your husband’s leadership, respecting and obeying your husband, etc. Choolwe also dealt, albeit briefly, with the reason why wives should submit to their husbands, and the uniqueness, the character and the motive for this submission. All these were carefully derived from the text he was expounding. Finally, he urged anyone who was struggling to obey God in this area to check their spiritual state. “Perhaps you are unconverted,” he warned.

Thus ended the second day of the conference! My blog for tomorrow (Wednesday) will miss the morning session. This is because a boy has died at the SOS Village in Lusaka and I have been asked to handle the funeral. Kabwata Baptist Church has an ongoing ministry at this orphanage. We conduct Sunday services there and also get a bus load of older children from there for our Sunday services. A number of the young people at the orphanage have come to Christ through this ministry.

Monday, August 23, 2010

DAY ONE: The 21st Zambian Annual Reformed Conference

The 21st annual feast finally arrived today! For those of us in Lusaka, we were already having a foretaste of what lay ahead of us as some of those attending the conference began to stream into town before the weekend. We had friends arriving from Botswana, Kenya, Lebanon, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, the UK, the USA, etc. Hence, the weekend that just ended was special.

The first day at the conference began with Mr Charles Bota (picture above) leading the gathered congregation in singing the chorus, “Abba Father” soon after 18.30 hours. I was asked to open in prayer and then we heard announcements by Colonel Moses Phiri (picture below). He gives announcements the way he speaks to soldiers in the army barracks. By the time he is finished, you know that you need to obey rules around here!

After the announcements, Mr Bota led the meeting in reading Revelation 22:7 to 17, and invited us all to come and drink freely of the water of life. Then we sang the chorus “Majesty”. Mr Paul Mumba (picture below) then came forward and gave the history and ethos of the conference. He pointed out that it started when a few brethren at Lusaka Baptist Church took time in the mid 1980s to study Calvinistic theology together. It had now grown to hundreds of people coming in from across the country and across the world. He emphasized that this is one conference where there is a deliberate effort to submit our lives to the supremacy of Scripture. He urged us all to pray that the Holy Spirit would mightily use the preachers during this conference. Mr Mumba introduced the theme of the conference, “The Christian Family.” He bemoaned the fact that marital failure among us, though not common, was growing—a matter that was hardly ever heard of a few years ago. He hoped that the lessons learned here would nip the flower in the bud. Mr Mumba ended by quoting a very touching letter written in 1990 by Dr Robertson McQuiklen, when he resigned his presidency of Columbia Bible College because he needed to nurse his dear wife who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

We then sang, “How deep the Father’s love for us,” and “Ancient Words,” to prepare our hearts for the preaching of God’s Word. Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa (Pastor of Lusaka Baptist Church) came forward to give us the key-note address. He based his sermon on Psalm 128. Quoting Francis Schaeffer’s wife’s various pictures of the family, he showed why it was important to spend the whole week reflecting on the Christian family. From Psalm 128 he drew out three pictures of the family.

The first picture is that of a fountain. The fountain of a Christian family is a God-fearing husband and father. “Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!” (Psalm 128:1). A husband and father who fears the Lord has a correct concept of God. He also has a pervasive sense of the presence of God. He also has a constant awareness of his obligations to God. He does the things that please God. Thus, he walks in the ways of God. He hates what is evil, and so when he realises that he is wrong, he is willing to confess and repent of sin. Pastor Kalifungwa (picture below) challenged those of us who are fathers not only to have a vision of God but also to put it into practice. If we do not have such fountains, there is no hope of Christian families being produced among us.

The second picture is that of fruit. This relates to the wife and the children. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house” (Psalm 128:3a). The wife is likened to a fruitful vine. She is fruitful in terms of bearing many children. Although many of us today do not see many children as a blessing, this was definitely the first sense in which the people of Israel understood this fruitfulness. The second sense in which she was to be a fruitful vine was in terms of producing the fruit of the Spirit as spelt out in Galatians 5. Wives and mothers have the greatest impact for God when they show true Christian character—when they are godly. Whereas the world prizes women who are outwardly beautiful, dynamic, and who are famous for their fortune, God (and godly men) prize women who produce spiritual fruit (Proverbs 31:28-31, 1 Peter 3:1-6). The third sense in which her fruitfulness is to be seen is in terms of domestic fruitfulness. From Proverbs 31, Pastor Kalifungwa showed three forms of domestic fruitfulness. Firstly, she took good care of her husband. She was a husband-focused woman (11-12). Thus her husband had full confidence in her. Secondly, she took excellent care of her family (13-16, 21-22). It was her number one ministry. Finally, she gave excellent attention to other things outside her home. She engaged in business (16-20). As a wife, then, you should use your God-given gifts to serve him in your church and community. But it must not be at the expense of your number one ministry.

Psalm 128 not only speaks about the fruitfulness of the wife but also the fruitfulness of the children. “Your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128:3b). Pastor Kalifungwa showed that olives cannot be grafted from elsewhere. Also, they can be used for food, for lighting lamps, for consecrating religious workers, for cosmetic purposes, for hygienic and medicinal functions, for religious ceremonies, as money, for construction purposes, etc. So, the psalmist is comparing the children of godly men and women to olive plants because they are legitimate children. They are also compared to olive shoots because of their good conduct and behaviour. They are also productive according to their gifts and their stage of development. They are productive in their homes, in their churches, and in the community where they live. Pastor Kalifungwa challenged the children in our midst to see whether they answer to this description. He also challenged those of us who are fathers and mothers as to whether we are training our children to become such useful citizens in God’s kingdom and in our nation.

The third picture is that of fun. If you do your job according to the Scriptures, you will experience great joy as the fruit of your labours. “You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you” (Psalm 128:2). You shall enjoy your wife and children—and even grandchildren. You will feel that life was worth living. You will be happy. That is what it means to be “blessed”. You shall be praised (Psalm 128:4)—by your husband, your wife, your children, and the world.

Pastor Kalifungwa finally urged us to pursue such a family. It is only such a family that will make us truly happy. It is only such a family that will picture Christ and his church. Just as the Lord will see the travail of his soul and be satisfied, so will it be with us if we labour for a truly Christian family. We too will end our days in full satisfaction.

With those words, we ended the first day. Fellowship was sweet in the car park as old friends from across national boundaries met after a long time (as can be seen below). What a glorious start to the 21st Zambian Annual Reformed Conference! If this is the appetiser, we can hardly wait for the full meal!

Since the Zambian Reformed Conference is divided into two “conferences”, tomorrow (Tuesday) I will be attending the Reformed Family Conference. Those of you wanting to learn about the Reformed School of Theology will have to wait until the next day (Wednesday).