Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Baptist Mission of Zambia celebrates its 50th Anniversary

“Remember your leaders, who spoke the Word of God to you” (Hebrews 12:7)

On Monday, 29th November 2010, the Baptist Mission of Zambia (BMZ) celebrated their golden jubilee. It was a very brief event, which only took 2 hours and was held at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia here in Lusaka. I attended the event as part of the Zambian Baptist Historical Society and participated in the program by speaking on behalf of this Society. The theme of the celebrations was “50 year on Mission with God in Zambia.”

Misheck Zulu leading in worship
We had a number of presentations. Franklin Kilpatrick and his wife, Paula, who have served as BMZ missionaries for about 40 years took us down memory lane and, using a PowerPoint presentation, shared some highlights of the BMZ work in Zambia. Their son, Andy, also shared the experience of missionary kids growing up on the mission field and the impact this had on their lives, especially as they moved on to taking up their own callings in life. At one point, he was overcome with emotions as he recollected some of his childhood experiences. Sharon Harrell also shared with us from her experience as a Journeyman in the early 1980s, so that we could look into that part of BMZ work.

Franklin and Paula Kilpatrick recalling the past
Part of the program also included the presentation of service pins to three missionaries who had clocked 15 years and 30 years on the mission field. Messages of goodwill were given by the Zambian Baptist Historical Society (as earlier mentioned) and the Baptist Fellowship of Zambia through its Executive Secretary, Luke Buleya. An offering was also taken for the Baptist Theological Seminary. The whole event ended with a sermon on “Reaching Toward the Future” by David Hooten.

Conrad Mbewe bringing a message from the Zambian Baptist Historical Society
I expected more. I don’t know why, but I just expected more.

Maybe this was just one of the many celebrations of the 50 years of gospel triumph by the BMZ and so my expectations would have been fulfilled had I attended the other events. Surely, when I think of the major role played by the BMZ in establishing the Baptist witness in Zambia, and then look at the skeleton congregation that gathered for this jubilee celebration, it doesn’t square. I was expecting a crowd that no man could number—well almost—from every corner of Zambia to be there. I am still asking myself, “Where were the beneficiaries of the sweat and blood of the BMZ?”

The congregation that gathered for this special historic event
I would have loved to hear about the convictions that shaped the early missionaries as they brought the gospel to Northern Rhodesia. I would have loved to hear in more detail about the challenges of the pioneering days as well as the challenges being faced by the BMZ missionaries today. I would have loved to hear testimonies from some of the early converts who are still alive, telling us of the great works of Christ in those early years. I would have loved to hear a challenge to the Zambian church today to emulate these international pioneers by taking the work of missions seriously.

David Hooten preaching the Word of God
I would have loved to go away with a publication in my hands, perhaps with short biographical sketches and pictures of some of the main luminaries that make up the vast constellation of missionaries within the BMZ in the last fifty years. I would have loved a compilation, even if it was an appendix, of as many of these soldiers as possible—when they served in Zambia, for how long, in what specific role, where they are now, etc. To me, biographies, however brief, are vital to our faith. The one-paged historical survey that was part of the program bulletin was far too little.

American Baptists reach out to Zambia--what a picture!
Personally, I do not blame the BMZ missionaries themselves for the paucity of information. I think that one of the most difficult things to do is to organize an event when you are yourself the subject. We shun self-publicity and so we will not blow our own trumpets. Maybe that was why so little information was given out. Or, perhaps, the event was more “in house” and so all this is common news to those for whom the event I attended was tailored—so why repeat what everyone knows? Whatever the answer, I feel that justice is yet to be done to the rich history that makes up the work of the Baptist Mission of Zambia. Someone must compile this history before we lose it altogether!

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