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, March 4, 2011

Africa’s rural areas are in desperate need of the true gospel

“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security…I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me” (Jeremiah 33:6,8).

These promises of God to Israel come to mind as I recall the two nights and a full day that I spent last week with two American missionaries in the Ileendo village. This village is situated along the Zambezi River in Western Province between Sesheke and Senanga. Although these two missionaries, Sean and Shannon Reece, and their families are presently stationed in Livingstone (Zambia’s tourist capital and home to the world-famous Victoria Falls), their main goal in coming to this country two years ago was to set up base in this village and reach out to the people in the entire surrounding area. This is still their vision as they move forward step by step. They are supported by churches in the USA through the HeartCry Missionary Society.

Mweemba with Sean and Shannon Reece during our stop-over in Sesheke
Enoch Munjoma, one of our former KBC members, who had moved a few years ago to Livingstone to assist the church there with their building project, is now the right hand man to Sean and Shannon. It was gratifying to see how he fitted in so well with them. He is a native Lozi speaker and so he interprets for them as they preach. But he does much more than that. He also helps them to bridge the cultural divide as he explains to them various situations that they struggle to process through their Western mental grid system. Having lived in the city for most of his life, he also understands something of the Western mindset and so he explains to the people in the villages the way in which the missionaries understand things. What an invaluable help he is to this missionary enterprise!

The ever-smiling Enoch Munjoma with Shannon Reece coming behind him
The trip to Ileendo Village was uneventful. We stopped over in Livingstone for one night and then briefly took a break in Sesheke town the following day before proceeding to the village. In Sesheke we met a teacher (Mweemba) whom Sean and Shannon had been witnessing to for years. He claims to be a Christian but when I asked him a few basic questions about the way of salvation it soon became evident that he did not base salvation on Christ alone though faith alone. We all realised afresh how we need the Holy Spirit to open spiritually blind eyes before anyone can yield his life to Christ as his only hope of salvation. It was good to see that the road from Sesheke to Senanga was getting a major facelift. What a difference this will make to the whole of Western Province. This is the major trunk road between Livingstone and Mongu. It is presently in very bad shape.

Adamson & Shannon on top of the truck along the Sesheke-Senanga Road
When we got to our final destination in the village, we were told of the latest news that had devastated the entire area. It was of a man who had been having an affair with his uncle’s wife. The uncle was also having affairs with this man’s girlfriends (plural). Upon being confronted by relatives to stop meddling with his uncle’s marriage, this man felt unfairly treated because his uncle was messing up his prospects for marriage. So, he went and borrowed a gun from a neighbour in another village, purporting to want to use it to kill a leopard that he claimed was terrorising his village. Instead, he went to his uncle’s homestead, shot as many people as he could (his uncle had been forewarned and so had gone into hiding), set ablaze the huts, took his uncle’s wife and raped her in the bush, and then disappeared! During our entire stay in the village the man was still on the run, but the village was traumatised. Only the true gospel can heal this kind of moral disease. The need for this was very obvious.

Sean Reece preaching in a village with Enoch Munjoma translating for him
What struck me the most, however, was that while in Lusaka we are falling over each other to plant more and more Reformed Baptist churches, our trip in rural Zambia showed an almost complete absence of any evangelical witness, let alone any Reformed Baptist witness. Apart from one Pentecostal Assemblies of God church, the only “churches” we found in the whole area were Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, and New Apostolic churches. Inevitably, therefore, in all our conversations with the people in the villages the universal answer to the question of salvation was law and works. This was a very sad state of affairs. How could we be so negligent of the souls of our brothers and sisters in rural areas like this? Whole regions believe in a salvation by works.

The pastor (and his family) of the Pentecostal church in the wider village area
I went with one of our pastoral interns, Adamson Shamfuti—a recent graduate of the Theological College of Central Africa. He is with us for six months, while he discerns what the Lord would have him do, having completed his theological studies. We spent the two nights together in a tent next to the Zambezi River. It was a good time for us to also bond. Adamson had never been south of Lusaka and so he relished the opportunity to see the Victoria Falls. Well, his dream finally came true!

Adamson Shamfuti at the world-famous Victoria Falls
When I sensed God’s call to the ministry in 1980, there were two “visions” I had. In one of them, I saw myself preaching in the Lusaka Baptist Church’s pulpit. I often rebuked myself for ever even thinking so highly of myself! You have to understand, I was only one year old as a Christian. In the second "vision", I saw myself preaching to villagers in Luapula Province (where my mother came from, and up until then it was the only village I had ever visited). It was by the side of the Luapula River and I saw myself raising a church there for the glory of God. It was this second “vision” that really warmed my heart and I said, “Here I am Lord, send me!” Well, as they say, the rest is now history.

The Roman Catholic Church building in the village--amazing!
I share this because in a small way the Lord fulfilled this “vision” during this trip. It was totally unplanned. The day we were leaving the village to return to Livingstone, we passed by one homestead in response to an appeal by two women who wanted the missionaries to pray for them so that they could be delivered from demons. As we sat there conversing with them in order to discover what made them think they had demons, I found myself as the chief spokesman instead of the missionaries and I preached the gospel not only to these two women but to a few more who came and joined them. It was not in Luapula Province but it was in a village next to the Zambezi River! As I discoursed in a conversational way about justification by faith, it was very clear that the penny dropped in the minds of a number of them. I will never forget their comments as we drew towards the end: “We read about these things in the Bible, but unless someone explains them to us we just never understand them.” I left convinced as never before that the rural areas are in desperate need of the true gospel.

The women I preached to on the day we left the village for Livingstone
I have said before that the price tag we place on a cause can best be seen by the price we are willing to pay for it. Missionaries sailed bloody seas in order to bring the gospel to Africa at a time when there were no modern conveniences at all on the continent. Many of them died soon after arriving due to the malaria parasite. That is how convinced they were of the value of our souls and the value of the gospel. Even today, missionaries such as the Reeces, are still willing to leave the comforts of the West to spend and be spent for the cause of the gospel in the villages of Western Province. What about us? Is the gospel not precious enough for us to relinquish the comforts of our towns and cities to take the gospel into rural Zambia and rural Africa? Will our kith and kin go into a Christ-less eternity while we Zambian Reformed Baptist Christians all look the other way, study until we get our PhDs, go up our career ladders, build our mansions, and drive our four-by-fours in the comforts of our cities? These are the questions that bothered me as I drove back to Lusaka. Our rural areas need the true gospel. But who will go for us?
Children expressing their joy as we left their village

3 comments:

  1. The challenge is so sobering that I didn't even have the courage to post a comment! Thanks for unveiling the great need for the many that live out there in need of the true gospel. To our shame, some of us cannot even share the Word in our vernacular languages!

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  2. It is very true some blog posts leave the reader broken at heart, and one does not know exactly what to say except to cry “who shall deliver us from this laxity to proclaim God’s Word to the ends of the world”. It is more common to hear people ‘called to minister’ outside the country where conditions are more comfortable than to these remote areas. Since life in these areas may be challenging, is it possible Pastor Mbewe to consider means of sustaining those who would otherwise volunteer to settle in these parts. Actually as I write, I realise that this question has been answered through your earlier blog on Missions. May the Lord therefore, bless KBC as you labour in His vineyard.

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  3. I actually agree with my sister that this challenge must be approached strategically. The plea that I make is that we -those of us who are able to and reside outside Zambia(I speak for such as I am such a one) must buy into this. I make such a plea because like Pastor Sunkutu said previously “As a pastor, what I find most challenging is getting church members to regularly participate in the work of evangelism.” May not only apply to his church alone but to a general selfish attitude that we Christians exhibit when it comes to evangelism today.(Sadly I also see such an attitude in the church that I attend).This should not mean that We should not evangelise where we are personally respectively). Forgive me if I sound too harsh however this is spiritual warfare-(Eph 6:12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high [places].

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