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!

Monday, December 12, 2011

My 50th Birthday—I Thank God For This Milestone!

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6).

I have just clocked 18,263 days on God’s planet, i.e. I’m 50 years old today. I know that in most Western countries where geriatrics is a challenge, I am still a very young man. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, where the vast majority of our populations are below the age of 20, I have already begun to be referred to as “mudala” (old man). Once upon a time, I would have vehemently objected to being referred to as such, but not any more. The tale-tell signs are evident in every sphere of my life.

Perhaps the most frustrating is my fading memory. This is not good for me, as I am still pastoring a growing church. Every so often, I look at the membership list and cannot for the life of me make out who the person is behind the name. Then there are those embarrassing moments when I meet someone whose name I am supposed to know and I need to introduce him or her to the person I am with…but the name is gone! Or, I am in the heart of a discussion and then am briefly disturbed. As I return to the discussion, I cannot remember what on earth I was talking about. The subject is completely gone!

Then there is the physical wear and tear—the sagging waistline and cheeks, the greying hair, the thinning circle of hair at the back, and the growing wrinkles on my face. Who can argue with such an array of witnesses? When I was getting my recent passport, the cameraman kept showing me the photo on his digital camera before taking it for printing. Twice I rejected the photo and asked him to retake the shot. There was no improvement. Finally, I just had to admit that this was what I now look like. Thankfully, my wife married me before age took its toll on my countenance.

I have also noticed a very disturbing slowing down of my reflexes. In football (i.e. soccer), which I rarely play these days, I noticed this phenomenon. I would see the ball coming and time myself perfectly. However, just as I thought I was kicking it, I would notice that it has gone right past me and I would go tumbling to the ground. Something has certainly changed in my body. I can now see why men of my age prefer to play golf—the ball is motionless until you hit it!

Previously, I needed to go to the gym to lift weights. But now, standing up is weight lifting. I can also understand the person who said, “Before I turned 50, I used to jog 6 miles a day, but now I know a short cut.” I often have to talk myself out of taking such shortcuts. Having made the mistake of marrying a nurse, I am having to pay for this in more ways than one. Every so often, Felistas brings me a banana, a watermelon, and an orange—all cut up into a fruit salad—and tells me that this is my breakfast. What??

This is the oldest photo of me (1964?). I am right in the middle of the family photo!
Okay, enough of this negative stuff. I am happy to have clocked 50. Whereas many people would demand a recount upon being told they have clocked 50, I do not. I think that this is because of a number of choices I made in my late teens and early twenties—the choice of a Saviour, the choice of a career or vocation, and the choice of a wife.

As I pause at this juncture in my life, I am deeply grateful to God for having allowed me to live the life that I have lived. Apart from the values instilled in me by my parents and guardians, the most seismic transformation took place when, at the age of 17, I gave my life to Christ. Guided by his Word and strengthened by his Spirit, I have been able to make the conjugal and vocational choices that have brought me where I am today.

Next year in September, God willing, I will be celebrating 25 years in the pastorate of Kabwata Baptist Church. Then a few months later, in January 2013, I will be celebrating 25 years in marriage to Felistas. So, the last half of my life has been spent with one wife and in one vocation—and both have been a tremendous blessing to me. I know that when I resigned my job as a mining engineer to take up the pastorate of a church of some 35 individuals in a rented welfare hall in Kabwata (of all places!), many people thought I had gone crazy, but I trust history has since proved that it was a call of God.

I would want to say much, much more on my wife and my pastorate, but that will pre-empty the blog posts that I intend to write when those two Silver Jubilees come around. So, all I will say for now is that I have been very blessed to have met and married Felistas some twenty-four years ago. God has blessed us with the most wonderful (biological and foster) children that any person would ask for on this side of eternity. Each time I look at the photos of my wife and children in our bedroom, I whisper a prayer of gratitude to God. I have been blessed beyond measure—and I mean it.

The latest photo of me was taken in Brazil last month. Felistas is standing next to me.
What about KBC? It is a wonderful church. Seeing KBC turn into the gospel outreach machinery that it has become through its various ministries and missionaries has given me a great sense of satisfaction as I clock half a century. It is the doing of God. Last night, as the KBC youth camp came to an end, I sat behind the hundreds of youths listening to the preaching of God’s Word. I prayed that God would be pleased to save them so that their lives on earth may not be destroyed by sin but rather that they may live productive lives for God’s glory. Apart from this, one of my greatest joys still remains seeing the number of individuals whose lives have been transformed through the gospel that God has been pleased to allow me to preach over the last twenty-four years at KBC.

Let me end my blog post by also thanking God for the kind of friends that he has been pleased to give me. Friends make or break a man. The phrase “peer pressure” is often spoken of in negative terms, but I want to say that the peer pressure I have experienced from my friends has been very positive. My friends have put their relationship with God as of prime importance. As they have made their way up their career or vocational ladders, money and possessions have not been primary factors in their decision-making. They have wanted to be at the centre of God’s will. They have sought to be godly men, godly husbands, and godly fathers first before expressing that godliness in their careers. I have been very close to them and can assuredly state that they have lived lives of transparent integrity. They have been good examples to my children as they have come to know them. If I was to recount who my closest friends are by name, anyone who knows them would immediately confess that they are made of the choicest gold.

So, I can say, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Psalm 16:6). As I look into the future, I have but one prayer:

“Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah,
Pilgrim through this barren land.
I am weak, but Thou art mighty;
Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven,
Feed me till I want no more.

“When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside;
Death of death and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Songs of praises,
I will ever give to Thee. Amen!”

8 comments:

  1. Every joy on your birthday, and many blessed returns!

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  2. Many more blessings upon your life and ministry.

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  3. Dear Conrad , I thank God for you . Happy birthday . Joachim

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  4. AMEN! I am grateful to God for you. You are a blessing and an inspiration. The Lord bless you more and congratulations.

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  5. Happy belated birthday. I thank God for you.

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  6. Dear Conrad: A very happy birthday. I thank God for your life and ministry. May He be your abundant portion throughout the year ahead. Phil

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  7. Thanks everyone for the messages of goodwill on my 50th birthday. Many of you are among the friends who are made of the choicest gold!

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