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!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kabwata Baptist Church Clocks 25 Years Today!

“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities” (Isaiah 54:2-3)

Every husband who has remembered rather late his wife’s birthday or their wedding anniversary will identify with my experience as I write this blog. It was as if the Lord just tapped me on the shoulder yesterday and said, “Conrad, are you sure you’re not forgetting something?” A moment later it hit me like a thunderbolt: Tomorrow, Kabwata Baptist Church turns twenty-five! I quickly sent text messages to all the elders and we soon talked about the need to work towards some celebrations later in the year to thank God for the work he has done among us. As we sang five years ago, during our 20 years celebrations:

“He has brought us this far by his grace,
He has led us by fire and by cloud;
He will bring us to Zion to look on his face,
O blessed, O blessed be God.” Amen!

Kabwata Baptist Church Then
When Kabwata Baptist Church clocked 20 years, I compiled its history in a book entitled By Fire and By Cloud. In it, I wrote:
Kabwata Community Hall--the first meeting place of Kabwata Baptist Church
“Although the church was formed in 1984, after three years of outreach by the members of the Lusaka Baptist Church, it was not until 25th January 1986 that the church was finally constituted, with its own eldership and diaconate, and a membership of about forty. On that occasion, the members covenanted together to become the Kabwata Baptist Church. Their covenant read as follows:

‘We, whose names are hereunto appended, being assembled or represented before God our Father in a meeting convened in the Kabwata Community Hall, do solemnly dedicate ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer, and to one another as brothers and sisters in Him. We declare ourselves to be a church of God formed after the New Testament pattern, and composed of those who, upon profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus, have been buried with Him though baptism and raised to newness of life. Believing that we are thus a habitation of God by his Spirit, we will seek by the help of God to walk worthily of our profession, to live with each other and with all who may hereafter be added to us, in unity and brotherly love. We pledge ourselves to observe the ordinances given to us by our Lord, namely, the baptism of believers and the Lord’s Supper, to maintain the preaching of His Word, and to labour together, under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, to do all that in us lies for the salvation of our fellow men.’
The Kabwata Baptist Church congregation in 1992 at the end of a service
At that time, the leadership team comprised Messrs Alfred Nyirenda (elder), Roland Msiska, Ken Makala, Emmanuel Milapo, Dapson Mwendafilumba, Grave Singogo, Nicholas Mutale, Simon Mwale, Michael Mwanza and Charles Chinambu. None of these are at KBC now, but their labours in the church’s early years will never be forgotten.”

That was on 25th January 1986. On 1st September 1987, I became the church’s first pastor.

Kabwata Baptist Church Now
This is now twenty-five years later. What began as a small stream has become a major river, and is still reaching further to become a mighty ocean—filled with the glory of God. The church moved from the Kabwata Community Hall to a newly built auditorium in 1997. The forty members have turned into more than four hundred, and the church deacons are presently reviewing building plans to expand the present facility. The one elder has become six elders, and the church has just voted in a second full-time pastor (Chipita Sibale). We also currently have five pastoral interns who are being prepared for missionary and pastoral ministry.
Kabwata Baptist Church present building as seen at night
Of course, the twenty-five years have not been all rosy. We’ve had members leaving, especially in the early years as we reformed the government and worship of the church. We’ve also had some very difficult disciplinary cases that have left a sour taste in our mouths. On one occasion, difficulties within the eldership left us with all but one elder stepping down. From time to time, we have experienced the pain of losing wonderful saints through death. However, as we look back, we are certainly grateful that most of the time the gradient was going upwards rather than downwards.

The statement in the initial covenant which said “...to labour together, under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit, to do all that in us lie for the salvation of our fellow men” has been realised far beyond what the initial group of believers would have imagined. The church functions as a bee-hive, with all the members encouraged to function through its many outreach ministries under the oversight of the elders. On any single Sunday morning, a significant number of the church’s members are out preaching, leading worship, and evangelising in the many outreach points of the church.
The present elders of Kabwata Baptist Church
Last year, our senior youth conference and our junior and intermediate youth camp brought together over one thousand youths for a few days under the sound of the gospel. To do this, one not only needs an active membership but also a growing list of staff members. Our payroll now, including administrative and ministry staff and missionaries, is almost forty individuals. The fruit of all these activities and all these labourers continues to be seen as we baptise more and more people who are saved through these various outreach efforts.

As for the work of missions, the church has already planted two churches, which are now fully self-governing, and are in the process of planting another twenty, which are at different stages of establishment—some of them being in neighbouring countries. As we celebrate the church’s birthday today, our current missionary roll totals ten, and we are about to send out another two, and possibly a third one later in the year. Clearly, the last 25 years have been years of growth. We have been enlarging our tent and spreading out to the right and the left, for the sake of Christ.
Conrad with KBC missionaries, interns, and a visitor from Kenya (photo taken today)
What shall we say then?
Today is 25th January 2011. For me, it is significant that in the Lord’s providence, Kabwata Baptist Church is celebrating its 25th birthday during its annual missions week. Today, seventeen of our missionaries and interns are holed up with me at a missionaries prayer retreat, where we are in the midst of reviewing 2010 and praying for ministry direction from the Lord for 2011. Then from Thursday up to Sunday this week, we shall have our in-house missions conference, where our two former missionaries, Pastors Kennedy Sunkutu and Lichawa Thole, will be ministering to us on the theme of “The challenges and joys of indigenous missions work.” What a divine coincidence!

As pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church for the last twenty three and a half years, it has been my joy to see these developments with my own eyes. The greatest joy continues to be when I hear testimony after testimony of individuals who first came to KBC broken by sin but who heard the blessed gospel and experienced its transforming power. Only God can do this. That is heaven on earth for me—right there! I have also had the privilege of seeing my first Sunday school kids grow up, get saved, get married, raise their own families, and even become responsible citizens and leaders in God’s world.
Kabwata Baptist Church congregation in August 2010
As we celebrate our silver anniversary as a church, we sense that we are indebted to many. We are grateful to the leaders of Lusaka Baptist Church who in 1981 decided to commence the Kabwata Baptist Church in the Kabwata residential area of Lusaka. We are grateful for all our former members who are now scattered in different parts of the world for the role they played at the various stages of the church’s life. We are grateful to all our former and current partners across the world whose prayer and financial support have enabled us to do what we are currently able to do. Ultimately, and far above all else, we are grateful to God whose grace has brought us thus far. SOLI DEO GLORIA!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Book Review of "Glory Road" by Anthony J Carter

"You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

[A blog posting by my wife, Felistas] I have just finished reading a book compiled by Anthony J Carter, entitled Glory Road. It details the journeys of 10 African Americans into Reformed Christianity. These are: Reddit Andrews, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Bradley, Anthony Carter (the compiler), Ken Jones, Michael Leach, Lance Lewis, Louis Love, Eric Redmond, and Roger Skepple. Reading this book has encouraged me in two particular areas; namely, evangelism and biblical truth.


Evangelism
These men received abundant life through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. God brought them to himself in many different ways.

Take Thabiti Anyabwile, for instance, whose teenage convictions and family background caused him to come up with a system of beliefs that led him to become a Muslim. The behavior he witnessed in the family and community made him espouse values that later revealed his sinfulness. His father neglected his family, a trend that was common in his community and culture. Upon seeing the pain that his father caused his family, particularly himself and his mother, he made a vow to become a One-Woman Boy.

For Thabiti, church was merely a place to go to when one needed a “clean up”. Then one day he answered an altar call and was led to a back room. After he was asked whether he’d been baptized, Thabiti said he had not, all the while thinking that was what it would take to be “cleaned up”. His interviewer then scribbled a few notes on a paper and took him out to the congregation announcing that Thabiti was applying for membership and desired to be baptized. Two weeks later he was baptized with no clue about the gospel.

Later, some Muslims visited his college and impressed him with how smart and passionate they were. And so he gave himself to study Islam. The night he became a Muslim he told his wife-to-be who wept. He even got a new name Thabiti Montsho Anyabwile, whose meaning (upright and stern, loosely translated "true man") puffed his ego making him think he was now beyond the sin that he shunned and yet had fallen into time and time again. His life still remained empty until the frowning providence of losing a baby in the womb led him to hear a voice calling, “Son come home”. It was through the radio that he heard the gospel and subsequently went to church with his wife. His years of anger and hatred were broken.

Such testimonies fill the pages of this book. The details of the testimonies of these men are very different but the issue of repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation cannot be missed. As a reader, you come to the point where each individual came to Christ and are overwhelmed by the fact that “Christ Jesus came into the world sinners to save!” You get inspired to also be a means by which Jesus can save others.

Biblical truth
Knowledge of the Reformed Faith came to these men as they came to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. For instance, Thabiti and his wife had a bookstore for African and American titles and so they loved books. Hence, it followed that when they became Christians they went to a Christian bookshop to look for good books especially on theology and church history. Thabiti bought Knowing God and Great Doctrines of the Bible. He began to feast on Reformed theology without knowing it. He was not discouraged by the comments people made and he became convinced of what he called “biblical theology”. The Bible made him see the glory and awesomeness of God and he came to believe that God was sovereign and could be trusted in all things.

Thabiti and his wife, as well as all the other African Americans in this book, sat under the feet of ministers of God’s word who preached the whole counsel of God, even when the churches were not in their comfort zone. What they were learning kept them going for more each week. They also read Christian literature which revealed to them the doctrines of grace. They embraced these truths with their spouses and wanted their fellow African Americans to know the truth in God’s word—the Bible. It cost them a lot in terms of being ostracized by their fellow African Americans but biblical truth was so important to them that they were willing to pay the price. Truth is important!

It should not shock anyone that the one hymn quoted in the book is:
Amazing grace—how sweet the sound;
That saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind but now I see.

The book ends with a list of the books (and men) that were most influential in the lives of these men in bringing them to the Reformed Faith. It is always a great encouragement to discover that books (and men) that were used by God to bring you to the Reformed Faith on this side of the Atlantic were also used to the same end in the USA. The power of the printed page!

 
Conclusion
I have just cited one encouraging example in Glory Road. Get a hold of the book and you can hear similar testimonies from the lives of the other men as well. If there can only be many more such men in the USA, the situation among African Americans would certainly be different. Who can doubt the fruit of the preaching and understanding of the Reformed Faith upon individuals, churches, and entire communities? May the God of grace, whose grace is extolled in the doctrines of grace, raise up an army of soldiers with such testimonies not only among the African Americans but also among us African Africans. Amen!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On which Tablet is the Fifth Commandment?

"Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12).

I have just finished preaching on the subject of worship at the Grace Ministers’ Conferences in South Africa. It was a wonderful time of fellowship and mutual encouragement with many pastors who have become very dear ministerial colleagues over the years. However, as in times past, when I have had to deal with the subject of worship, I was again faced with the need to put before them my understanding of worship as it is taught in the first five commandments of the Decalogue.

When I initially taught on worship from the Ten Commandments and said that they were divided into two sets of five commandments each I was sure that I got this from John Calvin. However, a few years later an American friend, with a far more formidable library than mine, told me that Calvin divided the Ten Commandments into the usual four-and-six category (i.e. four commandments on our relationship with God and six on our relationship with one another). I rushed back to my library and found that he was right. I searched the rest of my few books on the Ten Commandments and found that all of them had the four-and-six category. I have since asked myself the question, “Where on earth did I get this five-to-five category?” I have tried to change, but have miserably failed. So, I am writing this blog for two reasons: (1) To explain why I find the five-to-five category more satisfying, and (2) To find out from those with more formidable libraries if you know anyone else who has divided the Ten Commandments into two sets of five commandments each. I would hate to be the only one doing so, since the Holy Spirit could not have only revealed this to me!

Is this the right division of the Ten Commandments?
Let me be quick to state that when it comes to the content of the fifth commandment, whether it is put under the first or second tablet (I am using the word “tablet” to simply signify whether it is part of the “greatest commandment” as described by our Lord, or as part of the second greatest commandment), I have found that we are all saying the same thing. Everyone agrees that it deals with godly submission to parental authority. So, all are agreed that it is about a vertical relationship. The commandment is further applied to civil and church authority in a secondary sense.

However, herein lies my problem. Firstly, I find a clear thread running through the first five commandments and it is all related to a vertical relationship. I find it rather forced to put submission under loving my neighbour. I say so because my parents are not my neighbours! In obeying them, I am not doing to them as I would love them to do to me. It seems to me that the only reason why commentators have put the 5th commandment under the second tablet is because it talks about our relationship with human beings rather than God. However, as you shall observe, these human beings are standing as God’s regents in society—rather than as our neighbours. Our parents stand between God and us in a way that no one else does—literally from birth. Rebellion against them was a capital offence (Exodus 21:15, 17, Deuteronomy 21:18-21). The authority of parents and rulers is to be guarded because they are God’s agents on earth (Exodus 22:28, Romans 13:1-2).

Or is this the right division of the Ten Commandments?
When the Ten Commandments were being given, parents were the centre of authority. It was the patriarchal period. Israel was beginning to be organised as a nation and thus went into the judges and kings period. Even then, the phrase “father and mother” was generically applied to rulers (Genesis 45:8 and Judges 5:7). At this point it was the elders, who represented the wider parental authority, who were in charge of Israel. God had entrusted his worship into their hands. Thus in this commandment public worship was being secured by ensuring submission to godly leadership.

Secondly, there is such a close connection between the 4th and 5th commandments that I often wonder why commentators put them on different tablets. The 4th addresses heads of homes (i.e. parents) and tells them to ensure that worship is maintained in the household, while the 5th addresses the children and tells them to honour their parents as they seek to implement the worship of the true God. So, the two complement each other. In fact, it becomes clear when one notices the promise given to the children—“that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” Why such a promise? It is not because the children are doing well in loving their nearest neighbours, but because they are honouring their parents as they pass on true religion to them. It was when a generation in Israel abandoned the true religion that their parents had passed on to them that God sent them into captivity. So, it was all related to the first tablet, i.e. loving God.

Thirdly, there is a beautiful symmetry in the two “tablets” which we miss when we divide them into four-and-six. Notice how the 1st and the 6th commandments (i.e. the first on each tablet) are the most important. Once you are wrong on the object of worship (the 1st commandment), then even if you are right in the ordinances (the 2nd commandment), the reverence (the 3rd commandment), the day (the 4th commandment), and the custodians of worship (the 5th commandment), it is all useless. You are worshipping the wrong object! Similarly, with respect to the second tablet, if you murder a person (the 6th commandment), you cannot commit adultery with them (the 7th commandment), you cannot steal their goods (the 8th commandment), you cannot lie to them (the 9th commandment), and you cannot envy what they have (the 10th commandment). They are dead!

Ultimately the issue of "tablets" is not the ultimate issue
This beautiful symmetry can also be seen as you work upwards on each tablet. The last commandment on each tablet has been put there in order to secure the top four. Because religion has a given-ness to it, when children honour their godly parents, they will most likely observe the resting day as a day of worship (the 4th commandment), be reverent in worship (the 3rd commandment), observe only the ordinances of worship prescribed by God (the 2nd commandment), and worship the only true God (the 1st commandment). Similarly, because sin is a matter of the heart, when a person jealously guards his heart with contentment, he is more likely to treasure integrity (the 9th commandment), respect the possessions of his neighbour (the 8th commandment), only engage in sex in God’s legitimate context (the 7th commandment), and preserve the life of his neighbour (the 6th commandment). Isn’t this what James teaches? “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel” (James 4:1-2).

However, having said all this, it is not my intention to upset the apple cart. I share this blog because I want to find out from those of you with more formidable libraries if any commentator sees what I have seen. As I said at the Grace Ministers’ Conference, the difference is more of awkwardness than content and purpose. It is like a man who is addressing an important gathering on a cold day but who has buttoned his jacket wrongly. Since he is feeling warm, the jacket is fulfilling its purpose. However, his wife, sitting in the front row, is totally embarrassed as she sees her man improperly dressed in front of such an august assembly!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ten South African Youths visit Kabwata Baptist Church

“I long to see you..., that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine. I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you...” (Romans 1:11-13).

We recently had the pleasure of hosting ten South African youths as a church, from December 25 to 30, 2010. They told us that their visit was delayed because of transport problems from South Africa. The bus they were booked to get on had a problem that needed to be fixed and so they waited on it for 13 hours before they finally gave up around 22.00 hours and returned home for the night. The next day they found an alternative bus, and that was how they came. The journey ended up taking three days! They testified that it was their desire to come that kept them going. We too were very glad that they came. It was a time of being “mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”. Below are their full-to-overflowing testimonies (which I have edited for brevity). Pleasant reading!
Chipita Sibale (top left) and his wife, Chanda (top right), with team from RSA
******

Keolebogile Grace Moaisi

I am 23 years old and I am from Johannesburg, South Africa. I have been a journalist for 2 years now. I studied Journalism and Philosophy at the University of Johannesburg. I became a Christian at a young age and have spent more than 15 years now learning about an amazing Saviour who will not let me go regardless of my failings. And one glorious day, God-willing, I will see His face.

My time in Zambia is one I will probably never forget. I have been exposed to extremely new and exciting things. New things were the architecture and transport system and language idiosyncrasies. Exciting things were meeting the body of believers in a new country and feeling completely at home because of the God that we have. He is the same everywhere. My favourite part was visiting Old McDonald’s farm because lately I have had a similar vision, and seeing someone living it out was like a shout, not a whisper, from God. Please pray that I would surrender my life completely to Christ’s pleasure and not only as much as I am comfortable with (Romans 12:1-2), because where else can I go? He has the words of life!

******

Jones Mekoa

I am a student studying at the Vaal University of Technology. I am currently doing my B-Tech in Chemical Engineering. I really love sports and being active. Of course, like most men, I also love food. I think I have a great sense of humour but am a bit reserved. I am an optimist and think good things can come from bad experiences. I believe it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. I guess I’m a young Christian wanting to be more like Christ and finding my calling.

Coming to Zambia has been such an amazing experience, from not being sure if the trip would happen because the bus we were supposed to use broke down. When we eventually got another bus to Lusaka the journey was so long. Thankfully, the fellowship we had was good and our spirits never dampened. We were well received and hosted by the Singogos and the Sibales. More importantly about the trip is just the encouragement I have had to see how important and central Christ is in the home of the Singogos and the Sibales. Scripture is really studied and fellowship is truly preserved in their homes.

*****

Lucinda Vermeulen

I am 20 years of age and currently studying at the University of Johannesburg. I am in my last year of a BA sports development degree. I go to a church called Sophiatown Community Church and I am involved in the children’s ministry. I love children and I love learning and experiencing new cultures and trying out different foods.

And what a trip this was! Finally, upon getting off at Lusaka’s bus station, all I could say was, “Thank you, Lord!” On Sunday, we went to Bonaventure Baptist Church.  It was great because the preaching of the word was really good. I was also encouraged by the love the people had for Christ. After the church service, we got together with the members of Bonaventure Baptist for lunch. We had time to share God’s word again. That is what I loved the most. No matter what we did, at the end we would always praise God and give him all the glory! If I have to be given a chance to come to Zambia, I would jump into the first bus. I am thankful to God for bringing me here and teaching me all that I have learned.

*******

Precious Xolile Makhubu

As I reflect on the experience of Zambia, I cannot help but be humbled by the manner in which we have been received. It gives me great joy and encouragement to witness what God is doing in the lives of the believers here, especially the way in which they are willing to sacrifice their resources in serving and loving us. I have been encouraged and challenged by your lives and I praise the Lord for the opportunity He has granted me to be part of it and learn what it means to live a Christ-exalting and Bible-embracing/saturated life.  Oh, how I long to not only tell of this Christ I have come to believe in but also to live Him out, so that many may come to know Him just as I have been privileged to witness here.

As I return to South Africa, I continue praying that the Lord will enable me to not only be a hearer of the Word but a doer also, and that I would grow in my love for His Word. I want to appreciate and hold on to the Word—and not my emotions—as the supreme authority in my life.

*****

Refiloe Photoane aka “Fifi”

I’m 25 and work full time as an evangelist and a discipleship leader of young Christian women on the campus of one of Johannesburg’s leading universities. I work with a group called Campus Outreach. I only became a Christian in 12th Grade, after I’d been exposed to the gospel by God-fearing parents my whole life. God rescued me from a hypocritical double-life that many youths in my church and area lived out, and also through showing me what an authentic Christian life centered on His glory looked like through the lives of some young missionary ladies from the USA.

Being with Zambian Christians, and this Baptist community in particular, has encouraged me to be fired up for the things they are fired up for, i.e. God’s name and renown, a life ordered by the Holy Scriptures, leading and growing in Christ-centered family units, communal ‘Acts 2:42’-like living, a benevolent hospitality, resources shared with joy, and a church that dreams and acts towards a gospel-transformed Zambia. These and many more lessons will hopefully shape the kind of minister I seek to be, the hospitable wife I long to be, and the Christ-consumed 'eating up Scripture' believer I’ll fight to be.

******

Refiloe Serai

I am 24 years old and a journalist from Johannesburg. I attend Sophiatown Community Church. I enjoy writing, reading, meeting new people, and learning about other cultures. Hence, when we arrived in Zambia, I was tired but excited to see what Zambia had in store for me. I really wanted to see how God would show himself to me through my fellow travellers and through the Zambian people.

As it turned out, God showed himself to me every single day. This was primarily through His people who opened their homes to us and shared everything they had with us. He was in the little things and so he ensured I never had a moment to forget who he is. I was changed by this trip. I was reminded how God loves his children and how he works through us for his glory. I am challenged to love him more and make him known.

I hope to return to Zambia one day. A big “thank you” to Chipita and Chanda Sibale and the whole Singogo family who hosted us during our trip and freely showed us God’s love through their hospitality. They ensured we were never in need of anything.

******

Sifiso Tshabalda

I am 21 years old, from Swaziland, and doing my 3rd year B.Com Economics and Econometrics at the University of Johannesburg. I enjoy reading, watching movies, and playing soccer. I became a Christian in 2007 and go to Church at Sophiatown Community Church in Johannesburg.

This was my first trip to Zambia. When we arrived in Lusaka in the evening we were driven to Makeni where we were introduced to our hosts, the Singogo family, and other friends who looked after us the whole time we were in Zambia. I found it amazing seeing a community of Christians who are so rooted in God’s word and committed to serving the Lord. As a young man, I was challenged and encourage as I saw how men in this Christian community commit themselves and their families to work for God above all things.

Our visit to the McDonalds farm was an eye opener. I realised how much God had blessed me by giving me a family and providing for me in every way. Yet I take it for granted. The McDonalds’ compassion towards homeless children despite all the challenges and uncertainties they faced moved me. Christians are called to be a true reflection of Christ’s love.

*****

Thulisile Soko

I’m 23 years old and recently completed my B.Com accounting degree at the university of Johannesburg. I am the last born in a family of four kids and grew up in a township on the east side of Johannesburg.

We left South Africa a day later than planned and spent 3 days on the road. Although the trip was long, God showed himself sovereign through his providence. We got to know each other and learned to work as a team throughout the journey. We arrived in Zambia on Christmas night. We spent most of our time with the youths of Kabwata Baptist Church and shared our faith with people around the area.

What impacted me the most was listening to Mr McDonald’s story and how God had used his family to show love and compassion to the homeless boys who lived on the streets near Manda Hill. The McDonalds' home was to me a representation of how we were also once homeless, lost, and condemned, but God saw it fit to offer Jesus Christ as an atonement for our sin, and by his blood we are adopted into the kingdom of God and are co-heirs with Christ.

******

Xolisile Sibanyoni Sophy

Everything started on the 22 December when the team was ready to leave for Zambia. We were very excited as we got on the bus ready to go and share our lives with our fellow brothers and sisters there. Unfortunately, it did not work out like that. The bus couldn’t move because there was a part that needed to be fixed. So, with all that, we trusted God and he gave us peace in the midst of this major discouragement. The trip was delayed, but God was still in control.

By God’s grace we arrived in Lusaka on the 25th December. We were welcomed with so much love. We were dropped off at the Singogos where we ate supper and breakfast the next day. Being a Sunday, we went straight to church. Bonaventure and Kabwata Baptist churches received us with so much love.

The Sitalis and the McDonalds were the families we visited. We saw Christ through their conduct and love. Meeting Pastor Mbewe was amazing and was a real eye-opener. All the sermons we heard were challenging. So, as I go home, I’m so fired up to love like Jesus. I’m holding on and pressing on towards the prize!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

In Honour of My Mother—Claire Linda Mbewe

“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all…’ Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:28-31).
 
Although this blog is finally only being posted on January 1, 2011, it was conceived in my soul on December 31, 2010. This was because, on the previous day (December 30), I was asked to receive a certificate of honour on behalf of my mother at the 40th anniversary celebrations of the General Nursing Council of Zambia at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre here in Lusaka. As the thoughts ignited by this award-giving ceremony brewed in my soul, I felt compelled to put pen to paper and express them through this blog. This blog, therefore, is not primarily about my mom as a wife and mother in the home—that would need another blog entry to deal with—but about her as a nurse and the impact her nursing career left on me, on my siblings, and on the nation of Zambia.
Conrad speaking after collecting the award certificate
Perhaps the best place to begin is with a book that was very famous in our country in the early 1970s. It was entitled Who's Who In Zambia and was published in 1968. In the introduction, the editor wrote, “In the compilation of material for Who's Who In Zambia, the aim has been to include the names of the best known men and women in all spheres of constructive achievement. Some have been selected on the basis of outstanding personal achievement in their particular vocation while others have been included on the basis of their position....” (K. G. Mlenga, Editor). One individual in this book who answered to this description was:

“MBEWE, Mrs. Claire Linda - State Registered Nurse & Midwife; Acting Matron, Lusaka Central Hospital. Previously - Nurse, Ndola Hospital, 1958-60; Balovale Hospital 1962-64; Sister-in-Charge, Lusaka Hospital, 1966-67. Born 23.12.33, Mbereshi Mission, Kawambwa, Luapula Province. Studied at Mbereshi Mission, Mindolo Girls' School; Tiger Kloof Institute (Cape Province, S. Africa - Matriculation); McCord Zulu Hospital (Durban - SRN & SCM). Married Benson Evans Mbewe 7.7.60. Three children - Thamara Mwape, Conrad Chanda, Irene Mukalo.”
Some of mom's grandchildren with the keynote speaker, Mrs Helen Matanda
My mother, Mrs Claire Linda Mbewe (neé Kawandami), found herself in this book because she was a pioneer of nursing in Zambia. When she commenced work in 1958 in Ndola she was only the second professional nurse in Zambia. She graduated in South Africa as a Registered Nurse after a Mrs K Sikota, the first Zambian Registered Nurse, who preceded her six years earlier in 1952. At the University Teaching Hospital (called ‘Lusaka Central Hospital’ in the short biographical sketch above), mom worked as Senior Nursing Officer, which was the top nursing position in the whole hospital. She moved to the Ministry of Health in 1969 and became the Chief Nursing Officer in charge of all nursing services in the nation. When she died, at the age of 37, she had just moved to Cabinet Office. She went to her reward still young and full of zest.

Mom in her nursing uniform in 1954
Why did the General Nursing Council (GNC) give mom an award almost forty years after her death? Well, there is no doubt that she played a very significant role in the establishment of nursing in Zambia. But more than that, when the GNC was formed by an Act of Parliament in 1970—giving nurses a distinct legal place in health care—mom was in charge of all the nursing services in the nation. So, there is no doubt that she played a vital and pivotal role in its establishment. A year after her death the Zambia Nurses Association (now called the Zambia Union of Nurses) erected her tombstone, showing the high esteem that mom enjoyed among the nursing fraternity in the whole country at the time of her death.

The day after her burial, on Friday, 5 November 1971, The Daily Mail wrote on its front page:

“Mrs Mbewe – ‘Shining example to Women’ More than 300 people, including Cabinet Ministers, the Mayor of Lusaka Councillor Fleefort Chirwa, and top government officials attended the funeral of Mrs Claire Mbewe, former matron of the University Teaching Hospital, who was buried at Leopards Hill Cemetery yesterday. Mr Lewis Changufu, Minister of Home Affairs told the graveside mourners that Mrs Mbewe remained a shining example among the women for her contribution to the development of Zambia. Mr Changufu said that if Zambia was to advance it must produce women of Mrs Mbewe’s calibre. She was dedicated and helped to educate many other Zambians in the nursing profession. He said that she was responsible and trusted, and she had worked as hard as a man. He added that it would be difficult to find a replacement for her.”

Our family posing for a photo outside our home in 1964
When mom died, I was only nine years old. I did not understand what death was. To me, she had gone on a long journey and would return one day. Well, this year (2011) marks forty years since my mother went on that journey—and she has not returned. Being almost fifty years old now, I now understand that she will never return. Rather, I will go and join her very, very shortly.

I said that I was only nine years old when my mother died. I have one negative recollection of her as a nurse—only one. It was the times she gave me injections when I was ill. I recall once telling her in between sobs—as I kicked and screamed—that I would never fall sick again if she desisted from giving me an injection. I do not think she took my promise seriously because she still went ahead and pricked me with it, while dad held me down on the bed. Forty years later, I still hate those injections!


One more matter needs mentioning in this blog written in honour of my mother. It was because of mom’s passion for nursing that her surviving siblings and children felt obliged in 2004 to introduce the Claire Linda Mbewe Memorial Award which is given to the most deserving graduate of the Lusaka School of Nursing each year. Whereas it competes favourably with one or two other awards as far as prize money is concerned, it is presently the most coveted trophy because it is the only floating trophy that has a miniature trophy which the recipient keeps. 

Conrad with the 2010 winner of the Claire Linda Mbewe Memorial Award
We also provide a one paged laminated biographical sketch of mom’s nursing career to the recipient. Our desire as a family is that newly qualified nurses starting the journey that mom once trod with this award in their possession would find in her example a role model to emulate until God also calls them from this life. As a family, we felt that this was the least we could do in honour of this pioneering woman who blazed a trail for professional nursing in Zambia. Indeed, “[we] arise and call her blessed..., and [we want] her works to bring her praise at the city gates.” Amen!

Felistas in her nursing uniform in 1990
The impact of mom’s nursing career is still evident in the family. My elder sister, Dr Mwape Kabole, who is a Consultant Paedriatrician, presently practicing in England, was only eleven years old when mom died. Yet she testifies that she took up medicine as a career primarily because of mom’s example. I also seriously considered a medical career but the sight of blood still gives me the creeps. We spent long hours with my elder sister, as she assured me that you soon get used to it. In the end I took up Mining Engineering because rocks don’t bleed! However, all was not lost, because when I met a nurse with godly virtue (Felistas) soon after graduating from university, I married her!