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!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Book That Changed My Life!

(Before I share this week’s blog post, let me welcome my 70th “follower”—Chabu! We are slowly inching towards 100. Those who follow publicly—for there are some secret ones too—are an assurance that there is a regular readership out there. Thanks a lot!)

This week I have decided to start a weekly blog post entitled, “The Book That Changed My Life.” In this blog post, I will ask guest writers to share with my blog readers about the book (apart from the Bible) that changed their lives. I am hoping that as you read their testimonies you will be encouraged to buy a book—preferably that same book—and read it. We can all profit from spending a few minutes each day acquiring some extra knowledge from those who have taken time to write.

Where did I get this inspiration? It was from South Africa, where a week in September was being observed as National Book Week. And the theme this year was “The Book That Changed My Life.” I thought, wow, that is a good idea! I could do the same on my blog for at least three months a year. So, here we go!

My first guest is Billy Sichone. Billy works with World Vision Zambia as Program Manager based at Mpika. He is married to Jane and they have two lovely daughters, Zevyanji (5) and Uchizi (3). He attends the Emmanuel Baptist Church and preaches often among other things. Previously in Mongu and Sinazongwe, Billy has served in rural Zambia for the past 14 years in which time he has developed himself in many respects. He holds several credentials and still is a lifelong student. What is the book that changed his life? Let us hear him tell us about it himself.

* * * * * *

I have read many books that have really impressed, amazed, and edified me, building me into what I am today. Of all the books I have read, two stand out; the one written by the good old Bishop of Liverpool, the venerable J C Ryle, and the other written by the great old Princeton Theologian, Charles Hodge. These two books have impacted my life in two remarkably different ways, as I shall attempt to elucidate.

The first monumental book, which I will share in this first instalment, is Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, penned down by Ryle, who served as an Anglican clergy man in an age when there was declension within his denomination, as the church imbibed higher criticism and liberalism of all kinds and hues. While the Church of England was in deep weeds, the Baptists were experiencing some kind of awakening under the fiery ministry of C H Spurgeon. In many senses, Ryle was one of the last beacons in the church. No wonder Spurgeon said of him that he was the Best man in the Established Church. But, let me hasten to tell you about the book itself!

The Bishop J C Ryle
I first stumbled across this title in 1992 when I was perusing the Banner of Truth Trust book catalogue. The title intrigued me, especially that it had George Whitefield on its cover. Having read Dallimore's two-volume biography of Whitefield a few months before, I resolved to get this title and, for sure, when it landed in my post box I was not disappointed. I hurriedly feasted upon the book, literary abandoning everything else I was doing—my academic studies included!

I could not believe that God had raised such a company of mighty preachers in England only a century and a half before, who turned the nation right round, yea, "baptised England with the gospel" as some worthy divine once remarked. The book tells eleven biographies of significant preachers, their bio-data, background, conversion, and the best part, their remarkable ministry and theology. One after the other, Ryle highlights unique features about each preacher in ways that blew my mind. The first is, of course, the matchless soul winner, George Whitefield, then John Wesley, Toplady, and others. Each case made extremely interesting reading, even those that did not hold to my doctrinal conviction like Wesley and Fletcher.

One unique feature about each of these men was that they were eminently holy and loved the Lord with a sincere heart. This entire company of preachers were all Anglican, University men, entirely given and sold out to the gospel, literary abandoning all else for the sake of Christ. Some preached themselves to death while others laboured to a ripe old age before they were gathered to their fathers. For instance, Whitefield preached over 18,000 sermons while Wesley travelled over 240,000 miles on horseback, just to preach the everlasting gospel. By all standards, these are feats that scarcely any of us dare match up to or scale!

Once one reads this book patiently and objectively, they cannot but yearn for more. I resolved to read through that book every year to repeatedly recharge myself, though I must admit I have not kept my resolve. Nonetheless, have read through it as often as possible. You better be sure, that book rarely leaves my home and, you are right, it looks old and rather tattered due to the many times I have read it!

The lasting lessons from this book are many. For one thing, the biographies, so skillfully written, give insight to the other side of life of the preachers. It’s amazing to note that they are human like us but extremely consecrated to God's cause, hence their eminence. For another thing, the book taught me that God can use anyone from anywhere, as long as they are truly consecrated to his cause, with fidelity and integrity.

A small company of eleven men shook England 250 years ago. Visiting England some years ago, I could not help but see the evidence of God's work among the British people. The evidence, unfortunately, remains in magnificent church structures and historical sites. My heart felt sad and yet elated to see the holy "relics" of the past. Oh for showers of blessings on that land once again! May Zambia not go that way as well? Pray brethren.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Grace Of Conceding Defeat

The Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them" (1 Samuel 8:7).

Once in a while you have a jaw-dropping experience, which leaves you wondering whether you are dreaming. And sure enough a few slaps on your cheeks confirm that what you are seeing or hearing is actually happening.

This is what most Zambians went through during the just-ended national elections when incumbent president, Rupiah Banda, was defeated by his arch-rival, Michael Sata. Banda held a press conference where he conceded defeat and congratulated the man who trumped him. The following day, he even attended the inauguration of the new president and handed over the instruments of power in full view of tens of thousand of the very people who voted him out. Having done his final work, he even waved at the jeering and booing crowd. If you are looking for greatness, there it is!

Rupiah Banda at the height of his election campaign
Conceding defeat in any situation is difficult. It is even more difficult in politics. Quite apart from the bashing that your ego undergoes at the thought that your rival has publicly beaten you, it is also because elections are a costly venture. You pour in a fortune into an election campaign with the hope of winning. Loosing the election is like throwing all that money into a furnace. That is very hard.

It is even more difficult when you are the reigning president because all the instruments of power are still in your hands. By a word of command you can declare the elections null-and-void (e.g. Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast) and call for a re-run. You can even call the Chief Justice to swear you in at midnight and announce that you actually won (e.g. Kibaki in Kenya).

Michael Chilufya Sata who finally dislodged Rupiah Banda from power
We have seen this with many African state presidents. They would rather share power than relinquish it. Hence, a number of our African countries are presently being ruled in frustrating power-sharing structures (e.g. Kenya and Zimbabwe). Others are ruling from God-knows-where, long after a popular uprising has toppled them (e.g. Gaddafi).

Our political structures in Africa are not strong enough to force an incumbent president to step down as a matter of course. Also, our culture of giving presidents the aura of paramount chiefs only exacerbates matters. So, whereas it will be taken for granted that Barack Obama or David Cameron will step down if they lose an election, the same cannot be said of an African president. The culture is different here.

Zambia's first president, Kenneth Kaunda, who lost elections in 1991
Add to this the fact that Rupiah Banda’s two predecessors who stepped down after an election—Kaunda and Chiluba—were both prosecuted and persecuted by their successors. Hence, when Rupiah loses an election and steps down, we must accept that it is nothing short of the grace of God to us as a nation. When he even goes so far as to attend the inauguration of his successor, we had better make sure it is not a dream. Such things are rare in Africa.

I am calling this “the grace of conceding defeat” because without the grace of God an African president is not likely to do what Rupiah Banda did last week. We first saw this grace here in Zambia when our first Republican president, Kenneth Kaunda, stepped down twenty years ago. We are told that he was playing golf in the State House grounds when the votes were being counted. When he was informed by state agents that his main rival, Frederick Chiluba, was too far ahead to be beaten by him, he conceded defeat and instructed the state officials to begin the process of handing over power.

FTJ Chiluba who defeated Kaunda
This grace or lack of it was there even in Bible days. Let me give you an example of each. There was a time when Israel was ruled by a judge called Samuel. During his reign, the people of Israel began to demand for a king (instead of a judge) as was the case with other nations. Samuel took the matter to God in prayer, as he really felt rejected and dejected. However, God assured him that the people had rejected him (i.e. God) and not him (i.e. Samuel). So, Samuel went ahead and inaugurated their first king, Saul.

That could not have been easy for Samuel, especially that he knew from the very mouth of God that the person he was ushering into office was going to make the people regret their decision. Saul was going to take Israel into a mess. Yet Samuel stood before the people and gave them a very moving farewell address before inaugurating their king.

The absence of the grace of conceding is seen in the life of Saul, when it became clear to him that David was to be his successor. Instead of conceding and handing over power to David, Saul held on to power until his death. He hunted David like a wild animal to avoid the inevitable. The entire state machinery in Israel was turned into a manhunt. The man was never happy from that point onwards, and he made his own family life impossible.

Laurent Gbagbo of Ivory Coast who failed to reliquished power after an election
What is it that makes some people give up power so easily and so sweetly while others hang on to it until they are either killed or overthrown? It seems to me that God in his grace makes the former individuals realise that life is bigger than them. God brings them onto the stage for a season and then takes them off—but the play continues. They are not mwine wa filimu (the main actor of a film) who never dies. God alone is the main Actor. The rest of us are dispensable.

God also gives such men the grace to realise that there is more to life than the position of a state president. A person does not die when he moves out of the unspeakable comforts of Plot One and when his face is removed from the picture frames in all the business houses in the country. There is life beyond being driven alone, with a motorcade the length of the Victoria Falls. Life can go on and even be enjoyed without your name being mentioned in the first ten items of the Main News in the public media. Life can actually be enjoyed without being made to feel as if you are the most important person around.

Let me end by saying that in writing this blog post, I am not suggesting that Rupiah Banda never did wrong things as president of Zambia, nor am I suggesting that he was the best president Zambia ever had. I am not even suggesting that the election process itself was conducted on a level playing field. What I am saying is that we need to acknowledge the grace he displayed as an African president in not only conceding defeat but also attending and participating in the inauguration of his successor. We need to thank the man for doing us proud as Zambians and as Africans. But above all, we need to thank God for giving Rupiah Banda the grace of humility and magnanimity to accept that his time to leave the stage had come. After all, Zambia is bigger than him.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Amazing And All-Sufficient Grace Of God

Prayer letters coming from men in the trenches of ministry always warm my heart. I received one such prayer letter today from Jonathan Holdt, pastor of Bethany Baptist Church, in Pretoria, South Africa. The whole prayer letter is worth reading as it oozes with energy about what the Lord is doing in Jonathan’s church. However, below I share with you his opening paragraph. It is about the amazing and all-sufficient grace of God.

Jonathan writes…

One of the great promises in the Bible is Philippians 1:6 where Paul says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

What an encouragement that is as we reflect on our own sinful weakness and failings. The longer one progresses as a Christian the more one realises just how far short we fall of the glory of God. We realise more than ever before of our need for daily grace and the atoning blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. You may even wonder how you will make it to glory in the light of life’s trials, burdens, disappointments and failures. This is where God’s grace is so wonderfully magnified.

What a magnificent promise Paul brings to our attention that reminds us of God’s work within us; of His grace that is transforming and changing us as well as preserving us from all evil and preparing us for glory.

One thing I am learning in the ministry is just how much we need to take hold of such promises through faith. The ministry is a continual spiritual battle against the powers of darkness that is ever menacing and aggressive in its efforts to oppose and undermine the work of the Lord. There are times when one feels weary, tired, demoralised and discouraged. Yet, what sweet comfort we taste in such promises – to know that God is at work in you and will not abandon the work he is doing.

Sometimes it may even be hard to see the good that God is doing in and through you. Yet we draw fresh strength and courage from His promises that remind us that our labour in the Lord is never in vain [1 Cor 15:58].

The call to us as Christian pilgrims is to press on cheerfully – knowing that in Christ Jesus we have the victory over the powers of darkness and knowing that God will never abandon us as His children and will continue to work in us not withstanding our sinful weaknesses and failings. Praise be to the God of all grace!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Die Is Cast—What Shall We Say?

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

I have just returned home from casting my vote in Zambia’s tripartite elections. I have done my civic duty. The rest is now left to God and the will of the people right across Zambia. By the end of Thursday, we shall know who our (new) political leaders will be. The die is cast! What shall we say in response to all this?

The attention of the nation will be at this venue for the next two days

 Last Sunday, before I preached, I repeated a warning that I have always made before an election. Let us participate in the election of our political leaders because it is our civic duty. If we are so led, let us even stand as Ward Councillors, Members of Parliament, or even as Presidential candidates. Let us also pray that by the end of this election process God will give to us leaders who will not be a means of our chastisement but a means of blessing. Let us also pray for peace, especially because very few people accept defeat. Many will cry, “Wolf! Wolf!” even when they know they have legitimately lost.

However, the heart of my warning is always against those who get so passionately involved in the election process as if getting the right people into political office is what will turn our nation around economically, socially, and even spiritually. That is a dream that will only end in a nightmare. I recall issuing this warning twenty years ago when the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) was on the verge of overthrowing Kaunda and his United National Independence Party (UNIP). Those who thought the messiah had finally come with the advent of the MMD are rather quiet these days.

Edith Nawakwi--Zambia's only female presidential candidate in 2011
I also issued a similar warning when the whole of Africa went agog with the election of Barack Obama into the presidency of the USA. Thankfully, this was during the days of blogging and so you can read my warning here. Today, those who dismissed my warning can see for themselves that Africa has not received any exponential help from the USA since their brother entered the White House. I have noticed their tails are between their legs.

I have always appealed to Christians to be modest in their expectations of politicians. With all due respect to the promises that we were given during the recent campaigns, it must be obvious to every thinking person that those promises are larger than life. No one can deliver fully on the promises that were lavished on us unless he was God. Therefore, our expectations ought to be modest and realistic.

Rupiah Banda left no stone unturned to return to Plot One as can be seen above
For those of us who are Christians, the Bible clearly gives us some very basic truths, which ought to temper our expectations. To begin with, all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Every political party, therefore, is led by sinners and has sinners in its fold. You cannot get something pure out of that which is impure. So, the hope of Zambia does not lie in the previous or the incoming political leaders.

I want to repeat what I have said before. The hope for Zambia—and indeed for any country in the world—lies in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say so for two reasons. Firstly, it is because the gospel alone has the power to change human hearts. When Jesus saves you he turns your heart from being self-centred to being God-centred, and from being sin-loving to become a lover of good. Hence, where the gospel has done a thorough work in the hearts of the majority of people, you can have hope that you will have a better society because it will comprise better people—morally and spiritually.

The concern for PEACEFUL campaigning and voting cannot be missed!
No presidential decree, or act of parliament, or council by-law has ever made anyone more loving, or more hardworking, or more truthful and faithful. Yet, aren’t these the core values we need for a better world? Yet, over and over again, we see lives transformed by the power of the gospel from being full of hate to being full of love, from being irresponsible lazy gluttons to being reliable hard workers, from being chronic liars to being truthful and faithful. Surely, this power is what ought to excite us!

Secondly, the gospel calls people back to the cultural mandate. Where the Word of God is properly taught, people become wealth creators not by magical means but by hard work. They find fulfilment not in amassing wealth to themselves but using their God-given abilities to subdue the earth. In that way they do much good to their fellow human beings and bring glory to God. This is why the only hope for Zambia lies in the gospel.

Religious lunatics have also planted crosses on the road to Parliament
So, ultimately what matters is not who is in our Council Chambers, or Parliament, or State House. What matters is whose hearts have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit through the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray for our political leaders in order to have an enabling environment so that “all people [may] be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Hence, if Christians are going to be excited it must be primarily about evangelism and church-planting missions. It must be when they hear of sinners getting converted. At least, we will be joining in the excitement among angels in heaven. This shows that we have a real and eternal perspective on life!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Zambian Election Messages From Our Grade Six Pupils

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:1-2).

Children singing a song during Assembly, led by one of their teachers
Kabwata Baptist Church runs a Christian school (Eagles Nest School). It has been my joy over the years to see these small children, who come in at kindergarten stage, leaving the school after their seventh grade not only with primary school education in their minds but also with biblical truths embedded in their souls. By the grace of God, I have had the privilege of seeing a number of them baptised and joining the life of the church. It continues to be my prayer that more and more of them will come to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Pupil answering a question on the two greatest commandments during Assembly
Recently, the Grade Six pupils were asked to write about the coming Zambian Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government Elections. Below are four submissions from the pupils that I would like to share with a wider readership. These children below are all 11 years old and come from different backgrounds. However, it is clear that God is saying something through “the lips of children and infants”. Listen!

Sombo Simbeye

The time has come for our country to go to the polls. On the 20th September 2011. Choosing a leader should not be taken lightly, because it will affect our lives, our country, and us as children. Leaders should be chosen by their character rather than their popularity.

Sometimes the most charismatic have proven to be the worst leaders of all times, for example Hitler of Germany. As we look at the ten candidates, let’s search deeper than the noise they make during campaigns.

From a child’s point of view, a good leader is a good father, honest, and loves our country. The Bible says we shall know them by their fruit, if their fruit is characterized by drunkenness, violence, quarrelling, love of money, and rioting then as a nation, we should be wise not to choose them. But if they are respectable, temperate, gentle, and above reproach, no matter what other people say, choose them.

Finally, let’s not choose because we are excited about people, but let’s reflect and choose those with characters that will make the nation proud. Choosing a president is like choosing a marriage partner. When you have a bad choice, there is no turning back. We always have to think twice before choosing. In conclusion, I would like to advice everyone to choose with wisdom.

* * * * *

Ian Williamson

Zambia is having elections on 20th September this year. We will choose a president, members of parliament, and councillors. They will hold their positions for five years. Voting is a right in Zambia. We will take a look at voting wisely.

Voting wisely will increase our chances of being a prosperous nation. With good leaders we can have a good country. As people of Zambia, we hold the future of our nation in the way we vote. Violence is not necessary to build up Zambia, nor wars to change the world. Peace is power. It is not the president who elects; he is elected. Zambia is a fertile land. We have the workers and resources; all we need is a leader to direct us.

Not all countries have the right to vote. We should use our privileges wisely.
In conclusion, making good choices, voting wisely, using our minds and choosing our leaders will change the face of Zambia.

* * * * *

Luyando Munkombwe

20th September, Zambia goes to the polls. In this we put our future in the hands of one presidential candidate. This is a very important decision, because our future depends on this occasion.

As we choose a new president, let us choose wisely because there are advantages and disadvantages to the way we vote. We as young citizens of Zambia are hoping for peaceful campaigns and elections. And we pray for God’s guidance during this time. The advantages of voting wisely are: better housing, better education, better roads, and good hospitals, just to name a few. The disadvantages are: civil war, bad roads, violence, and death.

So, in conclusion, I urge you to vote wisely for a better tomorrow. We need better lives and a peaceful country. Please vote wisely and pray for mother Zambia.

* * * * *

Lumbanya J Mulenga

Next week on 20th September 2011, Zambia is having an election. This will be the day when we choose our president, members of parliament, and councillors.

As a child, I would like to step up and say to everyone who is going to vote in this year’s election to vote wisely. Zambia is going to choose a leader of integrity, justice, passion and compassion, consistency of vision, confident and, most importantly, a leader with effective leadership skills. We, Zambians, are the decision-makers and we have a big role to play in this election. Choosing wrong leaders can result in many bad and destructive things; for example, war, bloodshed and even putting Zambia into a low and poor economy. Imagine that, for the next 5 years!

In conclusion, I urge everyone who is going to vote in this year’s election to vote for a leader who walks the talk, visionary, confident in decision-making abilities, has knowledge and discipline, willing to take Zambia to the next level. During this day we are to remind ourselves that we should vote wisely. Remember, YOUR VOTE, YOUR RIGHT, YOUR CHOICE!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Happy 60th Birthday, Uncle Patrick!

"Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged; parents are the pride of their children" (Proverbs 17:6).

Last Sunday, after a hectic weekend of ministry (preparing for and conducting a wedding on Saturday and then preaching both services on Sunday), I was glad to settle down in the evening at Uncle Patrick Chisanga’s 60th birthday party. The event was held at his home and we just happened to be among the small band of people who were chosen to attend it. Below are some highlights from my camera!

Patrick Chisanga Junior receiving instructions while Uncle Patrick listens
Uncle Patrick (as he is affectionately known in the wider family sphere) is married to my mom’s younger sister, Aunt Pettie. However, with all the older siblings gone, they now function as “father” and “mother” to me. Whenever I have issues that need the wisdom of age and experience, I often make a beeline to their home or their office (yes, the singular is deliberate. They work in the same block of offices on their business premises). I always return home wiser with every visit I make.

The small circle of invitees for the birthday party--no more than 30 people
Uncle Patrick is a traveller extraordinaire! So, I always count myself fortunate when I need him and find that he is in the country (listen to who’s talking!). Since I often also love to visit “Chongwe”, we have often found ourselves meeting in very strange places. We now have a rendezvous at the Johannesburg’s O R Tambo airport where we often spend time together.

The blowing of the candles (limited to 6, one for every 10 years on earth)
We have also found that we have a common love for the kind of gadgets that make life easier to manage—smart phones, laptops, etc. As you may well imagine, although I often lead the way to start with, it is not long before I find that he is gone half way around the block while I am catching my financial breath. As for the iPad, I did not even try to join the race!

I thought of spicing this special 60th birthday blog post with a few comments from his grandchildren who are presently at home (and came along to the event with Felistas and me), since “grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged”. So, here they are!

The cutting of the cake with Uncle Patrick's sister-in-law, Aunt Lucy
Mwaba, my late sister’s second born daughter: “It is very inspiring to have a grandpa like you, very ambitious. We will definitely follow in your footsteps. You and granny Pettie are great role models. We are grateful to God for both of you. Hope you enjoyed your birthday gathering with your family and friends. Happy birthday Grandpa Patrick and many more returns!”

Toasting
Pinje, my late sister’s first born daughter: “Happy 60th birthday grandpa Patrick. Hope your birthday was a time of happiness and cheer; that it brought you joy and laughter with friends and family. May the Lord continue to bless you and add many more years of peace and love to you!”

The music section that kept us entertained with every type of music
Mwansa, our second born son: “In a family that is not short of role models, Grandpa Patrick has always stood out among the top for me for all he has achieved and the way he is with us. Most of the time I can only stand back and watch in amazement of what he has achieved and it is a life that I hope to emulate. He has always been around for us and always knows what each of us is doing and though it is rare that he gets to hear these words from us, we love you and appreciate you. Happy Birthday, Grandpa!”

Uncle Patrick giving us the "birthday boy's" speech for the evening
Mwindula, our first born son: “I have always been inspired by Grandpa Patrick’s sense of taste. His home is like a lovely museum and there is a lot of attention to detail. I always feel like taking a tour when I’m there. It has shown me that just because I’m African, it doesn’t mean I cannot take interest in making my home beautiful. It is good to have such an example.”

I'm not sure I would have received permission to include this one!
POSTSCRIPT: Well, Uncle Patrick, you have heard for yourself what your grandchildren are saying. Mine is to say that one day we will stop meeting at our favourite rendezvous in RSA, because of the reality of death. And I am sure, at 60, your ranks have thinned enough for you to know that this is real. Let us make sure that we book a better rendezvous in heaven. To do so, we must both ensure that we have repented towards God and put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). I’ll look out for you there!

Friday, September 9, 2011

“They are Satanists!”

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour” (Exodus 20:16).

If ignorance in ordinary things is dangerous, then ignorance in spiritual matters is even more dangerous. I am finding this to be true with every succeeding day. One of the areas where this has become really worrisome is in the realm of “spiritual warfare”—and especially in identifying the works of the devil.

It is not uncommon these days to hear people not only blaming Satan for all the wrong things taking place around them but—more seriously—accusing other people of being Satanists. Our church is involved in planting churches in various cities, towns and villages around Zambia. Almost every church that we have planted in the recent past has been stigmatised as “Satanists” in its early stages.

When I have asked what it is about them that has lent itself towards Satanism, I find that it is nothing more than mere suspicion of the unknown. Our missionary pastors do not suck anyone’s blood nor do they sleep in nearby cemeteries. They are ordinary men, husbands, and fathers who ply out their (spiritual) trade like anyone else. There is nothing eerie or mysterious about them. So, why call them “Satanists”?

Sometimes it is because white people visit their churches quite frequently and yet our pastors are Africans. What is it that causes white people to go there? “They must be Satanists!” Sometimes it is because within a short time after the establishment of the church, a church building begins to go up. Where are they getting the money to put up the church building when they are still new around here? “They must be Satanists!”

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God in downtown Lusaka
In other words, anything that we cannot explain must come from the devil. It is precisely the same ignorance that causes the fear of witchcraft to thrive in the popular African mind in the village. I recall when remote controlled TV first came to Zambia. A friend of mine saw this phenomenon one evening. We were about to give thanks for a meal when our host turned off his TV with the remote control. My friend leaned over to me and whispered, saying (in a very worried tone), “Is this not witchcraft?”

Whereas this is often laughable, these suspicions have sometimes taken on such epic proportions as to whip an entire crowd into an uncontrollable riot. I recall when the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God put up their first church building at the Kafue roundabout in Lusaka. In their characteristic “loud” way, they put up a building that screamed for attention even from a distance. Part of their church building was earmarked to be a clinic. They even provided a mortuary where the bodies of their deceased members would be kept, awaiting burial. Well, the construction workers leaked the news about this mortuary. “They are Satanists! They even have a mortuary where they will keep the bodies of the people they kill.” The result of this rumour was a very serious riot, with crowds engaged in running battles with the police.

Another cult that has suffered from this stigma is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). The beautiful church buildings that they erect in record time have not helped the situation. This is made worse by the fact that these buildings go up even before they have any congregation. The people wonder, “Who is putting up this building? Since we do not know them then they must be Satanists operating at night when we are asleep.” Once the building is up, they then begin to see young white males in white shirts, black pants, and with black nametags, visiting their homes with African colleagues. “Sssshhhh!” they whisper to one another, “the Satanists are here!” The result of this stigma is that their beautiful church buildings are still largely empty. They have recently engaged in PR efforts to correct this, even taking journalists to their buildings to search for any signs of Satanism.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in Libala, Lusaka
I have no sympathy for either of the two cults mentioned above, but it is still crazy to accuse them of Satanism. Worse still, the accusations against our own pastors are totally ridiculous. There is absolutely no evidence that anyone in the neighbourhoods where these accusations are stemming from is being abducted and forced by any of these churches to use drugs or engage in sexual rituals. No one is being found tortured, murdered, or cannibalised. There are no such records in neighbourhood police files.

The Bible, in the Ten Commandments, tells us not to bear false testimony against our neighbours. The Lord Jesus Christ urges us, in Matthew 18, to confront a brother whom we think is sinning against us, and thus give him an opportunity to exculpate himself. Our God is a God of truth and hates fallacies and myths. If we are truly godly, we must be like him. Believing unverifiable stories, whispered behind other people’s backs, is not God’s way of doing things. We are serving the devil—not God—when we do this.

Now, please do not get me wrong. I am not saying that Satanism and witchcraft do not exist. I am sure they do. However, what I am saying is that the current atmosphere we are in where Satan and Satanism are on everyone’s mouth is an extreme exaggeration. And the sooner we change the subject to God and his grace in Christ Jesus the better!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) in Long Acres, Lusaka
Sadly, it is often well-meaning Christians who see the devil everywhere and underneath anything that moves who stigmatise other people as Satanists. Part of this alarm is, of course, due to ignorance. Their sphere of knowledge is so limited that anything outside that sphere is suspicious. “Reformed Baptist? Who are they? They must be Satanists!”

I also cannot help thinking that sometimes this ignorance borders on emotions of jealousy. It is the kind of accusation of Satanism that successful business people endure from their not-so-successful competitors. In the religious sphere, the thinking is something like this: “How come they are attracting white people to their church when we fail to do so? They must be Satanists!” What they fail to realise is that the white people fail to stand the never-ending cycle of danceable but meaningless choruses and the tirade of scolding at the top of the preacher’s voice that goes by the name of preaching in their churches. These Caucasians want doctrinally meaningful songs with progression and “logic on fire” as the Word of God is faithfully expounded.

Thankfully, with most of our churches, the stigma never lasts. Our pastors and their families live in the community and mingle with the people. They soon discover that they are sincere servants of God who have come into the area to plant a church that is based squarely on the truths of God’s Word. But, while I rejoice in this, I still wonder when we will grow out of this phobia. This spiritual ignorance is a scandal and it is dangerous!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mosi-oa-Tunya Executive Lodge—a place worth visiting!

I have just returned from a Sola 5 conference in Livingstone, the tourist capital of Zambia. (I intend to do a blog post or two on the conference, now that my blog has been fished out of the waters into which it sank.)

The Mosi-oa-Tunya Executive Lodge in Livingstone
Livingstone acquired its status as the tourist capital of Zambia because of the magnificent Victoria Falls (locally known as the Mosi-oa-Tunya Falls, which means “the smoke that thunders”). As you may know, it is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. In fact, one of the attractions for this year’s Sola 5 conference was indeed a visit to this awe-inspiring site.

I, personally, did not go to the Falls this time. This was simply because at this time of the year it is not at its peak. If you have never seen it at its peak, then you will be awe-struck as you see millions of litres of water plunging down the cliff edge with a deafening roar. But if you have seen it around April to June, then the sight would be a bit of an anti-climax. I wanted to spare myself that feeling.

The proprietors, Trywell and Mary Nyirenda, at the end of the conference
However, what I did not want to miss was yet another stay at the Mosi-oa-Tunya Executive Lodge! Anyone who has been to Livingstone in the last fifteen years will know that lodges and hotels have mushroomed everywhere. A few years ago, we went there for our family holiday and changed lodges a few times because many of them did not deliver what they promised. The standards were just too low. The staff were unfriendly, the bathrooms unclean or not functional, the beddings looked like they were still being used long after their “best before” date, the gardens were unkempt, the walls badly needed a fresh coat of paint, etc.

A smiling receptionist is always a sign of warmth and good hospitality
Well, a year or two later I discovered the Mosi-oa-Tunya Executive Lodge, and since then it has been my preferred destination each time I visit Livingstone. The proprietors, Trywell and Mary Nyirenda, were members of Kabwata Baptist Church soon after they got married some twenty years ago. Then they moved to Botswana where they lived and worked until quite recently when they relocated to Livingstone. They built this lodge as part of their effort to fulfil the cultural mandate of subduing the earth. I love their miniature Victoria Falls outside the reception area, whose rippling waters remind me that I have arrived in the town that plays host to one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world!

The miniature Victoria Falls located outside the reception area
My reason for always staying there in the recent past has not been to simply support the Nyirendas. It is because I get a service that is good value for money. To begin with, the workers are very friendly and will go out of their way to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The place is alcohol free and no smoking is allowed in the rooms. The gardens and surrounding area are well kept. The rooms are all air conditioned, very clean, with linen and towels that are fresh and still in very good condition.

The rooms are spacious, clean, and air conditioned
Trywell and Mary need to be commended for the effort they have made in having a place like this for weary travellers. Mosi-oa-Tunya Executive Lodge has its own borehole, providing uninterrupted clean water for guests. The lodge also has a standby generator, ensuring that you have electricity even when there is power outage in the area—a fairly common occurrence in Zambia. Each room has its own safe to safeguard your valuables, and a fridge to keep your drinks cool.

Each room has its own fridge, DSTV, and coffee bar
For those who want to swim, they also have a nice swimming pool on the premises. Then for those of us who want to keep up with work at the office (or with blogging!), they have complimentary Internet service—a very rare treat in Zambia. Continental breakfast is also complimentary. One more little item that I appreciate is that the workers, for no extra charge, washed my car every morning. For US$40 per room per day (excluding VAT), I could not ask for more.

These are some of the rooms that make up this lodge
So, in the light of all this, I was not too surprised when we woke up on the first morning of the Sola 5 conference and found many of our Zambian friends coming out of the other rooms and heading out to the dining room for breakfast. It is obvious that the secret has leaked out. I am sure that next time there is a conference in Livingstone I will need to book a room much, much earlier.

Each room has a nice porch outside where you can relax
I am not a prophet nor am I a son of a prophet, but I know that if I end this blog post without giving you a phone number that you can ring if you want to book yourself a room there, I will have many “comments” asking for it. So, here it is: +260-977389152. Just one request please; leave room for me, will you?

A nice swimming pool for those wanting to cool off in the heat of the day
POST SCRIPT: If this sounds like an advert, don’t blame me too much. Perhaps I have not fully recovered from the kitchenware I was advertising last week!