|Mubiana Mukubuta and Patience Namangala at their wedding last Saturday|
Last Saturday, Felistas and I were in Kitwe where I was officiating and preaching at the wedding ceremony of Mubiana Mukubuta and Patience Namangala. The families also asked me to fulfil the role of Guest of Honour, which involved a short speech to the couple during the reception that followed in the afternoon. So it was a full programme for me that day.
Now, that is an understatement. Patience had been my office assistant at Kabwata Baptist Church for the previous two and a half years, and so this wedding was a major loss to me. I described it as a bittersweet event. I rejoiced with her as she entered into Christian marriage and also rejoiced with Mubiana for the gift God had given him. But I also realised that she was leaving behind a gaping hole in the office that would be well nigh impossible to fill. Let me explain.
Some of the readers of this blog will know that I once thrived on the sweat of a most efficient office assistant for about ten years. Her name then was Lumpuma Chitambala (now Mrs Kayombo). We became like a left and a right hand in the office. She was hard working and would often predict what the issues were that needed attention and prepared for them adequately. I could be anywhere in the world preaching and would have full confidence that nothing in the office at Kabwata Baptist Church was being neglected. This went on for a solid ten years, until a pastor in Kitwe “saw the light”! I have commended him many times for getting a package of two—a wife and an office assistant—for the price of one!
When Lumpuma got married and the search for her replacement commenced, I was sure that there was not her equal on this side of the planet. So, I was not really searching. I was mourning…until one evening, by sheer coincidence (humanly speaking), Felistas and I showed up at Patience’s home. We were not looking for her. We were looking for a home of a new church member and Felistas was hoping to get directions from Patience’s housemate. The housemate was not around and so Felistas suggested we spend a few minutes chatting with Patience instead. As Felistas and Patience chatted, all her answers gave me the assurance that Lumpuma’s replacement had finally been found. To my surprise, when she was offered the job two days later, she revealed that she had applied for the job 10 months earlier, as soon as she heard that Lumpuma was resigning. I had never seen her application papers. It was clear that the Lord had kept the job for her because in the 10 months there had been a number of applications but my heart had not felt at peace about them all. God moves in mysterious ways!
Well, that was in September 2009. You need to realise that Lumpuma had set a very high standard for that office. I feared that anyone replacing her would soon be a disappointment. I am also a hard taskmaster. I want to see quality work. Add to this the fact that KBC is a mega enterprise, with so many things happening at the same time. I trembled for Patience. I hardly knew her beyond those few minutes Felistas and I spent in her home. How was she going to fare?
Patience stepped into Lumpuma’s shoes and became a modern Cinderella, with Lumpuma’s shoes fitting her in fairy tale style. Let me very briefly describe what I mean. Patience brought to the KBC front office the warmth and charm of personality that is her signature. Many visitors to KBC testified of this. Yet in the background she was also very efficient and hardworking. I also can testify to that. Patience was also a very fast learner who took her role as my office assistant as if KBC’s future depended on her. I would often walk past her office, see her working away, and marvel at how God answers prayer.
In the period she worked in my office, there had not been a single complaint from anyone about her—not from the church elders and deacons, not from the church visitors, not from her fellow members of staff, not from any church members—no, not one. From the time she would report for work to the time she would knock off (and usually she was among the very last to leave the office) she was ever working. Sometimes even when she was unwell, she would still come to work and insist that there was work to be done and until she cleared that work she needed to still be in the office.
We have office devotions every Tuesday and Friday, and Patience made them top priority not only in attendance but also in active participation in them. During those devotions, she prayed for KBC with a sense of personal attachment.