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!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Our Internship Programme Continues To Grow

Let me begin this blog post by allowing our current interns, Chopo Mwanza and Sydney Kombe, to tell us how they have found the programme as they come towards the end of their one year with us. (Scattered across this post will be photos of some of the other men who have been through our internship programme).
* * * * *
Chopo Mwanza preaching on assignment
CHOPO MWANZA: I came to Kabwata Baptist church for my internship in January this year with several expectations. The first one was to experience and be part of a church that has an evangelistic thrust and fully committed to missions. The second expectation was to witness and learn biblical church government. I was eager to see how an eldership functions. I further wanted to see how a pastor can have a sustained and effective ministry for a long time.

As I come to the end of my internship I can confidently say my expectations have been met. One of the first things that were made clear to me was the fact that Kabwata Baptist is “outward” looking. Every ministry is evangelistic; the church is always looking for ways to reach out to the world. Providentially, I came at the time of the missions conference. The church’s heart for missions was clearly evident, through the giving, the prayers, the concerns and the support towards missions and the missionaries. It was clear to me that the church exists to reach out to lost souls.

Kwenda Kwenda went through our internship
programme and is currently labouring in Choma
Working with the elders at Kabwata has been a learning curve for me. It has left me convinced that plurality of elders is the biblical church government. What made my internship even better was the fact that it was done in partnership with Lusaka Baptist church. Not only did I learn from probably the biggest reformed churches in Zambia but also two experienced pastors, in pastors Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa. It was a privilege to have them pour their lives in my life.

The four years of theological training gave me the tools to work with while my internship was a workshop where I actually used the tools. It’s my prayer that I will continue using what I have learnt till “the church is built and the earth is filled with God’s glory.”

Sydney Kombe, one of the current interns,
trained in South Africa
SYDNEY KOMBE: I came to KBC as an intern on 21st January 2012. It has proved to be a fruitful experience. I came having a stereotyped mentality with regards to ministry. I never knew that pastoral ministry goes hand in hand with administrative traits. I have learnt this in my internship. Observing and participating in the running of the church and its ministries has sharpened me.

When the internship program commenced, I was on an observing side. In the second quarter, participatory strands got extended under observation. In this last quarter, I am more in the running of the church programs and other ministries reporting to me.  My duty is to update elders of the happenings.

Adamson Shamfuti, a graduate from the Theological
College of Central Africa, also interned with us 
KBC has served me the way in which Antioch Bible Church did while I was studying at Bible College in South Africa. KBC is a viable and reliable launching pad to reaching Africa with the gospel. It is well vested with the manpower to equip men like me to do effective ministry. The essential place of godly character and devotion to the spread of the gospel is what has been passed on to me.

During my internship, I have observed that my commitment to the work of ministry and the word has really developed. Cardinal administrative skills have been developed—and I am still developing in them. This is because you are given very clear areas of responsibility as an intern with the purpose of shaping your focus on what is important. Thus you are helped to do the Lord’s work with excellence.

As my time at KBC draws to an end, I can say that it was time well spent, which will have an effective impact in my ministry for many years to come, through the fruitful discipleship and edification of the saints, to the glory of God.

* * * * *
Emil Grundmann attended our internship programme
all the way from Germany!
Our pastoral internship programme has continued to grow. Next year we are expecting three interns—Matthews Fikati from the Copperbelt Province, Kuyumbana Poniso from the Western Province, and David Chibanga from the Lusaka Province. These men commence their stay with us in January 2013. God has also given us a former pastor with vast experience to coordinate this work.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that we were purchasing two houses to accommodate our interns. In fact, at the time of that post, the purchase of the first house had been concluded. We have struggled a little to find an appropriate second house but we are almost there.  This will enable us to accommodate a maximum of six interns at any one time.

Andrew Matoke is a Kenyan who also went through
our internship programme at KBC
Our idea is to make our internship programme open to anyone across Africa who is preparing for pastoral ministry and who would like an exposure in how a Reformed Baptist church functions in its membership, its meetings, its ministries, its officers, and its missions work. This is meant to augment the training that such a person has already received in his Bible College training. We are willing to consider anyone, as long as they have commendation from their church leadership and are willing to learn. We provide a small pocket allowance and accommodation for the entire period of the internship.

Monametsi Bahudi from Botswana also came for
a brief period of internship with us here at KBC
I would like to urge readers of this blog to pray for these men who come to us that God will use our church to horn the gifts that these men have so that they can blend what they have learnt in the classroom with what they experience in the context of a lively congregation whose life and ministry is fashioned after the New Testament. We have no doubt that it is when these two things come together in souls that are filled with the grace of God that we shall see well-trained men go out and lead churches that will truly impact the world and glorify Christ, the head of the church.

If you know anyone who is interested in such a programme, or you are interested in such a programme yourself, do not hesitate to get in touch with us at tulip@iconnect.zm

Friday, November 16, 2012

A visit to the Nairobi National Game Park

Tomorrow I fly back home from Kenya after a quick in and out trip. As stated in my profile, I volunteer with the YMCA and we are presently discussing plans to open up a university with campuses in Togo, Kenya and Zimbabwe. The meeting finished yesterday and today was spent on a guided tour of Kenya YMCA facilities in the morning (I will not bore you with that) and a tour of the Nairobi National Game Park in the afternoon.

The team that made up the workshop participants garbed in Masai dressing
Below are a few amateur photographs of the wild animals and birds that we managed to see in the park. I think that we could have seen more and learned more if we had an trained and experienced game guide with us but evidently this amateur photographer was in the hands of an amateur game guide. Next time I will give the guide a small test before I accept the deal. Perhaps we will have better photos too!

An Antelope (Hartebeest). They are difficult to take a photo of because as soon
as you approach them they run off, stand at a distance, and then look back.
The Buffalo. Ugly and dirty but a great friend of birds (can you see one on
its back?). This one was surrounded by impalas as if for protection.
The Guinea Fowl crossing the road to quickly catch up with its friends
who had already done so. They are almost always seen in groups.
The Hippopotamus. It is the most dangerous of all the wild animals when
it comes to killing human beings. So, we kept a fair distance from it.
An Antelope (Impala). It is also very hard to take a picture of and is very
quick to run away and hide behind bushes. I must admit, I love their meat.
The Lion. Everything about this animal confirms why it is called the
king of the jungle. We got this close because we were in a car!
The Male Ostrich. It is the tallest and fastest land birds on the planet
and is native to Africa. The ostrich eggs are also the biggest bird eggs.
The Stork (Marabu). It is a wetland bird, as can be seen from its long legs.
It is a scavenger and will be found where vultures are also found.
Vultures. Mention the devil... They are usually poised on top of trees waiting
to see the cats capture their prey. Then they swoop down to have their share.
Finally, the Zebra. Well known for its black and white stripes, it belongs to
the horse family but has never been tamed and so you are not likely to ride it. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What struck me about the Netherlands

Is this Holland or the Netherlands? This was the question I asked soon after arrival in this European country on Thursday 1st November. I was told that it was both Holland and The Netherlands. The latter is the official name but the two provinces of Holland are so famous due to the economic role they play in the country that everyone seems happy enough to call the whole country by that name. After all, before "Made in China" took over the world, who was not familiar with "Made in Holland"?

This photo was taken of me by a professional photographer on the day I
arrived in the Netherlands for a newspaper article that came out over the weekend
In this blog post I want to describe a few things that struck me soon after arriving in The Netherlands. Perhaps the first was just how flat the country was. I jokingly told my hosts that I was sure on a bright sunny day one could see the whole country from any position. When I was told that a large proportion of it was actually below sea level I was grateful that Hurricane Sandy decided to go west and not east!

While in the Netherlands, I preached at a Sola 5 Conference where the Dutch
version of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith was introduced for the first time
Then I was also struck by the green-consciousness of the people. To begin with it was amazing to see the number of people who use bicycles. Every church I preached at had more bicycles than cars parked outside. Young and old jumped onto their bicycles at the end of the church services and rode home. The roads also have wonderful cycle tracks on the sides.

The Sola 5 Conference attendance in Ede was a pleasant surprise for
the organizers, as the numbers jumped from the usual 60-70 to well over 200 
Another aspect of their renewable-energy consciousness was their use of windmills. They use these ancient wind powered machines to pump water off the land and reclaim thousands of square kilometres for their people to build houses and live below sea level. They also use hundreds of the more modern windmills to generate electricity. It was quite a sight seeing these windmills--both old and new--all over the country.

These are old windmills used to control the water levels.
20% of the Netherlands is below sea level, hence the need for this.
What else struck me about Holland? It was seeing so many homes without closed curtains at night. Here is a country that, firstly, does not have perimetre walls around their homes as we do, but they even go further and dare to show you their property in the house from the roadside all night. It must give an extra sense of security and community as one walks around the neighbourhood at night because you can see the people in their homes and they can see you.

The A-Team! These are the brethren I went with all over the Netherlands
The team leader was Arjan, who reminded me of Martin Holdt in his younger days
What about on the spiritual front? It was in The Netherlands that I first met hyper-Calvinists in the flesh. I knew of their existence in theory but was still shocked to be confronted by people who felt very strongly that you must simply sit and wait (and hope) for God to save you. One lady was upset with me for not preaching about the suffering of Christ from Psalm 73 and about our suffering with him from Philippians 3:10. I told her that was not the point in both passages, but she insisted it was. in the end she wrote me a long letter in Dutch! She was not sure if she would be accepted by God in heaven because she was not sure that she had suffered enough with Christ, which, she insisted we must all be aiming for. It is up to God to decide if and when he will save her. The mixture of truth and error in the name of Calvin was frightening, to say the least.

There are a few life-size replicas of Noah's Ark around the world. I have visited
the one in Hong Kong as well. I commend the builders of this model for their
effort at making it look as ancient as possible--even on the inside.
Like us, Christians in Holland also have their sensitivities and scruples. In one case I said that Jesus walked all over Palestine. Someone came to me afterwards and asked why I mentioned Palestine and not Israel. It just never occurred to me that such a distinction mattered--but it did. On another occasion, knowing how the Netherlands team reached the finals of the football FIFA World Cup in South Africa in 2010, I mentioned my sons' enthusiasm for football in a sermon illustration. Someone came and told me that I spoilt the whole sermon by that illustration alone "because in the Netherlands football is a religion." Christians should have nothing to do with this idol. Hence, I'm not too sure how my other illustrations (about Ussain Bolt, James Bond, etc) were taken!

The city of Dortrecht is where the Synod of Dort met to come up with the famous
Five Points of Calvinism, long after Calvin was already dead. Above is a model
of the Synod of Dort. I wish I also had time to visit The Hague!
On yet another occasion my interpreter saved me from a similar insensitivity. I spoke of the zeal of some of our young people who do not go home between the church services on Sunday but instead remain at church studying the Bible and praying. I made the mistake of saying they go to buy bread after the service in order to eat together. My interpreter changed "buy" to "get" (they go to get bread) because to many of my listeners Christians should not do any shopping on Sunday. It was going to offend their consciences.

My last evening was spent ministering to some rappers (Hip Hop) in
Amsterdam at the invitation of JayWay (on the right). 
Perhaps closely related to these sensitivities is the fact that on my last night, as a last minute addition to my schedule, I accepted an invitation to preach to rappers in Amsterdam. It was quite an experience! Their very loud music, the fast singing/talking that sounds as if the musician is angry, the sagging trousers, etc., was certainly not the kind of ambience I'm used to. Hip hop is not my kind of music. Give me the Gaither's country music anytime! I was warned that some would not accept my associations with rappers by preaching among them. But I thoroughly enjoyed being with these young people and ministering to them. God loves them too!

Jan Kamminga with his wife Tineke
I think for me the highlight of my visit to Holland was not my preaching but my visit to Jan Kamminga in the rehabilitation centre. Only four months ago he was in active Christian service. Having been a missionary to Zambia and done such a sterling job he had returned to his homeland and had pastored two churches since the year 2000. Suddenly taken ill a few months ago, he became totally paralysed and was found with cancer of the spine. 

After chemotherapy and physiotherapy Jan is now able to move his hands slowly but he is still unable to move the lower part of his body. I was reminded afresh of the need to serve God zealously while we still have strength and health. We don't know when the Lord may cast us into such frowning providences. (I had similar thoughts when I wrote "Why do good men suffer?" on my way to the Netherlands. You just never know when God will have a Job-like conversation with the devil about you!).
Any Zambian carpenter willing to build me a new
pulpit? I have an idea what it should look like.

Well, this was not meant to be a description of Holland but rather a narrative of a few things that struck me while I was there. I'm sure it is not a representative description of the country. I am grateful to the Sola 5 Baptist churches and the Heartcry for Revival ministry of Holland for their invitation to minister in their country. They hosted me very well and did a lot to bring in the crowds to hear me preach the Word of God.

I end by recalling what I wrote on Facebook. Having preached 19 times in 13 cities, towns, and villages in the last 10 days, I have laid many eggs in the Netherlands. These eggs are now in many thousands of souls. I leave them in the hands of God to hatch them at his own time. Who knows what God can do with his Word? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why do good men suffer?

Mwamba Chibuta leading worship at KBC 25th Anniversary meetings

There are days when I battle with unbelief. This day is one of them. I'm on a flight to the Netherlands for a series of preaching engagements. On my way to the airport I passed through the home of one of our elders, Mwamba Joy Chibuta. He has not been well but nothing prepared me for what I found there. The man I last saw in fairly good health at the beginning of August was now decimated and very weak. He had been diagnosed with cancer and was now half way through his chemotherapy.

I left his home for the airport asking myself the question, "Why do good men suffer?" We are now about to land in Frankfurt, Germany. This question continues to gnaw away at my heart. As I ask this question my eyes fill up with tears. I've been a Christian now for over thirty years. I've known Mwamba for all these thirty-plus years. God is my witness when I say that he is one brother that I have been very close to from day-one and never ever have I seen a single blemish in his character. If there is a brother in whom grace has done a thorough job, he is certainly one of them. 

I would hate to steal Mwamba’s reward in heaven, but this is a pouring out of my soul 33,000 feet above sea level. In the thirty-plus years of my Christian life I am not acquainted with another Zambian Christian who is more generous. Mwamba can easily give you the last shirt on his back and walk into sub-zero temperature. It is a well-known fact that in the early 1980s, while I was still a university student, I began the Lusaka Baptist Church tape library. What is not known is that my secret sponsor was Mwamba. He had just dropped out of university and got a basic job in the bank. He single-handedly and quietly sponsored the whole project until I graduated from university and left Lusaka. His more recent feats are too well known by our present generation of believers at Kabwata Baptist Church and in the Zambian Reformed Baptist movement. So, I will not go into that. 

I owe a lot to this man. When I almost resigned my pastorate in 2003, due to very serious misunderstandings in the eldership, I informed Mwamba that my letter of resignation was written and I was planning to submit it to the church that day. Mwamba failed to go to work that morning and came to my home and pleaded with me not to hand in my letter of resignation. He rang up some of my closest friends in town who also abandoned their offices to come and dissuade me against my planned line of action. I am still in my pastorate today largely because of this Herculean effort on his part.

The Zambian Reformed Baptist movement owes a lot to this man. This movement grew from zero to almost fifty churches in less than 25 years. Almost all these churches started from scratch. Invariably, one of the greatest needs was that of putting up church buildings. Mwamba has championed this cause by leading the Zambian Reformed Baptist Building Trust Fund (ZRBBTF) from its inception to the present day. Almost every church building presently housing a Reformed Baptist church in Zambia has had some injection of funds from this Fund. The churches have continued to subscribe to and repay their interest free loans to the Fund because of their confidence in his leadership.

Mwamba Chibuta officiating at opening of the Kennedy Ndui Guest House
I am very emotional as I write this. Mwamba had reached the second highest position in our national building society. Out of integrity, he resigned his job recently, together with all the other directors. As directors, they were being pressured by higher powers into approving payments that they could not approve with clear consciences. Their resignation was headline news in the media. It was unprecedented in the history of our young nation that an entire team of directors should resign their jobs on moral grounds. Mwamba told me that he knew it was going to mean suffering for his family (although he had no idea at that time that it was going to include the cost of two months' medical treatment in India), yet out of integrity he said he opted to step down and leave his future in the hands of God. 

This is the man who now battles for his life at home, in full view of his loving wife and dear children. If this sounds like an obituary, it is only because we often only talk about the good that good men do after they are gone. This is not an obituary. It is the wrestlings of my soul, as I ask myself some very uncomfortable and disquieting questions. It is also a passionate plea to all who read my blog to uphold this choice servant of God in prayer as he battles with the devastating effects of both cancer and chemotherapy. 

I ask again, "Why do good men suffer like this?" Here I am crossing the continents of Africa and Europe to go and declare to the people of the Netherlands that God is love, and yet I leave behind in my own country one of his vessels of grace suffering from one of the worst illnesses on the planet. This is where the battle is raging in my heart and mind. 

Much has been written on this subject. The entire book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible is an answer to this question. Its answer ultimately is that good men suffer not because God is malicious or capricious but because he is sovereign and infinitely wise. In his government of the universe, and the minute details that it demands, he often elects to bring his choice servants through trials whose purpose their finite minds cannot fathom. 

Then we also have a number of psalms that address this question. Psalm 73, which I will be preaching on in one of my sermons in the Netherlands, is a case in point. Asaph wrestled with thoughts of unbelief just as I am currently wrestling. The only difference was that in his case he was the one undergoing the painful trials. His answer to this question is that God often spares the ungodly of temporal suffering because they are being feted for the slaughter. The godly, in their suffering, should not lose sight of how privileged they are in walking with God in this life and in being welcomed into his presence in the life to come.

Mwamba Chibuta (seated right) with his fellow KBC elders
Why do good men suffer? In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrestled with this matter in 2 Corinthians 12. Here was a good man, if ever there was one in Holy Writ after the Day of Pentecost. Yet, he had this thorn in his flesh that drove him mad--and God deliberately allowed it to continue despite his ardent prayers to the contrary. Why? Plagued by this question, Paul heard Jesus say, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore Paul said, "I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." Let's face it, that is tough!

If God only allowed good and not evil in our lives as believers, how would our faith be tested as to its genuineness (1 Peter 1:6-7)? Even selfish worldlings would gladly "trust" in that kind of God. After all, he would secure their selfish pleasures in this life. It is when God takes away everything from us, casts us on a bed of thorns, and leaves our lives hanging on a thread that we learn contentment with what the Puritans called "a naked God", i.e. a God who offers us nothing but himself. That is true religion.

Pray for my fellow elder, Mwamba Chibuta. Pray that his faith may not fail. Pray for his restoration to fullness of health. He still has two more months of chemotherapy to go through. Pray for his wife, Chishiba, and their children--Mutale, Kombe, and Chishiba--that God's peace will be with them during this very trying time. Pray for us as a church to practically love our elder and his family at such a time as this. Please, please, pray!