A peep into life in Africa, through the eyes of an African Reformed Baptist pastor.

Water, water, water, everywhere. What else do you expect? I am a Baptist, and I live in the land of the mighty Victoria Falls!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Yet Another Glorious Missions Conference At KBC

I know that in the West many churches hold missions conferences and so the heading of this blog post may cause many of my Western friends to yawn and move on to something more interesting. However, in the whole of Zambia, I'm only aware of two other evangelical churches that hold annual missions conferences. Hence, this is headline news!

Pastors from the East leading the conference in singing a vernacular hymn
In my last two blogs posts, I wrote brief summaries of reports that our missionaries gave at our missionaries prayer retreat concerning the triumphs of grace in their neck of the woods. This covered Monday 21st to Wednesday 23rd. It had been my desire to write daily blog posts on the missions conference which started on Thursday 24th and ended on Sunday 27th. I will readily admit that the spirit was willing but the flesh was weak.

Congregational singing during the just-ended missions conference
Now, with the conference over, I'm en route to the USA on a preaching trip. I have a flight of 16 hours across the ocean and a stop over of about 10 hours in New York. If I cannot get this blog post done in these hours then it is a lost cause. So, here goes...

Our missions conference took place over Thursday and Friday evenings, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. Our preacher across these four days was Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa from Chingola Central Baptist Church. He preached four sermons on the theme, "And you shall be my witnesses". One of the elders wrote a text message to me at the end of the conference saying, "Choolwe was exceptional!" I think that says it all.

Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa preaching on "You shall be my witnesses"
One of the highlights of our missions conference was the PowerPoint presentations that the missionaries made each day. The photos enabled us to see what went on in the mission field as our missionaries laboured there while we held the ropes back home. It is one thing to hear about these things in written reports, but it is something else to see the fruit of their labour. Then on the last day, all the missionaries sat on the podium to answer questions from the congregation for an hour. Although we did not go through all the PowerPoint presentations, the little we saw reconnected the church with its missionaries.

Our missionaries answering questions from the congregation
Perhaps the most moving presentation was that of the funeral of our missionary to Malawi, Percy Chisenga, who died in March last year. It brought back fresh memories of that painful event when one of God's choice servants lost his battle with cancer and graduated to his reward in heaven. After that presentation, our church treasurer came forward and gave Percy's widow, Betty, a cheque on behalf of the church to enable her finish off the building of her home and pour the balance into a chicken run to enable her sustain herself. She jokingly told me afterwards, "If you had told me what you had planned to do, I would not have come." I believed her because the funeral presentation left her in tears.

An overwhelmed Mrs Chisenga receiving a cheque from our church treasurer
Although this is an in-house conference, and so we do not advertise it to sister churches, we had international visitors at this one. We had brethren visiting from South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. Most of them came to see how an indigenous missions movement looks like, with the hope that they can replicate it in their own countries. We need to have more and more African churches taking the work of missions seriously. There is nothing like a missions conference to keep the fire of missions burning in the church. One visitor from South Africa, Irving Steggles, came to present the need for Zambian Reformed Baptist missionaries to go to South Africa to help plant churches there.

Irving pleading with our people to plant RB churches in South Africa
One of my tasks on the last day was to speak about where we were in our participation in the great missionary enterprise. I drew the church's attention to the two new missionaries we ordained last year and another two that were due to be ordained soon. I also pointed out that four churches had now become autonomous. These churches were in Kafue and Matero (Zambia), in Zomba (Malawi), and in Windhoek (Namibia). In 2013, we are expecting another two churches to become autonomous. This was going to bring to six the number of churches that would have been planted and were fully autonomous.

Tuundjakuye Tjijenda (alias "Spencer") the new pastor in Windhoek
Whereas autonomy sounds good when all you are thinking about is that you can now do as you please without getting permission from HQ, it is a nightmare when you do not have enough resources to pay all your bills. This is what inevitably happens with all our church plants. It really takes long for the Christians in those churches to realise that it is their responsibility to meet the cost of the ministries in their churches. By the time the penny drops, the pastors would have gone quite a few nights without bread. So, pray for the churches that have been weaned that they will wake up soon to their financial obligations. Pray also for our missionaries who have to brave difficult financial times for a season.

Pastor Raphael Banda answering a question during the Q&A session
The conference ended with "the grand announcement". This is where the collection taken on the last day towards the work of missions is announced together with the total monthly pledge. Our goal at this conference was to raise enough funds to repair and furnish the two homes of our pastoral interns that had been recently bought with funds from HeartCry Missionary Society, to finish off the home of the widow of our late missionary and give her some start up capital for a small business, and to finish off the roofing of a church we are planting in Sinda. I left for the airport before "the grand announcement" but was most encouraged to hear later that once again the total collected exceeded the goal. I remain grateful to God for a church that has learnt to give generously to the work of missions.

The missionaries being committed to the Lord as they return to their work
When everything was over, the congregation sang the hymn...

Facing a task unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Triumphs of Grace from the Mission Field—Part 2

Ivor Chilufya (next to the fan) presenting consolidated missions budgets
This was the second and final day of our missionaries prayer retreat. Last evening, our church treasurer, Ivor Chilufya, spent the evening with us going through the budgets that the missionaries compiled for the year 2013. It is always an interesting evening because, as you can guess, there is never enough money to go around. We try to share out our resources as equitably as possible. Thankfully, the men are mature enough to accept their mite without grumbling.

Tuundjakuye Tjijenda sharing about the work in Namibia
Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Windhoek, Namibia (Tuundjakuye Tjijenda)
Tuundjakuye, popularly known as Spencer, shared with us how he moved from Westside Baptist Church, went to Epukiro Pos3, and finally landed at Grace Reformed Baptist Church last year. He said that Namibia now had five Reformed Baptist churches. They are planting a number of other churches across the country. GRBC now had 38 members. He spoke glowingly of his predecessor, Kapambwe Nsenduluka, who was our missionary who planted the church, and of the oversight of Eastside Baptist Church (Pastor Joachim Rieck). He was also encouraged by the growing unity in the church. They run three conferences a year, using preachers from Zambia. They are now seeking to reach students at the University of Namibia.

Lovemore Banda, our missionary to Petauke
Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Petauke (Lovemore Banda)
Lovemore shared that the church was to be weaned next month. The church began in 2000 when he left the local Southern Baptist church. The initial group that commenced with him soon left him because they did not really appreciate the Reformed faith. They initially sought oversight under Calvary Baptist Church and KBC formally took over in 2005 after Calvary Baptist Church had serious leadership problems. It was not long before GRBC, under KBC, got involved in church planting in Sinda, Chitawe, Nyimba, and Katete.  The church was also used by the Lord to start the first Reformed regional conference. The membership was now at 25. The church was now putting up a church building.

Manasseh Kaonga, our missionary to Kapiri Mposhi
Grace Baptist Church, Kapiri Mposhi (Manasseh Kaonga)
Manasseh shared about a number of evangelistic activities that have been conducted in the church in the course of the year, with the help of various groups from KBC. The Central Africa Baptist College, who had sent some students to Monze, had also sent some students to help the work in Kapiri. Most of the evangelistic work was door-to-door but Manasseh wants to diversify into specialised group outreach efforts. He is working hard to start a youth and children's ministry. Manasseh's wife began a pre-school that presently had almost 50 children. They had two baptisms in the course of the year. A piece of land was presently being purchased on which the church building was to be constructed.

Boyce, talking about the Reformed cause among black South Africans
Boyce shared about how South Africa's apartheid system caused the majority black population to remain behind theologically. When in the early 1990s men like Martin Holdt were trying to help improve the theological understanding of pastors, they were misrepresented and the efforts were frustrated. The black Baptist churches are in the Baptist Union and are divided in the territorial associations. Boyce was involved in church planting in George along Reformed lines. There were a few people who were pursuing the Reformed path in Cape Town. There were about 8 Reformed Baptist pastors, though most of them are pastoring churches that are not Reformed. The key was to start new churches.

Oswald Sichula, our missionary to St Bonaventure in Lusaka
Bonaventure Baptist Church, Lusaka (Oswald Sichula)
Oswald gave a bird’s-eye-view of the previous year. He spoke of the team from the KBC cell group that is the focus group for the work in Bonaventure who went and joined them for a weekend of outreach at the start of the year. Using a PowerPoint presentation, he showed us pictures of their children’s work, their youth group, their ladies ministry, their men’s ministry, etc. The ladies ministry had more than doubled in the course of the year. The church received students from the Central Africa Baptist College for a month of outreach. A baptismal class of about 10 individuals commenced towards the end of last year. The individuals are due to be baptised next month.

Matthews Bwalya Banda, our missionary to Chitawe village
Reformed Baptist Church, Chitawe (Matthews Banda)
This is by far the most rural Reformed Baptist church in Zambia. It is situated in a village in the outskirts of Sinda. Matthews has begun a men’s ministry with a view to disciple all the men and out of that choose the men who can be discipled into leaders in the church. The church is involved in a number of projects that are meant to help people meet their social and economic needs. The pastor is involved in the government distribution of fertilizer and the implementation of the Samaritan’s Purse project in the area. They also teach literacy as a subject in order to help their members and other people in the village how to read. In 2010, this church started churches in Kasamba and Lusandwa.

Kasango Kayombo, our missionary to Ibex Hill in Lusaka
Ibex Hill Baptist Church, Lusaka (Kasango Kayombo)
Kasango was ordained as a church-planting missionary for Ibex Hill during last year’s missions conference. The church reaches out to Ibex Hill, Salama Park, Valley View, Avondale, Chainda, Ibex Meanwood, and the Zambia Air Force camp. The work began in 2007 as part of KBC’s outreach work to a children’s home in Ibex Hill. At that time it was simply a preaching point. Soon members of the community began to attend the services. In 2010, a school in the area became the meeting place and the church was formerly launched in March 2011. Last year, the church moved onto its current premises, which is a piece of land that has been freely given to it by one of the families in the church.

Reformed Baptist Church, Katete (Gershom Nyirongo)
Gershom was not able to be with us. Lovemore gave us an update about the work there. He told us that Gershom was doing further studies with the Copperbelt Ministerial College. The church was working on a building project and had almost completed the office section of the building, with a view to start meeting there for worship. Gershom recently had a mild stroke and was still battling with high blood pressure.

A group photo taken just before departure from the prayer retreat
[Please pray for these men as they return to the mission field after the missions conference, which starts tomorrow]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Triumphs Of Grace On The Mission Field - Part 1

The missionaries and guests at the prayer retreat on the first night

This week is missions week at KBC. It began yesterday with our missionaries prayer retreat. Twenty of us gathered at the Baptist Theological Seminary and spent the evening sharing personal testimonies. Today, eight of the men shared how the year 2012 was in the providence of God. The situations in which these men labour varies. However, it was a source of great joy to hear stories of progress in each church plant. Here are summaries of what they shared with us. This being a prayer retreat, these reports were fuel for the altars of prayer and praise. As you read these accounts, keep in mind that none of these churches existed a few years ago.

Raphael Banda, our missionary to Mazabuka
Central Baptist Church, Mazabuka (Raphael Banda)
The work is now in its 10th year, while the missionary (Raphael Banda) is now in his 8th year of service. This year the church should be weaned to become an independent church. Raphael’s report first gave a bird’s-eye-view of the history of Central Baptist Church. It was good to see how he has kept the brief history of the church in pictures that captured the peak times. Then he went on to share testimony after testimony of the trophies of God’s grace--men, women, married couples, youths, and children. Most of them were brought to faith through the various ministries of the church. It was a very encouraging report. He was now training leaders in preparation for the weaning.

Brian Mutale, our missionary to Monze
Reformed Baptist Church, Monze (Brian Mutale)
Brian is the only missionary that was adopted as a missionary prior to getting married. He was already engaged to get married and in fact married his fiancee last year in August. However, the whole process of getting married robbed him of a chunk of precious time in the year. He was glad this was now over. He was now even preaching on Sky FM radio, whose signal is picked as far as Lusaka. Brian spoke of the various outreach activities that the church was involved in, especially towards women, youths, and children.

Kenneth Siwale, our missionary-to-be in Sinda (God willing)
Reformed Baptist Church, Sinda (Kenneth Siwale)
Kenneth is not yet a missionary, but has already been interviewed by the elders and has been presented to the church for ordination as a missionary. Kenneth is finishing of theological training. The work commenced in 2007 under another missionary pastor (German Banda), who has since moved to Lusaka to help stabilise another church plant. His report was primarily about the challenges of taking up the work. There was the period when older members were still attached to their previous pastor. There is also the challenge of living in one town and ministering in another. He can’t wait to move into Sinda so that he can minister there 24/7.

Poniso Kuyumbana, our missionary-to-be in Senanga
Reformed Baptist Church, Senanga (Poniso Kuyumbana?)
Poniso is also not yet a missionary, and has also been interviewed by the elders and has been presented to the church for ordination as a missionary. He moved from Shangombo to Senanga last December, and so this is a very new work. The only contact person was a young business lady who was once a member of KBC. He is also presently undergoing pastoral internship at KBC. This involves him going back to Senanga for 10 days every month, and thus enabling him to not only be with his family but also to preach over two Sundays and also handle other outreach issues in the midweek. Poniso said that the nickname for Senanga is “San Francisco”.

Charles Mwanza, our missionary to Nyimba
First Baptist Church, Nyimba (Charles Mwanza)
This work has been in existence for the last 5 years. Charles’ report centred on what had happened in the church over the last one year. Apart from the outreach work that is primarily spiritual, Charles also spoke of a number of outreach efforts that were dealing with the economic welfare of people in the community. The church held a business seminar and a “farming God’s way” seminar. They were also currently putting up their church building, with the walls being almost complete. The church has already began another church plant some 17 kilometres out of town in a place called Kamalenje.

Monametsi Bahudi, our missionary to Botswana
Central Baptist Church, Gaborone, Botswana (Monametsi Bahudi)
Monametsi was ordained into the ministry in July 2012. He is still tent-making until the end of this year. The work itself started in 2004 They have about 30-40 people in attendance. They presently have some 8 people being prepared for baptism out of the intense outreach efforts in March, April, June, August, and December. They have began a Bible study at the University of Botswana and is being regularly attended by 10 students. He also spoke of the visits of KBC young adults and later Pastor Sibale, who helped them with outreach efforts. The church in Gaborone is also overseeing two other church plants in Francistown and Orapa. Monametsi visits these towns once every quarter.

Curtis Chirwa, our missionary to Kabanana in Lusaka
Faith Baptist Church, Kabanana, Lusaka (Curtis Chirwa)
Curtis shared that the church’s current averaging attendance is about 50 to 60 individuals, with 70 being reached on very good Sundays. Formal membership was constituted in April 2012. Due to the fact that they host the Hope Ministry (sponsored by the RBC of Louisville), they have been helped to put up an auxiliary building in which they meet. It is a lovely building. Hope Ministry was presently sponsoring 45 orphans through Faith Baptist Church. He was thankful for the young adults and preachers who came out from KBC in the course of the year to help with outreach work. In his presentation, Curtis took us through a number of ministries and the evangelistic work they did during the year.

German Banda, our former missionary to Sinda and now in John Laing
John Laing Reformed Baptist Church, Lusaka (German Banda)
German warned us that his year had been so good that most of us would be green with envy by the time he ended his report! He had been planting a church in Sinda (in rural Zambia) until March last year when he moved to Lusaka (Zambia’s capital city). His move from the rural area included leaving his cows with his parents in the village where they lived because he could not bring them to the city. German was grateful that the Lord provided brother Kenneth Siwale to take over the work in Sinda. He spoke about his shock when he arrived in John Laing because he found a work that was still in its diapers. The congregation he found there only had 6 people, but now the attendance is about 30.

What shall we say to all this?

“Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land with the Father’s glory
Blaze Spirit blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow river flow
Flood the nations with grace and mercy
Send forth your word
Lord and let there be light” (Graham Kendrick)

(End of Part One. Part Two to come tomorrow, the Lord willing)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Three New Pastoral Interns Arrive At KBC

Our 2012 pastoral interns, Chopo Mwanza and Sydney Kombe, "graduated" at the end of December. We are grateful to God for the opportunity that he gave us to invest into their lives for one year. We pray that the exposure and experience they gained while they were with us will go a long way to equip them for ministry as they settle in pastoral work and for many years to come.

In the providence of God, he has brought us three new interns! These men arrived last week and are now settling in their work. In this blog post, I have short testimonies from each one of them. They talk about how they became Christians, sensed God's call to the preaching ministry, and found their way to Kabwata Baptist Church to participate in our internship programme. Read on...

My name is Poniso Kuyumbana. I was born and grew up in a non-Christian family and village. My parents and all my family members were ancestral-spirits worshippers; and I was led to believe and involved myself in that system of worship at a tender age. We believed that we were doing good to the spirits of our ancestors, and they would in turn help us in times of trouble such as sickness or drought. In 1996-7, some Baptist missionaries came to our village to sink boreholes for the people. During this time, they also organised Bible studies in our village, which I attended. One day, they taught us a Bible story of Abraham’s call from Haran to Canaan. In this story, the missionaries taught us several spiritual truths concerning salvation in Jesus Christ. I was convicted that I was a sinner who deserved nothing but hell. I was also convinced that I needed Jesus as my personal Saviour. I gave my life to Jesus and asked him for forgiveness. I developed a deep interest in the things of the Lord and how I could be prepared for Christian service. I enrolled at the Centre for Christian Missions Bible College for theological training. I am graduating next year, 2014. I am thankful and looking forward to the ministry exposure and experience I will gain during the pastoral internship programme at Kabwata Baptist Church.

My name is Mathews Fikati. I am 29 years of age and became a Christian in 1996 when I gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour after hearing the gospel. The message really sank in my heart and it caused me to be so restless for almost a week. One day, after a week of restlessness, the Spirit of the Lord convicted me of my sins and my eyes were opened to realise that, though I was brought up in a Christian environment and was very committed to the youth meetings, I was not a Christian, but a sinner who was heading for destruction. The conviction became so strong that I could not resist but surrender my life to Christ. I sensed the call to the ministry gradually. In 2004, I started theological studies at the Centre for Christian Mission on the Copperbelt, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Theology degree.  I am currently doing further theological studies at the Copperbelt Ministerial College. While at college I learnt about the pastoral ministry from a theoretical point. I now desire to learn more about it from a practical point. It is for this reason that I enlisted to join the Kabwata Baptist Church pastoral internship programme.

My name is David Chibanga. I was raised in Mufulira on the Copperbelt. I attribute my religious upbringing to my mother, who happened to have been a Christian. When my parents separated, I went with my mother. In 1989, God called me to salvation in a cell group meeting where I heard the gospel message. My heart was pricked, I immediately stood up and said I believed, and I received Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Saviour. From that time onwards, God has continued to be faithful to me. Upon my completion of high school, I moved to Lusaka. This move was to facilitate for my tertiary studies in London. My sister lived and worked in London. It was while in Lusaka that I met Pastor Steven Bell a missionary under Baptist Mid-missions. Together with him, and other brothers, we established the Berean Baptist Church of Chelston. I served in various capacities until my call to pastoral ministry. I was ordained in April 2005. In 2008 I enrolled at the Baptist Theological Seminary. While at the seminary, Pastor Isaac Makashinyi introduced me to the Reformed Faith in his Greek classes. Upon completion, I applied to do my internship with Kabwata Baptist Church. I am privileged to be here.

Pray for these men as they embark upon our pastoral internship programme, that the Lord will use it in their lives to sharpen their ministerial skills.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bird watching on our 25th wedding anniversary

I love watching birds. They display a variety and beauty in God’s creation that is easy to see and appreciate. You need very good eyes to appreciate the variety and beauty of the minute creatures we call insects. You need to be very brave to go sightseeing among wild animals. You need to be a very good swimmer to plummet the depth of oceans and appreciate the variety and beauty of fish. With birds, all you need is to look around you. I also love to think that I am obeying the Lord Jesus Christ who said, “Look at the birds of the air…” (Matthew 6:26)!

Here is a sample of the birds that Felistas and I saw on our 25th (silver) wedding anniversary as we took a boat cruise on the Zambezi River, the fourth longest river in Africa. Aren’t they lovely?

The African Darter loves to be anywhere where it can find very large rives or lakes, and the Zambezi fits that description. It is often found on dead trees overhanging the waters. It is famous for submerging its entire body in water, except for the top part of its neck and head, which it keeps turning to the left and right. At a distance, you would think it is a snake in the water! I had to give you a double dose of photos on this one because it is not often that I capture a bird taking off as I captured this Darter.

The Yellow-billed Egret is yet another lover of large bodies of water. They tend to move in large numbers. Their beautiful white colour makes them easy to see.

The Hamerkop is a loner, and yet again a lover of large rivers. It is not the most beautiful of birds and has a peculiar whistling call when excited or alarmed. It builds large oven-like nests, using sticks and rubbish.

The Sacred Ibis loves to be in company with others in large numbers. They fly in wonderful formation.

The Glossy Ibis is a very shy bird and a loner. It loves the edges of quiet waters. You can see from this picture why it has been given the name “glossy”.

The Egyptian Goose is usually found in pairs. It loves to swim and so will be found wherever there is some water, even if it is just a small lake or dam.

The Pied Kingfisher derives its generic name not from its size but from its ability to catch fish by diving head first. It then carries the fish to a favourite place where it beats the poor thing to death before swallowing it. You cannot miss its characteristic long, stout and pointed bill.

The White-fronted Bee-eater derives its generic name from its favourite meal. It eats bees (and other small flying insects), which it often captures while in flight. As you can see, this particular species has a beautiful variety of colours.

The Wire-tailed Swallow spends a lot of its time flying because it captures its food (insects) while in flight. This particular species has a chestnut reddish head that singles it out from other swallows.

Finally, just in case you think I am an ornithologist, let me correct the impression. I enjoy taking pictures of whatever birds I see, but then after that I get to my books on birds and try to identify them and read a little more about them. I find this such a refreshing and relaxing exercise. It is this latter exercise that results in the little knowledge I have exhibited above. At heart, I am still a preacher!