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, April 11, 2013

My Call To The Ministry—Raphael Banda

[This is the second instalment in the series of blog posts about the calling to the preaching ministry. As I said in the previous one, this series comprises interviews of men who have had to quit their jobs in order to become pastors. It is being written to provide a window into the wrestling of the heart that often takes place at that juncture. It is also being written to encourage those who are currently seeking God about full time ministry to trust the Lord. This second instalment is a testimony by Raphael Banda, our missionary pastor in Mazabuka.]

Conrad: How did you identify that God had called you into the preaching ministry?

Raphael: Having gotten saved in the seventies, a time when there was some kind of revival in Zambia, meant that immediately one got born again they zealously begun doing the Lord’s work like witnessing and discipling. So for a long time I did not look at my inclinations to evangelism and discipleship as been indicators that one day the Lord would want me to serve him full time. This was compounded by my naturally shy and timid disposition.

Nonetheless thoughts of being called started coming to the fore with an increase in ministering opportunities especially at the new church plant in the town of Chingola from 1987 onwards. Ministering in church was also supplemented with ministering to students at some colleges in town. The more I ministered, the more I felt this was what I wanted to do in life. These internal convictions were soon consolidated by external ones as brethren began to testify that whenever I preached they were edified and they felt I should seriously consider fulltime ministry. My ministry to the unconverted, especially students, was also yielding positive fruit as a number of them were getting converted.

Working in the mines meant that most of my time and energy were taken up by this work and this tended to slow down the growth of the conviction.  In 1996, I changed jobs and moved to the town of Mufulira. My new work environment was more relaxed and once again both the internal and external stirrings reappeared with ever increasing intensity.

Conrad: What steps brought you to the point where you knew the sphere that God wanted you to labour in?

Raphael: It began to dawn on me that it was very possible to become like Jonah who ran away from the Lord’s call and consequently became the first man in the world to travel by ‘submarine’! I resolved that I would put my calling to the test by doing a couple of things. Firstly, I decided to share my burden with close friends, especially my fellow elders as well as some pastors. At this time I was serving as an elder at Fairview Reformed Baptist Church. When I did this it opened up the matter to prayer and discussion.

Secondly, I sought to have a practical feel of the mission field by devoting one of my leave periods to go to work in an actual mission field. To this end my wife and I went to Mazabuka where Kabwata Baptist Church (KBC) was planting a church without any missionary pastor. We worked there for a period of three weeks. This proved to be the turning point both for my wife and myself. There after it was just a question of ‘when’ and not ‘if’. When I had a chat with you and you confirmed that we could go and plant a church in the town of Mazabuka under KBC’s oversight. Now that the call was confirmed, it was just the practical issues that had to be addressed before we could take the final plunge!

Raphael explaining an aspect of missions work at Kabwata Baptist Church
Conrad: Many people really hesitate to “hold the plow with both hands,” to borrow an expression of our Lord. What are some of the issues you wrestled with as you sought to respond to the call?

Raphael: There were a number of these but two of them stand out. The first was the fear of the unknown. There was the lingering feeling or belief that one needed to undergo some kind of training before becoming a missionary pastor. There was the fear that without such training one was bound to fail.

Then there was the fear of the known. My wife had a good job at the Mine School in Mufulira; where would she find a good job in the small town of Mazabuka?  Our son was attending school at the same school whose quality was very high. Our son was rather behind in his schoolwork and we feared that taking him to another school would only worsen his situation. We were building a house in the town of Kitwe and we feared we might not be able to complete it once we went into the ministry. We also felt we needed to buy the company vehicle I was driving but my company was taking their time to reach a decision to sell.

When my employers learnt that I was contemplating leaving, they dangled a very thick and juicy carrot in front of me by offering me to go and work as an expatriate in a neighbouring country. The temptation was there to accept this offer ‘temporarily,’ go and make a few dollars and then rush back just in time to answer the call. With respect to our son’s school we also toyed with the idea of leaving my wife behind to continue working in Mufulira and only join me after our son wrote his Grade 7 exams two years down the line. The more we limped between two opinions the more frustrating our situation seemed to become, until we decided to make a radical decision and take the plunge!

Conrad: It is amazing how the ideal timing never finally comes and you just have to bite the bullet. How was it with you?

Raphael: You are right. In taking the plunge I just had to turn down the offer from my company to take up an expatriate job. I also decided to leave my company vehicle behind, since the company had not yet committed to sell. We decided we would trust the Lord to provide us with transport in future. To make matters worse, we finally moved to Mazabuka before our building project in Kitwe was complete and trusted that the Lord would provide the resources in future to complete it. And finally, my wife quit her job and our son left the good school he was in. We were going to trust the Lord for her career prospects and our son’s education. And thus in July 2005 we packed our bags and left the mining town of Mufulira and headed for the small sugar cane growing town of Mazabuka.

Conrad: It was almost eight years ago since you took the plunge. Have you sunk or swarm?

Raphael: It was as if everything started falling into place soon after we committed to trust the Lord and obey his call. My former company made up their minds at the very last minute and sold us the vehicle I had been driving. Upon moving to Mazabuka, my wife found a job at one of the leading private schools there and later left to start her own school, which the Lord has been blessing with steady growth. Although the quality of the primary school our son went to was below that of the mine school he had left, the Lord simply opened up his mind and he had the second best results at his school. He has recently completed his Grade 12 with a 7 points distinction. Finally, the Lord enabled us to complete the house in Kitwe, which we have since sold to enable us build the one we are now living in.

Conrad: Looking back to that decisive point when you were wrestling with the question, “Should we or should we not?” what can you say now with the wisdom of hindsight to those who may currently be in that situation?

Raphael: Life in the mission field definitely comes with many challenges but we have never for a moment regretted taking the plunge from the corporate world to full time ministry. The test and growth of our faith could not have come to us in any other way. It can be said of us as it was said of Abraham in Genesis 24:1, “And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.” We have proved God’s promise found in 1Chronicles 28:20 again and again, “Then David said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished.’”

Our conclusion is that, in considering full time ministry, the only thing one needs to worry about is establishing that it is indeed God calling us. Once the call is established, God has promised to take care of us in ways we can never imagine!

4 comments:

  1. A very big challenge indeed, especially when he had to make a decision not to take up the lucrative job that was offered to him. The Lord has proved Himself as a faithful God. The way things fell in place despite the concerns that were initially identified, just confirms the Lord's call indeed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very encouraging! Thank you for these series, its a struggle that most of us have

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very encouraging as it reveals that God indeed is living and actively involved is transforming us into the likeness of his son Jesus Christ. I feel that the hardest for me to realize is what Pastor Raphael says at the end of this letter, "establishing that it is indeed God calling us" and this is made hard because i am very humanistic (more concerned about the physical well being than the spiritual of others). Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I was one of those privileged to be discipled by Pastor Raphael Banda in the early days of His 'unknowing' preparation for ministry. From our time at National Service, through University and into the working world in the mines, Raphael was an ever present stabilising spiritual elder brother figure in my life. If there is someone I aspired to be like in every way, it was Raphael - he was quiet, unassuming, faithful and serious with the things of the Lord, academically sharp, but also very funny! And so when I heard some years ago that he had answered the Lord's calling to fulltime ministry I was excited for him but also at a base human level anxious for him and his family. Thanks for the testimony of God's faithfulness. Indeed as the Psalmist says:
    "I was young and now I am old,
    yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
    or their children begging bread." Psalm 37:25
    May the Lord continue to bless His ministry through his servant as He labours in the vineyards.

    ReplyDelete