Saturday, November 23, 2013

The reminiscing of a friend

[When my good friend, Pastor Choolwe Mwetwa of Central Baptist Church in Chingola, heard the news of my completion of PhD studies, he wrote me saying, "I am not a blogger as you know (it is bad manners to ask why). But allow me to post something in connection with your delightful achievement today." My answer was "You are welcome. Who knows me better than my twinny?" Well, below is his article. He begins by addressing me personally, but later turns to describe what he has observed in me over the years. He had to be liberal with his praises. After all, it was to be published on my blog! Okay..., I am joking.]

Dear Doctor Conrad Mbewe,

On this day you have obtained your PhD, a feat that makes me truly proud of you, I thought reminiscence of the magnificence of providence in our lives would be appropriate. Our journey through this life has not passed without providential fascination. I recall first meeting you at Ndola Primary School in the early 1970s. You struck me as a tall casual walking lad with a happy easy-going appearance. Being the talented sports boy I was, in a school that made much of sports, it did not require much for me to deduce from your frame that you were preordained to be on the losing side of whatever sports team you played for.

On the friendship front, it is interesting that it was our older sisters, Chipo and Mwape, who become close friends before we could see the wisdom of forging ours. Perhaps it is because they journeyed on to the same secondary school, while we went in different directions. God knew better, for after our wilderness years of being Satan’s part-time sales agents in different spheres, he brought us together to be intimate God-loving saints.

I vividly recall an occasion when I met you travelling by bus to the town we would both make our home that left a nagging impression on my mind. You were struggling to walk for the simple reason that the theological books you had just bought were in excess of the permitted weight for both body and bag. My heart reaction was: here is a serious Christian worth deepening a friendship with. Although I was an avid research reader, this time I was beholding a friend who was audacious to go for heavy-weight books. Until then, few if any of the friends I had were in this lonely league. I took note.

Behind the curtains
Dear readers, my impressions of the man I had the privilege of living with, one who would be my confidant, wedding bestman (after being his) and my twin brother in many respects, linger with unwithering freshness. Let me walk you through some.

Although I noted that Conrad had a physically demanding job as a mining engineer, I thought he had unacceptable paediatric sleeping patterns. He slept too early for an adult. With no small embarrassment, I often found myself talking to myself, thinking he was awake with me. To his credit, however, he rose while I still shamefully gazed into my eyelids, trailing all sorts of dreams – the good, the bad and the ugly!

For the first time I had a friend to whom theological reflection and debate along with Christian service were life and death issues. This is a man whose conversations are sweetly heavenly, always edifying. To describe him as a man with a Christocentric heart is by no means an overstatement.

Witty humour laces his speech, the kind that reminds one of Spurgeon. Around Conrad, the sun sets very very late. He always sees and helps you see the bright side of life. Occasional refined naughtiness makes him great company. To my beloved friend, sincerity is like a necklace from his sweetheart that he cherishes dearly. He is all-round dependable, a man of inflexible faithfulness. He is a man of his word.

In the years we spent together I noted that Conrad spent money in the most frugal and responsible manner. His budget leaned quite handsomely towards his personal spiritual development. He paid meagre attention to the frivolity of stocking his clothing cabinet. His brown safari suit was more than enough for elegant occasions. Still, he was always tidy and clean. Generosity oozed out of him with ease. A more selfless man you will be hard-pressed to find.

His struggles, doubts, fears, confusion and failings he readily brings up for discussion and counsel to close friends. He has a translucent skin, gladly placing his life on a public shelf. I came from another school of practice. In our little flat he openly wept occasionally, but not for reasons that ordinary people do. He wept when the outrage of sin in the church overpowered him.

His emotions are well regulated and symmetrical. His mind rules, and rules admirably. His is a fertile well cultured mind, the product of meticulous organisation, disciplined study, profound reflection and ardent prayer. Clear thinking and broad perspective are his hallmark. Add to this a concern for a practicality that seeks spiritual good in all dialogue. This is one friend who has little patience for fantastic sounding theological irrelevancies.

In the occasions I have differed with him, he has kept an eye on both principle and friendship, while mine have often roved around principle to a fault. My memory keeps no record of him resorting to anger outbursts when rattled or irritated. At worst he falls back on intellectually disarming and occasionally unsettling sarcasm. In our endless theological discourses he has spoken with candour and grace. Without doubt he is a friend par excellence.

While Conrad’s professors at Pretoria University have today conferred him with a PhD, his friends in essence did this when he entered ministry, in recognition of his years of sound living and resounding Christian service. More on his public life some other day.

By Choolwe Mwetwa


  1. Well spoken from a true friend! Congratulations Pastor Mbewe, may God continie to add grace upopn grace

  2. To hear these sweet words from brother to brother makes me weep. I don't know either of you but in heaven we will all be singing praises together! God is so Sovereign and Mighty and how He does roar!

  3. I truly envy your friendship. Hearing such words from a godly bosom friend is really encouraging and humbling. May us the young people and many minsters emulate such godly bosom friendship. God bless and congratulations.

  4. Thank you Pastor Mwetwa for this reflection. Congratulations Dr Mbewe for this exciting and no mean achievement, certainly a product of hard work and the grace of God upon you to whom we are grateful. May He bless you even more for the continued extension of His Kingdom upon the face of the earth as you continue to labour to His own glory

  5. Conrad and Choolwe's friendship reminds me of the narrative of David and Jonathan in the Bible.Both are godly men with a passion for His fullness.May God raise more of such of integrity ,dedicated to the Lords' service and selfless leaders.We are truly grateful to the Lord for raising both of you and others at a time such as this.Well done Conrad and thank-you Choolwe for your inspired reflections ...

  6. Most excellent words from a true friend and brother in the Lord. What a wonderful testimony? Praise the Lord for His goodness in all things who has remembered us through the faithful service of friends. Congratulations to you my brother Dr Mbewe for your achievement. May the Lord continue to be exalted even by your understanding. Amen!

  7. I had the privilege of witnessing, even though in a small way, the kinship of these like-minded and yet uniquely different servants of the Lord. Even from way back then in the mid to late eighties when both men were in secular employment it was clear that the Lord had set them apart for His special work and was actively equipping them for the task. It was exciting when we, the younger ones in the Lord then, found ourselves in their presence just listening, learning from scripture and insights from the books they read. Sometimes we just enjoyed their humour and sometimes their rebukes. I recall how we used to refer to Ba Choolwe as the ‘holy man’ in our circles then (Oops! Now my friend Dr Mulenga Bwalya whom I 'credit' for appropriating this term to Pastor Choolwe will kill me!). The men exemplified in words and acts of sacrifice and commitment what we aspired to be in the Lord. It is therefore fitting that Pastor Choolwe should write this apt tribute on the occasion of Pastor Mbewe being awarded the Doctor of Philosophy Degree. Congratulations Dr Mbewe and may the Lord continue to bless you richly and to preserve you as you run the race. Thank you Pastor Choolwe for the excellent words.

  8. I second everything Mr James Guyo has said! Congratulations. May the Lord always be pleased with your diligent and graceful efforts on His behalf, Pastor and Doctor Conrad Mbewe. :)

  9. Ma guys, patting each on the back... good stuff! May God bless your endeavours! Please pass it on.

  10. Wow.couldn't have been said better.