[The Zambian Reformed (Baptist) movement has attracted the attention of many friends around the globe in the recent past. What many do not know is that its initial stimulus came from a few university students who had come to strong and settled Reformed convictions. The rallying point that first kept the Reformation fires burning in Zambia was the annual Elbycites Convention, from 1984 to 1990. Then it gave way to the current Zambian Reformed Conferences. It was from this group that the first Zambian Reformed Baptist pastors were called in the late 1980s. Since then the floodgates have been opened!
While in Kitwe last weekend, Dr Henry Mugala gave me this letter, which I wrote 31 years ago this month. When I saw it I told him it was worth the price of the whole trip! I was only about 22 years old when I wrote this letter to my friends who were all medical students and in the same age range. I was on holiday during my last year of mining engineering studies at the University of Zambia. This historic letter captures the time of the birth of the Elbycites. It is wonderful to reflect on what the Lord has done since those days of small beginnings!]
C/o Mr Max Mwila
3 Oppenheimer Avenue,
March 1, 1984
Greetings in the blessed name of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. My hope and prayer is that in spirit and in flesh you are fine. As for me, words cannot express God’s goodness to a worm such as I. I pray that I may enlarge my tents to accommodate more of His blessings. Indeed, God is good (Luke 18:19).
I write to enlarge upon that work that we have begun for our blessed Lord, namely, that of the Conventions. Beloved, let us not belittle this work. Many, once zealous for the cause of our great Master, have been cooled while in the field. O that God may give us grace to maintain our banners high and lifted up! Let us never forget the words of the Incarnate One when He said, “The harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few.” How much more plentiful must be the harvest now, 2000 years later!
Meet with Henry(2), Dereck(3) and Charles(4) to think through this vision that we have conceived. I was thinking of an original name that could also give a hint that the Convention has its roots in LBC(5). The name “THE ELBYCITES CONVENTION” came to mind (Elbycites is from the word LBC-ites like Israel-ites). Discuss it among yourselves and see if you can improve on it.
The other matter is to do with the theme. I have made it clear to most of you yoke-fellows that I am not content with our last decision on this vital matter. If anything, let us be characterised by clearness of objective and so let us start from there. Why do we feel a need for such a Convention? I think of the following reasons:
(a) The need to meet with other like-minded saints to hear and pray over what God is doing in our lives and by our lives.
(b) The need to remind ourselves of the absolute necessity of the doctrinal preaching of the gospel of our blessed Lord.
(c) The need to meet with others and discuss the Scriptural balance of the system of theology most popularly known as Calvinistic.
(d) The need to rededicate ourselves to our calling, which is clearly enshrined in the Person of our Lord and in his teachings.
You may add more but these seem to me to be vital. It is because they cannot be dealt with in an appreciable depth in an inter-denominational meeting (where some are strangers even to the doctrines of grace) that I feel we need to meet. Please, pray over these until you have seen the Master’s clear will so that by the time we open (in April) you R/way(6) brethren will have come up with a good enough theme for our first meeting. I wish you God’s presence and guidance.
Also, tell the others that I have found one who is like-minded unto us. Lazarus Phiri(7). He is in his last year at ZIT(8) and the present chairman of SNEC(9). He has only recently appreciated the doctrines of grace and he groans, yea, thirsts for more. His zeal for the Lord leaves me desiring that I may emulate him. He is not without a clearly defined stand over the issue of members of the opposite sex. Discuss him too.
Keep my address away from the eyes of sisters. I want to rest a little while from them. When you enter the closet and shut the door, please remember this feeble servant of the Lord here. I am looking also for an evangelist to come and speak at our MISSION ’84 possibly between 16 and 20 April. Salute the saints at R/way and read to them Phil. 1:27-28.
Yours because His, Conrad.
(1) Dr Roland Msiska is now Secretary to the Cabinet of the Government of the Republic of Zambia and a regular preacher in his church in Lusaka.
(2) Dr Henry Mugala is now a consultant orthopedic surgeon and an elder at Kitwe Chapel.
(3) Dr Dereck Maseka is now a family medicine specialist and a regular preacher in his church in Canada.
(4) Dr Charles Ngoma is now a consultant radiologist and a regular preacher in his church in the United Kingdom.
(5) LBC stands for Lusaka Baptist Church.
(6) R/way stands for the Ridgway Campus of the University of Zambia where that university's medical doctors are trained.
(7) Dr Lazarus Phiri is the current principal of the Theological College of Central Africa.
(8) ZIT stands for the Zambia Institute of Technology, which later became assimilated into what is now the Copperbelt University.
(9) SNEC stands for the Students National Executive Committee of the Zambia Fellowship of Evangelical Students (ZAFES), which is an affiliate of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).