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!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Déjà vu

(My speech given at the wedding of our son, Mwindula, on Saturday December 23, 2017)

This speech is being given on behalf of my wife, Felistas, and myself. I've entitled it Déjà vu. Wikipedia says, “Déjà vu is from French, and literally means ‘already seen’. It is the phenomenon of having the feeling that the situation currently being experienced has already been experienced in the past.” (To avoid being long-winded due to excitement, I have written down this speech word-for-word, including this same statement!).

Felistas and I would like to thank you all—friends and relatives—for coming to this event.

Exactly 30 years ago—shy of ten days—on January 2, 1988, Felistas and I faced each other in front of Pastor Joe Simfukwe of Lusaka Baptist Church and exchanged our wedding vows. We did not know what lay ahead. I had just resigned my job as a mining engineer in Mufulira and answered a call to pastor Kabwata Baptist Church—a church which at that time had no church building, no pastor’s house, and not enough money to pay my salary. As Mwindula's mother often says, “There were only two things we were sure of: Conrad had a calling to pastoral ministry and I loved him. The rest was left to God.”

Namundi being brought into the wedding ceremony by her parents
Well, this is now 30 years later, and apparently there is a Déjà vu. About ten years ago, Mwindula talked to us about wanting to become a pastor. We told him to first obtain a degree in something else, get a good job, and taste money. If after that he still wanted to become a pastor, he should come and tell us. Earlier this year, he came and said, “I have achieved what you wanted me to achieve. I have my degree in software engineering. I have a good job with Society for Family Health. I get a good salary. And I still want to be a pastor.” Who were we to refuse?

It was not long before he showed up again. This time he was with Namundi, saying this is the woman he wanted to marry. We asked the young lady—who is a lawyer—whether she knew the aspirations of her knight in shining armour. She told us what her former church elder, Mr Joseph Taguma, later repeated to us. She said that soon after her conversion, she had begun to pray that she would get married to a pastor. One or two courtships later she concluded that perhaps the Lord had other plans...until Mwindula showed up! She now thinks she is back on track.

Mwindula looking at his bride as she is brought in by her parents
The first time I met Namundi, I suspected we would meet again and would have a lot to do with each other. It was at a youth camp. She came to see me after one of my sermons, introduced herself, and we talked. A day later she came up to me smiling and said, “Pastor Mbewe, I'm sure you've forgotten my name.” She was right. I had been praying she would not ask. Well, she told me her name and then charged me not to forget it. Sadly, I forgot it again. So, the day the camp was ending, I pulled our daughter Mwila aside and, pointing to her at a distance, I asked for her name. “Namundi,” she said. This time I memorised it. The girl showed up at Kabwata Baptist Church (KBC) and looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Aha, what's my name?” This time, I was ready! That's how I knew we would have a lot to do with each other. She soon joined KBC and we discovered she was living a few streets away from our home. She got close to my wife as they began to have weekly meetings at our home just between the two of them. My son saw her and, as they say, the rest is history!

As some of you know, Mwindula joins our pastoral internship programme in the next two weeks as part of his preparation for a lifetime of pastoral ministry. To do so and at the same time bring a young lady into your life as a wife demands the best even from the best of men. Pastoral ministry puts you in the cross hairs of Satan’s most powerful weapons. The way ahead will be challenging but at the same time very rewarding. Felistas and I can testify to both those realities. That's part of the Déjà vu.

The bride's maids walking in before the bride was brought in
Mwindula and Namundi, any parent will tell you that it is their ardent prayer before God that their children may marry the way you have done today. We are very proud of both of you. Too many young professionals are simply starting to cohabit and before long you are told that there is a baby on the way. They lack the social safety net of family and the high rate of divorce bears witness to their folly. We are grateful to God that you have sought parental consent and involvement in your relationship and your coming together in marriage. That is how it should be.

Yet this is only the start of a journey. What matters is how you finish, which is obviously dependent on how you travel. The Bible begins in Genesis 1:1 with the words, “In the beginning, God created.” Among the many things he created was the institution of marriage. Therein lies the key to a successful and happy marriage. It is to follow what the manufacturer of the institution says. The manufacturer’s manual is the Bible. Follow what it says. He created marriage and so he knows best how to keep it in good working order.

Dr Voddie Baucham preaching at the wedding of Mwindula and Namundi
Perhaps another interesting piece of the Déjà vu is the fact that the couple who did our premarital counselling were the Nyirendas—Pastor Alfred and Tina Nyirenda. Well, thirty years later they did the premarital counselling of Mwindula and Namundi—spanning two generations. We told the courting couple that the counsel the Nyirendas gave us has stood us in good stead these last thirty years. We are the proof of the pudding. Mwindula and Namundi told us that after about thirty hours of lessons, Rev Nyirenda said to them, “You can go and get married now. You are ready!”

Mwindula and Namundi, it is one thing to be taught how to have a successful God-glorifying marriage. It is something else to apply what you have learned. Many years ago we were called in to witness the separation of a couple in our church to ensure that violence did not occur as they divided their assets. We soon discovered that we were redundant. The couple knew exactly what belonged to whom, even to the last spoon. I asked them who their premarital counsellor was and they replied, “You!” I refused and said that I counsel couples to have joint accounts and purchase items from that common purse. That way everything is jointly owned. They just looked down. We told them that they had never really been married; they were merely living together.

Mwindula and Namundi with their parents on their wedding day
So, Mwindula and Namundi, you have been taught how to have a successful God-glorifying marriage. Make sure you start putting into practice everything that you have been taught. You are meant to apply those principles for the rest of your lives together. Every year on our anniversary, Felistas and I pull out the headings of the notes we took down from the premarital counselling we got from the Nyirendas thirty years ago. We spend a whole morning going through them and asking ourselves in which areas we are backsliding. We are brutally honest with each other. Then we pray for God's help to make us better spouses and better parents. It has been a good method of ensuring we apply what we were taught. I commend it to you!

I am leaving most of the thanksgiving to Mwindula's grandfather, which he will give when he closes the whole event. Let me end by thanking the wider family and the Kabwata Baptist Church members for the role you have played in the lives of our children, and in this case in the life of Mwindula. As for the church, you know that he was born in this very church and has grown up to be what he is today because of the teaching and influence of many of you. Thank you very much. Pray for him as he goes into marriage with Namundi and in due season into pastoral ministry.

Mwindula and Namundi with Mwindula's siblings and parents
Let me end this Déjà vu speech by quoting an appropriate portion of the Bible. The apostle Paul upon surveying God's inscrutable ways, says in Romans 11:33–36, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

I thank you!

(Postscript: Someone who attended our wedding 30 years ago reminded us later of another Déjà vu. Felistas and I provided a finger snack for our guests on the church grounds straight after our wedding ceremony instead of a full wedding reception. That is exactly what Mwindula and Namundi opted for. Déjà vu!)

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Seven lies I once believed about missions

The work of missions is one of the most important that any church can engage in. It is the responsibility of every Christian. We are either supposed to go into the mission field or we should be supporting those who have gone with our prayers and our finances. This is because our God is a God of missions. That is what the whole Bible is about. It is God’s agenda. Whereas I knew this from the time I became a Christian, somehow the penny never quite dropped that I should put this into practice both as a Christian and later as a church pastor.

How come? It is because we are all creatures of our own day. We live with many unconscious beliefs that dictate our priorities and how we relate to situations in life. I was once with presuppositions that made me conclude that at least for now the work of missions was none of my business. Looking back, I realise that those unconscious beliefs were all lies. There were many of them but, at the risk of embarrassing myself, let me share with you seven of them. Many fellow African Christians may find themselves making similar confessions.

Lie 1: We Africans were at the end of the process of missions

I always believed in missions. However, somewhere at the back of my mind I was of the unconscious belief that I was at the finishing end of the factory line of missions. Other people had brought the gospel to me and to my people. Our task here in Africa was simply that of evangelising our own people. That was all. Hence, in our prayer meetings we prayed for our evangelistic programmes. In our scheduling we only planned for evangelistic activities. In our budgeting we set aside funds for evangelistic trips and tracts. There was no sense of guilt that we rarely ever prayed for actual missionaries by name. Prayer meetings came and went without a single cry to God to raise up missionaries from among us. And we had nothing in our annual church planner and budget that was to do directly with missions work. It was all about neighbourhood evangelism, which was to result in our own church’s growth.

Lie 2: Missionaries were “white people”

To me, missionaries were from Europe or America. They were “white skinned” men and women. That fitted the pictures and paintings of missionaries that I was brought up seeing in books. William Carey, David Livingstone, Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson, Stanley Moffat, Olive Doke, and Mary Slesser were all “muzungus”. It also fitted what I saw as I visited mission stations around the country as a young believer. I made friends with a number of them. They were all “white people”. Whenever it was announced that a missionary would share in our church about the work they were doing, a “white skinned” man or woman would stand up and go to the front to speak. That stereotype remained in my subconscious mind. I ended up with the unconscious belief that a black man like me was not in that category.

Lie 3: Missionaries were extraordinary people

The little I knew about the life of a missionary convinced me that these were men and women who were a notch above ordinary mortals like me. I thought they probably heard an audible voice telling them to leave the comforts of their world to go and spend the rest of their lives in the jungles of Africa among ferocious beasts and unpredictable tribal chiefs or in Islamic and Communist countries where upon being discovered they would face certain death. I was convinced that missionaries possessed super human strength and courage. I admired them the way I admired Marvel’s Captain America, Iron Man, and Spiderman. Since I knew that I was an ordinary mortal who almost collapses at the sight of a spider and I also knew my church members were of the same ilk, I was of the unconscious opinion that we did not have men and women among us who could be missionaries. So, I never bothered to challenge our people to seriously consider going into the work of missions. Never!

Lie 4: Those who supported missions had a lot of money

I was convinced that God did not expect my church or me to give finances towards missions because only Christians and churches with plenty of money did such a thing. And I thought such Christians and churches were only found in America and Europe. I did not realise that many individuals and churches that were giving to missions in the West were doing so out of their poverty. They were doing so primarily because they saw it not as an optional extra to their Christian lives but as an intrinsic part of it. Some of them were students who had to forgo perhaps a meal a day in order to give the money they could have spent on that meal to the work of missions. In other words, I did not realise that we too could and were obligated to support the work of missions financially while we were struggling to make ends meet.

Lie 5: We must support a missionary’s total budget

This was another barrier to my involvement in missions. I always thought that a single church must have all the money needed to support a missionary’s total budget before they can get involved in supporting missions work. Since our church could not do so, I assumed God was leaving us out of this obligation. It was not until I got close enough to individual Western missionaries that I realised that many of them get “bits and pieces” from different churches and from different Christians to meet their needs on the mission field. Sometimes some churches and individuals drop off and they have to get back home to raise further support. In this way, even small struggling churches and poor Christians could participate in missions. Missions work is a joint effort where we all must contribute our little to make it happen!

Lie 6: Only churches with missionaries should pray for them

I thought that only those churches that have actually sent out missionaries are expected to pray for missionaries by name. After all, they have seen them grow up among them, get married, and even begin raising a family. So, they know them very well. For the rest of us it was enough to simply pray generally for “the advancement of God’s kingdom through the work of missions”. Thus even when I visited churches in the USA and heard them praying specifically for missionaries by name and sharing about the circumstances they were going through, I concluded, “They must have been members here and are now serving abroad.” It never dawned on me that some of them were never members in those churches but that churches in the West tend to adopt and support missionaries sent out by sister churches.

Lie 7: It is not yet time for us to get involved in missions

This was the final lie, which was a result of the cumulative effect of the smaller lies mentioned above. We were not “white” people and did not have a lot of money. None of our members showed extraordinary faith and courage. Therefore, it was not yet time for us to get involved in missions. We must keep the best of our young adults in good well-paying jobs to add to our numbers and funds. Our church prayer meetings should rightly concentrate only on our evangelism. One day it will be our turn, but that is somewhere in the distant future. The application of the Great Commission to us in Africa is simply that we continue to evangelise. What a BIG lie!


These seven lies and many more shut my eyes to the obligation that I had as an African Christian and pastor towards the work of missions for a number of years. How else could I have missed the fact that we are called to fulfil the Great Commission even as African believers and that this goes beyond reaching out to our neighbourhood? I am glad that my eyes have since been opened and as a result Kabwata Baptist Church and its members are engaged in the work of missions—sending out missionaries to plant churches, raising funds to support them, and praying for them by name every week in our prayer meetings.

I kick at myself for taking so long to see the light. Yet, when I talk with fellow pastors in Africa about missions I notice the same false beliefs that I once had in many of them. These are unconscious beliefs that are betrayed by a lack of actual action. They agree with me in theory that the work of missions is important but they remain inactive about it. The cumulative effect of these lies causes them to think, “It is not yet time for us to get involved in missions.” I will not throw the first stone at them because sadly I was once in their shoes.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The 2017 Zambia Reformed Conferences—Day Three

Voddie Baucham preaching on the 3rd evening of the combined conference
I attended the Family Conference today. Pastor Bob Dickie again started with his salvation testimony and how it led to a mini-revival. He then preached on Sola Gratia (“by grace alone”) from Ephesians 2:1–10. He dealt with the need for grace, the work of grace, the source of grace, and the purpose of grace. He gave a quick tour of the New Testament showing its emphasis on grace. He showed the logic of this truth by starting with the fact that unbelievers are spiritually dead and the Bible refers to salvation as recreation, resurrection, and rebirth. In each of those pictures, the beneficiary is passive while God is active!

Pastor Bob Dickie preaching at the Family Conference
The second preacher was Dr Voddie Baucham. He preached on the necessity of creeds and catechisms in gaining a proper understanding of the truths that were brought out in the Reformation.

Dr Voddie Baucham preaching at the Family Conference
In the afternoon, the Lusaka Ministerial College had their second graduation. Pastor Bob Dickie was the guest of honour and 5 students graduated. Pictures are the best witness and so I will leave the pictures to speak for themselves.

Francis Ngoma receiving his diploma

Friday Nyambe receiving his diploma (cum laude)

Gabriel Banda receiving his diploma

German Banda receiving his diploma

Joseph Banda receiving his diploma

Graduation group photo ceremony of the Lusaka Ministerial College
In the evening, Dr Voddie Baucham was back! He preached from Titus 1:1–16, showing the relationship between faith, truth, and godliness. He started by showing how the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Reformation sustained a religion of fear but the Reformers freed the people from fear by the truth of the gospel. In Titus 1:1–16, Paul dealt with faith, truth and godliness three times over (1:1–3, 4–9, and 10–16). Paul ended the first section with himself as the preacher, the second section with the elders as the instructors, and the third section (2:1) with Titus as the teacher. Voddie ended with Titus 3:3–8, showing that this preaching produces a religion of hope and not of fear.

Dr Voddie Baucham preaching in the evening at the combined conference

Monday, August 21, 2017

The 2017 Zambia Reformed Conferences—Day One

The 2017 Zambian Reformed Conferences (plural because there are two conferences running in parallel but being united in the evening sessions) are being held at the Dream Valley Lodge in Lusaka from Monday 21st to Friday25th August. This is the 28th year of these conferences but only the second to be held at this venue. And what a venue! There are few places in Lusaka where you can have a conference while seeing Kudus and Zebras roaming freely around. 

The conference began promptly at 18.30 hours as scheduled with the singing of “Jesus paid it all”. Charles Bota, the conference organizing committee chairman, led the meeting.

“Yours truly”, on behalf of Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa who chairs the inter-church elders meetings that host this conference, welcomed all who were present. Countries already present were America, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, South Sudan, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe. Attendees from Tanzania and Malawi were still on the way. Also, all the provinces of Zambia, except for Northern Province, were represented.

Charles Bota, conference organizing committee chairman, leading the meeting
Pastor Ndonji Kayombo gave the keynote address. He said that the Protestant Reformation was rooted in the sufficiency of Scripture. The Roman Catholic pontiff’s claims to personal inerrancy undermined this truth. The Reformers said, “No, it must be Sola Scriptura.” The Reformers dethroned the Pope and enthroned the Scriptures. That was the implication of Martin Luther’s position at the Diet of Worms.

Pastor Kayombo went on to say that Paul did not tell Timothy to bind heretics or the devil. Rather, he commended to him Sola Scriptura. Paul urged Timothy to continue in the Scriptures that he had learned from childhood. Which Scriptures was he referring to? He argued that it was both the Old and New Testament (e.g. 1 Timothy 5, 1 Peter 3:14–15). Then he expounded 2 Timothy 3:16–17. He spoke about...

Pastor Ndonji Kayombo preaching on the first night of the conference

The origin of the Scriptures—The source is God and he gave them to us through inspiration.
The offer of the Scriptures—They are profitable/useful. They are doctrinally useful (doctrine and reproof, i.e. teaching and detecting error) and they are practically useful (correction and training, i.e. straightening and nurturing).
The objective of the Scriptures—They equip us adequately for service as men of God.
The operations of the Scriptures—They produce in us good works that glorify God.

In application Pastor Kayombo said—(1) We have a heritage we must preserve. Unless we see the Reformed disinctives from the Scriptures for ourselves we will soon lose them. (2) We have everything we need to know about life and godliness in the Scriptures. (3) We need to validate the sufficiency of Scripture by humbly submitting to the Scriptures in all areas including our homes and in the church, and (4) We will stand before God in judgment to account for the way we have used the Scriptures.

Part of the congregation on the first night of the conference

That was how the first day ended. I have been reliably informed that Facebook Live was used to share the conference sermon on the Internet. The same will be done tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards. If you want to be part of the conference, check on the Biblical Christianity Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/KBCBiblicalChristianity/?ref=br_rs)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Experiencing pastoral internship at Kabwata Baptist Church

The two pastors with the 2017 pastoral interns at Kabwata Baptist Church
It has been a joy pouring our lives into 6 men who have left their homes (and for some of them their countries too) to come and experience the pastoral internship at Kabwata Baptist Church. I asked each of them to share how they have found this experience. Here is what they say!

Andrew Mulendema
Andrew Mulendema (from Lusaka) says, “It is a privilege to be part of this internship program here at Kabwata Baptist Church. I beg to express my experience, challenges, and the great lessons I have learned. To start with, my experience in this first six months has been a great joy. Very few churches have such internship programmes. The love and care the church offers to us, the fellowship and the liberty we are given to interact with all, and the freedom to do our work without close supervision is great. The great lessons learned have been integrity, discipline, hard work, and creativity.”

Ntungamili Mashumba leading prayer meeting at Kabwata Baptist Church
Ntungamili Mashumba (from Botswana) says, “During the first six months of my internship in Kabwata Baptist Church, I have learnt a great deal of how ministries operate successfully. I have seen how the eldership works in harmony. I have been mostly impressed by the peace and transparency that reigns in church members meetings. Above all, I praise God for the faithful biblical preaching during Sunday services. In my living arrangements, I’m thankful to God for the allowance I get. For the purpose of the internship I’m happy and privileged for the learning experience. Glory be to God for his mercy and goodness (2 Corinthians 3:5).”

Wal Abraham leading worship at Kabwata Baptist Church
Wal Abraham (from South Sudan) says, “First, thanks be to God for his providence in my internship. It has been a great opportunity for me to be exposed to new things here. I have been learning partly through observation. It has been a great joy to share the gospel with outsiders who have been groaning to be encouraged by the precious words of God. It has also been good to pray for those who are subjected to various frustrations. I have been seeing God’s grace at work. Pray for me to have a greater desire to reach the lost through the gospel of Jesus Christ.”      

Daniel Sitali
Daniel Sitali (from Kitwe) says, “From the time I came here, I have seen a lot and I have learnt a lot in terms of how a church should run. One thing that has stood out for me is the way the different ministries in the church run, including the other programmes that I have been attending. I have attended the missions retreat, pastors fraternals, and some short courses at Lusaka Ministerial College, to mention a few. I have also had the privilege of leading the Sunday worship services and Bible studies. I am also thankful for the fact that all my needs are being met.”

Abutu Peter Joshua with Conrad Mbewe in Lagos, Nigeria
Abutu Peter Joshua (from Nigeria) says, “I came seeking a veritable soil where my classroom experience may be nurtured towards effective God-honouring pastoral service delivery in the African context. My expectations were surpassed in the areas of expository preaching, reformed leadership (especially team work and openness), capacity building (especially freedom and independency of thinking in leadership), training in personal piety (e.g. living by example, prayer, Bible reading, deliberate mentorship), inclusive and participatory church membership, the primacy of the Bible in church life and polity, genuine interest in missions and soul winning activities, and the place of functional home cell groups in church life.”

Hiskia Tjindere bidding farewell to the church after 6 months of internship
Hiskia Tjindere (from Namibia) says, “What I have appreciated the most at KBC is how the elders are well organised. I have learned how they plan and organize church activities, including the visitation of members. They have taught the members of the church well in biblical doctrine by fostering a culture of reading sound books. It was also an eye opener for me to see how missions work is taken as a life’s commitment even by ordinary church members. I will gladly recommend this internship programme to people considering missions work so that they can know how to go about this work.”

NB: In case you get inspired to join this programme, the 2018 space is full but the sooner you apply for the 2019 the better—before even that gets full. Although we have had interns from outside Africa, our preference is for individuals coming from African countries. The application process is quite demanding and we only have 6 spaces per year. It is our joy to serve future pastors and the church in Africa in this way!