Paul the Leper—The first indigenous Baptist leader in Zambia
By the Zambian Baptist Historical Society
When the Zambian Baptist Historical Society was formed on March 20, 2010, we had no idea what Baptist historical treasures laid buried under the soil of Zambian history. We were simply concerned that as Baptists in Zambia we should preserve our history. We knew that if we did not know where we were coming from we would not know where we should be going. We also knew that if we did not know facts about the mistakes that our Baptist fathers made we were bound to repeat them. So, we got this society going and it has now been eight years since our inaugural annual general meeting.
One of the treasures we soon dug up was the biography of the man who can rightly be credited as the first indigenous Baptist leader in Zambia. This is Kaputula Kasonga. He was born around 1902 and showed up in 1916 at the first Baptist mission in Kafulafuta. The mission was started in 1905 by Henry Masters and William Arthur Phillips—the first Baptist missionaries in this country. Kaputula came from one of the nearby villages looking for education at the mission school. He was converted to Christ that same year but it was not until March 1920 that he was finally baptised and was given the name of Paul.
The title of this book is Paul the Leper. It is deliberate. Paul Kasonga suffered from leprosy almost all his life. In fact, it was the debilitating effect of this disease that finally took his life. There were many times when he was too sick to do any work. Yet, as soon as Paul marshalled enough strength, he would rise up and continue his work of preaching and teaching. He went village to village sharing the good news of Jesus and saw many individuals converted from sin to salvation in Christ. Like Paul in the New Testament, it was probably partly because of his health struggles that he ended up being such a champion of the faith.
In 1931 Paul was distinguished as the primary indigenous leader of Kafulafuta mission. He appeared on the front page of Lambaland, the official newsletter of the mission. Paul was listed as one of the leaders. It was the first time that an indigenous leader ever appeared on that list. The next name, of Anasi Lupunga, appeared there three years later. Yet, it took another 22 years before the Baptist Union of South Africa finally ordained Paul as a pastor, together with Anasi Lupunga and Bob Litana. This was in June 1953. Paul only served in this new capacity for one year before the Lord took him to glory on August 3, 1954.
Often, God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chooses what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Cor. 1:27-29). In Paul Kasonga, God proved this eloquently.
This biography, which was written in 1968 by Olive Doke, contains the remarkable history of Paul Kasonga. Olive was a first-hand witness of this man’s life. She joined the Baptist mission in Kafulafuta in 1916, the same year that Paul arrived. She remained there until her retirement a few years after Paul Kasonga had gone to his reward. He was her closest co-worker and she lived long enough at the mission to see something of the fruit of his labours. If anyone was qualified to write Paul Kasonga’s biography it was her.
It is now fifty years since this book was last published in Zambia. What an apt time to re-introduce it to the Zambian reading public! It was buried for fifty years in the proverbial dust. The Zambian Baptist Historical Society feels very privileged to now dig it up and make it available to the spiritual children of this great man. We do so with the prayer that the reading of this book will inspire a new generation of God’s children in Zambia and beyond to give themselves to serving our Saviour no matter what impediments they may have. Amen!
Misheck Zulu (Rev.)
On behalf of the ZBHS
(If you wish to buy a copy of this book, contact Phillimon Ndhlovu on +260 977 809 157)