My Tribute after Twenty Years of Ministry at Kabwata Baptist Church
I arrived to take up the pastorate at Kabwata Baptist Church on 1st September 1987. I was a young man of 25 years of age and green between the ears. I was still a bachelor and had never seen the inside of a theological college. The church took a great risk in calling such a young inexperienced bachelor to be its first pastor. They must have prayed about it because, when I look at young men today who are twenty-five years old, I think they are too young to be pastors. Add to this the absence of theological training. One is tempted to ask what the church was thinking. Anyway, that is how the Lord brought me to KBC. This is now twenty years later and I feel obliged to say a few things to acknowledge God’s grace towards me, as an undeserving sinner. The Lord truly deserves to be praised!
I will try and be brief. I begin with my family. The Lord has been pleased to bless me with a wife (Felistas) who has been totally dedicated to the ministry that he has called me to. I am deeply grateful for this. We got married when I had just clocked four months in the pastorate. Our first meal in our church manse was on straw chairs with a big carton box for a table. From there God blessed us with three children (Mwindula, Mwansa and Mwape) who continue to be both a delight and a challenge to our parenting skills. He also gave us a foster daughter (Bwalya), whom we have seen grow into a mature Christian lady living on her own. More recently, we have had yet another daughter (Mwila) who is also following in Bwalya’s spiritual footsteps. I am painfully aware that these sons and daughters have seen both the best and the worst of me. I always pray that the devil will never use the negatives that they have seen in my life to negate the positives that I have sought to instil in them.
One thing I can safely say is that the best times we have enjoyed together as a family have been in our family devotions as we have sung the praises of God and studied his Word together. It has been my desire to ensure that I am a pastor, first and foremost, to my children and then after that to the church. Thankfully, these sons and daughters have been bathed in the prayers of the entire church membership, and so it is in answer to these many prayers that we have begun to see most of them professing faith in Christ. I want to thank each one of you for upholding these children in your prayers. That is the best thing anyone can ever do for me. I love each one of them deeply. I continue to pray not only that they will all become Christians but that they will all grow up to be great men and women of God. May God answer this prayer beyond my ability to ask or even imagine.
Then let me move on to the church. The Lord has been pleased to bless me with a church that has supported me throughout the twenty years I have laboured here. One of those areas of support has been to do with my mobility. After walking for the first three years of my pastorate (1987-90), I acquired a bicycle and cycled for the next six years (1990-96), until I purchased a car and finally joined those who ‘walk while seated’ just before my 10th anniversary in the pastorate. On the occasion of my 17th year in ministry (2004), the church bought me the present Mitsubishi Pajero, which has gone a long way to enable me to go about my pastoral work with ease even where the roads are more of potholes than tarmac.
Of course, the twenty years have had their very challenging moments. I recall the difficulties I had towards the end of my first five years that led to about twenty members leaving the church. Reforming the way KBC functioned was not an easy task and collateral damage was inevitable. I am glad that fifteen years later, those who left KBC are now among my staunchest friends. They appreciate now what I was seeking to do then, though they think that I was too fast in doing it – thus I did not give them the chance to really appreciate what was going on. I also recall the strife that was in the eldership four years ago, which ended with the entire eldership stepping down. Those were days of deep heart-searching. I continue to regret the loss of deep friendships that occurred as a result of that event.
Many of you are not aware of another kind of challenge which took place in 2004. A lady from a sister church – a Reformed Baptist Church! – visited our home to tell Felistas and me that God had strongly impressed it on her heart that my ministry at KBC had come to an end and that I should now become an itinerant preacher. She was very sincere. In the same year, my wife was offered a scholarship to study for a Masters degree in Birmingham, Alabama, in the USA and as a family we could have moved with her to the USA for a few years. Then across most of that year a prestigious Reformed college in South Africa was pursuing me to become their principal. Having just come out of my worst year at KBC, all these three were very inviting options. Thankfully, as Felistas and I prayed about them and consulted trusted friends, we felt that God still had work for us at KBC and so we turned all of them down. I trust that the aftermath has proved the wisdom of our decision to stay.
There are some individuals I want to thank for making it possible for me to serve at KBC – and beyond – the way in which I have been enabled to serve. I cannot mention everyone, otherwise this short tribute would fill a room. To start with, I want to thank my wife and kids, who have borne with a lot during these twenty years of pastoral and preaching labours. Their support has been invaluable! I also want to thank all the church officers and administrative staff whom I have served with at KBC, especially in the last ten years. We have been a ‘dream team’. No wonder that five years ago we attracted the attention of Satan who did his best to destroy us. By the grace of God, he failed. Instead, truth and love prevailed. Thus, apart from losing one family, the rest of the church remained intact.
I want to thank a few more individuals by name. Ten years ago, when I celebrated my 10th anniversary in the ministry, I thanked three individuals who were a great help to me – Joe Simfukwe, Derek Mutungu and Douglas Kunda. I thanked Joe Simfukwe for the role model he provided me during my formative years by the way he laboured as pastor of Lusaka Baptist Church. That example of expository preaching and single-minded devotion to the local church continues to be my primary model as I have laboured at KBC for the last twenty years. I also thanked Derek Mutungu for mentoring me when I was a university student. He took me under his wings, as it were, and taught me how to do inductive Bible study and how to lead a Christian group (both in ZAFES and in the church). Those disciplines instilled in me have never left me, twenty years later. Finally, I thanked Douglas Kunda for helping me with transport and the use of his office computer in the first few years of my pastorate. Those were invaluable helps at a time when KBC could never have afforded such luxuries. I still look back to those days with gratitude for such a practical and sacrificial expression of friendship.
Allow me to add two more human beings to this list – Lumpuma Chitambala and Charles Bota. Lumpuma came into the church office at a time when the elders noticed that I was struggling to keep the administrative side of the church above the water and this was causing my pulpit ministry to suffer. She took up her work with a sense of ownership that has made it possible for me to be at peace anywhere in the world, knowing that the administrative side of KBC is well taken care of. Charles Bota left Lusaka Baptist Church after announcing that he was coming to KBC because ‘at LBC there is no chance of me even becoming a deacon’. I am sure by now, more than fifteen years later, he has discovered that even at KBC there is no such chance! On a more serious note, the elders and deacons at KBC know that for a very long time Charles has functioned in the background as a much-needed spur to all of us – and always with tenderness and respect. His administrative abilities have also been utilised in making our prayer meetings and worship services truly God-honouring. His emotional and spiritual support to me personally in the darkest moments of my life at KBC, still remain his greatest contribution to my ministry. I do not know how I will ever repay him for this.
Among my fellow pastors, I would be remiss not to thank Choolwe Mwetwa and Ronald Kalifungwa by name. I should be thanking all the Reformed Baptist pastors in this nation for all the support they have given me, but these two men stand head and shoulders above the rest. We entered the ministry at about the same time and in exactly the same way (i.e. young, unmarried and untrained). We were of similar doctrinal convictions and were persuaded that we needed to move our churches into line with what we believed to be the very truth of God – the Reformed Faith. Thus, though separated by hundreds of kilometres, we consulted one another and laboured together to bring about the changes that have taken place in our churches and in the country as far as the Reformed Faith is concerned. Twenty years later, we continue on the same path. The fidelity of these two men to Sola Scriptura inspires me to continue in the ancient paths of our spiritual forefathers.
Before I close this tribute, I must also thank my many partners in the gospel over the years who are outside Zambia. Let me mention a few who really stand out above the rest in this matter. In South Africa, I think of Martin Holdt and Nico and Anita van der Merwe. Their prayer and financial support are indescribable! In the UK, I think of John Anderson and Andrew Alsop. These men have literally moved mountains in their partnership with me for the gospel. In the USA, I think of Bill Ascol and Paul Washer. The level of confidence these two men have in this vessel of African clay, expressed in the high level of financial support they continue to raise towards KBC’s missions work, defies description. The challenge on my part is to remain true. Perhaps here I should also add a word of thanks to a young lady (Priya Abrahams) who in the year 2002 wrote an article on me in World magazine in the USA entitled ‘The Spurgeon of Africa’. Her one article did more to publicise my ministry around the world than all other newspaper and magazine articles put together. She made something out of nothing – creatio ex nihilo! Since then my greatest task has been to assure people that I am not Spurgeon back from the dead in an African skin!
When I came to KBC, the membership was about forty. Twenty years later the membership is slightly over three hundred. My greatest joy is to look into the congregation Sunday by Sunday and see so many – sometimes entire pews of individuals – who first came to KBC totally lost in sin’s degradation but now saved and walking with the Lord. Oh, the power of the gospel! What more can a man want in life than to help his fellow men change their destination from hell to heaven? Some were young Sunday school kids when I first came here twenty years ago, but now they are married men and women, raising their own children, and going up the ladder in their careers. From being little weak seedlings at the mercy of winds of wickedness, they are now mighty ‘oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour’ (Isaiah 61:3). Praise the Lord!
KBC has also known progress in other ways. It is one of the most respected churches in Zambia because of its spiritual standing and its faithfulness to the Word of God. Its ministries touch many lives – from the street girls in the dark nights of Lusaka who are being saved to the many churches that are becoming more God-centred because of KBC’s ministry and example. As Reformed Christians in many nations in southern Africa look up to Zambia for inspiration and guidance, KBC continues to be at the centre of their thoughts. In twenty years, the Lord has also been pleased to take me from tending sheep in my father’s backyard, as it were, to becoming an itinerant preacher whose ministry crosses oceans. Having started my pastorate with no formal theological education, I am now about to bag my second Masters’ degree in theology. No prize for guessing what may be next! God has truly been good to me and to KBC. I do not know what the future holds, but my prayer to God is best expressed in the song written by Charles Bota, ‘Keep me true’. I am painfully aware of my tendency towards sin. Hence, as I enter into my twenty-first year of ministry, I plead with you to continue praying that God will keep me true to his Word and, indeed, to himself.
Finally, men and women must pale into insignificance as God remains the supreme benefactor who has brought me this far by his grace. So, I end by saying, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory for ever! Amen.’ (Rom. 11:33-36).
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