On Saturday I returned home from a lengthy overseas trip and thought I’d share a few notes about what I saw and experienced along the way. While the original and primary purpose of the visit was to get to northern Zambia to speak at a conference for pastors and church leaders, it turned into an opportunity to do quite a lot more.
After back-to-back overnight flights from Toronto to London and London to Johannesburg, I took advantage of a 25-hour layover to visit Onthatile Children’s Ministries. This is a ministry meant to help address the orphan crisis in South Africa (where it is estimated there may be as many as 3 million orphaned children). Because the government there is largely opposed to the institutional setting of traditional orphanages, this ministry focuses on fostering and adoption within families. To that end, Joel and Rachel Kirby, who hail from America, have established a home where they can raise their own children (some by birth and some by adoption) while also welcoming in six orphaned foster children—the maximum allowed by law. With their house full, they now plan to build several more on the property where other families can settle and follow the same pattern. Eventually they hope to have several houses there as well as a school and a special building to care for infants.
The next day I flew to Lusaka, Zambia, where I had been asked to speak at the graduation ceremony for African Christian University—a university founded by Conrad Mbewe (and now also associated with Voddie Baucham who serves as one of its deans). The ceremony had a few elements that made it distinct from a Canada equivalent, but it was familiar in almost every regard. In a nation that highly values education, the event was exciting and meaningful. It was held at Lusaka Baptist Church which has been a long-time fixture of the Baptist (and/or Reformed Baptist) church in Zambia and one directly or indirectly responsible for much of the church planting in that country. I had met its pastor, Ronald Kalifungwa in Mozambique last summer where he was a keynote speaker at the Fiel Conference in Nampula. A few friends were traveling through Africa on business and had decided to link itineraries for a few days, so it was a blessing to have them join me later in the day and to stick with me until Tuesday. The day concluded with a formal dinner hosted by the university’s chancellor.
My Sunday began with preaching at Kabwata Baptist Church where Conrad Mbewe has pastored for many years. Though the congregation worships in English, they also sang a few songs in the local vernacular, Bemba. While I was not capable of singing along with these songs (either linguistically or stylistically) it was beautiful to hear their voices joined in praise to God in that distinctly African style. I preached on Revelation 4-5 and felt like it was received well.
After enjoying lunch with one of the professors and his family, we headed to Emmasdale Baptist Church so I could preach the evening service there (using the same sermon). Pastor Isaac Makashinyi was trained at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi before returning to Lusaka to pastor. Their church has recently sent out its first plant. Once again, the service was in English but some of the songs were in Bemba. By this point what had struck me was the ability of the Zambian pastors and elders to pray. Time and again I heard lengthy, powerful, meaty prayers that were delivered extemporaneously and served as a great encouragement to me and to those traveling with me.
On Monday we were up early to get the 6:30 AM flight to the city of Ndola in northern Zambia, close to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Phil Hunt, whom I had met on my last trip to the area, was there to pick us up and to drive us to the nearby city of Kitwe which has become a key city in Zambia’s Copperbelt region. After spending forty minutes or so on good roads, we found ourselves driving across the roughest roads I have ever encountered—the kind people in Canada pay money to drive over in their off-road vehicles! Despite bottoming out a number of times and losing the spare tire, we eventually rolled into Faith Children’s Village, a ministry to orphans founded by one of the local Baptist churches.
Faith Children’s Village, which I had visited the year prior during my EPIC round-the-world journey, is a special place. It currently houses nearly 70 orphans and is eager to take in more as funding becomes available. (Perhaps you could consider sponsoring.) In a village setting that approximates the culture around, children are loved, raised, educated, trained vocationally, and taught the gospel. It was a blessing to hear several of them testify to their commitment to Christ and their appreciation for the ministry that rescued many of them from poverty while giving them a place to belong and thrive. We saw the homes that shelter them, the school that teaches them, the fields that sustain them, and the church that nourishes them. In fact, the nearby church, which worships entirely in Bemba and focuses on expository preaching, has grown to such a degree that it has both planted a new congregation and pushed out its walls to allow for more seating. Pastor Edward is a man who loves the Lord and cares for his flock.
By late afternoon we arrived at Central Africa Baptist College and Seminary which was hosting its annual leadership conference. Over 500 pastors and ministry leaders were registered to attend and I quickly met representatives from Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Angola, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and, of course, Zambia. Word leaked out that this was my forty-third birthday, so I was pulled to the front of the room to suffer being the center of attention for a rendition of “Happy Birthday.” CABC was founded by Phil Hunt who, at the time, was a missionary pastor in Kitwe. Seeing the need, he founded the school to provide programs in education and theology. As of today it has 105 graduates, 104 of whom are involved in some kind of ministry work. Its faculty, administration, and leadership are a blend of locals and Americans, while its alumni include men and women from a long and growing list of African nations.
I carried a substantial teaching load at the conference, speaking a number of times while also participating in daily Q&A sessions and meeting with many of the attendees. The other speakers included Zambian pastors Conrad Mbewe, Chopo Mwanza, Henry Mukonda, Choolwe Mweetwa, and Simon Banda. From America, Justin Peters taught a number of lengthy sessions while Sam Horn taught an intensive course on 1 Peter for the preachers in attendance. The focus of the event was the dangers of false teaching—an issue that is extremely prominent in central Africa. While many of those false teachings migrate from the West, they tend to take on distinctly local flavors. In that way Justin and I were able to address the big picture while some of the pointed application needed to be handled by brothers more familiar with the culture. So, for example, Pastor Mbewe led a lengthy session on “The Nonsense of Spiritual Husbands and Wives.” I spoke on Christian character, how to identify false teachers, how to know and do the will of God, every Christian’s responsibility to minister the Word to one another, and so on. Also, at the request of the college, I led a session on “Why the Global Church Needs African Writers,” hoping to persuade some of the brothers and sisters there to take up the task of writing, whether for blogs or the college’s theological journal or something in between.
I finished up my obligations on Thursday evening and began my homeward journey early Friday morning. While on a layover in Johannesburg I met briefly with a young couple who is about to immigrate to Canada, attempting to answer some of their questions while getting them caught up with the Canadian context—like explaining that if you arrive in late January, you’re definitely going to need a really good winter coat waiting for you! I finally arrived back in Toronto on Saturday afternoon (having passed through Johannesburg and Frankfurt where I made an “impossible” connection by running for 20 minutes from terminal-to-terminal).
I returned home encouraged. If I may be so bold as to speak broadly, there are few nations whose people I’ve enjoyed as much as Zambians—this being my second time visiting the country. I’ve been blessed to experience their hospitality and, even more so, to see the depth and the breadth of the Reformed Baptist churches there. I hope to have reason to return before long. I was able to bring a cameraman with me on this journey and expect to share some videos with you in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’m back at my desk and back to writing…
View this post on Instagram