Lusaka, Zambia, Africa, Part 1 (August 24-26, 2015)

Zambia Conference

(The following post was written by my wife Mary.)

It was a long journey to Zambia; from Grand Rapids we went to Atlanta, then to Johannesburg, and finally to Lusaka (19 hours flying, 29 hours on the way). Pastor Ronald and Sarah Kalifungwa were our travel companions. Ronald had just finished speaking at our Puritan Reformed Conference, and Joel then spoke at the Zambian Reformed Conference at Ronald’s church, Lusaka Baptist Church.

We stayed at the home of Sylvester and Joyce. He is an engineer who used to work for the government in the energy department; now he works for a private firm. She was a physical therapist and had a clothing business. They have two sons who are studying in Australia. They provided us with a comfortable, beautiful place to stay, and delicious food to eat! Other friends, Henry and Rosemary, an orthopedic surgeon and a secretary, also stayed a few nights.

A nation of 14 million, Zambia is surrounded by eight other countries in the southern part of Africa. Lusaka, the capital, has four million people. Zambia is a Christian nation by law. Poverty is a large problem, though the situation is improving. Some of the other problems that plague many African nations, such as HIV/AIDS, corruption, Islam infiltration, drugs, immorality, and unemployment are considerably less pronounced in Zambia. About 70 percent of the people attend church, though many are Arminian and Pentecostal. The presence of Christianity is attributable in part to David Livingstone, who ministered in Zambia and surrounding countries in the mid-nineteenth century.

With Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa

With Conrad Mbewe and Ronald Kalifungwa

Years ago, we heard of God’s blessing in Zambia. At that time, Joel overheard someone ask Conrad Mbewe, a well-known Zambian minister, how the church prospered. At first Mbewe ignored the question. When asked again, he humbly answered, “In countries where there is more prosperity, people relax in the evening with their TVs and other entertainment. In Zambia, many people don’t have those things. They basically only have their Bible, so they spend time reading and studying and having family worship.” Modernization has increased in recent times, but God is still blessing Zambia.

There are seven main tribal languages spoken in Zambia, but at least seventy-two dialects. Until 1964, the country was called Northern Rhodesia and was under the rule of the United Kingdom. All education is in English, which is a unifying factor for all of Zambia. The sad thing is that many children are too poor to go to school, so they only pick up a bit of English in society and are forced to find whatever menial labor they can find as they grow up. An elder’s wife is starting a non-profit to provide education and training for poor children.

The economy was as strong as Singapore’s in 1964, but due to the socialistic policies of President Kaunda until 1991, the country has become poverty-stricken. Nevertheless, we were told that Kaunda did promote concern for one’s neighbor and treating all Zambians equally. Since then, capitalism has replaced socialism, but they still have a long climb. The U.S. subsidizes health care and agriculture in Zambia. A lady at the conference said that under President George Bush, many lives in Africa were saved from HIV/AIDS and malaria. She was also glad that most African nations have stayed strong against President Obama’s threat to cut aid if they didn’t allow homosexuality.

Talking to Well-Taught African Children about Their Bible Lesson

Talking to Well-Taught African Children about Their Bible Lesson

The Zambian Reformed Conference started small twenty-six years ago. This year’s theme was The Godward Life. Three conferences happen simultaneously at the same venue: the School of Theology for ministers and church workers, the Family Conference for everyone, and (new this year) a conference for the youth. It was obvious from the friendly greetings and cheerful banter that this is a special time of fellowship and encouragement for many ministers and families. The 1,400 attendees come mostly from Zambia and Southern African countries, but also from many parts of Africa. Some even came from India, the U.K., and the U.S. Our dear friend Dr. Steve Lawson was the other main speaker.

We arrived Tuesday evening and on Wednesday, Joel spoke four times. He likes to hit the road running, and he surely did this time! God has given him a lot of stamina. He spoke at the School of Theology on the “Dutch Further Reformation” and at the Family Conference on “The Puritans on Receiving and Doing the Word of God,” “The Puritan Practice of Meditation,” and in the evening, “The Only Way to Live and Die.” The first three were lectures with application, but he felt he needed to just preach for the evening session, when all attendees were there. First our hearts were primed as we raised our voices in singing some beautiful, familiar songs. Then our hearts were filled with the call to live for Christ and to anticipate dying as a gain. It was a blessed time!

A middle-aged Kenyan minister named Obed came up to Joel afterward and told him how his wife of twenty years had died July 2. She had had a headache off and on for two months. She was vomiting, but the doctor would not admit her to the hospital. He asked the doctor to just admit her for rest. He left and got called back two hours later, after she had passed away. He was devastated. They have a 19-year-old son. He has never gone back to his church; the leaders have been taking care of it. He had not been able to accept this, but submission broke through for him during this sermon. He emailed, “As I came from Kenya, I felt a desire just to join her (his wife). Your message has changed all that…. To die is gain… Praise the Lord, Thank you so much for that message. It was mine.” Please pray for this dear man.

(To be continued in another post.)

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