Zambia: arrival and first Lord’s day
It has, I know, been a little quiet on the blog in the last few weeks. The main reason for that is a recent trip to Zambia.
The silence descended a few weeks ago, when – after recovering from a bad illness, and the arrival of a daughter some days later than expected, and wrestling with an uncooperative computer – the upcoming visit began to loom large. It was time to get the head down and cause smoke to pour from the tortured keyboard and the ears venting the tortured brain of yours truly.
I had been asked, together with Alan Dunn, pastor of Grace Covenant Baptist Church of Flemington, New Jersey, and a long-time friend (by which I mean he is both, as opposed to Alan Dunn together with another chap that I happen to get on with), to go and teach at the Copperbelt Ministerial College, housed at Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Northrise, in Ndola, in Zambia. The request came via James Williamson (see his Lion of Zambia website), who had travelled with his family from the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky, to serve the Zambian churches, particularly in the matter of church-planting and pastoral training. At first, I was due to teach soteriology, but Alan played a pity card and I agreed to let him have that topic as he had taught it before, and I selected an introduction to the Gospels and the Acts.
Thus it was that, with a couple of weeks before I was due to fly, I looked with some horror at the piles of books that had been growing in my study over the previous months, and realised it was time to try and get some of that stuff on to paper ready to be delivered in Zambia. And so began the groaning of mental gears and the scorching of keyboards that resulted, about a week before I was due to leave, in a set of lectures at last in a state to be delivered.
And so, with bags packed and heart light-ish, I boarded flight BA0255 for Lusaka on the Friday evening of the royal wedding (no traffic on the roads – marvellous!) and settled down to read. The night passed as my nights usually do on long-haul flights, rather slowly, substantially uncomfortably and largely sleeplessly. I arrived early Saturday morning with the kind of bruised knees that arise only when a substantial gentleman in the seat in front has dropped said contraption into a sleeping position and made it a full eight hours of pressure on the patella. Springing from my seat, I came to a flying stop for an hour or so in the immigration line before making my way out into the dull humidity of that Lusakan morning. I spent a couple of hours hanging around waiting for the arrival of Alan (who had been in country a couple of days before me). He duly arrived and we boarded a flight for Ndola, enjoying some splendid views on the way.
We arrived just before midday, picked up by Katongo, the college administrator, and David Wagener, a Presbyterian working with another local theological school. They dropped us off at the home of Lazarus Phiri and his family. Lazarus is missiologist-at-large for a missionary organization called Pioneers, and he and his family gave us splendid care during the course of our stay.
We were taken out for a bite to eat for lunch, spent a couple of hours settling in (and, in my case, getting an hour or so of sleep to make up for the lost night) before Arnold Kapembwe, one of the elders of the Grace Baptist Church of Northrise, took us out for an excellent dinner.
Returning home and negotiating Lazarus’ splendid guard dogs, we collapsed into our respective beds, having been briefed for the following day’s labours.
We woke bright and early, Alan heading a little way north and west to preach at the Trinity Baptist Church of Kitwe, and me to remain in Ndola for the day. Alan left first, and I was picked up soon after. I was the last one left in the property, and my departure was slightly complicated by the fact that, when I let the guard dogs out, one of them, probably using some kind of astral travelling trick as far as I could tell, teleported through the gates and tried to eat a passerby. I kid you not! I was later informed that it was not the first time that this had happened, as the dog had learned how to open the gate (note to self: always buy a guard dog with enormous teeth, proven savagery, and poor dexterity). When I had finally recovered the dog and smiled kindly at the slightly agitated passerby, I collapsed sweating into the vehicle of Mr Kapembwe, and we left for church. There I met the three deacons, and was able to hear Mr Kapembwe’s Bible class considering the character of Cain, as well as seeing the new buildings going up for the housing of future modules of the Copperbelt Ministerial College.
I preached to a good-sized and attentive congregation in the morning, having a more evangelistic focus, as directed, and then enjoyed a delightful repast with Mr Kapembwe, heading back to our lodgings for a rest (though I generally can’t do rest while the sun is up) and then heading back to the church in the evening. There were far fewer out on that occasion when I preached on John 11, drawing some lessons from Christ at the tomb of Lazarus. I had a great time chatting with people afterward, and we set up the building ready for the arrival of the students on Monday morning.
Before heading back to the lodgings, Twande, one of the deacons, invited us back to his home, where his wife had prepared a feast. Alan and the friends from Kitwe arrived before too long and we were invited to the table in Zambian fashion, by our hostess dropping to one knee: traditionally, it is the height of rudeness to invite guests to the table while standing, we were given to understand. Back to the lodgings once more, where we spent a while chewing the fat before hitting our respective sacks in order to be in good shape (or at least, as bad shape as possible) for the rigours of the module from Monday to Friday, of which more to come . . .