The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Zambia: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

with 2 comments

Part one: arrival and first Lord’s day

Part two: Copperbelt Ministerial College

Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

All too soon, our time with the brothers in Ndola had come to an end. We headed out early Friday morning to catch our flight south to Lusaka for a last stint of work. The flight out was as good as the one in, with an exemplary landing. James Williamson, who had invited us to come for the work, met us at the airport. As he and his family had a houseful of young people from the church that day, we were invited to head out to a game park for the day, both as a break for ourselves and as a way of freeing up the Williamsons for their day’s work.

We spent the balance of that Saturday in the stunning surroundings of Chaminuka Park, taking an open bus around the reserve, going on a horse ride, touring a lake in a small boat, taking a stroll through the bush, and enjoying a meal. We also got to meet the owners of the park on account of my being the spitting image of a younger friend of the lady (we rich, gorgeous, high society types often get mistaken for one another!). We saw all manner of antelope, hyenas, giraffes, ostriches, elephants, pied kingfishers, locusts – God’s marvellous work in the world was evident on every side. After a fairly full week we were both glad for the opportunity to kick back for a few hours and enjoy the blessings God has given us. I think both of us rather wished we could have shared the day with our wives.

Toward the end of the day, James arrived once more to take us home, where Alan and I were bunking together in another outbuilding, just round the corner from Katryn Belke. Katryn, who blogs at Ndazyoka, is out in Zambia working primarily with orphans in the compounds, the shanty towns that are found in all too many places around Zambia. Kat had been in Alan’s congregation some years before, and he had already spent a little time seeing her work. Both of us, while in Ndola, had actually had the opportunity to travel out into the compound where the church there has an active interest. Kat and Maureen, who – together with Megan Williamson – undertake this orphan ministry in Lusaka, had travelled up during our week of teaching in the college to meet up with Lister, the lady who runs the show in Ndola. They kindly took us out (one trip each while the other was teaching) to see some of the work that they are doing. We hear a great deal about ‘compassion fatigue,’ but it was instructive to remember that in all the gospel records we never fail to see Christ being “moved with compassion” by the genuine suffering of men and women around him. Sin and its effects ought always to move our hearts, and it was painfully evident as we moved from family to family around the compounds, handing out blankets that churches had provided, passing on Bibles from sponsors in the UK, giving out sweets that had been purchased to give these children a treat. The level of need was staggering, the basics of life so hard to come by, the threats and dangers on every side all too evident. I went away profoundly sobered, newly mindful of how much I have been given and how little thankful I am for it and how slow I am to use it for the good of others. Another problem is not so much compassion fatigue as compassion blindness: it is very easy to see and feel the evident and pressing needs ‘over there,’ but I was reminded of how many needs there are close to home. It is too easy to applaud these faithful women from a distance, to visit and grieve as I indulge in a little light compassion tourism, and then to come home and forget the different but no less real miseries and sorrows and poverties just around the corner in my own town.

With all this already in mind, it was good to see Kat again, and I was beginning to look forward to the Lord’s day. With the evening already booked for Kabwata Baptist Church, where Conrad Mbewe is a pastor, James has given me the opportunity to go out and preach in one of the compound churches in the morning. He had asked one of his students at the Lusaka Ministerial College (a younger brother to the Copperbelt training system) if he would be willing to have me preach, and I had been accepted. Feeling somewhat out of my depth, I requested a travelling companion, and so a delightful brother by the name of Andrew turned up to accompany me. We hopped into a taxi and started moving out through the city, through the parts that could have been any city in the world, then out past the quarries on the outskirts where women crouched breaking rocks into various sizes with handheld hammers, past the massive soft-drink factories, past the open-air markets full of loud haggling. We turned into the compound and threaded our way through crowds of people down to the church to meet Pastor Nsongu Phiri of the Living Gospel World Mission Church. Their building is simple, a long single room that they divide into classrooms during the week. The singing had already begun as we made our way in, and it continued for almost ninety minutes, as various groups in the congregation took it in turns to sing praises to God.

Evident poverty had not stopped these saints breaking out their Sunday best, and they gave their all in worship, sometimes quite literally. There were a series of offerings: the first Lord’s day includes a pastor’s offering, where all manner of practical helps are given for the minister and his family, including clothes to wear and food to eat. There is also a hope to build a larger building, as well as other regular giving and works of mercy. After these opening elements, I was invited to preach. With Pastor Phiri my interpreter (for most of these brothers and sisters did not speak English sufficiently well to follow me alone), I preached from John 5.24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” To preach such eternal riches to those so poor in the world was a great privilege, even though I had to adapt a little. So used were they to responding “Amen!” that I had to point out that my double “Amen!” in explaining Jesus’ words was not an invitation for affirmation, but a phrase to be found in the text. The Spirit blessed Pastor Phiri and me with an immediate rapport in the translation, and the congregation listened attentively and eagerly and responsively. Afterward I stood at the door while the whole congregation filed past, shaking my hand and taking the next place, until everyone had shaken everyone else’s hand. I was then ushered into the office (an unfinished brick building) where a feast was awaiting me: a meal the likes of which I was persuaded few in the congregation would enjoy. Receiving hospitality was joyfully done, but one rather holds back when one suspects that anything left over will be devoured by hungry children afterward. They even paid me: I received a chicken in a plastic bag (not just a kindness in itself, but a symbolic token of warm appreciation and heartfelt generosity) and an envelope full of notes quickly and quietly collected after the sermon. These were the smallest notes in the Zambian denomination. These warm-hearted saints, having already given and given, gave again so that I might take away with me about £8 ($10) as an expression of their thanks. I have often received far more, but I do not believe I have ever been given as much. All of a sudden, the widow and her two mites seemed very near at hand.

I returned to the Williamson’s home clutching my chicken. Sadly, I had no chicken-sized sunglasses with which to try and smuggle my bird through customs and on to the aeroplane, so I was forced to kiss my chicken goodbye (not literally, of course, that would be distasteful) and ask Megan to ensure it found a home where it would do good (probably in someone’s stomach).

A pleasant afternoon followed before we headed out in the evening (the brothers there meet earlier in the day than I am used to, gathering for evening worship at about 4pm and eating afterward – a nice arrangement) to Kabwata Baptist Church. Conrad Mbewe had left for Togo, and I was filling his rather substantial shoes. The evening congregations in Zambia, like many of those in the UK, are far smaller than the mornings, but there were still a couple of hundred people present in this growing church. I preached from the experience of Lot in Sodom, seeking to draw lessons for bringing the gospel to those around us, and it seemed to be well received. Afterward I met a couple of friends from the Ndola module again (who had travelled up from Lusaka) before heading back to the Williamsons’ friendly home for a bit of late night snack and banter, before finally heading for bed.

Alan and I slept soundly, got up early, and headed to the airport with James for our respective flights home. It was, for both of us, a delightful, stirring and instructive introduction to Africa generally, and to Zambia in particular. I have kindly been invited to return next year to preach at the national youth conference of the Zambian Reformed Baptists, and am already looking forward to doing so, if arrangements can be made.

I came home freshly conscious that any (post-)colonial arrogance that Westerners may entertain toward brothers and sisters in other parts of the world is grievously misplaced. We have much to learn from each other. I hope that in the future I may again “be encouraged together with [them] by the mutual faith both of [them] and me” (Rom. 1.12), returning home with lessons for myself and for the church which I serve in the UK, and with a renewed sense of the advancing kingdom of Christ across the globe.

Part one: arrival and first Lord’s day

Part two: Copperbelt Ministerial College

Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata

Written by Jeremy Walker

Friday 3 June 2011 at 11:50

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  1. […] Part three: Lusaka, the compounds and Kabwata […]

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