22 December 2008

10 Things I Took For Granted

With only 9 days to New Year, I look back at this year which has flown by and last year as well, and all I see is nothing but God’s grace and love to me.

God’s grace, in that I deserve death, and yet for all that I’ve done wrong and for all the blunders and mistakes I have made in my life, for they are many, God has shown me twice as much mercy. For every mistake, two blessings, and that’s really the definition of grace.

God’s love, in that I am so privileged. I spent over two years away from home, in South Africa, and in those times I learnt many things which I want to compile under the head, “Things I learnt away from home.” Those things have shown me just how privileged I am.

In SA, God has withdrawn a significant portion of his common grace. Proper churches are few and far between. In the town where I stayed, There was no Baptist Church, such a huge contrast from Lusaka and Zambia as a whole where, if you throw a stone, You’ll either hit a Baptist minister or break a Baptist church window!

Not in Nelspruit, SA, the hub of Mpumalanga Province. The only Baptist church there has within its four walls, a single race and a single language, namely Afrikaans, the language of the white South African.

The church I attended was very small, in comparison, of course, to my home church. It was also dead, in comparison to my home church.

One service each Sunday, a midweek prayer meeting in the morning, attended only by retirees who are the only people free at 10hrs in the morning and a men’s meeting once every two fortnights. There was a cell meeting attended by a few church members but I did not once register it as a church midweek programme because in a church where 90% are white, no white person from church ever attended our cell. The average age group of the church, was, I’d guess, around 60. Pastor Steve, himself, is over 70 years old, with the physique of a man 20 years his junior. The church had no youth ministry and no evangelism outreach. I am reliably informed that things have only gotten worse now and it breaks my heart.

Now with a background like KBC where church life is as busy and active as a beehive, this was zero. I felt like one second I was running at full speed down a long, downhill highway and suddenly, the next, I was lying in a bed. Adrenaline pumping and panting for breath and yet, still lying in bed. What a feeling it was! For those of you who don’t exercise, driving a car at 200km/hr, and then suddenly driving at 10km/hr, a total anti-climax.

10 Things I took for granted:

  1. The sound preaching of God’s word. My dad is pastor of the church of which I am a member so taking for granted the sound peraching of God's word, was worse. We pastor's children are surrounded by alot of high expectations from those around us and on that final day, God will require from us more than he will from any other something something's child because we sit under the minister's nose each day of our dependent life. Anyway, when excellent preaching becomes a norm, you take it for granted. I found, in the town where I was, a brother some members of our church will remember, Mickey Chikwabe. Mickey was literally starving, spiritually. It was only when he discovered that you could download great sermons from the net, that he was revived. I remember when I returned home for a short while, I heard my dad preach and it was music to my ears! I drank in every word and could not stop smiling and thanking God.
  2. Hymns & Zambian congregational singing. At the church I attended in SA, we sang 50% contemporary hymns and 50% good old hymns. Its not that the contemporary hymns and choruses where meaningless, they were excellent and I wish we could start singing some in our churches but I just missed the good old hymns we sang 100% back home, the hymns I grew up singing. I also missed the thunderous singing. I came back home and I could feel the passion of the congregation as we sang and couldn’t help but wish we could sing like that forever and ever and ever. Heaven will be a blast!
  3. Youth Fellowship. There existed no youth fellowship when I got to our church in SA, but we started one. Apparently there were attempts to restart it several times in the past but to no avail. In a church having 90% white folks only 0% white youths, attended our youth meetings. I am reliably informed that the ministry is not doing well and has closed its meetings for the festive season.
  4. Open doors. In SA our church was in a, I’d say, middle class area, the majority of the families in the neighbourhood, were white. We formed an evangelism team that went out after the church service for one hour. Out of a church of 90% white folks, 0% attended the outreach on Sunday, and we really needed some white folks! After a while a blessing, in form of one white, 14 year old girl, joined us. She added colour to our all black group. We had been praying for white folks to join our crew and had been inviting them Sunday after Sunday, not one person apart from that girl joined us. She had an older sister and two parents who attended our church but she is the only one who answered our call. It was important to us that we have colour in our team if we were going to evangelise in the area around the church because most of the whites were uncomfortable with black people standing outside there gate. It was tough because none of the whites let us in and most of the blacks were poor at English. In our whole team, none of the blacks were indigenous South Africans. We had 5 Zambians, 3 men, 2 female and 2 Ghanaians, both male. The white residents didn’t want us and we could not communicate effectively to the blacks who worked for the whites. Those people who would let you talk to them were as rare as diamond, and I’m serious. When you found someone who was willing to listen you cancelled all your plans and feasted on such an opportunity. If you were supposed to marry your fiancee that same day, you rang her up and said, "Honey, halt! Postpone the wedding! I have found someone willing to listen to the gospel! We can marry some other time." I only entered one house in over a year of evangelistic efforts! You can imagine how crazy I was about evangelism when I got back home, every evening I’d head out there and evangelise. When I began school here, I’d head out to Lusaka Trades as often as my parents would let me. I had finally found open doors. (It’s a shame that many people will read this and get convicted of there lack of diligence in the work of evangelism and yet do nothing about it. I know this because, we all know how privileged we are in Zambia were open doors scream at you and yet we do not maximize on them.)
  5. Sanity. You don’t need an imagination in SA. All the women in the streets will show you everything you want to see. With tight clothing, open bosoms, and skirts which look like they were made for people half their age, the dressing in SA is blinding. Nudity is the norm, in the work place, at the mall, in restaurants and at church. I played lots of soccer in SA, Monday and Thursday evenings. But whenever I checked the soccer pitch on weekends and holidays, none of the chaps were there. I soon discovered that every weekend and holiday was set aside for sin. Partying, drinking, orgies, my goodness, God have mercy on that Nation! Pregnant girls all over the place. You cannot live in SA for a year with out getting in contact with a pregnant girl or one who has a child, you just can’t. Either at the work place or school, even church, you are bound to find yourself relating to a girl having a child out of wedlock. I recall my first evening in SA. I was at the dinner table having supper with my new family. I was so appalled with what I heard on the news, “Man rapes his seven month child.” I look around me expecting to see someone faint at such horrid news but no, someone even reached for another helping! Before I knew it, I was the one asking for seconds at such news, because you hear those headlines each and every day! Zambia is heading that way, unfortunately. Mickey loves to say that Zambian ladies are more beautiful than SA ladies, what he actually means is that the decency of Zambian girls make them more appealing and attractive than SA ladies.
  6. Opportunity to serve and use my gifts. I thank God for my church more than ever. A place where I can sing and play guitar and write in newsletters and organise camps and concerts and youth meetings. I took all these things for granted. It was difficult in SA because, I was new there and I was not even sure whether or not I was a member, as there is no welcoming of new members, at least not publicly. Anyway, the opportunity to use and be used in a vibrant church is awesome! I now savour every second and work more diligently.
  7. Home. On a more personal level, I have gotten to know myself a lot better over the past two to three years. I am now sure who I am, what I like doing, where I like to be and with whom. The search for myself and for identity has come to an end. It is through this discovery of me that I found out that I hate new places and I am not too enthusiastic about new people. So being away from home for extended periods of time is not my cup of tea. When talks with my parents were concluded and it was a done deal, I wasn’t going back to SA, I was ecstatic! After being home for about half a year now, the prospect of going to visit my SA home excites me because, I do have a home in SA now. But I just love home and the people at home can see it, I am having a blast!

I thought I’d make it to 10 but I can’t remember other things I took for granted or perharps I've run out of steam so, I’ll end here.

Look Left, Look Right And Look Left Again!

On yesterday, I was with my two buddies. There were accompanying me to the road side where I’d catch a quick bus home. It was dark. We got to the road side; I looked right, then left. Upon seeing that there were no cars nearby, in sight, I began to cross the road, and then one of my buddies decided to address me. "Hey, remember blah blah blah…" So I stop, in the middle of the road and turn my head backwards to hear what he is going on about, next thing I know, my other friend rushes across the road and pushes me to the other side. Apparently, the car that was approaching me was pretty close. So, when all three of us got to the other side, I asked my friends how close the car was, one guys says, “You were a dead man.” The other: "Nowhere close man." So I turn to the first and ask, “Would I have made it across if I didn’t stop in the middle?" He says, “You’d have made it alright, you’d have made it straight to heaven.”
(Written on the 21/12/08).

I’m On A Row!

Tribute to Abishai Ngulube:

Since am on a role here, I am going to write another tribute.

Abishai Ngulube is an amazing pianist, you will see him playing keyboard at church every so often and at our church concerts all the time. In the short time I have known him; I have found him to be extremely humble, respectful, selfless and sincere.

Of late I have been trying to get him to admit that he is good at playing the keyboard but he won’t badge! If there’s anyone who realises that his talent is God given and undeserved, it’s him. And he sure uses his abilities to serve the Lord, which brings me to my next point.

If I were Abishai, and had his amazing gifts, well, to get me to play at your church or concert, you would probably have to pay me but not Abishai. I recall how during the rehearsals for the Youth Concert, Abishai would use his own cash to get to the rehearsals so he could help by playing keyboard. We as organisers only realised towards the end of our time of rehearsal that it was thoughtless of us to allow that to happen. And yet this young man, never once complained, but used his own time to come over and use his own gift at our own leisure and not for free either, he did it all at his own cost! Come on! That’s an amazing trait. I could never. I could do all these things but certainly not at my cost.

Few men are as humbly as Abishai. I recall a time when he came over to my house and we were discussing something and he got a call. I was impressed with his cell phone and asked to take a look. Well he handed it over and I began my inspection. When I was done and we continued talking, I forgot that I still had it in my hand, Abishai asked for his phone back in such a humble way that you’d have thought the phone was mine. “May I please, kindly, sort of, kind of, hopefully, if you don’t mind, I mean, would you be so kind as to, please, kindly pass me the phone?”

I was like dude! It's your phone!

Ok... so he didn’t really say it as humbly as that but he almost got onto his knees as he asked for it and I was like, "Wow!" If the phone was mine, I’d probably say, ”Hey buddy, I’d like my phone back now thank you very much!”

I respect Abishai and so does every other person who knows him. His conduct demands respect because he himself is respectful and patient. Just a couple days ago, I was playing the keyboard while he set up a few things. When he was done, he just sat there for, I don’t know how long, waiting for me to realise that he was waiting for it. When he saw that I’d realise precisely 1 light year from that moment, that he was waiting for me, he asked for the keyboard in his humble way again, and I knew for sure that my patience could not stretch that long.

I get so thrilled to see people happy when they get something that they really need and wish for. If I could, I’d get Aby a keyboard. He is working towards getting one, but the kind he is eyeing cost an arm and a leg. If I could, I’d be thrilled to provide it to him absolutely free. He deserves it. But now I will do, for him, what is within my means, I will write him a tribute that will hopefully help people appreciate his sacrifices and love for the Lord!

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of
mine for you...making request with joy, For your [partnership] in the
gospel from the first day until now..."
-Phillippians 1:3-5

Abishai, thanx for being a partner in the gospel!

16 December 2008

Under His Wing

Tribute to Brian Mpanzha:

There’s a man at church who I consider to be my older brother. Years ago, he did something that caught me alittle of guard but has helped me tremendously in my life.

I remember that afternoon distinctly.

Brian enjoyed playing basketball and I loved playing too, so I’d join him (I havn't really played in ages though!). Well, one afternoon after enjoying a game, Brian escorted me back home. He told me that he wanted us to develop a close bond were I could, in essence, come under his wing. We would begin to talk regularly and I would tell him what issues I was going through etc. He told me that at first it would be difficult for me to open up to him but that in due course I would.

Now, I am a very closed up person, I love my space and I love my privacy. I like my small circle of close friends and I always find it hard to meet new and bond with new people. Brian told me that in due course I would open up to him. I laughed inside almost saying, "Don’t hold your breath Brian!"

I thought it was just my luck. I mean, why me? Why'd he pick my life to disturb by trying to enter in? Little did I know that Brian's friendship would mean a lot more than I could ever imagine.

Well, Brian led us into our first talk, he asked me, I was a young teen at the time, what changes were taking place in my body, you know, the whole “teen talk”. I was completely shocked! I was thinking, "Is he serious? Does he really think I am going to have this conversation with him?" I was totally quiet, giggling here and there but saying absolutely nothing.

He tried to ask a couple more questions but to no avail, I’d just giggle and shyly and look away but never answer. So he decided to pick it up on his own, he talked and talked about sexuality, girls, cleanliness etc. When we got home, he told me that we would speak again soon.

Brian’s predictions were right on the money, in no time, I opened up to him like a lady to her prince charming! And to my utter amazement too!

He no longer had to initiate discussions anymore, I would go after him myself and start talking and asking and sharing. I was completely free with him.

When he got into University, he’d invite me over for the weekend and I’d let it all out.

Over the years, we gradually stopped meeting as frequently as before, spending time rarely and yet even now the effects of that friendship he offered me remain. To date I am completely free with him and the advice he gave and still gives me is still helpful to me.

We did lots of things together from going out for lunch, to weekends at his room, to places where we could swim and all that, it was great.

I recall asking him about music. A friend of mine had introduced me to a pop group that sang "love songs". I immediately consulted my older brother when we met. Do you know this group? What do you think of it? He discouraged me from listening to the group.

He had become, to me, someone I could tell my worst sins and not expect him to condemn me.

I think every boy and girl needs a "Brian" to take them under their wing. Someone godly with whom they can form close ties and in whom they can confide. Someone they can trust with their issues great or small, serious or not. If you are in a place where you have people younger than you, befriend them, take a deliberate step to enter their lives. Be an older brother or sister to them and watch your relationship with them grow to such heights that they confide in you totally. Imagine the positive voice and influence you can have over them replacing the voice and influence of this sinful and corrupt world, just imagine...

You may worry that you might be taking the place of that young persons parents. Don't.

I remember Brian mentioning in our first talk, that when I have "teen talks" with my parents, they may be suprised that I've already talked to him, but that did not worry him at all. The combined input of both him and my parents would only help me more.

But also, during teen years, I've found that teens around, open less to their parents the older they grow. Obviously, parents are to blame for this and its something they need to work on. Its no wonder that it is at that time of their lives that they begin to wander. Its because they turn to their peers for guidance. Parents only see the results of peer pressure, a pregnancy, a child comes home drunk, a child runs away from home and in the worst instances, the sudden death of a child. The build up to these tragedies is discreet. The older teens and young adults can help in this area by befriending the young stars.

I bet Brian had other things he would have preferred to do and yet he took time to invest in me, an ordinary kid. I will forever be thankful to God for him and to him for his sacrifice.

I must mention Graham at this point.

If there's one thing I remember about my relationship with Graham, it was that he was always there. When I went into secondary school, when I went into high school, when I left home, he always took time to advise me and I never ever requested either! He'd just say, "hey, whats new?" And I'd say, "Well, am getting into high school." "Oh," he'd reply. "You know, high school this and high school that... He'd just get into it. I was not as free with Graham but I really enjoyed stopping by his place. I'd be walking past his place with my buddy and we'd both just stop by. He was a couple years our senior but he would still give us time and hang out with us. Thanks for your friendship Graham!

Let me just share a secret in closing on how to make younger guys open up. There is a friend of mine who had "data" on every young person in the church because everyone opened up to him. He knew who was liked by who and who was eyeing who. He knew it all and he got this information from the sources themselves. How did he do it? I figured it out! He opened up to everyone else! That was him by nature. He is such an extrovert and talks to strangers like he has known them for years. If you are struggling to get your young star to open up to you, tell him what you went through and who you liked at his age and where you made mistakes. Before you know it, he'll open up-I think.


11 December 2008

Embracing Accusation

Note: To understand this post, you may need to read through the whole song first.


The father of lies
Coming to steal Kill and destroy
All my hopes of being good enough
I hear him saying cursed are the ones Who can’t abide
He’s right Alleluia he’s right!


The devil is preaching
The song of the redeemed
That I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation
Embracing accusation


Could the father of lies
Be telling the truth Of God to me tonight?
If the penalty of sin is death
Then death is mine
I hear him saying cursed are the ones Who can’t abide
He’s right Alleluia he’s right!


The devil is preaching
The song of the redeemed
That I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation
Embracing accusation


Oh the devil’s singing over me
An age old song
That I am cursed and gone astray
Singing the first verse so conveniently
He’s forgotten the refrain
Jesus saves!

-Embracing Accusation by Shane Bernard

Shane Bernard is a Christian Musical Artist and along with Shane Everett, they are best known as Shane & Shane. Click here to listen to some of their music and here to visit their my space page. When I discovered the dual, I could not believe my ears, they were exactly what I was looking for in Christian artists. There use of stringed instruments, there excellent guitar skills, their passion for the Lord as shown in the lyrics of there songs, their soaring vocals, ah! It was heaven on earth! I love these guys!

Anyway on their last album, theres a song entitled Embracing Accusation. I did not really like it at first until I discovered that the song's theme is based on an issue that I struggle with, probably more than any other issue in my walk with the Lord, the issue of Condemnation.

When the Apostle Paul said he was the worst/chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), well, he hadn't met me yet! I am the worst of sinners, I really am. And the devil does a good job of reminding me of it.

In the first verse, Shane says that the devil constantly reminds us that he who sins, is "cursed and gone astray". He, the devil, sees to it personally that we are reminded of the terrible sins we commit and whispers in our ear, "You will never be good enough, You love sin, You love it so much and that is why you continue to do it, You don't really love the Lord, He deserves better than you." In essence the devil "steal[s] and destroy[s] all our hope[s] of being good enough".

You know what? "He is right"!

Now listen to the voice of the defeated Christian, he says, 'you know what?"If the penalty of sin is death, then death is mine"(Romans 6:23).' He begins to listen and believe the lies of the "father of lies", He begins to torture himself by engaging in self pity. He begins to condemn his very self. The devil can even take a break from condemning him and he'll pick it up right where the devil left off.

There's a paradox here, I say the devil speaks the truth when he whispers those lies in our ears. You ask how can the devil be "telling the truth" and yet be lying at the same time?

Well its simple.

The devil speaks the truth when he sings that melody constantly in our ears saying, "cursed are the ones who cannot abide (Genesis 3:17-19, notice here the curse pronounced upon Adam because he could not abide, Romans 5:12)" the commands of our God. In fact, its "an age old song", A song "of how [we] are cursed and gone astray", he sings the verses "so conveniently BUT HE HAS FORGOTTEN THE REFRAIN!", he forgets the rest of the melody, he forgets the rest of the story, he forgets the rest of the song.

In other words, the devil tells a half truth and a half truth is a lie. He forgets the refrain which is-


Amen, Praise the Lord, Hallelujah! Jesus Saves!

No matter how many times I sin, no matter the frequency of my sin, no matter the variety or the magnitude, If Jesus has saved me, I am innocent! I have been set free, I no longer have chains around my feet, and no matter what the devil tries to say, I A-M I-N-N-O-C-E-N-T!

I have been Justified, I have been made right before the God (Romans 3:23 & 24)! I may sin but I am not condemned. That night when I asked God to forgive me and come and make a home in my heart, to change my heart of stone and give me one of flesh, that night God, not only forgave my past and present sins, but my future sins too, Jesus, that great high priest died for them all! Amen, Praise the Lord, Hallelujah!

I forget this truth so often. The opposite extreme is just as bad. That of abusing this forgiveness of future sins. For me the last few line of the chorus confused me for a while but I think I get it what Shane is trying to say here. He says," I cannot gain salvation, embaracing accusation." As Christians we cannot serve God effectively and get to heaven intact if we embrace the devils accusations. We will be wallowing in self pity if we embrace the devils accusation and sometimes we think by doing this maybe God we forgive our sin. By engaging in self pity God will see how bad we feel about how sin and forgive it, we cannot gain salvation embracing accusation. That's not how its done. We have to get on our faces every time we mess up which will be, for some of us, everyday, and repent. Salvation cannot be gained by embracing accusation, in fact it cannot be gained at all! Salvation is not do, do, do, Salvation is done, done done!


03 December 2008

Concert Preps'

On Friday evening at 5.30pm the youths of Kabwata Baptist Church will hold a Fundraising Concert to earn money for their annual evangelistic youth camp in December.

We have been practising for the last few weeks, every Sunday between services. At first there was some reluctance from the youths who were so co-operative last year. Obviously the guys have gotten bigger both physically and mentally and have become more self conscience, the guys have their whole ego thing going and the girls have their whole shy thing but as we have progressed we have seen the participants develop an interest and ownership of the material and thus they have gradually become dedicated and involved in the rehearsals.

Even the older intermediate youths have shown encouraging interest and seriousness, we give glory and honour and praise to God for this.

It has indeed been an awesome time and as an organiser I'd like to add that hopefully it will be the last time for me to participate as an organiser, the stress and workload and worry are unbearable!

With only two days left to the concert, stress levels are through the roof, anxiety is rife, a mixture of worry and excitement has filled the hearts of the youths who will be participating.

The Highs:

The concert preps have been both exhilarating and intense. We have seen the youths get to know each other better.

Those who didn't know that they could sing now do and those we did not know could sing have now shown their gifts.

The rehearsals have been fun, laughing together, singing together has really been a joy.

For the intermediate youths, one obvious high was the chance we got to wet the appetites of the congregation, when we gave them a taste of the concert by performing a song last Lord's Day. We are beginning to fear that we may have set the bar alittle too high!

The Lows:

Two sister churches whose youths we had asked to participate by singing could not join us, two other groups whom we were hoping would join us, pulled out. This has really caused us problems and sorrow but we'll see how it goes.

Well, I will definitely upload concert photos and all that after the concert!