27 February 2012

The Day I Dreaded Has Finally Come (Ps. Singogo's Farewell Service)

~by Edwin Mpande.

"The day I feared most has come upon me, what I dreaded has happened to me. brethren, the day I feared most has come, 26th February, 2012 when I should bid farewell to the congregation I love having served as Pastor for 12 and half years."

Fashioning his opening statement after Job 3:25, which he read to the congregation, Pastor Grave Singogo opened his speech with the words above as he bed farewell to Evangel Baptist Church to join Ndola Baptist Church on the Copperbelt, the first ever baptist church in Zambia. The auditorium was filled to capacity with people coming from an assortment of sister churches in Lusaka, some travelling great distances from outside Lusaka. Also in attendance were 13 members of Ndola Baptist Church, Pastor Grave’s new Church; as if to say, "We have come to get him."

The occasion was divided in two sessions, the first session being the normal church service which involved among other things the singing of songs, reading of the scriptures and the preaching of God’s Word. This was followed by a wonderful lunch which ushered in the second session where Pastor Grave gave his moving, mind sobering, well structured, farewell speech. This session also saw an Elder give a speech on behalf of both the Eldership and the church and the session ended with the Elders laying hands on both Pastor Grave and his "brown" wife, as he himself often puts it from the pulpit. Pastor Collins Sakalunda prayed as the Elders laid their hands.

In his sermon, preaching from John 3:30, which reads "He must become great, I must become less", Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa of Lusaka Baptist Church encouraged the congregation to emulate the attitude and spirit of John the Baptist, of letting Christ take the glory and honor while we ourselves decrease. This was a fitting sermon as Pastor Kalifungwa applied it to both the church membership, non-Christians in attendance and Pastor Grave himself emphasizing the need for both the Pastor leaving and the congregation staying to remain Christ centered and the non-Christian to search themselves as to whether or not Christ is central in their lives.

In his speech, Pastor Grave mentioned that the work at Evangel was not his and neither was the success of the church achieved by him alone, rather, it was God's work and they worked as a team. To that end, he thanked the Elders, the Deacons and the church members for their participation and contributions at Evangel Baptist Church.

Furthermore, he took the opportunity to apologize to the congregation for any wrong that he may have done in the course of his duty. "I am not perfect and I will not pretend to be perfect," he said.

He took advantage of the occasion to thank everyone for the spiritual, financial and material support rendered to him and his family during the 12 and a half years that he served at Evangel Baptist Church.

He acknowledge the 'blue moon' privilege of being both a son and Pastor to his 89 year old (this July) father as he thanked him for having infused in him life principles such as time management and financial discipline, which have helped him significantly in his life and his pastorate in particular. In his characteristic manner, with a finger pointed at his Father, Pastor Grave commanded “I am now talking to you as your Pastor” as he asked him to stand and the congregation gave the man (who appeared proud of his son) a round of applause. He went on to thank his dear wife for having been afflicted with him in his afflictions and happy with him in his happiness. Lastly, he thanked God for being there for him.

He ended his speech by saying that it would be sad, and a burden to both him and his wife, Irene, if he heard that people have left Evangel Baptist Church because he has left. He pleaded with all the members to remain committed and faithful to the work, recalling the sermon which underlined Christ's increase and everyone else's decrease. Something I felt was critical to mention.

Mr. Lovemore Nkhoma, one of the three remaining Elders at Evangel Baptist Church, gave a brief but whole encompassing speech. "We will be prayerful, patient and consult widely as we look for someone to fill Pastor Grave Singogo’s position," he said.

The departure of Pastor Grave has been received with mixed feelings. When asked for a comment on the general feelings of Evangel Baptist members, one of them responded saying "Well... its 50 – 50, but for me, its 100%, I would have loved him to stay". As if that was not enough, an inconsolable woman was seen teary as she hugged and said bye to both Pastor Grave and his wife.

Well, what can I say other than to wish Pastor Grave a successful ministry at Ndola Baptist Church and pray for the elders at Evangel Baptist Church as they look for someone to fill the position of Pastor. As Pastor himself put it, "It would be a sin for Irene and I to stay, it would be like Jonah, as we believe it is the Lord directing us to move."

The manner in which the entire event was conducted was both refreshing and commendable. To God be the glory!

14 February 2012

We Are Champions Of Africa!

Christopher Katongo receives trophy
Zambia is now the champion of Africa! Winning the Africa Cup of Nations is the greatest football achievement an African country can attain. Very few countries can speak of such an achievement and after coming so close twice, in 73' and 93', we have finally managed it beating the lauded Ivory Coast on penalties. Our boys won it and are back home safe and sound. The joy has been explosive. The evening we won, thousands took to the streets to celebrate from midnight onwards. Lots of people lost their minds. One was walking dead smack in the middle of the road in his boxers with our national flag. And as he walked passed me he said out loud, “If you don’t feel good today, when are you ever going to feel good?”

Kat, a young lady here in Zambia from America whose blog I follow wrote:

It's a lot like the elections only about 10 times more, because now it's not just Sata’s supporters, its every single person. I wish everyone could experience this kind of excitement and patriotism... every single person in the country on the same page, all happy about the same thing, all in it together, all dancing and high fiving in the streets... for days (I still hear yelling and car horns and vuvuzelas, 2 days later!) Awesome.

Awesome indeed.

C S Lewis On Love

Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering.”
To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that his teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities.…
There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

The Four Loves, (New York, Harcourt, 1960), Kindle Location 1541.

04 February 2012

The Good Samaritan

I read the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 and find the Priest and Levite’s behavior a complete abomination. How could they walk passed a dying man like that? Well, I walked passed those that are in need around me every day.

The reality of the matter is that the easiest thing I can ever do is not get involved. It’s costly to help those in need. It takes time and it takes money. What would seem to be an active process, namely walking past a man lying on the ground motionless, is actually the easiest thing to do. What would seem natural and human, is in fact the very opposite. Getting involved is the real active process. And it’s a shame. It’s a shame that I don’t get involved.

We pass by the needy all the time: Those lunatics who stretch out their empty hands towards us at bus stops, the street kids we drive past on the roads, the blind men and women who sit on the corridors and streets, the dirty and weird looking people who enter our church buildings and ask for aid after the service, the men and women who fill the beds in the public hospitals, the janitors and care takers at our schools and places of work, etc. We pass them by. And we have good reasons too. Most of them are con artists and thieves, and so we choose not to get involved. Others are lazy, so we refrain from giving them alms as if that’s the only way we can help. Some push us away and we walk off saying, “Well, I tried.” Other excuses are just plain poor, “I’m too busy.” For too many of us, the thought of helping never crosses our mind and the mere thought of it is repulsive. Most of us don’t even see these people.

The Priest and Levite who I loathe, stare right back at me when I look in the mirror. We are the Priests and Levites. We are in positions to help but for reasons good and bad, will not. We don’t care.

As long as we don’t want to do it, they’ll always be an excuse. As long as we want to do it and do not, we will never. It is in that day that we fold our sleeves and do something that we will become that Good Samaritan. Anything short of that and we are either the Priest or Levite.

What can a mere person do? I'm not sure. But one thing is sure: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Thank God the Good Samaritan had the will.

Post Funeral Thoughts

Today I attended a funeral. A few things struck me.

First of all, I expected very few people to attend the service. On the contrary, the church car park was quite full; two big buses were in use for transporting people and there were many cars. The church itself was well filled. The reason I expected very few people is because very few people were there for the person who died during his illness. It was a hustle getting people to be by the ailing man's side so as to relieve his wife a while. However to my surprise, there were lots of people.

There were lots of people crying too. I prefer to stand directly outside the exit to watch people stream out from the church after the funeral service. The reality that someone has died really sinks for me as I see people walk out passed the casket consumed with grief even more than seeing the corpse in the casket. So many people were visibly grieved and yet so few showed up when the deceased needed them the most. If you ask any of those people who were walking out, “I can see from your grief, that you really cared for the deceased, didn’t you?” The answer would likely be a yes, and they probably would be telling the truth. The inevitable follow up question would then be, “But why weren’t you there?”

I was further struck by two individuals in the service, the one who lead the proceedings, who happened to be the deceased’s cell group leader and the man who shared from the word. Both of them testified to the exemplary commitment of the deceased to the church and to God. They both made it pretty clear that the deceased was a Christian.

What puzzled me was that I had spent some hours with the deceased about a week before his demise. We spoke at length, exchanging questions. One of the questions I asked him was whether, if he died, he would go to heaven. He replied with a definite ‘no’. “I have sinned too much,” he said. I resolved to tell both the cell group leader and preacher man about it after the service.

After the service, I noticed that both of them were riding in the same car which meant I’d be able to kill two birds with one stone. I went up to them and told them, that the deceased told me that he didn’t think he would go to heaven because of how he had led his life. No accusations, no question, just a statement. Both of them were surprised of course. I went on to asked whether any of them had talked with the deceased concerning his salvation in that last week of his life.

The preacher was the first to respond. I was disappointed. He told me, visibly in defense mode, that the deceased was not in a right frame of mind and that was why he said what he said. He further went on to say that before his illness or before it had advanced, the deceased said he was a Christian and that was what they held on to.

In that moment I wanted to tell the preacher that I had spent hours having intelligible conversation with the man who he thought to be beside himself mentally. I wanted to tell him that the deceased was able to remember me along with my entire family as well as what many of them were doing in life. I wanted to tell him that the deceased on that day, a week before his passing, was lots of things but ‘mentally ill’ was not one of them. But I did not.

The cell group leader, however, replied with a question. He asked me where I was from and who I was to the deceased. I replied and he went on to ask whether, I, having heard the deceased say that he did not think he was going to heaven, proceeded to share the way of salvation with him. For me that was refreshing. He did not jump to defend himself but showed immediate concern for the eternal welfare of the deceased.

The message I was trying to communicate to these men was that assumptions concerning a person, let alone dying person's eternal welfare, must be avoided. If someone claims to be a Christian we should be glad. However, we should also realize that Christianity is a matter of eternal life and eternal death. The question that must soon follow in both our hearts and out loud to that individual must be, “Is it genuine?” Some may say that would be rude or perhaps too forward. Maybe too pessimistic. Well, if the person realizes that they were deceived and weren't really Christian, they'll be eternally grateful for your pessimism because an encounter with an optimist may have resulted in eternal damnation for them. Better to error on the side of caution.

The bible is clear in Matthew just how many people will arrive on the Day of Judgment falsely convinced of their salvation-- many. The possibility that the person who claims to be saved is in fact not, is therefore very high. If you care at all for that person, your next task would be to ensure that the person claiming to be saved actually is. Tapping them on the back and moving on does not demonstrate care. It is dangerous. Something that I hope the men I talked to today realized.

02 February 2012


As I look back at the last few weeks, this three letter word seems to have been impressed on my mind in various ways. In the first place, I am going through, Thomas Watson’s thorough “A body of divinity” and I’m now on the topic of original sin. In his own brilliant way, he grabs a theme and simply milks it for all its worth looking at it from various angles and various texts of scripture.

In the second place, I have been watching legal television series. The courtroom especially as depicted in television and movies is very interesting to me. However, I hope and pray that the judicial system in the US is inaccurately depicted in most of these television series. I hope and pray even more sincerely that the judicial system in my beloved Zambia is not as corroded as that which I see. Lawyers and law firms are depicted as accepting to defend men and women accused of murder then wondering whether they are innocent later. Others defend people who are murderers and get them off the hook knowingly. Still others manipulate the system to get judges who have been defrauded in their divorce settlements to preside over divorce suits so as to have them inclined to rule in the favour of the wealthy party they are representing. As if that isn’t enough others, rather than argue with facts, manipulate jurors by encouraging accused individuals to appear innocent or emotional.

I have wondered whether there is any way to make a judicial system completely free of such immoral behavior and occurrences but that is simply not possible. No matter how many checks and balances are put in place to ensure the integrity of a judicial system, it will be manipulated the root of the problem being of course, sin. The only way to have a clean judicial system is to have a clean, i.e. sin free, society. Such a one does not exist.

In the third place, not too long ago, one evening, I spent quite a lengthy amount of time with a dying man. He told me about his life at length. His was a story filled with guilt, regret and remorse. He had messed up big time. I asked him what his wish would be if he was offered just one. He replied almost instantly as if premeditated, “Another life.” This man, who has since passed on, was merely reaping the harvest he had sown. He told me how he had lived a life, basically, of sin and how he had let down his family. “I feel guilty every time I look at them,” He said. Only one thing kept ringing in my mind as I walked home after being with him, “It just doesn’t pay.” Sin does not pay.

Unfortunately, due to the shackling effect of sin the Apostle Paul called slavery, I have no doubt that if that poor man was indeed granted "another life" knowing what he went through in this life, he would still end up in misery and six feet under minus God’s common and saving grace. And as I point a finger at him I deliberately point three back at myself being fully aware that I am still prone to sin. Even though I know its devastating effects, I still find myself sinning and can only pray to God, that he would give me grace and keep me from that ugly and destructive foe. How many have fallen? The very worst and very best have all been claimed. May God help me. May God help us.