Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Ray Munsaka - A Saintly Servant of the Lord

Many things I am and so happy to be:
Husband, father, employer, employee,
Uncle, in-law, friend, Zambian and etc.
But none can match this one thing:
I am a child of the Almighty King!
I am twenty seven years in Him today!
Yes, twenty seven years ago on this day,
Jesus found me, washed all my sins away. (Ray Munsaka, on Facebook, February 13, 2014)

God is sovereign. Yes He is.

This is the truth, more than any other, which comforts our hearts. And yet, in our humanness, we must admit that there are seasons in our lives when it is not EASY to believe that our sovereign God is faithful. When our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we struggle to trace the outworkings of His love, God’s sweet and still small voice begins to grow faint. That voice which is always there, becomes barely audible.

The death of a cherished brother and friend, RAY MUNSAKA, has come like a deep stab to the hearts of many. It was early morning in Zambia, Saturday, April 12th, 2014 when my wife Shupe phoned me and told me that Ray had gone to be with the Lord. The previous day, he had been involved in a road traffic accident on the dreadful Chingola - Kitwe road. He was admitted to the Nchanga South Hospital in the ICU. My hope and prayer, like many other brethren, was that the Lord might spare the life of our brother and give him back to us well again. Sadly, It was not to be. 

Being on the other side of the globe, (I am writing this from the USA), it was just before midnight when the call of Ray's homegoing came from Shupe. I felt numb. So suddenly, so unexpectedly, our brother was gone. Sleep eluded me, tears just continued to stream down my face. I groaned all night, struggling to make sense of what had happened. The pain of this tragedy just overwhelmed me in this distant, foreign land. Yes, I have no doubt he has gone to a better place. He is no more to experience the frowns and aches of this world, but in my heart, my raw emotions cry for his presence still – my mind struggles to deal with the reality of this loss – gone so early and so soon.

Ray and I, with tongue in cheek, referred to ourselves as Reformed Baptists untimely born. Our pedigree, as some of our not too amused peers observed, could not be traced to any of the reformed powerhouses of our country. We were like a root out of dry ground. “Could anything good come out of Nazareth?” Some may have enquired. Yes, from our Nazareths, by God’s grace we sprung up, loving and cherishing the doctrines of grace that shaped our worldview and tremendously strengthened our faith, sharing a kindred spirit.

It didn’t take long from the time we met 17 years ago for our hearts to be knit together with strong bonds of brotherly love, thanks in part to my wife who was already good friends with Ray and Martha from their UNZA days. Over the last 17 years, our friendship had not only blossomed between the two of us, but between our wives as well. Visits into each other's homes were many and lovely. Our bedrooms were not sacred and restricted places we kept away from each other, and so were our hearts. To be in Ray’s company was always a delight; a memorable occasion. There was never a dull moment between us. The laughter, the theological musings, football, marriage, parenting, etc. What is it that we never talked about? I must confess though, that sometimes I felt envious of my brother whenever we were together. Ray was a very handsome man, and it was not difficult for people to second-guess who between the two of us deserved a second, third, and fourth look. So I seemed to be always in his shadows, eclipsed by his presence. Strangely, he was hardly, if at all, ever conscious of his fair physical appearance.

There is so much I can say about Ray, but let me just share with you my few and fond memories of this beloved brother and friend.

1. His Intellectual Capacity
Ray was a very intelligent person. He had an awesome brain, great learning, and wisdom. This was God's acknowledged gift to him. He thought analytically and logically about issues, and applied his mind fully to solving any complex situations. I have met few men with Ray’s brains. 

And that intelligence was used to God’s glory as he pored over God’s word for many hours to seek to understand it before he could stand before God’s people to teach or preach. He was painstakingly detailed, and studied God’s word with the precision that people in his profession are known for. I remember him a few years ago, posting a picture on Facebook, smartly dressed in a jacket and tie. Underneath the picture was the caption: "In the study, dressed up for preaching. Better preach undressed than unprepared." That was not just meant to be humorous, that's how he applied his heart and mind to the task of preaching. Did you know that Ray could write, read and speak German fluently? An intellect indeed.  

2. His Thriftiness and Innovativeness
These two characteristics also attest to Ray’s mental sharpness. He used the available resources carefully, not wanting to waste anything at all. Like the Saviour he loved, who instructed His disciples to “gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost” (John 6:12), Ray, using his engineering mind never discarded anything. His philosophy was, “nothing is ever useless…its usefulness might not be apparent today, but it will sure be useful one day.” The garage at his house is full of stuff that many of us would have gotten rid of years back, but not Ray. His inventive mind was always devising ways by which “the stone which the builders rejected could become the cornerstone.” And we saw much of what might be called junk, with time, becoming useful. Some people may not know that much of the plumbing works and other fittings in their new house, were not done by a hired craftsman, but by the skillful hands of Ray. When he talked about certain ideas, they seemed so lofty to some of us, and our little faith could not see any life in those ideas, to our shame. What that mind  dreamed of, and came to be, can only be described as the work of a genius. Money was saved by putting his mind to good use. He contributed his fair share in fulfilling the cultural mandate to subdue the earth.

3. His Culinary Taste and Abilities 
Ray was a great cook! I must admit that he always made me feel ashamed of my own ineptitude in this area. With an apron hanging around his neck and draped over his chest, he would from time to time break a conversation while we sat in the living room, and dash into the kitchen to check on what he was cooking. When the food was finally served, it was of the finger-licking, tongue-biting quality. Sheer brilliance from a man who had recently declared himself a vegetarian!!! 

4. His Humble and Saintly Spirit
If you thought of engineers as people who knew very little about human interaction, you are wrong, well at least with regard to Ray. He was not an icy cold, typical engineer, sure of himself, with very little or no relational skills. Ray knew what it meant to be a Christian and to be human and to care about people. He was endlessly patient, courteous and gentle. A great encourager, always overflowing with goodwill. 

When I was leaving Central Baptist Church in Chingola to take up the pastorate of Trinity Baptist Church in Kitwe in 2001, Ray was moving in the opposite direction. He was leaving Kitwe for Chingola to take up a new job, and he and his family quickly settled at Central Baptist Church. In no time, he won the confidence of the elders and the church and was elected into the eldership.

A loving husband, a godly father, a humble servant of Christ, a mentor – and he fulfilled all these roles with excellence and a saintly spirit. One day, a few years ago, from the blues, Ray shared with me that he was thinking of stepping down from the eldership because he felt he was inadequate for this lofty office. I was shell-shocked. Here was man so gifted and fitted for the office and yet thinking so little of himself. What self-effacing humility!! Unpretentious, he always had his eye focused upon one thing - the glory of God.

He was a magnanimous individual. He was a Manchester United fan, and I am an Arsenal supporter. At not time did he make me or any one who did not support his team uncomfortable. He was gracious and inoffensive in everything he said and did. Those who followed his posts on Facebook know how he combined seriousness with lightheartedness in all his posts. Being a humorous person that he was, he never was frivolous, nor did he say anything with an appearance of evil in the use of social media.   

In September last year, Ray and Martha came to see us in Lusaka. There was something they wanted to discuss with us. That night we went to bed way after midnight. Ray had struggled for a while over his sense of call to the gospel ministry. That night, as we talked, it was clear that he and his wife had now overcome their struggles, and were ready to launch into the deep and serve the Lord. I had no doubt in my mind, what an excellent pastor Ray was going to be; and what a suitable helpmeet Martha was going to be as she supported her husband in the ministry when that time came. But the Lord knew better, my cherished dreams of my dear friend serving with me in this calling was not to be. The body of Christ was not to be blessed with the pastoral ministry of this saintly man of God.

Martha, Munanga, Daniel and Khumbo. I may not be with you in person to share in your grief and pain. I write from a distant land, but please know that my heart is with you, and my prayers are being lifted up to the Father above on your behalf. The God who has taken away your husband and Father, is the sovereign God of the universe, and He will walk with you through the valleys that lie ahead. May He cause you to realize that even behind a frowning providence, somewhere and somehow, He has hidden a smiling face.

As we mourn our brother’s home call, this one thing is certain - that our loss is his infinite gain. He rests in the glorious company of the Lord he loved and faithfully served. Ours is to cheerfully submit to the Divine Will, and express our deepest gratitude to God for His goodness to the Church in Zambia in giving to us such a dear brother. We rejoice that his Christian life was hallowed and made sweet and precious to our hearts in the various relations which he sustained to many of us. 

Let me end with a quote from Ray himself in his Facebook post of February 11th, 2014:

If one dies in his prime, we tend to say,
“He died before he achieved his purpose,
Death cut him before he reached his high”
But for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, nay,
It was by death He achieved His purpose
For He was born so He could die
The manger was there for the cross
And Golgotha can never be a loss
By dying He cleansed our dross
So sin should not be our boss.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I am Ready To Go

An hour before midnight on Friday, one of God's choicest servants went to be with the Lord. Mr.  Mwamba Chibuta, an elder at Kabwata Baptist Church, entered the realms of the blest, a country so bright and so fair. When elder Charles Bota called me a few minutes after midnight to break the sad news, it was like my heart was pierced by a sharp instrument. I have composed this poem in memory of our dear brother and saint. We shall meet him on that beautiful shore.       


We had just crossed the midnight hour
Eyes heavy, intoxicated with sleep
Unbeknown that one call would make the night sour
One call would be a summon to weep
Turning the bed of rest into a bed of pain
As our loss began to grow louder than the sound of the rain

 “Gone! Gone! Our brother Mwamba is gone!”
Like a bolt of lightning the message hit
As the rain’s fury raised even higher its tone
And the heart, to divine providence, wrestled to submit
The pale lips struggled to speak
With a sigh, and trembling, the words were too weak

What to our lacerated hearts shall be the balm?
These emotional wounds, who for us shall heal?
From the distance I hear a voice, firm and calm
         “I am ready to go, I am ready to go”
Words that make faith, hope and confidence their seal
And speak of a land of pure delight
Where infinite day excludes the night.

With faith our brother saw that land
His eyes unbeclouded with earthly mist
With hope our brother saw his vision of eternity expand
His doubts banished by heaven’s tryst
With confidence our brother crossed death’s flood
His fear assuaged by Immanuel’s blood.

May His Soul Rest In Eternal Peace

Friday, August 23, 2013

The 24th Zambian Reformed Conference

Yesterday (Thursday, August 22), I was back in the Radio Christian Voice studio on Alick Nkhanta Road to do a 15-minute advert for the 24th Zambian Reformed Conference and School of Theology. Around the same time last year, I was in the same studio with Mr. Charles Bota, the all-round and able chairman of the Conference organising committee doing a similar task.

From Monday, 26th August to Friday 30th August, Christians from across the length and breadth of Zambia, and from neighbouring countries (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda) and from afar field, the United Kingdom and United States of America, etc) will be converging in Lusaka for our annual spiritual feast. As usual, Namibia is bringing the largest contingent of all foreign delegates – more than 40, followed by South Africa with 23. The organising committee has already indicated that more than 1,400 delegates have registered for the conference.

The new Lusaka Baptist Church building, traditional venue for the
Zambian Reformed Conference
The theme this year is “The Christian Life – Finding Assurance, Fighting Temptation.” The Keynote address will be given by Pastor Ronald Kalifungwa of Lusaka Baptist Church.

Sooner or later, most Christians will contend with the problem of assurance of salvation. Those wanderings in the wilderness of doubt, questioning our salvation or even questioning the love and grace of God. We might live with the foreboding guilt feelings because of some past sin or some present battle with the flesh. To help us find answers to our assurance dilemma is Pastor Tabithi Anyabwile.

Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman (the largest of the three islands in the Cayman, just under Cuba, south of the Florida peninsula). He is a native of Lexington, North Carolina. He was previously an assistant pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (Washington, DC) and served as an elder at Church on the Rock (Raleigh, NC). Thabiti has a strong professional and academic background in community psychology, with special interest in the history and development of the African American church. He holds B.A. and M.S. degrees in psychology from North Carolina State University. He and his wife, Kristie, have three children.

I first met Tabithi at the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville, KY in 2008. He is a regular speaker at T4G every two years. At last year’s conference (2012), he preached a powerful sermon, "Will Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist?" which still echoes in my mind. He has He has authored, co-authored and contributed to about 14 books, which include: “The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence”; “Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons"; "Baptism and the Lord's Supper”;   “Holy, Holy, Holy: Proclaiming the Perfections of God” (with DA Carson and 9 other contributors).

Me with Pastor Tabithi Anyabwile at the T4G 2010 in Louisville, KY
Every Christian soon discovers that he fights battles on another front – temptations. John E. Bode (1816-1874) sums this up very well in his hymn, O Jesus I Have Promised:

O let me feel Thee near me!
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But Jesus, draw thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.

No matter where we go, there will always be a situation that requires us to choose between two paths - the road to righteousness or the path of self-righteousness. Traversing the road to righteousness is not always bees and sunshine. In fact, living in the straight and narrow path is the hardest life to live. It is a fight. Dr. Donald Arthur Carson, otherwise popularly known as DA Carson will provide us with biblical resources to rescue us from the island of temptation.
Dr. DA Carson
DA Carson is a native of Canada, an astute theologian, exegete, scholar and prolific writer. Currently, he is serving as a Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. Carson has a B.S. in Chemistry from McGill University, a M.Div. from Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto, Canada, and a Ph.D in New Testament from Cambridge University. He has written or edited more than forty-five books, including commentaries on books of the Bible. His book, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (1996), won the 1997 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Medallion Book Award in the category of “theology and doctrine.”

Read what others say about DA Carson:

“D. A. Carson is one of the most prolific and profound biblical scholars of our generation.” John D. Woodbridge, Research Professor, Church History and History of Christian Thought, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

“D. A. Carson is for this generation what B. B. Warfield was for his - the scholarly stalwart for the doctrine of Scripture, possessed of prodigious skills both as an interpreter of Scripture and as a biblical and systematic theologian, critically engaging the most significant arguments of the day and upholding the historic position of the Christian church and the Bible’s own self-attestation. Everything that comes from his pen is worthy of careful attention…” J. Ligon Duncan, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary; Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, and now Chancellor elect and CEO of the Reformed Theological Seminary.

“I’ve always admired Don Carson’s ability to minister so effectively in two different worlds. On the one hand, he’s one of the sharpest-thinking, best-respected minds in the realm of New Testament scholarship. On the other, he’s one of the clearest, most down-to-earth preachers I’ve ever heard. He simply has a remarkable ability both to grasp and to communicate complex issues understandably. Donald S. Whitney, Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality, Senior Associate Dean of the School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

There will be 5 seminars during the conference:

1. The Spirit of Adoption. Speaker: Pastor Isaac Makashinyi – Tuesday Family Conference.
2. Biblical Antidotes to Sexual Temptation. Speaker: Dr. Grave Singogo – Tuesday Family Conference.
3. The means of grace: Private and Public as they relate to temptation and Assurance. Speaker: Kennedy Sunkutu – Tuesday Family Conference
4. Post modernism - Applications to the African context. Speaker: Rev. David Wegener – Tuesday. This is only for the School of Theology.
5. Meeting the Islamic advance in Zambia - Speaker: Thabiti Anyabwile - Thursday Plenary session for both Family Conference and School of Theology.

Looking forward to the 5 days of sitting by the green pastures of God’s Word. Don't miss out on this one. May the Lord bless His Word to our hearts and unleash us into this world firmly assured of our position in Christ, and armed to fight the vicious temptations of life.