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Update from the President: April 12, 2018

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Update from the President

April 12, 2018

The Days of Unleavened Bread have come to a close. I sincerely pray that we have all had reinforced those lessons that God teaches us about living a life of sincerity and truth as well as building godly bonds among ourselves.

Bev and I are leaving Zambia today and heading to Cape Town, South Africa, where we will stay with our elder, Vivien Botha, and his wife, Cathy. We will return to the United States this coming Tuesday morning.

This past week, we were in Lusaka, Zambia, for the Last Day of Unleavened Bread and the weekly Sabbath. The Lusaka congregation met at our 12-acre property. Last Thursday, we spent an entire day with pastor Major Nawa Talama and his wife, Felicia, discussing the Zambian churches and coming to a better understanding of the scope of his pastoral duties. Zambia is a vast country that needs several overseers to serve the congregations. Pastor Talama oversees eight churches and groups that include the interior Mumbwa region where we built three church buildings more than ten years ago.

Elder Alfred Siame oversees two congregations 600 miles to the northeast towards Tanzania. Deacon Filius Jere oversees two congregations along with a few smaller groups in the far eastern provinces on the border with Malawi.

Derrick Pringle, with his wife Cherry, pastors four congregations in the Copperbelt that straddle the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On Sunday morning, we flew up to Ndola in the Copperbelt and dedicated the new Mufulira church building. Derrick Pringle is chiefly responsible for driving this project for the past 11 years and his vision has now become a reality. We were pleased to see the newly-constructed building with its pleasant interior and comfortable seating. There were 99 people who were in attendance. Because our flight was two hours late to Ndola, the service ran into the early evening. I spoke about the temple that Solomon built that was also 11 years in the making. When Solomon dedicated the building in 1 Kings 8, he first blessed the assembly of Israel, the living temple of God. Then he asked for God’s presence to be in the building where He would hear the prayers of His people. Then he prayed that foreigners would take note of the temple as the place where God’s commandments and statutes would be taught. Finally, the building was dedicated to God.

At the service, Sam Kasonga was present from the Congo. We were happy to hear that French Africa senior pastor Tim Pebworth, along with pastor Moïse Mabout, will be consolidating a few Sabbath-keeping groups along with the people that Sam Kasonga cares for under French administration. There is currently a congregation meeting in Lubumbashi, Congo’s second largest city which is not far from here, but a world away because of the politics and the French language.

Then the next day, Monday, we drove about four hours northwest to Solwezi where we held services for 73 people in the building that we dedicated about a year ago at this time of year. Through the afternoon we counseled with many people. The road from Kitwe, where the Pringles live, to Solwezi has been greatly improved and Derrick and Cherry try to visit here every two months. Before this, they could only manage three or four visits a year.

We dedicated the Solwezi building a year ago on our last visit there. Most of that congregation came from another Sabbath-keeping church and came to an understanding of the Holy Days. French-speaking deacon Chonga Chonga is one of the principal leaders in that congregation.

Early Tuesday morning, we left Solwezi for Mufumbwe, about a three-hour drive farther west.

Our brethren in that area have an amazing story to tell which I wrote up and posted at http://lifenets.org/mufumbwe/mufumbwestory.html .

It is an incredible story about the persistent faith of men who waited 25 years to be baptized. I was honored to baptize some of these people in April 2011 in Lusaka, Zambia.

The Mufumbwe brethren now have a new church building. We had the fourth building dedication of this journey held on Tuesday, April 10. There were 83 present for the occasion. We started the morning meeting with the dedication service and my sermon. Then a lunch with a Bible study following. Beautiful flowers graced the church hall outside and inside.

Christopher Ndungyuyonga, one of those baptized in 2011, is now a deacon and leader of the Mufumbwe congregation.

Joseph Kapatula, one of the congregational leaders, operates the Chilemo Orphans Club that LifeNets supports with the help of LifeNets Australia. He is a man gifted with compassion as well as resourceful solutions for orphans, widows and the elderly. When we’re with him we note his special, tender touch for the vulnerable.

In spite of their poverty, the people in the Mufumbwe area are recognized for their kindness, compassion and generosity. They think differently and their nature is different from most. This community built a congregation along with its physical building. Many of the people in the Mufumbwe congregation are within walking distance of the building. They worked hard and cooperatively on the details for the construction of the building. For example, for the original convert, Horasi, who goes back more than 30 years and who is now in a wheelchair, they made a point of building a wheelchair ramp for him at the entrance of the building. If you read their story at the link given above you will see that a solid foundation was laid by disciples Joseph, Horasi, Christopher, Samuel and Simeon. From their example, an Antioch-like congregation sprung up, as described in Acts 11. Their lives are an example of a life of obedience to God and its positive effect on others.

I cannot thank Derrick and Cherry Pringle enough for their dedicated and faithful work in the Copperbelt area of Zambia. At their own expense, they have cared for the people, covered most travel expenses and heavily contributed personally to the church properties and construction costs. Derrick’s corporation, Active Agencies, has done the major part of the construction work. Bev and I are very moved by their generosity and sacrifice.

Working in the Church here is not for the faint of heart. It is for those who are passionate servants and who trust God as the Apostle Paul did through enduring severe hardships in fulfilling a mission. Paul did so because he was driven by God to humbly and lovingly serve people, sometimes difficult people, in various venues throughout the Aegean.

Wanted: Congregational Leaders

It is apparent that we will need more dedicated pastors, deacons and other congregational leaders to carry on the work of caring for our congregations around the world. We must continually train, equip and mentor those who will follow us.

As we have done in the training sessions in the United States, we are doing so here with the work of the Ministerial Education Team. From the home office, there is a team composed of Darris McNeely, Steve Myers, Chris Rowland, Randy Urwiller and myself who are continually developing ways to develop our future leadership. We do this by coordinating the content of the various teaching events such as the Pastoral Development Program, regional conferences, the Labor Day weekend leadership seminar, Ambassador Bible College, international training seminars, etc.

Darris McNeely and Steve Myers have traveled twice in the last two years to Malawi, Zambia and South Africa to conduct extensive leadership training and ABC-type lectures. Their training seminars are bearing fruit as the attendees not only learn, but are applying their knowledge by teaching the Bible in sermons, sermonettes and Bible studies.

I have spoken to various people who have come to the sessions and asked them what they found most useful. What our leadership candidates have appreciated most is understanding our doctrine and how to explain our fundamental beliefs.

One of the strengths of the United Church of God throughout its history has been the ability to provide accessible leaders and teachers for those whom God has called. We are instructed to provide leaders to fulfill these pastoral jobs: 

“And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.’ So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (Acts 14:21-23 Acts 14:21-23 21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, 22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. 23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
American King James Version×
).

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25 Hebrews 10:24-25 24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.
American King James Version×
).

Both of these passages demonstrate a need for hard-working, motivated leaders of the highest integrity and ethics to carry on these specific tasks.

Also, I am ever so thankful for our wives who work alongside us in caring for and encouraging our people.

May God bless you in the coming week. Please pray for us as we pray for you.