Cooler temperatures and autumn colors are showing themselves here in Cincinnati. In the southern hemisphere of Africa where we’ve kept the Feast of Tabernacles many times, the blooming of the vividly beautiful indigo-colored Jacaranda trees in their springtime also suggests that it’s time for the Feast!
Last week I spoke about gratitude as a critical factor for our spiritual wholeness. This week I want to write about faith and perseverance. I want to tell you a story about brethren in Zambia who have championed these qualities and have set an incredible example for us.
This is a remarkable account about people living in remote Mufumbwe, Zambia, who heard the Word of God, accepted it and persevered through decades of not-so-ideal circumstances.
It all started in 1981 when Emanuel Horasi Siyonoa was injured in an accident and hospitalized. He went to the hospital and stayed overnight. While there, he met a man who was reading the Plain Truth magazine and various booklets.
Horasi became interested in what he read and became a subscriber himself. In 1982 he wrote and asked to be visited. Four years later, he did meet a Worldwide Church of God minister in Lusaka—500 miles away—and was baptized sometime later.
He passed his knowledge on to others who included Joseph Kaputula and brothers Christopher, Samuel and Simeon Ndungyuyonga. Joseph runs an orphanage called Chilemo Orphans Club. On the Sabbaths, this group studied the Bible and reviewed the printed material from the Church. Horasi is considered “father” of this group in Mufumbwe. He speaks Portuguese, as this part of Zambia is close to Portuguese-speaking Angola where there are many refugees who fled the Angolan civil war.
The group subscribed to and read the Plain Truth magazine as well as various booklets. In 1993, however, literature abruptly stopped coming but they continued meeting weekly “under the mango tree” at the orphanage. By that time, Horasi had moved a short distance away from the other four: Joseph, Christopher, Samuel and Simeon and their families.
In 2004, Horasi wrote again to the United States and other addresses he had for the Worldwide Church of God for information about the Church. He received a publication called The Scroll. But, upon receiving it, he noted that the doctrines were markedly different from what they believed, and they knew that they did not want to pursue contact. They did see names in the publication including Wilson Nkhoma in Lusaka. They had a Holy Day Calendar and kept those days faithfully, but the calendar ran out in 2008 and they did not know what the Feast days would be after that. For the most part, they had lost contact with the Church from 1993 to 2009.
Then, in early 2009, Joseph Kaputula set out to personally make contact with the Church. He decided to go 500 miles to Lusaka with only $25 in hand to find Wilson Nkhoma who was the only phone number he had. He had a free ride to Lusaka, but had to give $8 to the driver “for drinks.”
He arrived at the Lusaka central bus station and tried calling Wilson Nkhoma again and again, but to no avail. He sat on a bench and was reading a booklet about salvation. There was a man sitting next to Joseph and the two started talking. In the course of conversation, Joseph excused himself to use the bathroom and asked that the man watch his things.
The man took an interest in the booklet about salvation, which was an older WCG booklet. It looked familiar. This man was United Church of God deacon Jonathan Litaba from the Mufulira area, about 220 miles to the north. When Joseph came back, Jonathan asked him why he had the booklet and where he had gotten it. This led to a discussion about Wilson Nkhoma, who Jonathan knew well. Jonathan told him all about the United Church of God and that Wilson Nkhoma was now in the United Church of God (UCG). What a providential meeting!
Joseph was now asking how to get hold of Wilson Nkhoma. Jonathan told him to come to church services in Lusaka three days later. Certainly, there Joseph would be in contact with all the people he needed to fulfill his mission of finding the Church that Joseph knew was in Lusaka “somewhere.” For the next few days, Joseph stayed with some Rwandan refugees who he had helped in the past.
On the Sabbath, Joseph went to the Arakan Army Barracks where he was told that services would be held. It was in a military location arranged for by a retired officer. Joseph came into the barracks area, but was immediately arrested by a guard who asked him who he was and what he was doing there. Joseph told him that he was looking for the United Church of God services and Wilson Nkhoma. The guard said he knew nothing of this meeting. Joseph explained that he was from out of town. The guard then ushered him out of the barracks. Joseph never made it to the church service, but Joseph was not dissuaded.
Jonathan now got the information about Joseph to Wilson, who called Joseph. They arranged to meet at Wilson’s house in Lusaka the next day.
Joseph and Wilson met and discussed a lot about the Church in Zambia and elsewhere. Wilson gave Joseph lots of magazines, booklets and some money.
Afterwards, Joseph’s friends helped him get on his way back to faraway Mufumbwe by giving him money for the trip, school books for Joseph’s children and clothes for Joseph’s wife, Agnes.
Joseph returned to Mufumbwe. He was met by his friends, sister and nephews who were overjoyed by the success of Joseph’s mission. Joseph said the joy was tantamount to Zambia scoring a goal in the Africa Cup where the entire nation rose in cheers! That’s how happy they were to find out that “the church was still there.”
The group in Mufumbwe continued to meet weekly on the Sabbath as they always had since 1985, but now they were connected to the United Church of God.
Then, in early 2010, Joseph traveled to Solwezi, 130 miles to the east, to meet with a UCG elder. He was invited to come to the Feast of Tabernacles in Lusaka that autumn. Christopher and Samuel came along, too. That’s where Beverly and I first met them at the Feast of Tabernacles in Lusaka in 2010 and heard some of their story for the very first time. Christopher, Samuel and Joseph had been waiting to be baptized since 1985 and continued to patiently meet on the Sabbath until that day came when a minister would be available. They were led to believe that they would be baptized at the Feast of Tabernacles in Lusaka, but it didn’t happen. Samuel, Christopher and Joseph were surprised that they were not being baptized—knowing how far they had traveled and how long they had waited. They were instead told to “write the history of their experiences” first. This, again, did not dissuade them.
In the early part of 2011, the three once again tried to make contact with the United Church of God and called Wilson Nkhoma. Mr. Nkhoma was now the pastor of the Lusaka congregation. Wilson told them all to wait and told them that I would be coming to Zambia in April and that I would baptize them then. That finally happened on April 24, 2011. My wife Beverly asked them after they were baptized: “How long have you waited to be baptized?” They calmly answered, “25 years.” It was a great honor for me to baptize Joseph, Christopher and Samuel. I marveled at how patiently they endured all the torturous delays without complaining and murmuring. They endured, knowing that God wanted them to be baptized.
Derrick Pringle is now their pastor, though he lives 300 miles away. God has raised up Derrick and his wife Cherry to be the right servants for these people. They have the capability to drive the difficult road west. They have a special love for these people by caring for them and developing future leadership for Zambia. We have visited with the Pringles many times and have driven out to Mufumbwe and beyond to Manyinga, as well. They certainly have dedicated and sacrificed their lives for the Zambians.
In the past few years, the four churches along the Copperbelt have each constructed a building. The churches are growing. One of the deacons in Solwezi has been doing a program on the radio.
These are people who have exhibited great faith and have shown it by their works and their perseverance.
Let’s pray for our brethren around the world. I am praying for all of you—wherever and however you are keeping the Feast in this unusual year. I pray that we also grow spiritually, as the apostle Peter describes: “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8 2 Peter 1:5-8  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
American King James Version×).