The Chipata Church!

Wednesday, April 05, 2017
Chipata, Zambia
Today is Chipata, Zambia day!   And what a day it turned out to be!!

"The Four" picked us in the diesel-fueled Mazda Bongo van at our Mafumu Guest Lodge promptly at 7:00 am for our journey into Zambia . It's about 10F cooler today and most pleasant. It’s not a long trip in terms of miles or kilometers. If you had no barriers the trip would be a max of two hours. The highway is good, except for a hair-raising thrill ride the last mile to the church hall through potholes which are more like craters and eye-closing moments of listening to the muted shrieks of some of our passengers. The ride is beautiful as we pass through verdant countryside greened up by the recent rains.

The beauty of God stops, however, as you come to the border and cross from Malawi to Zambia. As MAN enters into the picture, things get ugly. A long line of trucks is waiting to pass through the “Weighbridge,” the chokepoint between the two countries. Threatening signs warn of a $2000 fine for trying to sneak across the border.

The first thing we need to do is to get an exit on our Malawi visa. We have multiple entry visas which is supposed to get us back into Malawi for the second time . Then we have to figure out what the Zambians will do because we will have to go in, go back out to Malawi and then back to Lusaka from Blantyre. We were told that there is a “day pass” into Zambia for $20. But, we find out quickly that that is an urban legend.   

Money changers are accosting us from all sides, including a female one. Being a place where many people stop in an international zone, they ( the consortium of the border welcoming committee) were “thoughtful” to provide “restroom” facilities. We were in need. Then we noted that they were pay toilets with a custodian collecting the 100 Malawi Kwacha fee. Not much, 15 cents, but nonetheless you must pay. Then you were granted entry into the facility which is about a 4 foot by 4-foot cubicle. There is NOTHING in it except a rectangular hole in the floor. The floor is drenched with a liquid which I can only guess is what you might think it to be. You cannot step aside. No place to place anything. If you leave your bag outside it will be promptly stolen .

There is a “lock” on the door. A piece of twine with a nail on the end to place hold the door shut. Funny thing, you can only “lock” the door from the outside, not the inside. With all the rest of the world’s toilets, it’s the other way around.

After exiting the Malawi side, we enter Zambian territory. This is where more paying from our side continues. Bev and I buy multiple entry visas for $80 each because we need to go to Zambia again next week.

The others each had to pay $50 each. So, all of us forthwith were relieved of $360 for the privilege of entering Zambia. There are no people to meet us with welcoming words. The clerks act like unfeeling robots with dopey looks and stares at us. But, we’re done. We move on towards the gate to allow us entry into Zambia. Then a big man, not in a uniform comes to the driver's side and tells Lewis that we have a van and that requires a special permit (and fee, of course) to enter . Lewis explains that he has taken this trip last month and that that was not required. It is not a van for hire. It is used as transport as a passenger vehicle. The big guy says that it’s still a “van.”  Next to the big is another fellow with an automatic rifle and yet a third person. He tells the fellowo with the rifle: "stand by me." This stunts any “negotiations.”  As Brennan has said and says now, “The man with the machine gun wins!”   Lewis leaves the van and heads to the office to sort this out. This is the first time that I had seen Lena upset. I could not even make her laugh. After all the road blocks, exit and entries and horrible toilets, this was the just an inconvenience too much. I was using one of my favorite phrases for border crossing in backward areas: “How can we your trip a little more inconvenient?”

Lewis comes back after being sheared off only $20 and the three (the big guy, the guy with the automatic rifle and another sidekick) try to look pleasant and allow us passage into Zambia .

Then, it’s through the city of Chipata and slightly beyond to the location of the church hall. As we turn left on the dirt road I can hear Lena with gasps and warnings about what we are to expect. I’ve been on roads like this in the Mumbwa region of Zambia so I was not concerned. There is no question that the road was “bad” but Lewis skillfully navigated through it making certain that our tires rode the ridges and that we would not tip over. Well done, Lewis! We come upon the hall on the left. We had texted (yes, that we can do) Filius Jere before so they knew exactly when we would arrive. A welcome sign and two lines of people greeted us. Women on the left and men on the right. The women sang a welcoming song. We shook hands with all the men and then with all the women. There were about 30 present.

Then into the newly built hall which was dedicated a month ago. You can read the story about this on my Website at http://lifenets .org/chipata-zambia/
As guests, we six are seated up front. Then behind us men had chairs and the women sat on the floor or rugs on the right side of the hall.

Filius Jere, the obvious leader, opened the program with welcoming words and talked about the history of the Chipata church and his conversion. A the end of this blog, I’d like to include notes of what he said.

Then there was a special welcoming song by Jeff and Dorcas Daca. Their little son was up on the stage with them. Beautifully done!

Then I gave an impromptu talk, a sermonette of sorts, about how the church is the people and not the building.   About how we are to be a living epistle of Christ and how the laws and ways of God are to be written on our hearts.

Then Beverly spoke as LifeNets president. She has managed the aid that has come into this area, including the major funding for the building by LifeNets Australia . Also, we have provided seed and fertilizer for the maize fields around the church hall. And, very importantly, for the hand dug 22 meters well that provides irrigation water. Without a source of water, they cannot grow a crop about half the year and survive in the “hungry season” which runs from November to April. Now, in this climate, they can farm year-round. Bev acknowledged all the people that had helped and thanked God for the recent rains. The people later said that they had “overprayed” and maybe got too much rain!

We then took a tour of the fields and saw some of the maize that is about the be harvested. Nice BIG ears of corn.

Then back to the church hall where a meal of Chambo, beef, chicken, nsima, rice and greens was prepared for us. It really was tasty!

Filius and I scooted out to do a podcast in the maize field and I recorded an 18-minute interview/program with him that I sent back to Aaron Booth and Rudy Rangel . In the meantime, Beverly talked to the men about some of their needs in this area. All are subsistence farmers.

Then, time for a group photo in front of the church hall and off we go. We gave a lift for 10 of the people there to the main road and beyond. We were a bit heavy and did hit a bump that gave us concern. The brakes seemed to lose their “power” brake function. But, they worked. Good!   The next day Lewis found that only an easy to replace sensor was knocked out and it was quickly fixed.

Now, we have to drive out of Zambia back into Malawi. Much easier. Bev and I entered Malawi on our multi-entry visa. There is still sunlight as we drive the main highway back to Lilongwe. As darkness falls, it is harder to see the line of people walking on the side of the road. There are no lights on the road. Oncoming traffic light look so bright. Driving at night should be avoided, but sunset is relatively early year round .

On the way back we decide to have some dinner at Galetos Chicken and neighboring ice cream in a Lilongwe shopping center. We all decide it was a good idea.

Then off to rest. Great day.

Below are notes with Filius’s edits.

About Filius Jere:

He was going to Rhomonte Secondary School, in Runyike near Mozambique border, eastern Zimbabwe a Catholic School and a school teacher who was a member of the Worldwide Church of God introduced him to the Plain Truth and Bible study sessions

From 1965 to 1988 Filius did not do anything about what he had learned (except study and worry about how to respond to “Come out of her. . .”  (Revelations 18:4)

Then Wilson Nkhoma helped (who was a television engineer at Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation) with TV programs of WWCG from 1988 until he moved to Chipata, eastern Zambia, in the year 2000 .

Conscience led Filius to start considering himself as the Watchman (Ezekiel 3:17) of eastern Zambia. So he launched radio programs on Explorers FM in Petauke based on UCG resources and Beyond Today audio downloads, using his own resources to pay for airtime and Wilson Nkhoma’s phone number as a contact for information about the true Gospel and the United Church of God aia. These radio programs also carried the title Beyond Today.

Noticing the impact of the radio programs (because of the numerous phone calls that he received, Wilson Nkhoma, who was a minister by now, decided to visit Filius in Chipata in August 2013. Wilson and his wife stayed for three days in Chipata and on the day of departure, Filius insisted that he should be baptized; to which Wilson complied (17 August 2013).

Filius continued to produce and pay for the local radio version of Beyond Today. But, following Wilson’s advice, this was now moved to Feel Free Fm in Chipata . This was good for monitoring.

Through the radio program, people started to come to Filius’ home on Sabbath for Bible study and the congregation grew until Pastors Talama and Derrick Pringle came to officially establish it as the first branch of the Church in eastern Zambia. They also helped in paying for the radio program.

With time, then house became too small, but it was not acceptable to the members to rent a school classroom as many born-again and Pentecostal churches did. Acquiring a suitable plot to build a church building being costly and fraught with corruption, the church started to worship in the bush under the trees.

Just before FOT 2016 in October, construction of the building started with own resources.

Eventually, Pastor Talama mobilized funds from LifeNets for purchased of cement needed to make cement blocks .  

This church has always maximized the use of media. The Sabbath was a big subject of interest and discussion.  

One man traveled 20 km on a bicycle to meet Filius.

Booklets that made impression included:
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Peter Eddington

Fascinating update Vic. Thanks!

Kathleen Hansen

How sad, even in the church women are treated as 2nd class citizens. Men get the chairs, women get the floor.