I bring you heartfelt greetings from myself and from the rest of the brethren at Fairview Reformed Baptist Church (FRBC).

In this month of March I clocked one year and six months of my pastorate at FRBC. I joined the church in September of 2009. I must confess that my settlement has been very slow to adapt. It has taken me more than a year or so to feel settled down. On the other hand, I feel as though it is the months that have moved rather too quickly for me. As a result of this, it seems as if I have just taken over the reins of the church! Notwithstanding this, the experience has posed a challenge for my family and me. It has been an experience faced with numerous hurdles and trials. In spite of this, we have also equally encountered the ever-abounding presence of God such that we cannot even complain at all. So as days turned from weeks into months, and months into a year, hurdles became surmountable and trials inevitable blessings for us. Indeed, today I can afford to look back and confidently say, “Thus far has the Lord led us.” We have been encouraged and preserved in the process. I can now talk of settling down at last!

The first hurdle for me was coming to an already established church. This was happening for the first time and equally a new experience for me. This is because in the past, I had always served as a church planter. This is where my previous experience was always directed. Of course, at that time, I boasted of being called to church planting alone or so I thought. Therefore, when I received a call to pastor FRBC that point of view changed drastically as well for me. It is then that I discovered my other “gift” of ministry. It is a welcome gift that has managed to change my outlook to life and usefulness ever since. I thus entered my pastorate at FRBC as an “intern” (or inexperienced) for I was entering a new environment altogether. This posed a challenge for me in the beginning but I thank God that over the months that hurdle has been overcome.

Let me proceed to enlighten you with other challenges that faced our church in the same short period.

The biggest hurdle for FRBC has always been the mobility among its membership. Sometimes I even feel as if it is unprecedented among the other Reformed Baptist fraternity in the Copperbelt province. However, it is a vice that has unfortunately afflicted our church for some time now. For instance, I took up my pastorate when the church had suffered another exodus in its membership and hence was at its lowest. Furthermore, no sooner I had taken over reins than when ten or more of our members moved towns. It was another serious mobility at a time when the church was already on its knees. Some of them went on transfers while others for greener pastures respectively. This phenomenon was a disappointing welcome for me and indeed a blow to the church as well especially that the number included a deacon and other dependable families. It was a challenging starter for me. Inevitably, this state of affairs poses a negative consequence to the church as well for it reduces on the viability of the church to support itself financially. This is another malady that has equally dogged the church in the past and even now. But it is a malady occasioned by the effects of the same high mobility of members in the church. Fortunately for me, the downward spiral began to be redressed seriously towards the end of last year when we scored an increase in numbers and membership as well at church. This is what we needed to see and providentially the results became evident at last. And as a result of this positive trend, we are now beginning to surmount this financial hurdle gradually and we hope that it will continue to increase much more for the better this year. A consistence in the work of evangelism is not an option for us but a matter of life and death! The evidence is clear. It is the only remedy for us that will forestall this ugly hurdle, with its venomous multiple effects, completely. Therefore, we will very much value your prayers for us in this area.

On a positive note, we have a challenging task (hurdle) of re-launching of the Kantanshi outreach project this year. This is a project where we intend to establish another church in vernacular or in Bemba, a local dialect, spoken widely in the region. At the moment, we consider this venture a priority on our agenda in order to maintain a consistence in our evangelism. Kantanshi is a major local mining suburb of our town. It is a low income cost suburb and densely populated. This is what makes it ideal for our evangelism activities. We initially plan to establish a preaching point in this month of April 2011 and we later intend to establish a church in the course of the year. An activity of this nature in such a populace place will surely keep us busy for the rest of the year. We have decided to make Kantanshi outreach project a priority because of its positive contributions to our church in the past. It had always provided a high turnover of attendees at church. Thus, with its demise, it resulted correspondingly in empty pews, especially on Sundays. The cause for the shutdown was the same exodus of membership in church already attributed to above. It is this which in the end robed the church of the much needed manpower for the work as it were and eventually led to the shelving of the plans altogether. We have, however, resolved to relaunch it because we feel that we have now got enough manpower to do the work. The benefits envisaged are multiple and hence a priority on our agenda. Please, do remember us in your prayers so that these plans on our drawing board are realized before the end of this year.

Finally, the potential hurdle for us this year is on how we should insulate our church against the onslaught of the unpredictable happenings in the mining industry prevalent in our region (Copperbelt province). Our church is actually located in a town where we have one of the major mining players in the province. Therefore, the economic lifeline of this town is solely dependent on this same mining cooperation. You can now guess right that every success, failure or shutdown of the mines whatsoever as such has a corresponding effect on everything else in the town. In this recent past, the same mines had suffered an economic downturn and this in the end spiralled on the entire town. For instance, many workers in the mining sector and elsewhere suffered a loss of jobs as a result. In the case of our church it led to the massive exodus of members especially affected by the mines. This explains as well the prevalence of a high mobility of our membership in the past and recently as alluded to above. This correspondingly places our church in jeopardy now and in the future. Our future remains unpredictable as most of our members are drawn from the mining sector. Hence, like in the past, our church remains vulnerable as a result. But this time around, we are geared to redress this phenomenon in our local church for the better. We are planning to surmount this hurdle by diversifying our evangelistic efforts to include non-mining suburbs of our town. This is a long term prospective. In order to turn this around, we intend to begin targeting the non-mining colleges and institutions including the teachers, police or government workers compounds, etc. Our success in this venture will ensure in the end an even distribution of membership coming from other economic sectors of the town as well. We believe that this strategy in the long run will forestall a high mobility in membership and ultimately immune the church from the changes obtaining in the mining sector. In the end, it will score stability and growth. Please remember us in this venture.

Emmanuel Sakala
Fairview Reformed Baptist Church