THE EARLY YEARS (1905 – 1949)

To understand why Baptist work in Zambia commenced in the Copperbelt Province, you need to understand the Comity Arrangement. This was an arrangement between various mission societies towards the end of the 19th century to concentrate their missions efforts in particular areas of the country to avoid tension between their missionaries. Thus the Africa Evangelical Fellowship concentrated on the Kaonde and Mbunda speaking people, the Dutch Reformed Church concentrated on the Nyanja speaking people, the Brethren in Christ and the Pilgrim Wesleyan Church concentrated on the Tonga speaking people, and the Christian Brethren Church (CMML) concentrated on the Lunda and Luvale speaking people. However, there were groups, like the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which rejected this arrangement and went on to do their work in any area they wanted to. It was this situation that the Baptists found when they arrived in Northern Rhodesia.

William Arthur Phillips and Henry Masters

This historical narrative commences in 1905 when two British missionaries, William Arthur Phillips and Henry Masters, trekked from Malawi into what is now the Copperbelt Province of Zambia in order to establish a mission station there. Phillips had been a member of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in the days of Charles Haddon Spurgeon and had answered God’s call to be a missionary when he was only 18 years old. He went to Nyasaland as a missionary in 1901. Phillips and Masters were missionaries working under the Nyasaland (Baptist) Industrial Mission (NIM) and after working there for four years they were keen to establish a Baptist work in the darker interior of Africa.

After an exploratory visit in Northern Rhodesia, especially in the areas around the tributaries of the Zambezi River, their hearts settled for Lambaland. So they petitioned the British South Africa Company’s Administrator in Fort Jameson (Chipata) for one of the last unallocated “spheres” of missions work. They were allocated Kapopo (Ndola) district. So, trekking some 1,000 kilometres through swamp and forest, with a party of 140 natives carrying food supplies for ten months, these men arrived in Kapopo district. They came with two Ngoni Christians (Luke and David) and chose the place where the Kafulafuta and Kafubu river met as the best place to establish their mission station. One major advantage of this was that this place was not as infested with mosquitoes. Be that as it may, they were the only white people in an area of no less than 80,000 square kilometres.

They found the Lamba people steeped in what they called “the unspeakable horrors of spirit worship, witchcraft, human sacrifice, live burials, and cannibalism”. Thankfully, they found the Lamba people very docile and scattered because of fear of slave traders. Having Luke and David with them was a great help because the Lamba people could see how African Christians were supposed to live in the midst of all the pagan rituals that they were accustomed to. The missionaries concentrated primarily on translation work and education, but ultimately their goal was the evangelisation of the local people. Phillips also produced a hymn book comprising 35 hymns, the Lord’s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. When Henry Masters received the first copy of this book, he wrote in his journals: “[In] the mail this evening we received the first book in Wa Lamba – the hymnbook containing 35 hymns, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. I praise God indeed as I see the printed hymns before me on the table. They speak of grace given and promises fulfilled.”

Through their education programme they produced native evangelists who went out preaching the gospel. Thus, although they did not accept into membership those who continued drinking, smoking and dancing, the church began to slowly grow. They also did not allow their members to polygamously marry their dead brothers’ wives.

By 1912 they had developed a boarding school with about 60 boys who were in boarding. These had to sign a contract which read: “I hereby make an agreement with European missionaries to the effect that I will stay with them for two years to learn things of civilisation and be instructed in the faith. They on their part agree to teach, feed, and clothe me. I will try to aspire to knowledge. I will obey them without fail. I promise never to criticize them. I will work as directed by them. I will live in peace and friendship with my friends, all students, loving them.” The pupils were involved in morning devotions, classes and manual work. The manual work comprised gardening, carpentry and bricklaying. This in due season contributed to the standard of living in the villages. They also established “out-schools” in various nearby villages, staffed by native teachers whom they had educated. In this way basic education soon became easily accessible to the children in the villages. Be that as it may, the primary goal of the missionaries was to bring souls to Christ and establish local churches. Thus, Phillips wrote in a prayer letter back home dated 27th October 1913: “The new school term has started today, and I ask your special intercessions that the boarders may receive exceptional spiritual blessings during its course… How important…that while they are with us real work for eternity should be done in their hearts, that influences should be exerted which they will never be able to throw off.” Because of this they often left the mission in the company of native church leaders to go into the far flung areas of Lambaland to preach the gospel.

The work of evangelism took long to bear fruit. It took two years before they had a single convert and it was not until 1910 that they had their first baptism, i.e. that of Sandabunga Katanga. It was not until another three years that they had yet another baptism.

The South African Baptist Mission Society

Financially, the Kafulafuta mission was proving very difficult to maintain by the Nyasaland Industrial Mission and so they began to entertain the idea of either closing it down or seeking other mission partners. They turned to South Africa for help. This was a great challenge for the South African Baptist Mission Society (SABMS) which had only been formed in 1892, and up to that point had only undertaken one outreach work outside South Africa to St. Helena Island. Now it was faced with yet another challenge, to go and establish Baptist Churches in Northern Rhodesia. Initially, they turned down the challenge, but through the persuasive efforts of Joseph Doke, the SABMS finally consented to a fact-finding mission.

Doke wrote, “For a long time as you know, I have been convinced that the time was near when as a Baptist denomination we must attempt to push on into the interior. I have felt that a sphere in the interior for which we as Baptists become responsible is not only likely to provide an outlet for our young men such as the Sudan Mission is now offering – but would probably fire our church with a new aggressive missionary spirit.

“When I told Mr. F. Arnot my convictions a few months ago he said that in his travels he had come across a solitary Mission Station at Kafulafuta in the Ndola District just outside of the Congo Border – manned by two Baptists. He said it was a most needy district (20,000 sq. miles without another Mission) and strongly advised me to get into touch with these missionaries. This I have done. Mr. Phillips, the missionary to whom I wrote, sent my letter home to his Board and urged me to come up and see the District. I have also heard from the secretary, Rev. A. Walker, from Home, and find that the Mission is an off-shoot of the Nyasaland Industrial Mission – that although a great deal of blessing has attended the work a crisis in finance has come which made it necessary for them to withdraw from the only other Mission Station which they are now holding in abeyance until my reply should come.

“If we Baptists could take over that District in the very heart of Africa – untrammelled by the proximity of other Missions – it would form a strategic centre from which we might gradually work out until we form hands with our Brethren on the Congo.

       “Whether it is as suitable as it seems…I cannot tell – but if all is well I hope to go up with my son Clement and see the land, starting on 30th June…

“Yours fraternally, Joseph J. Doke.”

The honorary secretary, Rev B Vernon replied, “I wish I were going with you and your son. It is grand to think that you are the father of two boys whom God has called to be His Missionaries. May His Spirit give them all power and grace for their high calling.” and that is how funds were found to sponsor the trip. Who was Joseph Doke? He was a son of a Baptist pastor and had himself served as a pastor of some large Baptist churches in England and New Zealand. He had even served as the president of the Baptist Union of New Zealand. His brother, William, had gone as a missionary into the Congo in 1882 and had died soon after arrival there. Doke, now pastor of Grahamstown Baptist Church in South Africa, sought to instil in the Baptist Union of South Africa a real missionary interest beyond their immediate borders.

On 2nd July 1913, Joseph Doke and his son, Clement (then only 20 years old), left Johannesburg by rail on a fact-finding trip to Kafulafuta mission on behalf of the South African Baptist Missionary Society (SABMS). They arrived at the Bwana Mkubwa station and were met by Phillips. Together with him they walked some 70 kilometres to the Kafulafuta mission. After visiting for a week, they walked to another mission station (in Lwamala) some 80 kilometres away. After visiting Lwamala they walked another 170 kilometres to Broken Hill (Kabwe), where the Dokes got on to a train for Bulawayo. Sadly, Joseph Doke died on his return journey from enteric fever and so only his son reported back to the SABMS.

Clement immediately went to work trying to convince both the SABMS and the Baptist Union of South Africa (BUSA) to adopt the Kafulafuta mission and send missionaries there. The BUSA agreed to do so, conditionally, i.e. if the money could be found to purchase the mission and support missionaries there. Clement, who was a degree holder from Cape Town University, quit his job in a bank and went around the churches raising funds for the Lambaland project. The SABMS wanted to send him to the UK to study missions and medicine but he turned them down saying that he wanted to go to Northern Rhodesia “as soon as possible”. He managed to raise enough money for himself not to need any money from the SABMS for the first two years in Northern Rhodesia. A Doke Memorial Fund was also started and this, together with further help from Joseph Doke’s parents-in-law and the Colonial Aid Society in Britain, enabled Clement and Mr and Mrs German to return to Kafulafuta as missionaries the following year, arriving in Ndola on 16th July.

The new SABMS missionaries took over the mission, buying it off its previous owners. By that time the Masters had already left the mission, and so Clement only found Phillips and Mr and Mrs Wildey who had come to assist him with the boarding school. Clement immediately got to work on the Lamba New Testament and had it ready in 1921. A Lamba grammar, a hymnbook, a phrase book and a collection of folklore and proverbs were also produced. Olive Doke, Clement’s sister, also came and joined the missionary team in 1916. Because the financial giving of the churches to the cause of missions was so low, the finances needed to take her to Lambaland and keep her there were provided by her mother, the widow of Joseph Doke.

By this time the number of missionaries on the mission station reached seven – the highest number that the mission ever had for many more years to come (in 1958 it rose to ten after having only three for many years). Due to various health problems, largely caused by malaria, the missionaries began to leave one after another. The Germans and the Wildeys left in 1917, and Clement left in 1921. In that same year, Arthur J Cross and Frieda Stern, arrived to replace Clement and his wife. Clement returned for a brief visit in 1926 and found Phillips had also left for Britain due to poor health. (Phillips later recovered, married, and went to Russia as a missionary). Arthur and Frieda got married in the Kafulafuta mission on 16th January 1923.

Difficulties and Disappointments

Converts were hard to come by. In 1919, Phillips reported: “After thirteen years’ witness to the truth, we have not yet been privileged to baptise more than a few. On Sunday, the 16th February, the sixth Lamba thus put on Christ. Still, rather than be despondent, we ought to rejoice and be glad even one has come out of the horrible past…” In the mid-1920s mining work accelerated in the province, and so many of the people moved from the rural areas into the towns for work. This had its own negative effect on the mission. For instance, Olive Doke had opened a boarding school for girls in the late 1920s, but it had to be suddenly closed when all 25 girls in her school ran off to become concubines of the miners at Roan Antelope Mine in Luanshya. During this period the Watchtower sect grew among the Lambas because its leader, Jeremiah Gondwe, was offering baptism as protection against witchcraft. So a number of people in the Baptist churches left to join them. Thankfully, Gondwe was finally jailed in 1929 after preaching against the government and its puppet chiefs.

Yet another source of loss of members was the independent African churches who drew many members of the Baptist churches to themselves. Thankfully, Headman Katanga was very friendly to the mission. Most of the workers on the mission station came from his village. Also, his son, Sandabunga Katanga, became the first Lamba translator and native evangelist of the mission. A Ngoni evangelist, David Kasangula, together with Arthur Cross, went into urban Ndola regularly for ministry in 1922, partly to address the haemorrhage taking place there as many members defected to the independent African churches. In 1924, Cross became the pastor of a European Baptist Church in the town of Ndola. This did not last long because in 1925 he discovered a non-denominational African congregation in Ndola. The members were almost all from Nyasaland. It was during this period when Ndola Free Church was opened on 21st February 1931 to minister to the mine workers and Europeans living in Ndola. By 1936, Cross resigned from his ministry and moved to the headquarters of United Missions in the Copperbelt (situated on the present site of Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation) to co-ordinate these congregations and others that had come up as Union Churches on the Copperbelt. After his death, his wife moved to Lusaka and became one of the four founding members of Lusaka Baptist Church in 1956.

In the second half of the 1920s, the financial position of the SABMS was going from bad to worse, and each succeeding year the executive was discussing whether or not to bring back the missionaries and hand over the Lambaland mission to another mission society. As this was under discussion, another blow hit the SABMS. In 1929 after the widow of J J doke came from visiting her daughter and helping out with the Kafulafuta mission for a year, she died on her way back to South Africa in precisely the same way that her husband had died fifteen years earlier. Yet another source of funds dried up. Thus in 1930 the SABMS invited the Sandinavian Independent Baptist Union to take up some of the mission stations opened by the Kafulafuta Mission so that the SABMS could concentrate on a smaller field. It was in 1931 that the SABMS in Northern Rhodesia first mentioned an African on the listing of its leaders in Lambaland, and his name was Paul Kasonga. Clearly there was some progress.

By 1931 three Swedes sent by the Scandinavian Independent Baptist Mission (SIBM) had arrived and taken over an outpost in Mpongwe that the Kafulafuta Mission had previously been running with two missionaries manning the post. These were Anton and Signe Johansson who arrived in 1930 and Miss Else Borg in 1931. Else opened a further mission station at Mikata, some 25 kilometres from Mpongwe by 1937 but she died in May of that year in Ndola. She was replaced by Enar and Anna Holmgren who joined Anton and Signe until 1946 when they were joined by Karl Fredrick Hammarstom and his family. The latter reopened the Mikata station and laboured there until 1953.

The SABMS missionaries were withdrawn from Mpongwe as soon as the SIBM and they started the Fiwale Mission in an effort to counter the spread of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in that area. Cross wrote to the SABMS, describing the Lambas in Fiwale as “a population crying for the gospel.” The opening service at Fiwale Hill took place on Sunday 28th April 1935, with three Lambas being baptised. The construction of houses and roads was supervised by Bob Litana, with Cross coming out regularly to check the progress from Ndola town. Efforts to move all the missionaries from Kafulafuta to Fiwale Hill proved futile as Olive Doke was unwilling, after serving there for thirty-five years, to abandon her girls boarding school. A new road was built between Fiwale Hill and Kafulafuta to help with communication between the two mission stations.

Various missionaries came and went until 1940 when the Rev and Mrs W Rendall arrived at Fiwale Hill and played a very significant role in establishing that mission for the next eleven years. A boarding school for boys was also opened at Fiwale Hill, with about forty boys in boarding annually. When news reached the mission of the passing away of W A Phillips in 1945, it was agreed to build the Phillips Memorial Church at Fiwale Hill. This was finally built and opened on 31st December 1950. During the official opening, some of the native pastors who gave glowing tribute to the late pioneer missionary were Anasi Lupunga and Lemon Kantu, recalling the days when they had worked with him. Pastors Bob Litana and Yoane Chipilili also spoke on this occasion.

(To be continued)