Until recently, Pastor Kapambwe Nsenduluka was serving as a missionary pastor from Kabwata Baptist Church, seconded to Eastside Baptist Church, in order to lead in the planting of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Windhoek, Namibia. Having laboured there for about two years he has had to return to Zambia. Below is an interview that Reformation Zambia had with him to give readers an insight into the challenges that are found in international church-planting efforts.

How did you know that God was calling you into the work of missions generally and into international missions specifically?

When it comes to going into ministry, this is not only the most asked question but also the first to be asked. So it is a crucial question requiring an honest answer. I pray, therefore, that God gives me grace to be fair in answering it and avoid giving my call a golden wrapping when in fact it came packaged ordinarily.

Since we all know that God is always calling men to various kinds of ministry, the question to me is how I knew it was me He was calling in this case. I knew He was calling me because gave me grace to become very conscious of a number of things:

  1. The need for harvesters on the harvest field affected me more than others who engaged with me in ministry discussions. To me the calling to fulltime ministry was not just a noble task but also a compelling force I had to yield to; and I had to yield to have some respite.
  2. I no longer entertained the excuse that the calling was for others but that I to whom God had shown the need should act in obedience. Suddenly I realised that God does not show me need for others to respond to it.
  3. I soon realised that it was a matter of obedience to God in love and faith rather than clarity of what God wanted me to do. The ‘I want to be sure’ was no longer giving me peace but a loaded conscience. I stopped demanding special indicators to assure my move. I realised that I did not have Isaiah’s, or Paul’s extraordinary commission. Besides all this, I felt God had given me minimum but adequate gifting for the task He was calling me to. So I rose up to the challenge after reasonable consultation.
  4. Friends already in the ministry gave me encouragement about the gifts to ministry and to make the move.

My inclination to international ministry came as a result of friends working Botswana who when they came back and only mourned about attending churches of contrary persuasions because they found nothing of what they had at home. So I determined to go out there, even as a worker to plant a church. My first assignment was in fact to that country.

What unique gifts should a person have to enable him work well in another country as a missionary?

As a man over seven years in this ministry I have never seen in me any unique gifts. I am a man of only ordinary gifts of the Spirit. I think it is more of biblical qualifications and strong desire to obey God that will make a man succeed (Psalm 1). As I have laboured, I have come to realise that gifts are only tools and that there must be willingness on the part of possessor of the gift not only to be willing to use the gift honestly but also to ensure these gifts are in good shape all the time.  As tools, gifts become ineffective if abused. Courage is another indispensable grace needed. The Lord gave Joshua this key; to be strong, to be courageous and to obey Him 100%. Courage means moving prepared to meet whatever danger lay ahead as opposed to solving those problems beforehand by first securing the future for the family.

What have been some of the challenges you have found in trying to get into another country to work as a missionary?

There are many problems but let me mention just a few here:

  1. Overcoming anxiety about labouring in strange contexts especially having to learn the local language in old age to reach most of the people on the mission field. Most often you feel so much isolated even before you get there.
  2. Obtaining a work permit and getting it extended has been a major challenge. Governments consider missionary work neither as critical nor specialised and so making it very difficult to justify your stay.
  3. The stigma of being regarded a second-class being. Both the Batswana and Otji Herero people among whom I have laboured feel a strong superiority over others, especially foreigners and designate them by a characteristic derogatory term. You hear about this even before you get there. Lacking prior experience of the people, customs and laws of the land of such people puts you at a disadvantage already. Often times you just move in hoping to find life as it is at home thinking that people will adapt to you rather than you adapting to them. But you dread the possibility of learning most of the things the hard way as you fall into trouble or embarrassment.
  4. Lack of experience on the part of the receiving church in pioneering cases also haunts you. It usually happens that the receiving church assumes that as incoming pastor, you possess all knowledge. You know that as a foreigner you will soon know more about how to survive than the locals simply because much of what is required of you is not required of them.

What were some of the challenges and high points that you experienced as you worked at Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Windhoek?

I will state the high points first.

  1. The saints at Grace Reformed Baptist Church (GRBC) not only love sound doctrine but also respond quite quickly in most things in a positive manner once they appreciate what God requires of them. Their response, particularly to the work of evangelism, is more than I have seen anywhere I have laboured. Within two years of my stay at GRBC, we had not less than five permanent preaching points in and outside the City of Windhoek. Three of these have potential to be constituted assemblies in the next couple of years. Then you also hear of how they are evangelising when they visit their cattle posts. It has been phenomenally wonderful!
  2. I also enjoyed superior ministry and fellowship with sister churches and individuals within Windhoek and some coastal towns. My everlasting gratitude to some saints at Eastside Baptist Church who consistently gave me substantial material support on sustainable basis throughout the two years.

The challenges that brought me to my lowest ebb during my ministry there include the following:

  1. Staying alone like a bachelor for two years for a man who has been married for over twenty years made the most trying situation for me in Namibia. My every day concern and prayer need was not losing my innocence. I thank God He saw me through this most trying moment. I pray that this will never happen again.
  2. The unresolved issues of support that culminated in my resignation. The day I tendered my resignation was a day of bitter tears especially that it was over issues that could be easily resolved. Those were issues also made my dear family slowly begin to develop resentment towards ministry. It was not so much the problems of ministry, but how they were handled.
  3. The November 2010 robbery in which I was brutally assaulted and lost some of my most treasured items including two decades of work on my laptop. The resulting shock has left shivers and trauma that to this very day again and again trigger hypertension and a phobia of being alone at night. May the Lord let not this thing repeat in my life!

How best can supporting churches ensure adequate financial, spiritual, and logistical support for missionaries serving abroad?

Supporting missionary work outside national boundaries is not cheap. If we must sustain what we began and assure future labourer availability, we must be prepared to spend. But before we can spend we need to educate our members on giving sacrificially to the extent we read about in 2 Corinthians 8:1-3. Churches should know that financial support is adequate only when it meets the basic needs of the missionary in his circumstances, not when it equal to or greater than what another elsewhere is getting. Supporting churches must also know that it is the missionary abroad who knows what he needs and not the citizens of the mission field. Citizens are not subjected to the life of a foreigner and therefore ignorant about what is required. When sending churches choose to listen to the receiving church, the missionary’s needs are not known.

I would also propose that financial support and spiritual oversight be separated with the sending church taking full charge of financial and logistical support. While it is true that a missionary lives as the people he labours among, initial cushioning is imperative to allow for adjustment. Spiritual support must include sufficient official visits and feedback on reports. As a missionary I received more of feedback from overseas prayer partners than my own church! I would also propose that during mission conferences, leaders of sending churches must hold regular interviews with individual missionaries on the adequacy of support and then share salient concerns with the church at the end of the conference.

Now that you are back in Zambia, how can we best pray for Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Windhoek and for your future plans?

Although GRBC has been showing impressive potential on the reformation path, my departure was very premature. Let us pray for an even better pastor to take them further than I left them. It may not be easy to find such a man humanly speaking but we bank on the sure and sweet promise of the Master: “…pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:38 ESV).

As for me, I still burn with passion to serve the Lord in fulltime time ministry especially missions. Pray that this strong desire does not wane now that I have taken a short break to reflect. Pray also for revival of missionary zeal in my family and restoration of confidence in support.

Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

I would like to end by stating that our churches have greater capacity in supporting missionary work now than ever before. Financially speaking our memberships have become better, judging by the number and luxury of investments around them. We must let them see that there is a place where their investments are more secure from the devouring moth and rust and the robber. We must arrive at the point where the Macedonian churches were where after we have given, we see our gift too small for the love that demands our souls, our life our all. We must never fear crossing national boundaries because it is salient in the terms of reference in the Great Commission. Crossing the borders we must and do so now before advancing Islam and flourishing secularism and worldliness hem us in.