“I take nothing for granted”
For fourteen years he was active as a District Apostle. In the following interview, Charles Ndandula, the now retired District Apostle of Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, looks back gratefully and takes stock.
District Apostle Ndandula, what is the first thing you are going to do as a retiree?
The first thing we are going to do is move. Then I am going to sit down with my wife and go through our retirement plans. Then we are going to do the final touches to our retirement house and try to acclimatise to a new phase in life. If you have spent a large part of your life in the service of the Church like I have—at the age of 33 I was ordained an Apostle, and since 1998 I have worked for the Church full-time—you have to get used to this new stage in life first.
When you were ordained as a District Apostle 14 years ago, you set yourself some goals such as building more churches and making the local churches financially independent. Were you able to realise these goals?
Alone in Zambia the membership has increased by about 300,000 since 2005. The number of congregations has increased from 6,200 then to 7,600 now. We were able to build a number of central churches. Some congregations are now even building their own churches with funds from their own resources. Almost every month one of the Apostles is on his way to dedicate a new church somewhere. However, we have also invested in the sector of health and education and in aid programmes, such as NACRO (New Apostolic Church Relief Organisation), which is an important component of our church work.
In two of the District Churches in my care we have managed to become financially independent since I took office. The District Church Zambia, which is the largest of the three districts with more than 1.3 million members, has been financially independent since January 2013. The District Church Malawi, with its 350,000 members, has been able to do without subsidies since January this year. The situation in Zimbabwe is more complicated, so it will be a while before we get there.
What are your experiences with youth work? How can young people be motivated to commit themselves to the Church?
I must say, it is not easy to motivate today’s young people. However, that does not mean that we should do nothing. One way is to give them responsibilities which they are willing to undertake. We must keep them occupied with the work of God and at the same time give them an opportunity to express themselves and then listen to them. There are some who may be willing to take on responsibilities, but you also have to give them adequate space to do this. Another point is that we have to lay the foundations for their motivation already in Sunday School by arousing the children’s curiosity and interest for the cause of the Lord.
Is there an experience from your active time that is particularly memorable?
For me every day during my active time was a great experience: I felt the love and presence of God. Actually, everything is special, because I never take anything, not a single day, for granted.
Has the memory of the armed robbery you once reported about receded into the background somewhat?
I will never forget that day in September 1998. My wife, our son and I were on our way back from a boarding school in Monza district and had planned to stop at Lima Garden, a guest house run by the Church, to spend the night and continue home the next day to Ndola. At the gate to the property a band of robbers confronted us. I asked my wife and son to join me in a short prayer, expecting it to be our last one. The robbers started firing at our vehicle. It was a miracle how those bullets missed us in the vehicle. One of the bandits then broke my window and the glass splinters flew into my face, cutting me above my eye. Blood started to ooze out. They then ordered us out of the vehicle. When they saw the blood on my face and chest, their leader commanded that I should be finished off. I fell down on the ground and five shots were fired at me at close range. None got me. It was a great miracle that we survived! A miracle of divine preservation!
What are you going to do with all your spare time now? Do you have concrete plans?
I will do a bit of farming during my retirement. My wife has been doing a bit of bit already, and I am going to join her. That will keep me busy. Then there are still our grandchildren, who have missed me a lot and whom I have time for now. And I will be going to the gym to keep fit.
What do you expect of the future with regard to our faith—for yourself personally, but also for your brothers and sisters?
I hope that I can practise not only what I preached myself, but also accept that which is going to be preached to me from now on. I hope I can find what role I may play in the congregation and find my place. I want to be at peace with myself and with my God. I want to enjoy every divine service and to be a joy to those around me. I want to share the experience I made in serving God and my brothers and sisters with others. I have also resolved to look up to my bearers of blessing and support them whenever and wherever I can. And my great hope is the return of Christ. I want to be ready when He comes. And that is what I wish for all of my brothers and sisters in faith.