25 September 2023| Colchester, England [David Neal]
At the 64th South England Conference Session, held in Colchester, England, 7 – 10 September, the devotional speaker was Dr Pardon Mawansa. His life of service to the church is deep and wide. Currently serving as Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Administration at Andrews University and Vice Chancellor of a general vice-president of the General Conference, president of the Southern Africa Indian Ocean Division (2003 – 2005), and president of the East Africa Division (2000-2002). As the Session ended, Dr Mwansa reflected on discipleship, the church and its multiple challenges, but best of all, his journey with the Lord.
Dr Pardon Mwansa, it is such a pleasure to talk with you here at the South England Conference Session in Colchester, England, and you have been the devotional speaker to help keep things spiritual. How do you feel it has gone?
PM: I think the conference has gone well in the sense that the saints and the decision-makers have worked well together, and I believe they made the best decisions in the interest of the community of believers. There was very good engagement from the constituency, with very active participation. Coming to the end of it all, I see that the hand of the Lord was with us.
DN: You love the church, don’t you? How many years have you served the church?
PM: For 43 years, I have served this church and the Lord.
DN: Tell me about the joy of service.
PM: I could not have asked for any other path in my career, the path of being a minister and an educator. There is something about the Lord Jesus that nothing else can do. When I look at the fact that there’s no permanency in life, it brings a craving in me of wanting somebody who can give me permanency of life. And that, I only find in the Lord Jesus Christ.
DN: One of the values of the South England Conference is ‘Growing Disciples’. Can we talk about discipleship in the context of learning?
PM: One of the interesting things about discipleship, particularly in the 21st century, is the ability to bring the mandate of our Lord, the intent of our Lord Jesus, into today’s world. For example, I particularly love the words of the Lord when he said, “I will not leave you as orphans.” (John 14:18). He said, “I will be with you”. The question is, what does it mean for the Lord to be with us? He was with the Apostles in the first century, but we live in a time of not only the internet but also Artificial Intelligence, a totally new world. How does the Lord manifest his life through us today?
What I see is that the Lord can do that because he doesn’t look for forms; he looks for values. He looks for kindness. He looks for love. He looks for meeting one another’s needs. And even in today’s society, we have the opportunity to let Jesus reflect his image through us.
DN: The church is buffeted by one problem after another; another problem comes along like a bigger wave than the last one. How do we cope? How do we deal with it?
PM: The church exists in society. The church has always been. It anticipates to go and live in the heavenly kingdom where there are angels only and righteous people only, but the Lord chose that the church exists in the society in which it is. The question is, can we escape the issues of the society?
No, we can’t. We can’t because we draw our membership from society and communities. So the issues that impact the communities – the rights that the communities are advocating for, be it human rights, rights for women, rights for children- are the people we invite to the Lord to come. And as a church, we’ve got to know Christ has outspread his hands with the message, “Come unto me all you that are heavy burdened – and you’ll find rest in me.”
People need to find rest in the church. And that’s just how we will be… And until the Lord has come, the church has to learn to serve both as the salt and the light. The salt in that we have to be part of society to impact society. And the light – in the sense that we’ve got to give the heavenly values to the world.
DN: The Lord Jesus has been on your journey with you for many years. What’s it been like in a relationship with him?
PM: I have found him to be a forgiving God! When I look at my life and how I have not always lived up to the ideal – the ideal is very difficult to define. Sometimes, I find a person on the streets who doesn’t have as much as I have, and I ask myself, “Lord, to what extent do you want me to get involved in this person’s life.”
And sometimes, when I respond to people, I ask myself, “Did I respond with enough grace?” Not that they necessarily agree with me, but grace enough for them to know that I respected them.” And I find the Lord to be a forgiving saviour. I also find him to be one who is an ever-empowering God to do ministry.
I have found in ministry that the Lord Jesus Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit is so essential, both to give the deepness of the impression of the Word of the Lord and to keep heaven in my heart.
Jesus is a friend. When I get to heaven I want to see the face of Jesus (and I know I will because he loves me).
DN: Pastor Mwansa, thank you for sharing with Trans-European Division News. We are blessed.
PW: Thank you.