Muyonga’s Victory: A Missionary Story from Zambia
by Joe Garner Turman
We first heard of Muyonga from his wife, Alice. She was a charter member of our newly organized Linda Baptist Church. Every time we came together for worship and Bible study, Alice requested prayer for Muyonga. Alice explained, “He’s lost and makes life miserable for us because of his drinking problem.”
Alcoholism was a major problem among men in the community. Families suffered from the drinking problem of husbands and fathers, which impacted our church in a real and personal way.
After six months, the church grew, and we planned a revival/crusade. The crusade was held outside the Community Center in Livingstone, Zambia. Three hundred and seventy-five people made public commitments to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. Muyonga was among those who made a public commitment.
Our trained teams went to the homes of each one who made a commitment to trust Jesus and shared the gospel with them in a personal way. Ninety-five wanted to be baptized and to become members of our church; however, only sixty-five enrolled in our baptism class. Muyonga was among those who wanted to follow the Lord in baptism and become a member of Linda Baptist Church.
Brother Moola, our pastor, taught the baptism class. The content of the teaching consisted of the meaning of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and basic Christian beliefs. In order to become a member of the church, each candidate was required to finish the four consecutive sessions of the class.
On the Saturday following the second meeting of the baptism class, Brother Moola met me after the morning church visitation. He asked, “Did you hear what Muyonga did last night?” Without waiting for a reply, he said, “He got drunk and cursed out his neighbors.” Then, looking intently at me, he said, “Would you go with me to his house to tell him he cannot continue in the baptism class. We cannot tolerate this kind of conduct.”
When we arrived at Muyonga’s door, he received us politely. Brother Moola did all the talking. He asked, “Is it true that you came home drunk and cursed out your neighbors?” Muyonga confirmed, “Yes, it is true.”
“Do you realize that what you did is a sinful, disgraceful act before the Lord and His people?” Looking sad and contrite, Muyonga nodded in agreement. Brother Moola continued, “You cannot continue as a member of the baptism class.” With this pronouncement, Muyonga bowed his head without saying anything.
The next day was Sunday, and I didn’t expect to see Muyonga at church—but he was there. When Muyonga was sober, he was very polite and helpful. He volunteered to do any kind of work that needed to be done around the church. But when he was drinking, he was ugly and abusive.
The second Sunday after Muyonga was expelled from the baptism class, he came forward and said to the congregation: “I’m sorry for what I did. I have asked God to forgive me. Would you also forgive me? I do want to join the baptism class again.” So, the following afternoon Muyonga was re-enrolled in the baptism class. He lasted almost a week. The next Saturday afternoon he became so drunk that he passed out on the path near the market. The church people were really embarrassed.
Again, Brother Moola asked me to go with him to see Muyonga. There was the same speech from Brother Moola and the same look of contrition on the face of Muyonga. And the following Sunday Muyonga was again back in church. This time he waited two weeks before he came forward to repent and vow to stay away from whiskey. Two weeks later, Brother Moola agreed to let him enroll again in the baptism class.
Muyonga was the most knowledgeable member of the class. He knew all the answers. Not only was he intelligent, mastering all the material given to him, but he also helped others in the class with their lessons. He was an excellent student, always polite and respectful toward the pastor, missionary, and church leaders.
The church was praying for Muyonga, that he would claim the victory in Jesus over his drinking problem. But alas! After three weeks, he fell once again before the demon booze. He came home drunk and had a brouhaha with his neighbors. His drunken antics left Alice crying and despondent.
For the third time, I went with Brother Moola to confront Muyonga about his shameful conduct. Muyonga was disgusted with himself, but, this time, there was something new in his voice—a sound of resolve. He vowed, “I am going to overcome this with God’s help!”
Brother Moola and I discussed Muyonga’s latest commitment. He asked me, “Do you think Muyonga is sincere? I said, “You know, this time I think Muyonga is sincere, and we as a church must stand beside him to help him win the victory. We must pray for him and visit him every day to encourage him.” “I agree with you,” Brother Moola said. “Our men will spend time with him in the coming weeks.”
The next Sunday morning Muyonga came forward and told the congregation that he was tired of saying “Yes” to his urge to drink booze. He said, “I am not able in my own strength to overcome this, but with the strength that Jesus gives me, I will have victory over this shameful sin in my life.” Some members of the church thought that what Muyonga said was just the same song, third verse. But there was a new and determined commitment in his voice.
In the following weeks, when Muyonga came out of his workplace, one of the men from the church waited for him and spent several hours with him. Two weeks later, Brother Moola enrolled Muyonga in the baptism class for the third time. Muyonga knew the class materials as well as Brother Moola. He was probably the most learned baptismal candidate in all of Africa! He could quote the lessons from memory. Two weeks after Muyonga finished the baptism course, I baptized him, along with many other new believers. And Muyonga became a leader in Linda Baptist Church.
Our church learned a lesson from the Muyonga experience: We need to pray for the weak brother (or sister), and we also need to stand beside those we pray for daily. Muyonga claimed the victory over alcohol with the help of those who stood beside him.
Today, if you were to visit Livingstone, Zambia, Linda Community, and ask directions to the Maloni Community, you would see Maloni Baptist Church sitting on a hill overlooking Victoria Falls. The pastor is Muyonga!
Muyonga is kind and helpful toward people who are like lost sheep trying to find their way. And, once they are saved, he has a strong conviction about their attending a baptism class!