We said good bye to Rev. Jean Kalonga, our Assistant Bishop for Zambia and the New Life Center Director. Two days after prostate surgery in Lusaka, Zambia Jean died on Saturday morning Nov. 14th from reasons unclear at this time. This has been a very big shock to the whole Zambian and Southern D.R.Congo United Methodist Conference. He was laid to rest at the New Life Center on Tuesday. He leaves behind his wife of 38 years, Charity and six grown children and their families.
Pastor Jean had given his life to the church. He was a great man of God. He lived openly with complete confidence that Jesus is in control of all things, great and small! He was one of the delegate speakers from Africa that spoke at the 2008 UMC General Conference in Fort Worth, TX. His leadership at a global as well as Zambian Conference level and at the New Life Center will be deeply missed.
Jean had become one of our closest friends and advisors over the last 9 years. The news of his passing came just as we were loading the vehicle to travel to Lusaka from Kitwe. We were to meet with him before we left Lusaka for Florida to participate in our son’s wedding and holiday break. To be honest, Sandy and I are still stunned and sick with grief. That goes for all the church in Africa as well.
Please pray with us. First for the Kalonga family and then for the United Methodist Church of Zambia and the New Life Center.
God needs to help us fill some very big shoes. We have lost one of the great ones in Africa.
To understand a bit more about Jean it can be found in an email below Delbert wrote to Pastor Charles Mulemena, a staff member at New Life and Jean’s assistant. Delbert wrote this before we got on the plane to the US. This email was read at the burial service. Also just looking at the pictures can tell you the story too.
I’m writing this to you because I don’t know what else to do. It’s out of a sense of sadness and with a broken heart I find myself unable to sleep and unable to stop crying. Sandy is the same way. As you know tomorrow we leave for America for a short eight weeks to celebrate the wedding of our son Seth and his graduation from nursing school. However, normally this would be a happy time to leave, but because of Jean Kalonga’s passing I feel sick with sadness in my heart. I could not believe the words you gave to me on the phone “Jean is with us no more, he is with Jesus”.
Since we are leaving for the US from Lusaka we brought Donix(?) to be with his mother and we too had time with Mama Kalonga. Oh how hard that was to see her so broken in spirit and so sad. That goes for all the others that were there with her as well. We also saw the family in Kitwe before we left. They too were in much sadness and pain. I tell you the truth, today is a day that will be remembered in my life forever. Oh Dear Jesus please bring peace. Normally when we leave America to come back to Africa we say good bye to our families, and we get on the plane with sadness and with tears because we are leaving our loved ones behind. However, today we leave Zambia with much sadness and with tears because we leave our forever family and loved ones behind. It is breaking our hearts.
I feel I must say a few words to you Charles and anyone you would want to share them with, words of love about Jean and what he meant to me personally. If I don’t sit here and write this down I think I will explode in my sadness.
It was almost ten years ago that I met Jean for the first time after we left our mission service in Congo. He was the DS in Kitwe and Bishop Katembo’s Assistant for Zambia. I didn’t know him or how to work with him. And of course there were always people giving me advise, about this one and that one, even if it is was not asked for. All I knew was, Jean was holding great responsibilities in those offices and that was not easy. I began to see how God was using him. To me, he did his job very well. I’m sure he made his mistakes, but what human being doesn't.
However, and slowly, the New Life ministries started to come alive. I would ask Jean what he thought about this idea or that idea. He was always willing to give advise and most importantly tell me if it was a bad idea. As you know, that is very rare in African culture. Everything is YES even if it should be NO. And then you get to fix the problems later. I realized very quickly he was a real brother in Jesus and he loved the CHURCH. I’m sure that’s why Bishop kept him so close. I saw in Jean what he must have seen.
Year after year Jean and I learned to trust each other. When I became impatient about something or didn’t understand a situation that became a problem, his favorite words to me were “Delbert, take it easy”. He learned how to help me and work with me. Oh how I thank God for that special trust.
Then we started working on spiritual growth for the church. He saw the need for something new that would really help the church. We talked and prayed about this. Then one day Pastor Blake emailed me saying that God had told him to come visit Zambia and help an old friend...me. LOOK OUT, Jesus was starting to do something. As you know, last year was the eighth year Blake and his teams have been coming to Zambia. The Holy Spirit Encounters have been one of the tools God gave us to help our church move into a deeper understanding about a COMPLETE New Life with Jesus. That is, what it means to not only be a Christian, but to be filled and anointed with the person and promise of the Holy Spirit. Then something wonderful happened, JEAN found Jesus again! Something fresh and something new, and it happened that very first year Blake came.
After that there was no turning back. It was all for Jesus. He made up that wonderful song, “New Life in Jesus, New Life, New Life, New Life.... New Life in Jesus, New Life, New Life, New Life. Are you a Christian, Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. Are you a devil, Oh no, oh no, oh no”. Charles, you know this is true. We all started seeing God’s hands at work. For me personally these last few years have been a JOY to be the missionary God called me to be. Rev. Jean Kalonga was and always will be a very big part of that JOY.
Before Jean accepted the position as New Life Center Director about four years ago, we prayed again and again about that decision. One day he came and said, “God is saying yes to this position, but I tell you the truth I’m concerned about doing a good job”. I found that interesting coming from a man who held the office of DS and Bishop’s Assistant. But is was not a mistake, he did a great job and loved each day! I personally could not have been any happier or prouder of anyone taking that job.
I want to say a word to Mama Kalonga... You know how close Jean and I became down through these years. He would talk to me about his family AND his love for you. He knew how much you loved him. You were the glue that kept him together. You were the soft voice he needed when trouble came your way. Many women want the love you two had all these years. It has been so very special to watch you two. Every time we came to your home for dinner, Sandy and I saw the love in your home. Mama, today you are sad, tomorrow and for awhile you will be sad, but one day there will be peace in your heart again. It’s going to be okay. This is the promise of God. Stand on that promise.
I want to say a word to the Kalonga children... Your father was a GREAT MAN OF GOD. You as his children are so blessed. SO many children have drunkards for fathers or fathers who are locked up in prison or some don’t even know who their father really is. You not only knew your father, but were loved deeply by a great man of God. Don’t ever forget that as you start your families. Use the example of your father and mother and you will do VERY-VERY WELL.
I want to say a word to the brothers and sisters and family at large... Do all you can to honor your beloved brother Jean Kalonga by helping his family. Make sure that they can live in peace. This family belongs to God. To honor them is to honor God Himself. To honor them is to show God that you too have been touched by what you saw in your brother’s life. You saw Jesus!
I want to say a word to the Church... You have been so blessed to have Rev. Kalonga as one of your leaders. He has shown you so well that if you exercise your MUSCLE of FAITH that God will hear your prayers and move mountains for the church. Jean became a great man of faith. He believed in miracles! He knew God was at work right here in Zambia. He himself was a miracle touched by God. If you talked with him he would tell you of his healings and how God loved him. Jean loved helping others, even if it was just to give some lame person a PET bike, or going into the tuck-shop at the HSE or Kids Bible Camp and giving a hand full of candy to the little kids running around. He showed us how to love-one-another.
I want to say a word of caution... Some might think that someone put a JUJU on Jean. Please be careful thinking something like that. There is nothing the devil and his little workers could do to hurt Jean. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12 “Our fight is NOT against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Jean belonged to GOD not this world. Death has no sting over him. Today he is dancing with Jesus and His angels. His passing is just life as we know it here on earth. Death comes.... BE READY. Jean was ready...PRAISE GOD!!!! Are you ready?? Do you have the assurance that if death comes knocking at your door TODAY you will be with Jesus as well...like Jean? As a church or person, are you living with fear or uncertainty? Troubled by the thoughts of death? The last thing Jean said to me when we talked about the surgery..he said, “I’m not worried”. How wonderful is that? When I talked with Mama Kalonga today, she was telling me how she was holding his hand. He had a little discomfort in his arm. He looked at her with a smile on his face and just took a deep breath and went home to Jesus. Please listen to me.... this was not a man of FEAR, but a man of great FAITH. Believing and taking God at his promise....”That whosoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”. “That God sent His only beloved son into this world and that whosoever believes in Him will NOT perish, but have everlasting life”... NEW LIFE IN JESUS, OH YES – OH YES – OH YES.
Today we are sad, BUT the joy is in knowing Jean is with Jesus. To be honest, I celebrate Jean’s life. I have known a wonderful, great man of God who taught me many things about being patient and waiting on the Lord and how to exercise my faith.
Today..right now, would be a wonderful time to tell Jesus you need to be forgiven. Forgiven of those things that keep you from your assurance of being with Him if you perished today. Pray right now, God forgive me, I need a savior- a New Life in Jesus. He will hear you and change your life TODAY...
Charles, One last thing... Pastor Kilembo called me and we talked a bit about the burial. If the family and City Council have no problem with this, it would be wonderful for his body to be buried at the New Life Center. After thinking about it, someplace along the back wall fence behind the Hawk Building. Jean loved to eat those mangos from that one tree. He loved the New Life Center. It should be his resting home. Then it would really be Holy Ground as our pastor friend said.
I love you,