LUSAKA, Zambia (BP) - Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary President Paige Patterson and wife Dorothy encouraged the new-found faith of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa and discussed the future of Christianity in his country during a meeting with the leader July 25.
Mwanawasa made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ in the early spring of 2005. A former lawyer and vice president, he has served as president since 2002.
Patterson described the meeting as an unparalleled blessing. “Of all the heads of state that I have had the privilege of meeting, none blessed me like this man,” Patterson said. “His obvious love and appreciation for his pastor was also a singular blessing to me.”
Michael Howard of the Baptist Mission of Zambia and Rodney Masona, Mwanawasa’s pastor at Twin Palm Baptist Church in the capital city of Lusaka, introduced the president to the Pattersons. Masona, who has plans to attend Southwestern Seminary, baptized Mwanawasa following his acceptance of Christ. Also in attendance during the meeting was Sam Upton, strategy associate for the International Mission Board.
“What impressed me most about the President was the fact that this man, in his new-found faith, is possessed of a profound commitment to establish justice and root out all corruption in the country of Zambia,” Patterson said. “He has a real heart for the children and wants to see everyone have the opportunity for schooling.”
Mwanawasa also discussed with the Pattersons the need to solve the problem of the AIDS epidemic that is ravaging his country.
“He is especially grateful for those programs stressing abstinence until marriage and is committed to doing everything that he can to teach the kind of morality that will result in the eradication of the disease even while he likewise attempts to work with the victims, particularly children who have been orphaned by AIDS,” Patterson said.
Southwestern Seminary, Zambian Baptists and the IMB have coordinated efforts to bring the gospel to unreached people groups in the northeastern sector of the country. A team of Southwestern students traveled there in June and witnessed to hundreds of people over the course of their 10-day stay. The Pattersons shared with Mwanawasa their vision and goals for this work, and listened to the Mwanawasa’s own hopes for the future of Zambia.
“The intuitions of this God-fearing man, trained as a lawyer and now the president of Zambia, were basically correct all along,” Dorothy Patterson said of Mwanawasa. “Now with his faith in Christ, clearly from the radiance of his face and the effervescence of his speech, he understands as never before why all of this is necessary.”
Patterson extended an invitation to Mwanawasa to speak at Southwestern Seminary and to meet with government officials, businessmen and educators in the United States. Mwanawasa indicated his desire to accept the invitation and plans are presently underway to make it a reality, Patterson said.
“Anyone traveling in Zambia would quickly see that it is a new day there,” Patterson said. “The present leadership is attempting to make Zambia an exemplary republic where principles of justice and total freedom of religion are paramount. All of us should pray that God will give the leaders wisdom and especially bless President Mwanawasa.”