The big interview
Stephen Lungu is International Group Leader and CEO of African Enterprise. A former street child, he doesn’t proclaim ‘God has taken me from nothing to where I am’ lightly! Sheila Marshall caught up with Stephen after a recent tour of UK churches and asked him some questions.
SM Stephen, what exactly is African Enterprise?
SL African Enterprise (AE) is an indigenous Christian mission ministry committed to evangelising the cities of Africa through word and deed. It works in partnership with the church. AE’s holistic approach to missions involves four key areas of ministry— evangelism, aid and development, peace-building and leadership development.
SM How has God changed you personally?
SL God had to do an inner healing in my life to deal with bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, tribalism and racism. People struggle with things of the past and unless people come to the foot of the cross this will still be a problem.
SM What helps you most as a Christian?
SL My prayer life has been vital to me, as is reading the Bible daily and studying the Word of God. I pray that God will give me a teachable spirit and if people see wrong things in my life, they will point them out quickly, and I will be humble to repent of each failure.
I want to be an open book, so that God will use me. I also pray that God will guard me from the things that take many people away from the Lord; like materialism, complacency and infidelity.
I read devotional books, books to do with holiness, and biographies that show how God has taken a person from point A to point B.
SM Can ordinary Christians help AE?
SL AE has 10 offices in Africa. We try to raise funds from Christians in Africa and around the world. We are a holistic ministry in that we attend to people’s physical and spiritual needs.
Because there is so much poverty in Africa, we cannot just say ‘God bless you’ to a prostitute or a street kid who comes to Jesus. We teach skills and there are hundreds of options like carpentry, typing, sewing and motor mechanics.
AE survives from the ‘widow’s mite’, who gave the little that she had to Jesus. It is the simple people, not the billionaires, who help us survive. We thank God for the individuals that help.
SM Do you keep accountability with donors to AE?
SL We honour the desire of the donor in targeting gifts, for example, into evangelism and never divert the funds to a different cause. Transparency and accountability are important, so we audit the books and provide donors with accounts if they want them. If a donor is supporting a project like digging water wells, we send them project reports.
SM How is the present recession affecting AE?
SL Due to the recession, more churches and individuals are giving to social concerns than to evangelism. Raising funds to preach the gospel is difficult, as today more people want to help the body than the soul.
The ministry of reconciliation is part of evangelism, because there is a lot of strife, tribal differences, racism, and so on, in Africa. AE has a department for peace building and reconciliation where we try to reconcile fighting groups.
SM Tell me more about this.
SL The department is based in Tanzania and led by Emanuel Kopwe and his team. For 15 years we have worked amongst government and rebel soldiers in Burundi to bring them together. Two years ago we managed to do so. Now, we are increasingly reaching out to the rebels in the Congo. Many problems are tribal and there are foreign interests that exploit this.
SM How do you encourage them to forgive?
SL We try to find the root cause of the problems and then explore with them what forgiveness is and what it does. Many soldiers, and even people in church, assume that the one who is forgiven gains the most, but we say the one who forgives gains more.
Once you forgive you have released that person and no longer carry that burden. It is a long process, but we have seen former enemies hug and eat several meals together.
You should hear their laughter and jokes. They say, ‘Why did we waste all our blood and energy fighting against each other; after all, we are the same’. It’s like their eyes are opened.
SM What is AE’s attitude to politics?
SL Although AE does not get involved in politics, we are like a watchdog. When anything goes wrong, we are there to speak out and challenge. For example, in South Africa Michael Cassidy challenged De Klerk’s Apartheid government and the African government. He has been writing letters to Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma.
We organise national presidential prayer breakfasts, where we can challenge political leaders. Often we are not in their good books, but we want to be the voice of the voiceless.
SM Do you find it difficult to balance your work with other commitments?
SL The feeling of struggle to move on is the body signalling tiredness. I finished ministering in the UK two weeks ago and spent this week in quiet, praying on my own, meeting family and doing something different. When I go back home, I will be fresh and have the same passion and zeal.
SM How do you and your wife support each other?
SL My wife and I have agreed that, like co-pilots, we will check if the other is competent to ‘fly’. Saturday is evaluation day. We spend Friday night in prayer and on Saturday evaluate our life. We see where we are going wrong and what we are doing right. That has kept us in tune with the Spirit of God.
We have done this for 41 years. We agreed we wanted to become companions and real friends. You can speak openly to a friend without getting hurt. That is why we are always together and this has helped me to grow and spend more time in the Bible.
SM Can you name one particular challenge facing Christian leaders?
SL People respond differently to change and you have to take time with those who move at a slower place. Do not leave them behind, and treat them gently, helping them to understand what you mean.
SM How do you cope with this challenge yourself?
SL My wife has one motto, which has helped me over the years — ‘no attack and no offence’. When you ‘explain yourself’, you cause more fire; but when you humble yourself, you don’t lose.
SM Are all Christians called to serve God?
SL Everyone born again is in full time Christian mission. God has called us all to penetrate our place of work by witnessing about Jesus. So every day we all have to report for duty!
SM Can you give ET readers a Bible verse that sums up your journey with God so far?
SL It is Psalm 113:7-8. This says that the Lord has taken us from the dust and made us sit with princes.
SM How do you think Africa will get on in the 2012 Olympics?
SL Africa’s chances of success are high. The Kenyans and Ethiopians are doing well in long distance running. We have a strong team in South Africa for rugby and swimming and we are coming up in golf; it is soccer where we are struggling!