One of the many endearing qualities of our dearly departed friend, Wilbroad Chanda, was his regular, conversational quotation of the Word of God. Whether in the pulpit, in prayer, or in casual conversation, our brother Will thought and spoke in the language of the Bible.
As a result, I think I will always hear certain Scriptures in his voice. That’s definitely true of the beautiful biblical encouragement (widely quoted by other Zambian Christians as well) “your labors in the Lord are not in vain.” I will likely never read that phrase again without hearing an echo of Wilbroad’s big, booming baritone in my mind.
How fitting, then, to hear that passage (1 Corinthians 15:50-58) read aloud at Wilbroad’s funeral. His own labors – which the Lord deemed complete on January 18, 2021 – were eternally valuable precisely because Christ was at the center of them. In the language of 1 Corinthians 15, if Christ has not been raised, Wilbroad Chanda was a man most to be pitied; he toiled in futility. But because Christ in fact has been raised, the labors this man devoted his life to will resonate for all eternity. His labors indeed were not in vain, and many of his labors were carried out in joyful partnership with Covenant Mercies.
When the HIV/AIDS epidemic devastated families in his home community and left countless orphans and street children in its wake, Will and his wife Zicky responded by founding Lighthouse Christian School in 2005, with an initial class of six kindergarten students and a vision to serve many more in the years to come.
In 2006, Covenant Mercies began sponsoring fatherless children in Ndola to attend Lighthouse. Through the years, we have partnered together to grow the school and develop its campus. Nearly 500 students have received the gift of quality Christian education through Lighthouse to date, including approximately 300 enrolled at present. If not for this intervention, most would have discontinued their education in elementary school. Instead, many are graduating from university today.
Despite his busy schedule as lead pastor of Christ Community Church and founder of the Copperbelt Pastors College, Wilbroad remained an integral part of the leadership of Lighthouse Christian School. He served effectively as Chairman of Lighthouse’s Board of Directors, and he took special joy in serving as an intermediary for Covenant Mercies in our partnership with Lighthouse to develop the school’s campus. Will’s gifts were well-suited to the task of interfacing with architects, building inspectors, and the like. As a result, his fingerprints are all over the design of the campus. And all of this, he did with joy. He was like a kid in a candy shop whenever heavy equipment was onsite, always happy to don his hardhat and serve.
Whenever we open a new building on Lighthouse’s campus, we traditionally mark the occasion by inviting Ndola’s mayor and other local VIPs to an Official Opening ceremony. At one of these events several years back, I observed all the formal protocols before continuing with an unscripted remark. Only half-jokingly, I pointed to the area where Lighthouse’s student body was seated and suggested that that the true VIPs were “sitting right over there.” Wilbroad loved this, and he never forgot it. From that point forward, “the VIPs” was his internal shorthand when referring to the children.
It is no surprise that Wilbroad would resonate so deeply with this nickname. Though he was comfortable in the company of mayors and other important people, he had the tender heart of Jesus toward our children. He knew that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:13-16), and he treated them like the VIPs they truly are.
The work of Wilbroad Chanda’s hands will surely endure. It will endure through the testimony of hundreds of those VIPs – perhaps thousands one day – whose lives were transformed for time and eternity through his tireless labors on their behalf. And it will endure through the reality of Christ’s resurrection. Though the seed sown in Wilbroad’s earthly life was perishable, the fruit it gave rise to is imperishable and glorious.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
1 Corinthians 15:58