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President of Zambia accepts Christ, is baptized at local Baptist church

 

LUSAKA, Zambia (BP) - The president of Zambia, in acknowledging his faith in Jesus Christ, recently was baptized in a public service, Southern Baptist missionaries report.

A crowd clapped and cheered as President Levy Mwanawasa (mwah-nah-WAH-sah) rose from the water in an outdoor baptistry behind a Baptist seminary chapel in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. The event drew hundreds of people, including public officials, leaders and pastors from the area and neighboring countries.

Mwanawasa, a successful lawyer and former vice president, took office in 2002. Respected for his reputation for honesty, he was known as "Mr. Integrity" even by his political opponents before his election. Now in his mid-50s, he survived a near-fatal car accident in 1992 but insists he is in excellent health.

Mwanawasa remembers attending a Baptist school as a boy, but his relationship with Christ began to transform when he started attending Twin Palm Baptist Church in Lusaka in 2003. The small church meets at the Baptist Theological Seminary of Zambia in Lusaka.

Church members Franklin Kilpatrick, missionary in Zambia for 35 years who helped disciple Mwanawasa, and his wife, Paula, were originally concerned about drawing too much attention to the event. Local missionaries tried to remain low-key about Mwanawasa's decision. But the news quickly spread all over Zambia - and to other parts of the world.

The president is just one of many spiritual success stories in Zambia. Last year, 116 Baptist churches were started, bringing the total number of churches to 985 - plus 124 mission congregations.