Lupasa, Mbokigwe Mwankina
Mbokigwe Mwankina Lupasa was born in 1895 at Bwenda, Ileje district, Tanzania. His father’s name was Mwankina Lupasa. His mother, Kisale Nakalinga, was the sister of chief Mwanyekile. His father came from Zambia and settled at Bwenda. The name Mbokigwe in Ndali means “I have been saved (by God).”
After his father Mwankina Lupasa moved from Bwenda to Ikuti, Rungwe district in Tanzania, he was killed in a war between the chiefdom of Mwanajali and that of Mwaikambo. Consequently, his widow and the children moved back to Kafwafwa, Ileje district where she had been born.
During his childhood Mbokigwe was often ill. When he recovered he went to Rutengano to study and work. He became a teacher and taught there from 1931 to 1932. At Rutengano he married Nibwene Bukuku (born in 1925) who took care of missionary children. Together they had eight children. Their names are Ruth, Mary, Keneth, Ronald, Elizabeth, Erika, Elijah, and Grant. Of these two have survived-Erika, who lives at Mabatini, Mbeya City, and Grant who lives at Mpumbuli, Kyimbila, Rungwe district (2007).
Besides his own children, he and his wife took care of other peoples’ children–more than fifteen of them! Some of their names are Mwaikenda from Kyela, Obasi Katule, Kesaria, Ikuti, and Amon Nsekela from Lupepo, Rungwe district, and many others from Ileje and Kyela districts.
Lupasa was transferred from Rutengano to Kyimbila and then to Rungwe where he taught from 1939 to 1942. His wife continued to care for missionary children wherever they were transferred. After God called Lupasa into the ministry, he became an evangelist at the end of 1942 and worked in Chunya from 1942 to 1943. Then he was transferred to Rungwe. That same year he studied theology.
In 1945 he became a pastor and worked at Rungwe until 1947. The following year he was transferred to Bwenda and replaced Elijah Ngala. Lupasa moved the headquarters of the congregation from Bwenda to Ibungu. He was paid thirty Tanzanian shillings per month. Lupasa was one of the first African teachers and one of the first evangelists and pastors of the Moravian church in Southern Tanzania (Tanganyika).
At that time lay people did not support pastors financially. Consequently, in order to compensate for the gap between his pay and normal daily expenses, he cultivated various crops in order to sustain his family. He also owned cattle.
Lupasa liked his pastoral ministry so much that when he did outreach or visited his congregation in outlying villages, he could sometimes be away from home for more than ten days. He also liked to go from house to house doing evangelism. His ministry was so effective that the number of villages where he had done evangelism rose from two to over ten. The number of Christians also grew steadily. The names of some of these villages are Chitolo, Chobo, Kikwese, Ikuti, Kesaria, Ngogi, Lubangalala, Ipande, Jibanda, Songwe, Luswisi, Lutete, Ibingu, Chibila, Kasanga, Lubanda, Mutula, Chilemba, Bwenda, Mbembati, Igamba, Ndapwa, Mbisi, Makoga, Mega, Ngulilo, Chamba, and Kafwafwa. Some of these villages were recognized as “church villages,” which means three Sunday worship services were held there. The fourth or last Sunday, all villages went to Ibungu for the Sunday worship. Villages not recognized as “church villages” were under the care of the recognized villages. During these visits he strengthened the faith of the believers, offered comfort to those with problems or those grieving loved ones. He led worship services, celebrated Holy Communion and officiated at baptisms and marriages. He also sought to evangelize non-Christians, visiting them in their homes and sharing the Word of God with them.
He was a man of prayer, sometimes praying throughout the night. He had regular Bible studies with his family in the morning and in the evening which each took between twenty-five minutes and an hour.
He was a spiritual father to the people in his congregation. When he stood at the pulpit he preached long sermons in Ndali but people did not get tired because of his dynamic messages. He was liked by many Christians and non-Christians and he was called a man of God. Like many Moravian church pastors, Lupasa fulfilled all the necessary duties done by a pastor, like preaching, teaching, pastoral counseling, visiting Christians, officiating at Christian marriages, baptisms, Holy Communion, and confirmation, and chairing the church elders’ council. He also chaired the Ibungu primary school council because the school was owned by the Moravian Church in Southern Tanzania before being nationalized in 1969/70. He was also answerable to his church superiors.
Furthermore, Lupasa did not discriminate between adults and the youth. He was very generous towards people and it was easy for him to give away a banch of bananas to someone in need. His close friends among the pastors were Kangele, Kibona, Asegelile Mwankemwa, Mwaitebele, Lameck Syambwa, and Kaisi.
Lupasa retired in 1965 and continued to work as a pastor on a contractual basis up to 1968. Lupasa began to suffer from illnesses related to old age in 1970. He often had the following words of admonition for Grant, his youngest son, “Any discussion or conversation with people should be good” and “It is not good to drink alcohol. But I am not saying that you should not drink.” (as Grant was drinking his father spoke in two ways, so that he may stop drinking. Maybe he was being careful not to offend his son). He also said, “Don’t covet your neighbor’s wife”; “When you succeed don’t use it by yourself. Try to share with others,” and “Try your best to love God.”
Lupasa died in 1972 at Mbeya Hospital on the eve of Good Friday. He was buried at Ibungu, Rungwe District on Good Friday by Hitson Mwamlima.
Angolwisye I. Malambugi
Author’s Note: I was baptized on November 25, 1951 and confirmed on December 25, 1958 by Mbokigwe M. Lupasa who later gave me counsel and advice when needed. Lupasa also endorsed my letter to the provincial board requesting permission to begin theological studies.
Grant M.Lupasa, his son, 68 years old, interview by Joachmi Mwasebe at Mpumbuli, Kyimbila, Rungwe District, December 2005, while Mwaseba was a student at Teofilo Kisanji University.
Keta R. Lupasa, his granddaughter, 59 years old, interview by the author at Mabatini, Mbeya city on December 13, 2006.
Nyambilila Lupasa, his granddaughter, 27 years old, interview by the author at Mabatini, Mbeya city on December 5, 2006.
This article, received in 2007, was researched and written by Rev. Angolowisye Isakwisa Malambugi, former chairman of the Moravian Church in Tanzania, Southwest Province, lecturer at Teofilo Kisanji University (formerly Moravian Theological College) in Mbeya from July 1995 to December 2006, and part-time lecturer at Open University of Tanzania from 1999 to the present. He was also Project Luke fellow in Spring 2007.