The work of Dr Pontien Batibuka in Africa
Dr Pontien Batibuka is an editor and writer for Langham Literature, alongside the busy life of ministry he leads in his home in a central African country.
Becoming a contributor to Langham Literature
Pontien first got involved with Langham in 2019, when he was approached by the publishing arm of Langham Literature to peer review the work of someone from his very province.
As a librarian, Pontien knew that Langham Literature existed as a publishing organisation. He had used them many times to order books for his college library. However until he was contacted by Vivian from Langham, he wasn’t aware they were interested in publishing PhD dissertations from Majority World scholars.
Pontien shares, “Vivian’s solicitation to me for peer-reviewing a dissertation of one of my country-men for its publication came as an eye-opener for me. This motivated me to ask if Langham was willing to publish my dissertation as well. Fortunately, I was quickly asked to submit it and the process began.”
Teaching, pastoring and caring for the broken-hearted
Pontien is involved in a variety of work across teaching, mission and the church.
He says, “I am privileged to bear many hats. First, as a New Testament scholar, I am working with one of the Universities in my country, teaching mainly New Testament subjects, but also teaching other courses like Research Methods.”
Pontien is also teaching a course on the Christian Home; he says counselling married partners and holding seminars on this topic is a passion area of his.
Besides teaching, Pontien is also senior pastor of a local Baptist Church. Thirdly, he coordinates a non-profit organisation called ‘Capacity Building Program for Persons Made Vulnerable by War’ (PROREV is its abbreviation in French). This organisation was co-founded by Pontien and other friends.
Pontien shares, “PROREV exists to help people made vulnerable by war such as women who became widows because of war. In our country, widows tend to be people who are exposed to abuse (sexually, socially, etc.) due to their lack of something to live on.”
They also work with other marginalised groups, like orphans whose parents have been killed in conflict or died through poverty. Pontien reflects, “They are broken-hearted and bitter, living in a very harsh situation. Because of the hard life they are enduring, if not cared for today, they are a potential danger for tomorrow.”
PROREV also works with young adults who are enrolled into militia groups. These tribal fighters are counted as the most vulnerable of the community as they have lost any human feeling. They are people who have taken the habit of shedding blood. Pontien says, “Tribal and ethnic animosity run deep here, fuelled by poverty and lack of good economic development from the leadership. PROREV and myself are now involved in actions that will help, we hope, to heal societal divides and hostilities.”
All their work is done in association with communicating faith in Jesus. The aim of PROREV’s action is to reverse the roles of people impoverished by war. Pontien shares, “With God’s hand, we want to turn people from being life destroyers to becoming life builders. The ambition is big but we are convinced that it is not impossible.”
Transforming research into literature
Pontien is also known for his book ‘Baptism as an Event of Taking Responsibility’, which was commissioned and published by Langham Literature. He reflects, “The overall experience was both delightful and demanding. The work that has been published was in the first instance a PhD thesis.”
To study for his PhD, Pontien moved from Africa to Europe to do his research at the London School of Theology. He recalls initially struggling with how cold it was, even before Winter started.
While there, Pontien worked under the supervision of Dr Steve Motyer, who encouraged him in his research. Pontien shares, “But other New Testament scholars who read my proposal, and who sat in the initial panel for assessing our research project, had a different view. In their understanding, rites of initiation were something remote to Paul and to his Ancient Near-Eastern society. For them, it seemed an African cultural concept that I was trying to bring into Paul’s thinking in the Ancient Near Eastern culture. So began the long work of demonstrating academically and in a scholarly way whether Paul’s society, as a primitive one, was characterised by rites of initiation, and showing how this initiatory mind may have had a strong bearing on his teaching on baptism in Romans 6.” He spent four and a half years researching and writing his thesis, while his family- his wife and children- were back in Africa. This was a challenge, but God graciously sustained Pontien and his family through this season.
When Pontien encountered Langham Literature as a scholar and reviewer, this hard-earned thesis became the basis for a book. In 2019 he was invited to submit it and the process for publishing began. In 2022 ‘Baptism as an Event of Taking Responsibility’ was published. “
Pontien wants both New Testament scholars and church pastors who are baptising believers to read his book. He says, “I hope that the interpreters of the New Testament, and especially those who interpret Paul’s writings will like reading my book. As the book is an analysis of a piece of the book of Romans, Pauline Scholars who focus on Romans should really enjoy reading my book.”
For pastors he says, “The book is very much intended to give them new and helpful insights. It shows what those wanting to be baptised should know about each step of the process of baptism…Pastors and theological teachers, in any social setting, will find that this book is an important guide on baptism. But those ministering in societies that have remained more primitive, eg. African societies will indeed find the book speaking more to them.”
As some countries of Africa and the Majority world speak and use French, Pontien is eager to produce a French version of the book too, so they can easily have access to its content.
The future paths God lays out
Pontien says, “I can see that the door is opening wide for me for conducting seminars on this issue of the believer’s transition from the old life of sin to the new life in Christ.”
In February 2023, he was appointed as head pastor at the small Baptist church he worships in. Pontien shares, “I hesitated to take the offer because it seemed too much responsibility while I am still teaching. However, after a time of prayer, I was convinced that this was God’s will. I am now 65. Soon I am going to retire.
The question running through my mind is: why does God deem it important now to give me the work of pastoring the congregation? The answer that comes to my mind is that He wants me to put my book into practice. Not only to do this for the edification of the members of my own church but also for those belonging to other churches.”
Some people in Pontien’s country are killing innocent people. Even those known as church members are perpetrating atrocities like unbelievers. This is why Pontien is hopeful and prayerful that his teaching on his book, about the transition from old to new life in Christ is so important.
He also hopes to see God transforming his people, making them genuine disciples of Jesus. Pontien says, “My deep desire and prayer is to see God’s hand establishing tangibly his kingship [in my country]. Rather than being happy with numbers of churchgoers, we need true Christians who are transformed by the Gospel of Jesus, true disciples of the Lord.”
Please pray for Pontien and his work.
To learn about and purchase his book visit the Langham Literature website.
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