In his 2008 dissertation, theologian and historian Dr. Andriano Chalwe wrote the following about Bishop Sky Zibani Banda: “Banda will be remembered for his generosity.” He was right. Out of the many tributes pouring in about the late Bishop Banda, one theme is very dominant: he was kind and generous servant of the Zambian church.
Bishop Banda passed away on December 20, 2015. He is survived by his four children, Zibani, Yamikeni, Nzelu, and Gift. Accounts of where he was born vary. Dr. Chalwe states that Bishop Banda was born in Mufulira while the official Maranatha website states that he was born in Kitwe. Both accounts agree that he was born on July 29, 1956. He was born in a family of nine children. He then completed primary school education at Tangata and Mutamba in Mufulira. Bishop Banda went to Mufulira Secondary School where he completed his secondary school education. As was the practice of many brilliant men and women in his youth, Sky Banda enrolled in a vocational training program at a technical institute operated by the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). This was the same vocational program attended by the likes of George Mbulo, Nevers Mumba and Green Phiri – some of the early Pentecostal figures in Zambia.
An avid lover of rock music in his youth, Sky Banda got converted to the Pentecostal faith in 1977. His ministry and leadership maturity came in earnest. He emerged as one of the most important converts to Pentecostalism. In Mufulira, he became a member of Eastlea Pentecostal Church. Dr. Chalwe states that Bishop Banda was one of the first graduates of Trans-Africa Theological College after it was reopened in 1978. Never to lose out on an opportunity to further his studies, Sky Zibani Banda then went to the West Indies for more theological and ministerial training. According to Vice-President Nevers Mumba, Bishop Sky Banda got recalled from the West Indies to become the lead pastor of Maranatha PAOG Church in 1981. At that time, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God Zambia (PAOG) had created an ambitious program to indigenize its leadership. Canadian missionaries from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC) had accepted to begin transferring leadership to the locals.
Vice-President Nevers Mumba who is about four years Bishop Banda’s junior, remembers Banda as a great mentor to many. Banda was Mumba’s pastor before he launched himself into ministry as a young evangelist in 1982. Dr. Mumba acknowledges the mentorship he obtained from Bishop Banda in those formative years.
Sky Banda served as pastor at Maranatha from 1981 until his death this week. This longevity of service at Maranatha shows great dedication of a man who gave himself to the service of the church. Dr. Chalwe asserts that Bishop Banda had many “young ministers look to him as a symbol of stability.” Interestingly, despite many offers for him to immigrate abroad, Bishop Banda stayed home and labored faithfully in Kitwe, growing his church to thousands.
Bishop Sky Banda is reputed to have built Maranatha into a spiritual powerhouse for thousands. He also served as the leader of the PAOG Zambia for many years. Tributes have been pouring in for Zambia’s pastor. “I still feel numb”, a shocked Pastor Conrad Mbewe commented about the death of his friend. Sambo Mbale, an information technologist who had been working on some projects with Bishop Banda before his passing commented, “till we meet again”.
Bishop George Mbulo quoted Psalm 116:15-17, and said the following about the passing of his colleague:
“This is a great loss to the body of Christ as Bishop Sky Banda was one of a kind. Fervent in the Lord, on fire for Jesus and ready to proclaim the word of the Lord to the ends of the earth.”
The Rev. Dr. Japhet Ndhlovu who serves as a missionary in the United Church of Canada, explained his loss as follows:
“My body is here in Canada and my spirit fully with my fellow Zambians on this day as we celebrate the life of Bishop Sky Banda. MHSRP. Therefore, the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads They shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow and mourning shall flee away”.
Dr. Ndhlovu’s message sums up the feeling of many Zambians in the diaspora during this very difficult time. Musonda Mwale had this to say about this loss, “special thanks to Bishop Sky Banda who blessed our marriage.” This is a simple and yet powerful tribute emphasizing the simple elements of Bishop Banda’s pastoral heart and service. He was an extraordinary generous man who served the ordinary of our people. May our Lord Jesus receive his servant Sky Zibani Banda into his heavenly kingdom. Maranatha!