Panama City Church members rejoiced when Eddy Nunez, local pastor, baptized Keith Sibanda, Lola Blake, and Aida Aiken on May 22, 2021. Aiken and Blake are both originally from Jamaica, but for Sibanda, it had been an exceptionally long journey.
Sibanda was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 40 years ago. When he was about five years old, he started having problems seeing. His family was told that Sibanda had a condition called retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a rare condition that eventually causes blindness.
As Sibanda’s condition worsened and he began to realize what was happening, he was devastated. “I felt buried alive, like I had been crushed and disposed of,” he explains. “I was afraid, because I knew the condition led to blindness, and yet I still had so much I wanted to give and to achieve.”
Sibanda questioned, “Why? Why me?” He thought maybe it was witchcraft or his diet or lifestyle. But, he says, “I gradually accepted my condition, though it took a toll on me.” He concludes, “God allows things to happen, just like He allowed Job to be tested. Only God is my hope for healing.” Sibanda’s family attends a church whose beliefs are like the Baptist church. He says,” One day two book salesmen came to our house, and while they showed my father their books, they talked about Saturday being the Sabbath.” He continues, “After that, I always felt that the seventh day was the true Sabbath.” Later he remembers that a maid who worked at their house was a Seventh-day Adventist. “She would talk to me about her church,” he says. Later he was able to attend an Adventist church. During an altar call at that church, Sibanda went forward, but the church elder told him he was not ready to be baptized. Sibanda began to question whether he should be baptized.
Sibanda decided to come to the United States because of the economy in his home country. “It came to a point where there were no employment opportunities. There was nothing for me to do even though I was a skilled worker.”
When he came to America, he still wanted to attend an Adventist church, but he had no transportation. He was working at a Walmart store in Panama City when he met Aikens, their team supervisor. One day at work, Sibanda heard Aikens mentioning something about going to the Adventist church. Aikens was glad to take Sibanda and his friend, Blake, to church. When an altar call was made, they all three came forward.
Gulf States | October 2021