I wish all of you could visit Malawi. It is called the “Warm Heart of Africa” and that it is. The people are so gracious and hospitable. We have been welcomed into their hearts and we feel like family. The other day the Chairman of Action Malawi Trust, our host, decided he had a “word from the Lord” for us. He decided that we should spend the rest of our lives in Ntcheu. Sarah could do the ladies ministry; Holly could do the children’s ministry; Barbara could handle the finances and I could teach the pastors. He said they could build a house for us so we could live here. Hmm.
I just completed my first round of seminars. We have been studying Ephesians 4-6. As you know, there is a lot of real “in-your-face,” practical commands on those pages. But, what the participants seem to enjoy the most, at least the akazi (the wives), are the passages on marriage. Although the ladies do take a hit, the men feel the brunt of Paul’s words.
Yesterday we taught at the village called Gomea. The place was packed. We taught on the husband’s call to love his wife as Christ loved the Church. We showed how he was to lower himself in order that he might help her to be a holy woman with a radiant smile on her face. We spoke of the joy that comes back to us when our wives feel loved and treasured. Like Jesus, we give ourselves a gift when we love our akazi like our own bodies. There were many “Amens” coming from the left side of the church- where the women sit. It continued to rise until I proclaimed, “Nothing is more important than loving your wife and making her beautiful by your tender care.” The left side broke out in revival with clapping, laughing, huge smiles, whistles and the traditional noise made when the tongue rotates back and forth (called nthungululu).
Question and answer times are always a treat. You never know what they are going to ask. One man stood and asked if I could help him with an issue that had developed between he and his wife. Apparently, a situation would arise when he would bring home material from the market so that his wife could make a chitenge for herself (The chitenge is the traditional skirt that a village lady wraps around her self.) The problem would pop up when his wife would inform him that the material he brought home was too cheap and that he should give it to his mother instead. He said, “Can you help me?” I laughed and said, “No.”
Of course, I was kidding. There are principles within Scripture that address all situations in all cultures. I pointed out that whenever we have a problem with others our first response is to judge ourselves. I told him that most wives want to know that their husband treasures her. So, looking for the best deal and the cheapest cloth may not be the best way to show it. On the other hand, the wife may need to be more sensitive to the resources of the husband. I said, when you are committed to glorifying Christ in your marriage; when you devote yourselves to caring for one another; when you make it clear to your wife that she is your number one; that you want to give her the best even when you cannot afford it; that kind of problem will seldom arise.
Then Barbara had her turn. I introduced her as “mkuzi wanga,” “my wife.” They loved it. Before I tell you what she said, let me trumpet my lady’s praises. Everybody loves my girl. Even now, (Friday afternoon when I penned this) she is somewhere in the bush, walking several km in the heat, to bring food and presents to a family of orphans who are being raised by their fifteen-year-old sister. Her smile, her obvious interest in all, really makes the women and the men feel special. She works hard to learn their language. She has also made it a point to welcome all that have visited our Malawian home. Three different pastors have told me privately how much they appreciate my wife’s hospitality. They said, “When we are in the home we feel welcomed.” One of the pastors from our Saturday morning program said it has encouraged him to welcome more of his own congregation into his home. What a gift!
In this seminar, Barbara counseled the men to demonstrate to their wives (amai) that they really care for them by showing them affection, even in public (not normally done in this culture). She said that would help to keep “loose women” from getting wrong ideas about the husbands. She added, that it would be very wise to speak well of their wives to all who would listen. The ladies loved it. More shouts and whistles from the left.
One lady stood and asked what the women could do when their mother-in-law complained that her son was giving his wife better gifts than he was giving to her. Barb went into an excellent teaching, using my Mom as an example. She said that she never had problems with my Mom because my mother was so happy that her son had found the lady God had designed for him. In this culture, the extended family has maintained a strong influence, even some control of the married parties. We tried to correct that tradition by pointing to the Scripture where the husband and the wife were enjoined to leave all other relationships to become one new body. Barbara said that my Mom believed that. She even confessed that my Mom was so accepting and loving toward her, that she felt like she was one of my mother’s daughters. And, she was!
The Malawians also have a great sense of humor. They are even adjusting to my teasing. At a meeting of the board the other day I was showing my age by sitting down with great care. I commented, “An OLD man.” Pastor Kololo, sitting next to me said, “Gogo!” Meaning? “Grand Pa.” He was laughing.
I am at the other end of most of the people here. For that matter, I am at the other end of most humans with the BIG 70 coming up in April. Half the people of Malawi are under 16. But, here grey hair is a sign of maturity and is honored. The other day as we drove home from our seminar at Nsiyaludzu, my translator, Pastor Kanowa, tried to give me a compliment. He said, “It is good to see an old man still speaking and teaching. Many old men stop doing that. You are a Man of God” Stop your laughing!
We still need your prayers. Pray for the feeding programs, that there would be enough food for the children and that we have enough supplies to feed the growing number of kids who are finding their way to the feeding stations. Although there have been attempts to control the number of kids fed, last week, in one of our villages, the numbers increased until the church was full of hungry kids and others were waiting outside, some crying, waiting for their turn to eat.
Then, we can always use more Bibles. Last week in our Saturday morning session, only about 20% of the pastors had their own Bibles! I would guess that in our seminars 10% of the attendees own their own Bible. How tragic is that? I asked the pastors how they study? They said they share. One told me that his Bible is the only one in the village. His members come to his house to borrow his for short periods of time. I promised them that we would get them each a Bible.
Would you like to help? If you would, send us a note, either by Facebook or my e-mail that you are sending resources to our account. (Give Me That Book, Box 1045, La Quinta, Ca., 92253; or send your gift directly by going through our paypal link on our website www.givemethatbook.com. We will see that every penny you give will go toward getting Bibles into the hands of these hungry leaders. If you can’t give, pray that others will. For us who have four or five Bibles lying around the house, this should be a “no-brainer.”
Testimony: I showed a picture of Pastor Kololo in one of our recent communications. I told of the great work this church planter is doing among the villages. Everyone seems to know him and respect him. One of our partners felt moved to send us a gift of support for Abusa Kololo. He travels by bike. Last week he told me his bike was broken and beyond repair. Because of the sensitivity of this one lady, Pastor Kololo now has a new red mountain bike.
Pray for us. We are so privileged to be here, but we get homesick for our family and friends and my big retirement bed. We will not be home in time to say good-bye to Chad as he heads back to Afghanistan for another seven-month deployment. That is hard on both of us. But, by God’s grace and your prayers we will do well. Let me say again what I have said over and over: We so appreciate your prayers and support. We sense your love everyday. May God continue to bless you, as you are faithful to the ministry God has called you.
May God bless you real good!
Gary and Barbara