“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:2-3)
Last Saturday, some of the village pastors gathered with me to select those who would attend our new ACTION Malawi School of the Bible. One of the pastors in the meeting asked me what we were to do about Abusa Jafu Chinyama, the pastor of a church in the village of Kandeau. I asked, “What is the problem?” He responded, “He applied for entrance in the school.” Then, it came to me who Abusa Jafa was. Jafa is so crippled that to get around he has to walk on his hands. Although it is a twenty-five kilometer trip from Kandeau, and we will have to make special arrangements to get him here, I was able to say, to the joy of my soul, and everybody else in the meeting, “Arrange to have him picked up.” That is why we are here!
That pretty much sums up our calling. We have been sent here to bring the words of God to the hearts of these people. And, when they can’t get to us in their own strength, we go get them in the strength God gives us. Like Paul, we have been placed in Malawi to help these hungry souls to discover and enjoy the infinite treasures that are found only in Jesus Christ. And, this can only happen as they “have the full riches of complete understanding.” They need the preaching of the Word, delivered “with great patience and careful instruction.” (1 Timothy 4:2) That is why we are here!
My fellow village abusas (pastors) can’t wait to be taught. That is why one of them, Alfred Katchika (who at one time was a bodyguard for a former president), got up at 4:00 Saturday morning and rode his bicycle twenty-five kilometers (!), just so he could be a part of our selection process. Six pastors assembled to tackle a nearly impossible task of selecting 100 students from over 400 applicants. But, he knew how important the school would be to help him and others gain a full understanding of Christ Jesus. And, he wanted to make sure that he was going to be on that list.
It is not just the abambos (the men) that know the blessings of understanding God’s Word. The akazi (the woman) want in too. We were able to select 22 hungry women to be a part of our first class. Barbara was telling me about a seminar she conducted last Saturday in the distant village of Mafunda. (The home of her namesake, Barbara Jean) Over thirty ladies attended our first women’s seminar in that village. Barb taught on 1 Corinthians 13, and used a visual to help them understand. She wrote down all of the terms that describe biblical love on butcher paper, with their English and Chichewa spellings. When she finished, prayed and ended the program, she noticed nobody left. Some even moved closer to the front. These ladies were so hungry for understanding that they were copying down every word Barb had written. One lady volunteered, “I have read this before but it makes a difference to have it explained.” That is why we are here!
When only ten percent of the pastors have Bibles, we should not be surprised that the pastors and people are hungry for teaching that goes beyond the hearing of the Gospel message every Sunday. The lack of a deeper understanding is evidenced whenever we go into village churches. Earlier we wrote of the mass exodus we observed in one of those churches when communion was offered. They knew the very real dangers of taking communion when they had unconfessed or unforsaken sin in their lives. (1 Cor. 11:27-32) But, they did not understand that they were not helping themselves by avoidance. Sowing to the flesh still brings about a harvest of destruction. (Galatians 6:8) They did not understand that Christ gave us communion not as a threat but as a very great blessing. They were cutting themselves off from the sweet, cleansing and redeeming presence of Christ. Pastors must understand this first so they can teach their congregations this awesome truth. That is why we are here!
A few weeks ago, our Board chairman asked me to drive him to a friend’s house after one of our meetings. I have learned that the Malawians have little appreciation for the welfare of our vehicles. But, he told me that the trip would not be far and assured me that the Noah could make it with little trouble. We ended up on a dirt road, then rock road, then boulder road, then, no road! We bottomed out at least twice.
We made it, and had a long time of fellowship, most of which I didn’t understand because the speaking was in Chichewa. I was a little hungry and wanted to get home and eat, but being the patient person I am (ha), I just sat there trying to look interested and gracious. Finally, our time to leave came and the family did something that is a part of the warm traditions of this country. They brought out gifts: a bag of beans, some onions, pumpkins and a bag that I later found out was a frozen leg of goat. (A very pricey gift)
On the way back, under my breath, I thanked God that the axle didn’t break. Chatepa apologized for the length of our stay. He said, “You are becoming Malawian. Our traditions are not determined by calendar of schedule.” I groused something like, “Tell that to my wife,” who had dinner waiting.
When I got home it wasn’t long before another one of our pastors, Kololo, (Barbara Jean’s father) showed up at the door. I welcomed him into the living room. After some lively banter, he revealed to me that his family had not eaten food for two days. Wow! We had just been given beans, onions, pumpkins and a leg of goat. The trip, the car beating, the time in the house was not a nuisance or a drag on the day. It was a trip ordered by God to display his intimate care of one of his servants. I drove Kololo home and for forty minutes I had to listen to a sermon I preached at his church the week before. “And we know that in all things God works for good to those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) He heard and understood. That is why we are here!
Finally, during a prayer seminar in the Boma, (our village) I felt the need to go into detail concerning what it means to be a believer. I reminded the leaders that Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of the Father who is in heaven.” After the teaching, I encouraged all to judge themselves and to make sure that their faith was in Christ. We then prayed a prayer of dedication to the Lord.
After the seminar, one of the men went to the hospital to visit his sick brother. On the way out he was hit and killed by one of the ambulances that went out of control in the parking lot, pinning him to a wall. According to the witnesses who stood at his side, his last words were, “I praise Jesus. Today I recommitted my life to him.” That is why we are here!