Wednesday, April 30, 2008

30th April 2008, Kamphata

We returned to Kamphata. The children ran after the car shouting “mzungu, mzungu.” I always ask them (in chichewa) where the ‘mzungu’ is. That always shocks them. Out here anything different is exciting – a lighter skin tone and a car constitutes a ‘white person’. Their shock at my Chichewa is always funny and they laugh. I take a few pictures of them. The digital camera is a blessing in the village as children get to see what they look like. I often wonder about that. It is not like they have full length mirrors at home.

It has been a tough and busy week but we were excited to get back to ministering. I was not sure what I was sharing on even though I had typed notes on the topic of faith. When we got there I just felt like it was not the right thing to do. I have no difficulty expressing that… I don’t know what to do. Sometimes we try to appear so competent but the truth will always set us free - and it did me. We worshipped until the Lord gave direction. Our subject ended up being on salvation. I love to teach on it and the group was excited to learn to understand and better articulate the work of salvation. In the village in most cases, salvation is worked for and so questions like, “if you sinned and died a few seconds later without repenting, would you go to heaven?” are met with an emphatic, “No!”. We talked about being dead in our trespasses and sins and the gravity of knowing that without Christ Jesus means without life! It is the most exciting, rewarding thing, to look into the eyes of people and see their response to GRACE!

There was a group of ladies present who had come for their own meeting and it had failed. They joined us and were blessed. They spoke about the design of God who works all things according to His purpose.
There is no drug that can match the ministering of the word. None. I don’t mean that with disrespect to ministering, I just mean, it is like fire through the bones and the thought that the WORD carries with it changing power, is astounding. We can speak words that can transform lives! We need only get HIS word into our mouths. That is a humbling thought and a little scary because it challenges us to think about how best we are using the tools God has so lavishly blessed us with. If our mouths have the capacity to transform lives, what percentage of it is used to do just that? Just a thought.

Kamphata has become like home. We never really know the capacity we have in our hearts to hold people until they come along. There are so many people in my heart since I began to minister in the villages. It appears that every time I feel like I have reached the peak of my capacity, God makes room.

We met a man last week whose ministry is with orphans and assisting them. His focus is orphaned children being placed with families and so has asked for names of pastors taking care of orphans. In Malawi, that is about 90% of the pastors we know. He takes care of the family, putting ALL the children through school up until university level all the while paying for school fees, uniforms, medical, clothing and food. This is not only for the orphaned children in the home but ALL the children. When I heard the news, I began to weep like I haven’t in a very long time. The words I am writing cannot express the emotion in my heart right now. I thought of Milanzi and his eleven children (three of which are orphans nieces and nephews). I thought about how he would feel when he realised that he will never AGAIN have to worry about schooling, feeding and clothing his children. For him, ‘the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want’ is manifesting right before his eyes. I cried and yet, they were not tears of joy. It was weeping a burden out. It was realising that God cares! God is AWESOME! He cares more than we can comprehend. He cares for every person I meet in the village. He knows them by name. I am in shock at the realisation of what this will mean for the hundreds of pastors we come across. Doing it for one family is amazing. Doing it for a hundred is unfathomable.

I am in awe of WHO HE IS. Having said that, I am no closer to understanding our Father. With every trip into the village I am brought closer to the heart of God. These are the ‘least of these’. These are the ones forgotten by man and yet each of their names is inscribed in the palm of His hand. There are people here who will live their entire lives in the village, perhaps never get any wealthier (financially) but God has them in the palm of His hand. That is why it imperative to get the bible into their hands. In the face of suffering, poverty, sickness and diseas
e there must be a stand of the hope in Christ. They need the word. They NEED the WORD!!! It is the only hope. It had the power to transform the mind of a young girl and let her know that SHE MATTERS! The word has riches that can propel someone out of despair into hope. A book with words and yet… within the pages and paragraphs is the life force of God. The bottom line… THEY NEED BIBLES!

Alas, I have been preachier that informative but my heart… there is a song. “I left my heart in San Francisco. I think I leave my heart in the Mngwangwa, Mgona, Kamphata… and every time I go back I am reconnected with it and remember the reason why God put me on this planet.
Sunday we are in Mngwangwa.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

16th April, Mgona

We returned to Mgona today. I … communed with God in this mud brick building with dusty floors. Little children had their heads peeping through the window area and some crowded the doors. In this place where there is nothing visibly beautiful – I communed with God. We talked about the word of God and its wealth in our lives. When I discovered that this was the topic to minister, it was something I tried to get out of. How do you talk about the word to people who hardly have access to bibles? How do we tell them the NEED for the word and the fact that His people perish because of a lack of knowledge? And yet it was the word God gave us and how do we talk about anything other than what God asks us to talk about?

They are growing on us… these people in Mgona. It has only been through this ministry that I have come to have a slight glimpse into family. God can deposit His love for people in us but sometimes it’s so heavy we can barely make it when it comes to parting. Mrs Samuyeli, as always, was present. I have never ministered in Mgona without 10 or so women always being there. I hardly know their names and I wish I did because I love them but I am always meeting people and names are hard to keep. Except it doesn’t really feel right no knowing their names.

For the first time, the men equalled the women and I met yet another two female pastors! Interestingly enough, that’s one more than I have met in the city. God must have a plan that I cannot understand. How do I find myself teaching these awesome people? What do I have to offer? These are people that love God in the midst of such trauma and death and poverty and all kinds of circumstances that poverty brings and yet….

We hand out four bibles but they don’t even scratch the surface. There are about 50 people in the room and one fifth have bibles (ones we have given out previously). That leaves 36 people without the bible. 36 people who go home and I don’t know what they do. 36 people who I carry in my heart heavy and deeply sad. Sometimes even tears don’t help. Sometimes I want to say, ‘let someone else go and deal with the faces of disappointment when you can only hand out so much few bibles.

The word is our only offensive weapon. Otherwise all we do is defend ourselves. The sword of the spirit which is the word of God. This is one of those days when the burden is a little too heavy. That must mean I am carrying something I should have handed over to Jesus. Ah well.

12th - 13th April, Mngwangwa & Chilombo

Mngwangwa. Yes, the place I call home.
Saturday and Sunday we ministered to the leadership group in Mngwangwa. Our subject was the church as a building and all we can understand from that. We spoke about our solid front and mostly about Christ being the foundation. We talked about having people there who share our vision and to whom we are accountable as well as encouraged and protected by. We had so much fun because this group is free to express itself. We had a debate of sorts. Every time I come here I feel lighter. These people, my family, they have a way of lightening the load. Looking at their dedication and deep hunger for God makes all the other stuff seem less important. I guess I will never know if I would cycle for an hour and a half after ministering the Sunday service to hear more about God. I would like to say I would but the truth is I will never know. But it is here that Luseni Nkhoma and others like him cycle from another village just to hear the word. These are my champions. We spend the morning interchanging between worship and teaching. It is wonderful! There was a lady there that received a bible along with four others. Her name is Adonia Malota, a widow for the last ten years. She is 76 years old and takes care of four other widows around her age. She is always there with this incredible bright smile. Her pastor told me she has been saved for fifteen years and this was her first bible. Imagine owning your first and probably ONLY bible at the age of 76? To God be the glory.
Milanzi’s baby of 3 years old was admitted into hospital and I found him at the teaching. We dropped him at the hospital right after together with Mr Nkhoma whose father was having an operation done there. These brothers of mine are a true inspiration. These are real lives, no movie, no script.
21 people made the decision to follow Jesus on Sunday morning and after that things actually blur because it’s then we realise the reason for all this. When the entrance of God’s word brings light, that is the purpose of ministry. We were in Chilombo village at Calvary Chapel with Sidwell Mwale. The church has grown since we were here last. This Sunday morning there were 65 people present. Sidwell is so proud. This is one man who loves the word of God and whenever he speaks it is always in line with the word. He challenges me, greatly. He has nothing but the Word. Here I am in the city with my mini library of books. He challenges me to remember that the Word of God is the primary thing.
Everywhere I go in the villages, Sunday morning has testimony time. I wish we never threw that baby out with the bathwater because it is so encouraging. A lady testified about her brother coming to visit and bringing her a skirt and blouse. The saints clapped and praised God. I was overwhelmed. A second lady rose and praised God. She was a pumpkin seller. On her rounds she met a customer who told how she was blessed by her always. The customer then gave her two blouses, two skirts, one jean and a ‘chitenje’. She was wearing three of the clothes. She was so excited and I was reminded of a time I understood that everything I have comes from God; a time when I was not so proud and self sufficient.
I can only be thankful for the blessing of God in allowing me the opportunity to see all that I have.
On my bookshelf there is a bowl with soil in it. It is from the land I have my heart set on purchasing in Mngwangwa because ever since my early visits, I knew that is would one day become my home. It is 2 acres and opposite Milanzi’s place. How funny that we may one day be neighbours. Right now I am frozen at the thought of what type of bathrooms I will have and questioning God on the feasibility of the whole plan. But then, God will always prevail, so why fight Him? Mr Nkhoma, Sidwell and Milanzi walked us through the boundaries of it and we talked about the plans God had for the land. It is not a moment I will easily forget. Our hearts were full. By faith we took soil and declared it our own. God knows what the future holds. Our only job is to line with that.

Friday, April 11, 2008

9th April 2008, Kamphata & Chinsapo

I have always been afraid of flying. The motion makes me sick, the ups and downs. If the flight were just straight I would probably fair better. Wednesday was like that. One moment we were soaring high and the next, my teeth hit the ground. I was aware of something coming up because Felix (who ministers with me) was attacked by the voice of the enemy on Sunday morning. I knew something was coming for me but no matter how much we know it’s coming, we never really believe it when it hits us.
Wednesday morning, we were in Kamphata. We arrived and made our way to the top of the rock that we love so and took in the view while waiting for the youth to arrive. That was when we heard about the funeral in the village below the rock. A little group of children told us while I took their pictures (they love the camera). “Our grandmother died”. They said so matter-of-factly. Little did we understand that this meant we could not have the meeting there. So we moved to another church ten minutes away. There are many things I am learning here. It is always humbling.
The meeting was exciting. We had a solid group of 40 youth. We broke into small groups and had a bible study on 1 Timothy 2/9-12 (one young man asked the question about its meaning). I was so proud of them. They had never been in study group but for one guy and yet they were able to use Deborah, Mary Magdalene and the woman at the well as their scriptures to solidify their stance on women being able to minister. And the girls spoke!
The afternoon was a surreal and dreamlike experience. The only way I can explain it is that the enemy lay in wait for us and POUNCED! That is how it felt. The air was noisy, busy, crowded. I felt it when we went in. Felix reiterated it. There was a lady there and when I saw her I heard something inside say, “she’s powerful”. I thought it to mean ‘in the spirit’ – the ‘good’ spirit. I was wrong. She was powerful alright. She was the wife of the founder of the church. She seemed resistant to everything we said. We immediately felt like we had be thorn onto a battle we had no knowledge of. It wasn’t that she challenged everything but the WAY she did it. It was the air tightening and silent slamming door after everything she said. It wasn’t until she threw the bible on the floor that I knew this was more than a deceived believer. I don’t know, I can’t really tell for sure but every fibre in me said this thing was angry and out to destroy. I cannot relate the entire experience other than to say, I was left wounded. Yes, wounded. I felt violated, like someone had put me up to scorn and jeer at. There was a constant repetition of ‘since you claim to be a teacher’ and ‘God will show your true colours on the day’. When we left my body was hurting so bad, I felt it to my fingertips. It is the most difficult teaching on salvation I have ever done.
I remember the pastor from the morning session (who accompanied us) comment as we drove away, “there was something ugly in there.”
But the enemy doesn’t get to win. He doesn’t get to deter nor keep us down. No matter the thorns, no matter the rocks, there is always good ground and I believe in the midst of it all, the message of salvation touched someone! I must believe that whenever the word is spoken there is always the one quarter opportunity for good ground!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

5 - 6 April, 2008 Mngwangwa

I went home. Mngwangwa. This is home to me, the place I want to live. The people here are my family, more so than any other place. Here I know I am loved and mean that. There are not many places we can honestly say we are allowed to be ourselves – especially in ministry. But here, I am ‘sister Keta’. The sister is for real. Here is where Floweza Milanzi lives with his 5 children and 3 dependants. There is a young man who is mentally challenged who is always with Him. He once told me that He believes these are the rocks that will cry out if we do not worship God. The things we think are nothing – like this young man. It is always a pleasure to see him. He always has a testimony to tell and song to sing to His God. We spent the morning at Word of Faith Temple (Milanzi’s church) a place I know one day I will call my home church. They are currently meeting in a rundown classroom but they fill the cracks and gaps in the walls with their heart worship and power praise. The people here can sing – no organ, no drum, no acoustic guitar but the melody is awesome.
There is a lady here who comes from very far every time we come into town. She hungers after God in a way I have not even tapped into. She speaks of the Father in a way only one who has walked with Him for years can.
Our subject is the wedding banquet and being clothed in Christ. It is a message of salvation and at the end a small group of teenage kids give their lives to God. It is beautiful to see. THIS is what all this is about.
I never leave this place empty handed. Last Christmas we ministered here and I came home with a chicken and not just any chicken, a black cockerel. This time they bring pumpkins, maize and something called ‘mponda’ which looks like a relative of the pumpkin. There is so much it is overwhelming. A lady even gives me three eggs. These people give their hearts and I am humbled because they think that I bless them and teach them when it is I that am taught and blessed and I that see Jesus in their eyes over and over again. As I write my heart is full and I know that God has given me grace, grace to see this, to experience this, to write about this.
Straight after the Sundat morning service we drive five minutes off to the afternoon leaders meeting which we had begun the previous day. It is so good to be back with the people I love. Here I meet Mr Nkhoma. He is like a father and the most gifted worship leader I have ever met. Even when he claps his hands you know it is worship! He told me once how he used to worship back in the day with his accordion. I long to find one for him. I can only imagine what that will be like. He always talks about how he was created to worship God and I believe him. We have never in the one year we have ministered in Mngwangwa, done it without him being present. He is like the overseer – our overseer. He cycles over one hour to get to the meetings. Everyone here has come straight from church service. There are no breaks or opportunities to have lunch first. They simply live too far away to do that. There are so many lessons to be learnt from the people here. On our way in we found one of the pastors on the road going to church. The drive is one hour and we found him on foot!
This is also the place where Mark Funsani and his wife come. They are a young couple that have won my heart. They always sit together and in the village that is a rare, rare thing. Men usually sit on one side of the room and women on the other. It is the same here except for the Funsani’s and the Milanzi’s. Mr Nkhoma always breaks tradition and sits on the side of the women sometimes. To the uninformed this means nothing but to us… this is incredible. Two couples sitting together. They never used to do this when we first came. It is a treasure to see.
Our subject is the body of Christ. It is truly a pleasure and joy to teach. We have fun together and learn as we go along. We talk about being one body and realising the need for one another. We use the bicycle as an example and how each part makes the whole and how the manufacturer carefully planned each part (its form and function) for the benefit of the whole. We bring in a bicycle to illustrate. It is incredible. There are so many pictures God gives us here to use as illustrations.
Our greatest joy is handing out bibles. We give out about 20. The pastors are excited! There is a concordance and so much revelation in the Word. This of course is in addition to the fact that they receive BIBLES, some for the first time! The others already know who they can give the ones they have to. That is never a problem here. Scarcity of bibles is one thing you can count on.
I love the fact that I am not a visitor here. I am no longer introduced. We know each other and you sense it. They are my family. This is my home!

Friday 4th April, 2008 Mzumanzi

This was a tough one. We were in mzumanzi and met 'amai a mvano' (women working together). It was a long and bumpy road both physically and in the spirit. a lot can be said though, in the fact that they pushed their meeting up one day in order to have us present. Otherwise we would see them in July. it was hard ministering. That is what it was. Hard. Sometimes ministry is hard and dry and exhausting. This was one of those.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Wednesday 2nd April 2008 - Mgona

So here I am, back in Mgona (identified as the slums). We decided to extend our ministry to midweek sessions as it would have been three months before we saw the people of Mgona again and we couldn’t have that. They had become as family to us. It brings to memory the scripture about leaving your brother in need and sending them off with a blessing when you have the means to bless them with something tangible. Our brothers are hungry and desperate for the word. How do we leave them starving for three months? So, we have opened up Wednesday to minister in Mgona and Chinsapo which means we will see the group in Mgona every fortnight. One cannot comprehend how relieving this all is. It didn’t feel right to say goodbye until July. So here I am excited to be back so soon but without a clear Word from the Lord. Days of trying out different messages have brought no peace and so here I am trusting that God will reveal all at the right time. Otherwise….
This time we are at the African Abraham Church. When I asked why that name sounded familiar, I was told that it was because they believed in polygamy. Aha! So it was but the Lord hasn’t asked us to come here and challenge that particular doctrine. In fact I wasn’t really sure why I was sent here. In the dark dusty yet clean room we find 15 people waiting for us. They wet the entire room to reduce the dust particles blowing everywhere so there is a damp smell that fills the room. One side of the room has a wall made of mud but the other is cardboard. I am taking all this in all the while asking the Father what His pleasure is to teach today. As He always does, the Spirit of God reveals the message, this is as I begin to speak by faith. Every time we come into the villages we are overwhelmed. It is overwhelming to see and sense such hunger for the things of God. It is humbling to know that you are the one that God has entrusted to give the right food out. Hungry people will eat anything. Therein lies the danger because their reception is not necessarily a mark of the effectiveness or freshness of your message.
A little boy of about two years old comes in. “I also want to pray” he says. It is the sweetest thing. After that, the word comes forth and we are on our way. The subject is truth versus fact. It is the foundation we use to establish the authenticity and the final authority of the Word of God. We are very excited to be talking about the Word as we are currently involved in a campaign to raise 1000 bibles this year. Of course we have begun with a reachable target of 100 first so that we are not weighed down. We could sit back and wait for a donor to come and help or we can begin to do something ourselves. If anyone comes in to help, let them find us already at work. The focus of our ‘bible search’ is to have Malawians help our own, so we have two targets; one for Malawians and another for people outside Malawi (because it really isn’t about WHO purchases the bibles but that we GET bibles). So far we have 65 bibles in pledges but 13 bibles actually bought and paid for. This is only after one week. I am elated because I see God driving this one to its destiny. In fact, I feel like the outcome will blow my mind!
This is the first time I get to give out the Chichewa full life study bible – we give out three. One to an eager teenager, another a lady we always see at our meetings profusely writing notes and the third to a man who always attends the meetings and then goes off to his night watchman job. We have missed him the last couple of weeks and it is good to see him again. He was attacked and wounded on his job but he greets us with a great smile that radiates through my heart.
There is no feeling like giving someone a brand new bible, especially a study bible. I remember my first study bible. I was so excited to find the concordance. It felt like magic and now here I was, years later, giving out the same experience. We talk a little about the wealth of the Word of God. “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want” is the word that we keep repeating.
Mrs Samiyeli is here. She is the only lady pastor I know and I have come to love seeing her. She gives me hope and lets me know that I am not alone in this place. I can sense her authority now that she is on her own turf. This is one of the first times we have had such a well rounded group. To be perfectly honest, my expectation was to find about ten women and one man. Instead we have 66 people with all genders and age groups equally represented. It is a blessing to see the young adult men and teenagers present. It is a wonderful start to the midweek meetings and we leave excited and promising to see each other in two weeks.
Tomorrow we rest (from going out) but this one of our toughest weeks. We have a women’s meeting in Mzumanzi on Friday, a weekend with the Mngwangwa leaders group and a Sunday morning service to boot. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We all can.