Thursday, April 30, 2009

Youth Explosion

Nankhumba is 25 kilometres out of Lilongwe and is close to Kalimbira zone. The youth of Nankhumba came about because of three young men, namely, Lester, Zechariah and Zikiel (Ezekiel in Chichewa). These three young men saw the effects that HIV was having on their community, through the increase of orphans, widows and the sick, they were moved to act rather than simply talk about the problem. They realised that they could not wait for help and that they could do something...albeit small, but the little stone that was their compassion caused ripple effects in their community. This all began in early 2008.

The first thing they determined to do was feed the children because in addition to being orphaned, this also brought in the problem of hunger as these little ones did not have constant provision as many were living with grannies who could not provide. In addition to the feeding, they began an early childhood development program where they taught the children before they fed them. Their determination was such that they went and asked for an audience with their chiefs (something not so easily accomplished because of their youth). At the meeting they asked the chiefs to mobilise the community to support this idea that they had. They knew that if the entire community came together, they would be able to begin to have an effect on the scourge of HIV and AIDS. The chiefs were excited about this, excited that these three young men wanted to do something so they called the community and spoke to them. The community, in turn, was excited about the idea and some contributed to the program and so it began.

Although they had some support, not everyone was convinced this would work. Zikiel then came up with the idea of taking the little students around the village and showcasing their skills (counting, speaking some English, praying, answering bible questions). They would go to a spot in the village and begin to ask the children to answer questions and then proceed to another. Through this exercise they were able to prove to the sceptical many that this was beneficial for their children and worthy of their support. After the children would answer the questions, the onlookers would reward them with food support for the program.

Although they now had the majority of the community on their side, the support was still not enough. They had 98 children to support and teach and most days they did not have enough food to feed them. Nonetheless, they were not deterred. Help was sporadic although well intentioned, but Nankhumba is a community that struggles with poverty.

Though this young trio had found a way to at least offer some help to the effects of HIV/AIDS they still saw that their plan did not include dealing with the disease and its spread. They were only looking at the aftermath of the disease and not its source. So, again they sought wisdom, praying and asking God for guidance and discussed what they could do. They came up with a plan to start a youth club one that could teach the word of God and change the behaviour of the young people in the community. With this, they consulted the chiefs as they wanted parents to understand the need for this program and release their children to come. Again they received the full support of the chiefs and the community as well. Within four months the group grew from three to twenty-five and by December 2008 they were fifty strong.

In the same month of December 2008, word had spread and they heard about SC, that it was a ministry that helped youth and implemented youth programs. They searched and then got in touch with the youth leader for Kalimbira and he connected them with SC. This was the start of SC ministering in Nankhumba to the youth there. It was a priviledge to lead such leaders as them, for Lester, Zechariah and Zikiel had imparted their compassion, passion and determination into their group. They were able to receive Bibles and lamps from SC which changed so much as the group of 60 had only two New Testaments between them. 25 bibles and lamps were given out.

In March 2009, 37 of them paid a visit to SC offices, cycling for over 2 hours using 25 bikes most of which were borrowed. Their motive; to give thanks and show the effects of what they felt was a gift beyond their expectation. Not only did they now have bibles, but they were also able to have two visits per month from the youth coordinator, Diamond and receive sound biblical teaching. They came bearing gifts; pumpkins, tomatoes, groundnuts (which they had grown themselves) and a chicken. They showcased their memory verses, some of which were done by youth who borrowed a bible from their friend as not all of them owned bibles. “We have no agenda that is self-seeking in our visit here other than to let you know how grateful we are. We bring gifts because we also have something to offer you. It is not always about receiving. It should be about giving,” Zikiel told those present that day. Their presence was overwhelming for everyone. This was a different calibre of youth. This was what was needed for Malawi to change...God loving, hard working determined young men and women. At the end of the day 17 more bibles were given to them.How could they not be? was this not the ground one wants to plant the word in?

After the first Youth Conference on 20-21 April, greater impact has come to Nankhumba and the surrounding areas. Fired up by the word and worship they have pushed on in ministry. They were challenged to stop talking and start doing. “If the bible tells you to pick up a machete and cut a tree down, stop talking about it and how sharp the machete should be and just cut the tree down,” these were the words Diamond challenged them with. In response the group is now digging toilets for the widows and patients who do not have toilets as well as digging two toilets for the market place which also does not have toilets. This is their way of preaching the gospel, making Jesus known. They are also helping the widows and patients harvest their maize as the said group is weak and the work of harvesting is strenuous. In addition, they have begun to mould bricks to help repair the homes of those whose huts are falling apart. All this they are doing without a single penny of financial support from anyone. This is the ripple effects of three young men who saw with the eyes of Jesus and not only asked the question “what would Jesus do?” but did what Jesus would do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Heart Prints

I lost the companionship of a friend. He and I started this blog and he read it aloud from this site after I posted every entry. So, it has taken me a little while to get the courage to write. He was my brother here on this earth. He went with me everywhere in the community and we sang all the way there and back. Felix. I have known Felix for over 12 years. He was there when I became a Christian. He was there when I was baptized in the Spirit and began speaking in other tongues. He was there when I discovered that God had called me to teach the word and he and his family were the first people I stated teaching bible studies to (the ones I practiced on and made all the mistakes on).

Felix lived up the road from us for many years and I spent almost every day with him, either at his or at our place. In the twelve years we have known each other, eight or nine of them were spent living a few houses from each other. In fact, for three of those, he lived in the house directly opposite us. There was a time I remember spending everyday of three weeks together (truth be told, I went to his house to eat the nsima his wife cooked so well).

Felix is burned into my memory. He is kind and giving and champions everyone, seeing in them the best. When I started teaching in the villages, he always spurred me on. When I was disappointed with the turnout or my teaching, he encouraged and helped me to see God at work. He always did that and spoke prophetically of all the things God would do through me. In my tendency to criticize myself, his voice was a wonderful rope that kept me from falling at times into the pit of despair.

So here I am, lost somewhat. My friend is no longer here. My partner in ministry, gone. The truth? I was meant to go to Mngwangwa a week after he left but I could not see myself going into Mngwangwa without him. I know that I will have to go…but I lack the courage right now.

I cannot imagine never hearing him read the blog again. After he read it we would talk of what it all meant and what God was doing and where he had taken us from. I cannot imagine what that will be like without him.

He was so many things to so many people but I cannot speak for them. I can only say that to me, He was a friend, one you think you will have with you forever.

So what has all this done in me? I suddenly realized that I was not in control of life. I know that sounds like something I should already know but the truth is, I thought I was in control of what happens and the outcome of things, until I woke up and my friend was no longer on the earth. I could not understand that. Worse was the fact that he was the person I would talk to if I lost a true friend. So, I have learnt to relinquish control. Even though it makes me afraid I am determined to wake each morning and let go of it all and trust that God is able.

So now, I think of him doing what he always did…singing and praising God, without the worries of life and the pains that accompany it. I think of him dancing and jumping about without his limp and laughing aloud in heaven. I was listening to a wonderful song the other day and I thought how Felix would have made me play it over and over again and I thought of how he was missing that song… until it dawned on me that the songs he now hears are awesome and more beautiful than anything we could sing down here. I realized that he was missing nothing.

But me, well, I miss my friend, my ministry partner, my encourager. He helped me to believe that we could do this…going out into the villages and making Jesus known. Sometimes when I felt that the people had not truly received, he was the voice that said “they heard and change is coming”.

Everytime i sing i miss his voice that would so what he did, cushion and accompany mine, as he did in life. and if this is beginning to sound like he was an angel, this is not my intent. he was simply a man...but he was all that I have said, without exaggeration. He was my friend. i miss him.