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Malawi Mission Trip Report

August 07 2017
August 07 2017
Bibles in Malawi
By

I am so very thankful to God for the remarkable time that Chuck McArthur and I had in Malawi. God moved in ways that exceeded my expectations. Chuck is the director of Equipping Leaders International - a mission agency that focuses on equipping leaders in the developing world with a series of tools which they can use to train others.

Malawi: This country of 17 million in East Africa is a developing country with notable poverty. It depends heavily on agriculture and often struggles through persistent drought. I learned the value of clean drinking water. Many in rural Malawi feel blessed if a pump well is available to serve 1000-2000 people. Christianity is a large influence there, though many pastors have little training and the church struggles with the influences of legalism, prosperity gospel, and syncretism - the mixing of traditional religious practices with Christianity. Islam is on the move in Malawi also, as Muslims offers of financial aid tempt many Malawians.  We were blessed to meet many talented and called leaders (mostly pastors), who appreciated what we were offering. We stayed in the sizable city of Blantyre - named by the famous missionary David Livingstone. We commuted to a small town called Migowi (mi GO eh) that sits in the middle of many rural villages.

The conferences:  Our original plan was to teach all the way through 1 Timothy in two conferences - one in Blantyre, the other in Migowi. The thought was that we would teach about 250 pastors (150 in Blantyre and 100 in Migowi. Instead of teaching 250 pastors, we taught 350 pastors! In each location ELI’s country leader had assembled a team to lead and promote the conference. The Blantyre conference attracted over 200 attendees. This included some very capable and influential leaders in the city. Some of them were bishops over many other churches. We taught 14 lessons through translators - an introductory lesson and 13 sessions of 1 Timothy. They listened attentively and responsibly, applauding when they liked something, and laughing joyously when appropriate. They very much appreciated the careful attention to the scriptures. The question and answer periods were lively and exciting. In one talk, I asked for their ways of helping the poor (1 Timothy 5:11), and received some great answers.

Issues: 1 Timothy raises some hot button issues. The first issue is the role of women in the teaching ministry of the church (“I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man”). I taught that passage and showed from scripture the historic position of the first 19 centuries of the church - the elder position (including pastor) is for men.  We got some lively pushback and feedback, and some great direct questions. I also taught on the passage on elder qualifications, and learned of a significant issue there: polygamy. Remember an elder is to be “the husband of one wife.” Because of past practices in that culture, and the rise of Islam, the issue of polygamy is a real one. The big question: What happens when someone converts to Christ and has multiple wives? Think about it! Divorce is also prohibited.  And if the man divorces the “extra” wives, what happens to them and their children in a very poor country?

1 Timothy 4 warns of false teachers who forbid marriage and the eating of certain foods. Most American Christians don’t realize that legalism is false teaching even as much as is teaching permissiveness in the moral realm. Forbidding the enjoyment of a God given gift is false teaching! In Malawi, perhaps due to the terrible damage cause by alcohol addiction, drinking in any amount is considered a sin.  My colleague Chuck tackled this head on by challenging the room to hit him with verses that prohibited drinking even only a little bit of wine. He finally wrapped around to show the danger of adding requirements to scripture - forbidding that which God allows.

After each conference, we met with 10 or 11 key pastors in the area who were open to teaching the material which they had learned. These all-day seminars involved reviewing the material, and allowing them to prepare a five-minute presentation on a verse or two of 1 Timothy. These were very rewarding, and we left very hopeful that this presentation will be taken to the pastors who are most in need of additional training. That outcome was very exciting as it wasn’t clear how many leaders, if any, would want to spend another whole day with us!

The needs: The needs were amazing. There is so much poverty. The believers there are doing their best, but many of them are in the same boat. A pastor walked two and a half hours to meetings because he lacked a $75 bicycle. He repairs bicycles but can’t afford one. Orphans lack mattresses for their beds because the $400 to buy twenty mattresses is too much for the ministry budget. People can’t afford the $8 for a high-quality mosquito net that would limit their exposure to malaria carrying mosquitoes.  And if those things are tough, the $7500 to dig a well in a village that would provide clean, safe water for 1000-2000 people (yes, they all draw from it), is way out of reach. Chuck and I left committed to find ways to meet some of these needs. Our local partners are extremely careful with money and have proved faithful in every respect. When we help them, there is no overhead as in the case with many large relief organizations.

The summary:  Chuck and I had quite the experience serving the Lord.  We flew 18,000 miles (he flew even further!). We taught 28 lessons, ran two all day training sessions for 21 trainers, and preached 3 sermons in 12 days. We saw unforgettable things. We saw beautiful scenes of mountains which bordered the plains. We rejoiced with the good things God did.  We grieved over the fallenness of God’s beautiful world. We saw there are great opportunities for future service. We saw the Lord praised in the dance.

I must thank you, church. You sent me. You sent me with your prayers, you sent me with incredibly generous gifts. You were so generous that we were able to bless some leaders with bibles. A mosquito net is out of reach for many.  A Bible can be $10-12, which is described there as “very expensive.”  I wish you could have seen the reaction when it was revealed at the Blantyre conference that each participant would receive one copy of God’s word in their mother tongue. There was quite a celebration that broke out! Some pastors in Malawi have to borrow a Bible for sermon prep. Others have a copy, but key leaders in their church don’t. You were a part of that, with your gifts far above the needs. God bless you!  It was one of the greatest privileges of my life to serve these servants of Christ.  Enjoy the picture of the celebration of the gift of bibles at the beginning of the blog.

In Him,

Don


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