The Last Will Be First
After having such a treacherous ride up and down the mountainside, we didn’t know if the little Toyota could make it another day. I am so thankful that we payed 27 extra dollars a day for the insurance. Two inner fender wells were missing, the rear bumper cover was loose, the front bumper cover was loose, the mudflaps were damaged, and there was unknown damage underneath that plagued the little Toyota. We noticed a difference in the exhaust note, and a reduced power output, so we contacted Avis to see if we could get a 4 x 4. Since it was Sunday morning, we didn’t feel as though we would have much luck, so we inspected the car and decided that we would go for it. Pastor Felix, Pastor Duncan from Malawi, and Pastor Josh and myself made up the roster. That was all the little pack mule Toyota could haul up and down the hillside. Last time we left the village, I told the children I would be back and I was desperately ready to return. We discussed it and all of us were willing to take the risk that was involved.
Boy, how a Polaris Ranger would have come in handy. At 7:30 AM we started our two hour journey. Before we even moved, we decided it would be best to pray over the little car. Please God, let this little Billy Goat do it once again. When we got to the rough parts, I was amazed how daunting the passage looked. Realizing that we had successfully made it the day before brightened our perspectives. However, as I viewed the mountainside roads, I could not believe we were actually doing it again. We finally reached the little village relatively unscathed. Occasionally, large rocks tumbled underneath the car, making enough noise that we were sure it was going to pop through the floorboard.
Once we reached the village, we received a greeting that matched the cheer of the previous day. The children were just as happy to see us as the adults. It became fully clear that our presence was highly anticipated, lovingly welcomed, and well beyond anything we have ever experienced in the states. We were able to enjoy nearly an hour of praise and worship. There were no lights, padded seats, sound system, elevated stage or any of the other luxuries that most every church in America has. However, the presence of the Holy Spirit was far greater than I have ever experienced. The youth group led many songs and dances. The only instruments they had were three bongo drums that appeared to be handmade.
The singing was spontaneous. When one song would stop, someone from the congregation would start singing and lead them into another. Several people did this. There was also a women’s choir and children’s choir. The level of sincerity and enthusiasm for the moment was magnificent. Nearly every person I made eye contact with responded with a smile. Best of all, it was honest. At this gathering, Josh had another opportunity to speak.
The uneasiness he had experienced the day before was totally gone. He was able to seamlessly create a rhythm with the interpreter. The day before, the congregation only made verbal acknowledgements two or three times, but today there were eight such responses. Evidently, Josh had become more successful in conveying the Word and his thoughts to them in just a couple of days. I was also very pleased that Josh didn’t get sick. The food that he had consumed the day before had unpleasantly returned in the morning. Fortunately that issue never resurfaced. At the end of Josh’s message, I was again able to talk for a few minutes.
I hadn’t planned to share anything, nevertheless I felt prompted in my spirit to do so. When I greeted the children earlier, I showed them how to do a high five. I was shocked that they were not aware of such a concept, and it spread like wildfire amongst them. As many children that could fit would crowd around me to give them a high five. The simplest of activities brought them great joy. These young people demonstrated such a powerful message to me. The high fives became the cornerstone of my short little message.
I started out by saying that some of the children already knew how to do this, but before I let the cat out of the bag, I told them a little story. I held my hand in the air with all five fingers showing. I told them that these five fingers represented all of who I was. I put my thumb down and stated, “This is what God received from me for many years,” and I waved four fingers in front of me. Then I grabbed my thumb and admitted, “Satan controlled this one for many years. Allowing him in my life caused me to miss many years of serving Jesus.” Then I declared, “Jesus has all five now!” as I waved my open hand in front of them. At that point, I shared the term “high-five” and several of the children that participated earlier repeated “high-five, high-five.”
So, the Holy Spirit led me to introduce the high five in Malawi under the realization that it meant committing myself fully to Jesus Christ. At that point I told them “if you’re committed completely to Jesus Christ, then high-five those around you”. With joy and intensity they all high-fived one another, laughing, and enjoying the Lord’s presence.
We serve an awesome God and He prepares us for what we need. Again, He inspired me to share something that originated with little children. It would be wonderful if devoted Christians would adopt the philosophy of the high-five for denoting 100% commitment to Jesus Christ. High five for Jesus! Are there any takers?! After I finished the message, Josh anointed and prayed for all of the ministers and leaders in attendance, about 15-20 in all. These men of God appeared to be fully dedicated to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Verbalizing what we experienced is very difficult. These people have nothing compared to the American standard of living. Somehow (through what many would consider extreme inconvenience and unlivable conditions,) they love the Lord with all their hearts, minds and souls. They gleefully participate in three-hour plus church services in nearly 100°, unventilated, cramped, and uncomfortable space, all while giving magnificent honor to the King. I tell you my friends, I have met the people who Jesus talked about. They are the last on this earth, but in heaven they will be the first.