Bibles for Christmas
I had high anticipation for this day, and we were ready to roll just after 8 a.m. To my delight, Bonface was going to drive one of the vehicles today. We lacked one major component of our truck being ready for the road; insurance had not been purchased yet. Fortunately for us, we looked online, and there appeared to be an insurance company open from nine to noon on Saturday. We got there about 8:30 AM. There was a lady cleaning the street and a few other people milling around. The lady cleaning the street had a pleasant smile, and I thought I would give her a Bible. For whatever reason, whenever someone tries to give anything away, chaos ensues. People would appear out of nowhere, and it was like transporter beams from a parallel universe popped up with people entering my reality instantaneously. There is no other way I could explain it, so I quickly went through several Bibles. We had promised a certain number to the church we were going to, and maintaining that level was important. I stopped the flow of Bibles, but the request for more was like the continuous pounding water of Niagara Falls.
Three young gentlemen were particularly persistent. I thought it may lead to an issue. Tony was vigorously trying to disarm them, and I went up and said, “I want to see you three in heaven.” They were quite high strung at first, and I tried to remember what it felt like getting punched in the face. I told them “I could give you each 1 million kwacha and it will not make one bit of difference for your eternity.” By this time, 15 or 20 people had gathered, all wanting a Bible. These young men probably in their early 20s looked pretty tough. They had deep scars and other indicators of a rough existence. I told them if they had unrepentant sin that they were committing, they would go to hell. They claimed to know Jesus, but I doubt that their fruits demonstrated it. I asked them if they were having sex outside of wedlock, were drinking and partying obsessively, or being thieves. I think they were shocked that some old guy was calling them out on the street. I felt like those angels that I dreamed about before coming on this trip were shadowing me.
I was not the least bit timid to confront them. I approached each one of them, looking them straight in the eye, as I declared, “I want to see you in heaven.” Their demeanor began to soften. Finally, I went up to the ringleader that was wearing a Hello Kitty shirt, and said, “I will give you each a Bible. You must wait until we are done at the insurance company and you have to meet us around the corner. I am counting on you to help us have enough Bibles to deliver to the church we are going to.” Then I requested to take his picture.
At that point, I did not know if the photo would be for a video record of the people that beat us up, or if it would become part of our story. The van carried bikes, blankets and shoes while the truck was full of bikes and Bibles. We could not put the tailgate up because of the bikes, so the three tough men sat on the tailgate the whole time we were trying to get our insurance.
The expectation of what may have happened when we returned was questionable. I did not fear, for I knew God was in control. We met Beatrice, a nice young lady sitting outside of the insurance company. Had we not met her, we probably would have driven away without the insurance. She reassured us that she had talked to one of the managers, and they would be open today. They did not arrive until nearly a half an hour after the expected time. Knowing that we had a great deal to do this day, we probably would have left. Beatrice gave me her card, as she seemed interested in what we were doing. She was working for an organization called United Purpose that was trying to tackle the poverty issues that exists in Malawi. She hoped that we would meet again, and we could somehow collaborate. Even though she was there before we were, she insisted that we go first. I told her that I wanted her picture because now she had become part of our story. We have not encountered a situation yet where we felt the absence of God’s hand.
Here is another amazing thing, the bank normally requires full payment if someone is not a current customer or had been a customer in the past. We had just over half of the money we needed and she looked up at me from her desk, peering over the top of her glasses; “How much you got?” she asked. “800,000 kwacha,” I said. She stared at me for a second, and I could tell it was not the standard procedure when she handed the slip to the cashier. I could not hear everything that she said, but “Yes, they will pay 800,000 Kwacha.” Somehow we were able to get insurance with a little more than half the money we needed. Praise Jesus!
Tony and I returned to the vehicle with the insurance sticker in hand. The three young men were still present, and began to press me for the Bibles. People had already gathered upon our return. Once again, I told Mr. Hello Kitty that he would have to meet us around the corner. He did not want to show weakness in front of his friends, so I explained, “Look around, if I give these Bibles to you here, I will be flooded with people. I give you my word that I will meet you around the corner.” We all scurried into the vehicles and turned on the designated street, then I rolled the window down to give the three Bibles to the young men. They took them with gratitude, and each demonstrated a slight head bow and said “Thanks boss.” I replied, “No, thank you, God.” They all looked up, holding their Bible in their hand, and said “Thank you God.”
On the way to our destination, Tony and I rode together in the truck. The journey took us nearly 2 hours. We had stimulating conversation, and I was able get a more complete understanding of what made Tony who he was. He opened up that his father drank and oftentimes would physically abuse him. Tony was despised, and was told many times that he was a mistake. His father had broken Tony’s arm in one of the beatings, and hurt his legs so badly that he could not continue to play soccer, which he was very good at. He would be told to stay up through the night to keep the mosquitoes off of his sisters. His father had two wives, but then divorced Rhoda, and his father never told him that he loved him.
When Tony was around 13 years old, he discovered the Bible, that showed his Heavenly Father loved him. That was the point that began Tony’s insatiable quench to learn as much about the Bible as he could. At times, I believe he could quote the whole Bible. When he talks about it, he is convicted and passionate. The abuse that he endured is miserable. I asked him if his father lived close by, because I felt like giving him some of his own medicine. “Did you forgive him?” I wondered. He said, “Oh yes, he told me a few weeks ago that I was his favorite son.” Then, Tony shared, “I must tell him I love him, I want to do it in front of others so it is more meaningful to my father.” I asked him if his father had ever apologized, and Tony answered, “No it is not necessary. I just want him to know I love him.” Tony is one amazing man.
We got to Pastor Felix’s church and moved all the bikes, shoes, and blankets through and near the building. We started distributing shoes to the children and blankets to the mothers. Tony, Bonface, William (Tony’s cousin,) and myself were doing all the work. All of the pastors that were going to receive the bikes were watching us.
The handout mentality had crept into the entire society, and I felt something igniting inside of me. After working a few minutes, they would be seated again. Doing such a task seemed to be below them. Then I started observing how they were treating the children. They were pushing them, giving them angry looks, and not even seeing if the shoes fit. It was very disturbing to see how unloving they were. There was no respect or dignity demonstrated in this church, but I had witnessed this behavior several times before. For whatever reason, my sensitivity to it had been magnified immensely. The flame that was ignited inside me now became a volcano waiting to release its fury.
I was nearly hyperventilating. Full on Jesus in the Temple was raging inside of me. There was no question in my mind that a Holy Spirit eruption was about to take place. The chaos was near riot proportions. Tony was acting as the bouncer at the door trying to restrain people. Before complete chaos ensued, I ordered everyone out of the church and directed all the pastors and elders to sit on the benches in front of me. I told Tony, “Please say exactly what I tell you that God is instructing me.”
I exclaimed, “You are a bunch of lazy men and God is very disappointed with you. These people have no respect for you because you deserve none. I am ashamed of the behavior I just witnessed. You are to be servants to these people as we are to be servants to one another. You guys just sat there and watched us. What is wrong with you? You demonstrate no love towards any of the children or one another. You are the worst examples of leaders I have ever seen. I feel like loading those thirteen bikes back up, and not giving one of them to you, because you certainly do not deserve them. I will never return to this church again to witness this kind of chaos unless you get things under control. There is no obedience in the households. There is no obedience in this church. I highly doubt that there is obedience to our Lord and Savior.”
I don’t know if I took a breath for twenty minutes. I was booming, forceful and direct. Based on Tony’s interpretation, he felt the direction of the Holy Spirit also. I told them to all stand up at the front of the church. I roughly pushed each one of them on two different occasions, in an aggressive manner. Then I said, “Do you feel love from me?” They shook their heads no, so I questioned, “Then what do you think these children feel from you? I saw you doing the same thing to them.” They hung their heads in dismay, as they knew that every word I spoke was true. I then turned to Felix and said, “I went to you and confronted you about some issues, yet I know that you lied to me. Now I bring you before the church as the Bible instructs. Give me the truthful answer now while you have a chance.” He finally admitted that Duncan was manipulating the situation. He also was not communicating with him anymore. I believe the man was sincere and truthful, and I will not question him about it again. I was shaking inside. I advised them, “Please go talk amongst yourselves and make a decision now if you want to be involved and do what God instructs us to do or not.”
As angry as I was in my heart, I hoped to serve these people. I sincerely hope they wanted to continue to be involved. This was a defining moment, but God ordained it; I am sure of that. I do not believe I could stop myself if I wanted to. Then the Holy Spirit spoke to me, “Wash their feet,” but that would have been very difficult to do, considering the water was a distance away. I quickly offered an alternative, and I felt the Holy Spirit gave me the okay. A few minutes passed, and a couple of the men came up to us. With a contrite spirit they said, “We want to work with you.” I told Tony to have them all fourteen line up and pass by me. I got on my knees and when each man got in front of me, I shook their hand and said “I am here to be your servant.” I had to demonstrate love and sincerity to them, yet most importantly, I was just a fellow servant in service to our King. Before they went outside, I gave them one more suggestion:
“As leaders, only use love. Forcing the congregation into submission will never work. Instead, demonstrate consistent stillness to achieve your goal. Describe the acceptable behavior that is required in and around the church. If the behavior is not demonstrated, sit in front of your congregation, quietly observing them until they comply, even if it takes three or four weeks of observation, those that have a heart for the Lord will start intervening against those that are misbehaving. It is better to have half of the congregation that is sincere, than a full congregation that is spoiled by wickedness. You should travel to each other’s church to monitor the progress in orderliness and reverence for the House of the Lord. Take the methods that work best amongst you, and institute them as needed. You will be amazed what God can do when the fear of the Lord emanates through your whole congregation.”
If you had asked me if this scenario would be a possible outcome today, I could not have imagined it. It was simply destined by God. After what I observed today, these churches could not have survived without it. I asked Tony if he had detected anything that happened as being out of tune with the frequency of the Holy Spirit. He replied, “No it is exactly what they needed.” I told him, “Please hold me accountable if you detect anything that is not of God.” The stage is now set for elevated expectations. I believe the ground will become much more fertile in the next few months. When Pastor Rick accompanies me in March, I believe their longing hearts will be ready to be replenished with the word of God.