Today is Christmas 2017, and I am away from my family and miss them dearly. These past nine days flew by. God answered my prayers to redeem my time and make my extended stay valuable for the kingdom. Through his mighty provision, God has provided many things. This morning, Tony and I walked through the house that we are renting. We are going to configure it with the capability of comfortably housing 18 people. That will give us the ability to host 12 youth mission trip participants and 6 leaders simultaneously. With three bathrooms and three showers, these accommodations should work quite nicely. Tony is very excited about the kitchen and a half. He loves to cook, and can hardly wait for youth groups to come down and work in the villages, and enjoy some fine cuisine from Chef Tony.
Over the next couple of months we will be preparing the office, then the first two bedrooms. That will give Rick and I a place to stay when return in March. We will continue to complete the rooms with bunk beds and the rest of the needed furniture. Once Rick and I evaluate the situation in March, we will make a decision. If everything looks like it is on target, we will start planning youth trips somewhere between June 1 and August 31. Pastor Joe wants to start contacting people and sending out flyers about the March conference, which is imperative for intense spiritual training and leadership growth.
I believe that the amount of deception in this country is as great or greater than in America, but the reasons behind them are totally different. In America, church is largely an entertainment event. People spend huge sums of money on useless buildings and equipment that mean nothing to God, while a lifestyle around Jesus Christ is almost excluded from the building. A relationship with Him means surrendering all and doing His commandments as he instructs us. In Malawi, there is a sincere hunger and receptiveness that is far greater than in the U.S. I wish I could get one thousand men with a passion for God to come here and serve the Lord as ministers. It is hot, humid, and littered. The driving is unruly, and there are primitive living conditions in the villages with few amenities. The thing that makes this enticing is that someone could participate in one of the potentially largest harvests for the kingdom. All of these assumptions concerning the harvest are strictly based on the will of the Holy Spirit. Based on what we have seen so far, God’s will is taking place here.
Everywhere I go, each person I encounter gladly receives a Bible. I stopped at many police checkpoints and handed out Bibles, and every one of them would take one. I am sure that the same would be true for gas stations, convenience stores, insurance offices, city sidewalks, villagers, security at the airport, servers at restaurants, ticket agents and many more. People would never react that way in the U.S. What I realized this morning is that work needs to be done to receive a Bible. This whole society is totally screwed up by all the free gifts that the world has shoveled their way. That is the worst possible thing to do to any culture, and I wish I could scream at all the organizations that are continually doing this. They are causing great social issues. It has to stop now. These people groups have become crippled because of it.
All of EchoAfrica’s activities, including Bible distribution, needs to involve personal sacrifice or commitment in order to participate. I was thinking that the pastor could instruct any of those wanting a Bible to memorize certain key verses. A sheet of paper would be handed out with these verses on it. At a point before the Bibles are given out, the pastor would require participants to recite the verses from memory, and as a reward for their achievement, they would receive a Bible. This would also kick-start their memorization skills to utilize the Bible efficiently.
When Tony was freed up from his job responsibilities, we traveled to his father’s farm. We stopped at the house first, near the paved road. His stepmother said that Tony’s dad Willie, who had caused Tony such deep pain, was back on the farm. Tony pointed in the direction, and we began to travel down the dirt road. I wrongly assumed that it would only be a few hundred yards or so. After traveling several kilometers on a rain drenched hazard trap of a road, we arrived. We then walked several hundred yards on foot to his location. Tony made the introduction, and we talked briefly before heading back to the house. There was no question of the genetic resemblance in their appearance.
With Willie’s motorcycle, knowledge of the road, and desire to return home without being rain-drenched, he left us far behind. At least the scenery was beautiful. After arriving back at the house, Tony gathered his family members together. His father, stepmother, brother, and two sisters were in attendance. Something was on Tony’s heart that he wanted to share, so I encouraged him to do so sooner than later. I was thankful to be a part of this powerful moment.
Tony shared with me how he had a dream that his grandmother got sick, and died three days later, and that was exactly what ended up happening. Later on, he had another dream that he was at his father’s grave site, and he realized that he had never told his father that he loved him. Even though he had suffered horrible abuse by his father’s hand, Tony forgave him.
I felt touched when Tony opened up his heart, and I shared about the importance of knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior. The whole family understood and spoke English, so no interpretation was necessary. Tony then asked me if I would do a closing prayer. We gathered in a circle, connected by hands, and the Holy Spirit. Several people were moved to tears, and later stated that it was the best Christmas they had ever had. As we were exiting the house, the older brother approached me, and asked if I would pray for him. He told me that he struggled with something inside of him that was causing him to do things he did not want to do. I spoke the words to him that the Holy Spirit was directing. His heart seemed sincere and I believe changes in many of the family members would be occurring.
Since it began to rain, several of them rode away in the back of a pickup, and Tony offered that some of them could ride with us to Blantyre. This skill level is quite high for packing so many people and goods into a small place. They packed five more people and countless items into the back seat of the truck. Besides that, Tony had a five-year-old sitting on his lap for the return trip. I cautioned him that this was very dangerous, and I was uncomfortable doing it. The main reason was due to the fact of a passenger side airbag. Thank the Lord nothing happened because it could have been fatal.
Before we left this location, Tony said Annie from Annie’s Lodge wanted to meet me, and was in her vehicle outside. This was Catherine’s mother, who had offered me the larger room at the lodge. Catherine had told her about me and said she should meet me. Both Annie and Pastor Meshach from Nigeria were at Catherine’s house in Blantyre sharing a Christmas meal together. They planned to come over to the Lodge and speak with me prior to returning home in Zomba, about an hour away from the Lodge.
After eating, they began their return trip home, and had forgotten about meeting with me. I had no idea they were even intending to do so. Annie had driven for over a half an hour when they remembered, and they were disappointed, but reasoned it would have to be another day. About this time, a car was following them very closely, and it made Annie feel uncomfortable. They decided to pull over and let them pass. The spot they chose to pull over happened to be in front of the place we were! Tony’s stepmother was out front, and she told Annie that Pastor Chris was inside. Needless to say, they were quite shocked by what had just happened, and that God had made a way for us to meet after all. Little did I know how God was orchestrating the pieces of the puzzle. Annie invited us to follow them to her house
I have learned several times on this trip to always be ready and willing to obey. Inside, I may have been grumbling a bit. We had already packed several people into the vehicle, and I would have rather just returned to Blantyre. Annie said she just lived a short distance away, and if I could just come for two or three minutes, that would be fine. From Tony and others, a “short distance” usually means a half an hour or more of driving time, and we probably exceeded that time on this journey. Once we got into the Zomba area, Annie pulled her vehicle up in front of the store and Pastor Meshach went inside. I wondered what was going on, so I pulled up beside Annie’s vehicle and warned, “We are a bit pressed for time, because we were supposed to meet Joshua at the house we were going to rent.” She was persistent, and I agreed that we would come over briefly.
After we traveled up the side of a mountain, we ended at a beautiful destination with gorgeous views. She invited Tony and I inside as the others remained in the truck. Annie began to ask me questions about why I was in Africa, and after answering just a few questions, Pastor Meshach sprang up off the couch and exclaimed, “We must document this!” He began to record the conversation and record it on his phone. Annie shared that she also had a heart for the people in Africa, and had taken orphans into her house. I was able to meet a few of them. Clearly, she was a compassionate loving person that wanted to help make a difference. The questions I was asked were quite deep, and moved me to tears on several occasions.
At this point, I am hesitant about how much to share. Pastor Meshach has been given the gift of discernment and prophecy, and I sensed that he knew how I was going to answer each question. God will determine the time when we share what took place. There was a spiritual connection with them that was ordained by God, and many of the impressions I have received were proven to be true. Annie offered anything she had to assist in our mission. She mentioned that through God’s will, our path was meant to cross with Tony’s. She continued, “Tony’s innocent and pure spirit was chosen to be part of this mission.” What Pastor Meshach shared was also significant, and I am humbled by his words. I pray that everything we do will honor and glorify the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.