Today we were able to visit a couple of additional churches. The first one was Pastor Joe’s church that I spoke at last week. We were there quite early to drop off bibles and bicycles, and Joe, with his wife and two children rode along with me. Driving down the dirt road to his church, I noticed branches with green foliage lying across the road. I had seen that several times before, but never discovered the reason. I asked Joe and he explained, “It marks a funeral taking place at a home.” Probably 100 yards away from the first row, there was a second row. I looked at the house that was located inside of the designated foliage, and sure enough, there were many people in attendance. They were sitting around the house paying their respects at 7:30 AM that Sunday. Joe told me to remove a hat or sunglasses if any were worn, and to stop at the foliage and say a prayer for the deceased. I wish I would have known this sooner, because I would have slowed down to a crawl while passing between the two foliage barriers.
After dropping off everything at Joe’s church, I returned to Annie’s Lodge. Rhoda, Marvelous, Bonface, Tony, and myself were scheduled to go to a couple of new churches. A new person was introduced into the mix, his name was Andrew, and he was a senior pastor that had started ten churches. Tony’s sister Tracy met us at the fuel center and accompanied us on our journey. Due to the number of people, it was necessary to take two vehicles. We had bicycles, blankets, pairs of shoes, and bibles. It took us over three hours to get to the first location.
When we arrived, we gathered the leadership of the church together. We thoroughly discussed what had happened the previous day, and that unruly and disrespectful behavior would not be tolerated. We expected help from the leadership and congregation. Our intentions were to serve them and their congregation. We encouraged them to act in a loving manner towards everyone as Christ would, and we warned them that if chaos broke out, we would pack things up and leave. If we returned and the same behavior was demonstrated, we would not return again. I distinctly felt the Holy Spirit saying, that was not me prompting you.
Knowing what had happened the previous day, I had placed myself in charge more than I did God. We were able to get everybody in lines, and line keepers kept them in an orderly manner. After the Bibles were handed out, I asked everyone to gather for a picture. They showcased their Bibles, of course, I gave them a lengthy instruction on how to take care of their bibles and cherish the Word of God. The shoe handout was a completely different story.
Rhoda had done a great job organizing the kids into the initial staging areas, but soon after we began to hand out the shoes, havoc began. Kids were cutting in line, parents brought their kids up to the front of the line. Demon-possessed people came up and stared us down, witch doctors are still quite prevalent in these areas, and I detected demonic spirits twice. They knew that when they looked at us, we represented the light of Jesus. One of them came up towards me, and had some type of twisted steel in his hand. Once he fixed his gaze on me, he would not look away. In fact, I do not think he even blinked. I did not feel prepared or directed to cast out the evil spirit. I looked at Tony and said, “There is a demonic spirit.” He nodded his head in agreement and said, “Yes, I know.” He looked like he was considering using his twisted steel as a weapon. In a loud voice I proclaimed three times, “In the name of Jesus leave.” By the third time, he had disappeared into the crowd.
I quickly gathered our group together and said “We need to leave.” Before doing so, I called the elders back together. They already knew what I was going to say. The spirit of greed, selfishness, and entitlement was emanating almost everywhere. I told them that we were leaving and that this was a situation no longer honoring to God. People were getting fairly boisterous and agitated when we stopped handing items out. Some would get right in my face, while making demands, but all of us kept our composure. One of the elders said there was a pastor who really needed a bike. We told them that he could ride with us down the road a bit where we could unload one in a more secure location.
The elders seemed quite remorseful that this happened. By us telling them up front what the expectations were, they were not surprised at our reaction to leave. They were keenly aware of what was going on around them. Our group collectively agreed that what we did was the best possible reaction to the situation. Had we let things continue, and acted unloving or inappropriate in any way, our effectiveness would have been curtailed. By calmly packing up our things and leaving, our actions spoke much louder than our words. I doubt this had ever happened before. Almost always, people would have given in to the pressures of the crowd, and selfish madness would be the victor. The strongest, fastest, and smartest would have walked away with the spoils. The fact that most of these people had nothing heightened the fleshly desire to get whatever they could at practically any cost. These deeply-seeded issues need to be adjusted, but not by us. Those with a sincere desire to be a leader of the King’s flock can stimulate change.
The purpose of our mission had gained clarity. The need for pastor training and the building up of strong leaders is paramount. Order in God’s house and with God’s people must be restored. The Holy Spirit spoke to us this day in some powerful ways, but we thanked God for the chaos. It was an opportunity to experience two environments separated by hundreds of kilometers, that each involved hundreds of people.
We wrongfully patted ourselves on our backs a little bit. Since the bible distribution went pretty well, we reasoned that it was something we should continue to do. The problem was that we did it in our own power, and in our own organizational way. Thankfully, we diligently tried to give glory to God, no matter how much we would instruct the people not to thank us, they would. Inadvertently, we were making a spectacle of the situation in the eyes of God. Can you imagine Moses instructing the Israelites to do something like this after he struck the rock to get water. To the crowd, I directed, “I want everybody to stand here with your clay pots full of water and hold them up. Once I take a mental picture that I was involved in such a great move of God, you can be on your way.” That was exactly what the Holy Spirit revealed to me about all the people raising the Bibles we gave and then taking a picture. God opened my eyes to see how EchoAfrica would arrive with vehicles full of treasures to save the day. Thankfully, the Heavenly Father refreshed me of our aim for discipleship in Malawi.
Tony had said how thankful that he was to be able to experience this, because he felt that it would prepare us thoroughly for what was to come. Confidently, he said the Holy Spirit will show us the right way to proceed. We were several hours late to our last stop since the rain had begun 20 minutes earlier. The premises where the people were supposed to gather looked vacant.
Andrew, the senior pastor, left the vehicle. He disappeared behind some buildings, and then Rhoda did the same. Several minutes later, they reemerged with a lady. Andrew informed us how the woman would carry on prayer vigils and had a conference back in October. Andrew was in attendance and for four days, souls were won to the Lord. Three people now emerged from behind the buildings, and came up to the truck. Soon after Andrew, Rhoda and this lady were standing there Tony said, “I like this woman, she is full of the Holy Spirit.”
We all got out of our vehicles, and opened up the van. She did not ask for anything at all. We unloaded bibles, blankets, shoes, and a bicycle. She said she was rejoicing in her spirit that God had answered her prayers, and it was a miracle for her. We quickly exited the scene as people began to gather. All of us were jubilant for what had just happened. Our gracious heavenly Father took our futile ways and taught us some valuable lessons.
God has revealed seven objectives to us:
· You need to come into situations as quietly as possible.
· You need to identify the pastors that have a sincere heart to serve me. · You need to empower the leadership with the spiritual tools they need.
· You need to monitor their progress and stay connected with them.
· You need to work with those that want to put effort forth.
· You need to draw the least amount of attention to yourselves
· You need to continue to have obedient hearts.
Our Father God has been with us every step of the way. All that has happened is to become part of the story we share with others. These stories demonstrate the power of God without us repeating actions that were ineffective. The Holy Spirit even reminded me that I do not need to state the number: numbers of Bibles, numbers of bikes, numbers of blankets, numbers of shoes all of those can be self-serving. “Look at what we have done” is not necessary or desired. Because we have tried to serve the Lord, He has gently pointed out where we have failed.
When we returned to Annie’s Lodge, Pastor Andrew asked me to stay in the truck because he wanted to speak with me. He told me that he was sixty-seven years old, and through his decades of service, he had started 10 churches. He had never witnessed the Holy Spirit’s presence so strongly as he had today, and he was amazed by God’s power. He reassured me, “I will be praying earnestly that the path the Lord has set you on will be fulfilled. God bless you brother.” Andrew had been very quiet most of the day. I was not sure exactly how he was receiving everything. The words he spoke was a blessing to me in a powerful way.
As these words flow from my soul, so did the tears, making it hard to see the screen. However, as my sight blurred, the vision of our heavenly Father has become much more clear. It is three in the morning and I realize it is Christmas day. God has given us the greatest gift He possibly could: the opportunity to join Him in his will. I love you Lord with all my heart, soul and spirit. Thank you for taking these frail vessels and allowing us to see your ways.