The Malawi team continues to move forward on several different fronts. Tony and Joe are making contact with church leadership. Bible distribution is necessary, and we are following the Holy Spirit’s direction on the most effective way to do this. Pastor Joe has come up with a document to be shared with church leadership regarding Bible distribution. Also, a collection of Bible verses has been identified as the starting point for memorization. We will be distributing these single sheets of paper in larger quantities to the churches that want to participate. Those that wish to receive the Bible will be required to put effort forward. Currently, we feel as though a minimum gateway entry point is necessary. What we mean by this is that if someone is not willing to memorize a few passages to receive a Bible, it’s highly unlikely that they will use the Bible once they receive it. Any time that the Holy Spirit alerts us to do things differently, we will gladly submit to His authority.
The Echo Team has submitted different bracelet designs to Tony. Remarkably, he sent pictures of finished examples in less than 48 hours! A local artist named Gilbert will be assisting us in training the villagers how to make bracelets. Our intentions are to document this process in hopes of encouraging youth groups in America to help distribute the bracelets. The goal that we are currently pursuing would be to bring back at least a couple thousand of these in March. They are light enough and small enough that we could transport them in our suitcases. We pray that the presence of God would move across the land and that many would end up contributing their time.
These bracelets could be sold at countless locations. We could also enlist the help of the adult members of church congregations. The EchoAfrica team will continue to identify other items for U.S. distribution. In addition to these efforts, we will be constructing an online catalog. We are also seeking supplies that could be purchased and distributed to needy villagers in the area. Once we have identified suppliers that can give us price guarantees for a year, we will begin posting them. At that point, if someone feels led to purchase a goat, cow, chickens or anything else for one of the villagers, they would be able to do so.
The opportunity to set up communication with the recipients and the donors could now occur. This would give the donors a window into the lives of our Christian brothers and sisters in Malawi. WhatsApp is a very common method of communication, and it does not require a payment. Believe it or not, many of the villagers have phones, they are inexpensive devices with far less reliability and features. However, they can purchase them very cheap, but access to computers and email is far more limited. The reason why I mention this is that it could become a viable way of international communication. With that said, they still need a wifi signal for this to work, which may exist in trading centers and outposts.
Tony is continuing the preparation of the missionary house. We now have a couple of laptop computers, two office desks, 6 bunk beds, and 3 queen beds to accommodate 18. There are several other things that are being purchased, and we fully anticipate the house being ready for our March stay. We want to give all the glory to God and praise Jesus for the many provisions He has provided for us.
We have also discovered a 2010 Toyota 14 passenger van. Although it is 8 years old, it has fairly low miles and looks to be in good shape. Our intentions are to get it checked out by the Toyota dealer in Malawi, and if it looks good we will be praying for God to let us have it. Another mode of transportation that we are currently investigating is 125 cc motorcycles. These would be much more efficient to operate and far cheaper to insure. Our team that will be permanently based in Malawi could use this form of transportation to stay in close contact with the village churches. The truck will be used for transporting goods and repair parts for the wells, pedestrian bridges, and road repair. In addition to that, people can be transported when necessary.
The truck will be used for many different purposes. Missionaries can be driven around the region during trips. We can relocate villagers in emergency situations. The truck will transport pastors and leaders to conferences when nothing else is available. Private charter service for certain groups can be given to help offset the cost of the vehicle. We will always be open to other opportunities God would open up.
We are continuing efforts with pastor Felix. Our inquiries into guiding principles and procedures for pastors in leadership have revealed that there is nothing in place. He continues to ask for money to support his family and education for his children. I asked him how many hours he designates each week to ministry responsibilities. His response was “a maximum of 11 hours.” He is a self-proclaimed leader of over a dozen churches. The reality is becoming painfully clear that there are no guiding principles or structures in place for operation. I am referring only to what the Bible says about leadership. There are many verses that describe strong versus poor leadership.1 Timothy 3:1-13, 2 Timothy 2:1-13, Titus1:5-9, Acts 6:1-6, Exodus 18:21-22 and Mark 10:42-45 are just a few.
Unfortunately, many churches in America no longer follow the standards set forth by the Bible. We will see how difficult it is to get the people of Malawi to adopt these Biblical principles. I believe that if we want to experience the glory of God in our churches, we have to rely on the Bible as the starting point. Ultimately, God wants us to use the Bible as our guideline. If we are mistaken, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to correct us.
Pastor Rick and my wife and I look forward to our return trip in March. We pray that Tony and Joe will be guided by the Holy Spirit to set up all the meetings that we are supposed to participate in. With joyful hearts, we anticipate a glorious time serving the King when we return. Our predictable life in Michigan majorly decreases the need to rely on God. In Malawi, it is much different. Each day, the villagers did not know how God would provide for them. Without that, I feel as though I am slowly suffocating. I do not want predictability, routine, or to count on my own abilities.
I want more of Jesus, guidance, reliance, awe, and wonder. I would much rather see Him move in and around situations that I could participate in. All the luxuries in the world will never compare to Jesus. My prayers are that the opportunity God is opening up will profoundly affect us. Then, we can use this paradigm shift in our life to strengthen our walk with the Lord, and to help others grow in their walks with God too.