The last Sunday on this trip has come and gone. Certainly it will rank in the top few Sundays of my life. Before I get into that, I want to talk about brother Jared a bit. When God swung my arm around and pointed to the man, saying “There is the one, I was surprised.” I haven't officially met him yet, but I had heard him speak at the village church. In my spirit, I could sense a sincere born-again follower of Jesus that was sharing his heart. Most of the time when I feel impressions on my spirit, I am cautious not to jump to a conclusion that may be caused by the flesh. I have been guilty of this on many occasions, however I do not let this restrain my exuberance to serve the Lord. God realizes that I come to him as a little child, and may not always react in a situation according to His will. This is not an excuse, but rather the truth of how I believe God views it.
If we are serving God and have surrendered our heart to Him completely, He will guide our footsteps as often as needed. When we hide His Word in our hearts, that becomes our spiritual compass to do the best serving Him. In our excitement to do the Master’s Work, if we misstep with an obedient heart, God will correct us in a loving way. I believe He would much rather see workers out in the field working then making excuses why they are not out there.
As I am writing this blog, Jared is starting a 14 hour journey to check on the paperwork of a nice van that he located. Knowing that we had difficulty with the truck purchase in Malawi, we are all uneasy about buying a used vehicle. The vehicle is well-suited for our needs- only three years of wear and tear, and 35,000 km. Also, it is fitted with 11 seats and automatic transmission. Praise Jesus for the opportunity to get a vehicle for Kenya. In addition to that, a nice, well-suited home has been identified for only $500 a month. We should be able to duplicate a similar training facility as we have in Blantyre. God is so good with His provisions and expedients to begin pastor training in Kenya.
Now for July 22, our last Sunday on this trip. God seems to have an uncanny way of packing things in during the last few days of our journey. The Master is setting the stage for what He wants to happen in our absence. That is the way it should be because it is He who is running the show. I am extremely thankful just to be a participating soldier, because after all, He is calling the shots. The first encounter began early Sunday morning as my wife and I walked around the neighborhood for an hour. There was a gentleman that we had seen a few different times and we would always smile and wave. This morning however was different.
We stopped and engaged him in conversation. He was from India with a very strong accent. In my mind, I probably stereotyped him a bit and guessed he was Hindu. He told us how he had commented to his friend just the night before about us. He said there was something different about us, something that he had rarely seen. Continuing on, he described it as a joy that did not come from circumstances, but from something deeper. He told his friend he must talk to us, and find out what it was. His name was Thomas, and he was a born again Christian that loved his Catholic religion. There was no question in our minds after talking with him that he had a personal relationship with Jesus and fully understood what that meant. There was one point where I challenged him in the conversation.
I told him that I have been in many denominations throughout my life. Then I told him that there is one thing I know for sure. There is not one denomination in the world that’s 100% pure religion as the Bible states. The reason is that mankind has put their twist on things and caused unnecessary division for many many centuries. Everyone tries to convince themselves that they have the new understanding, and that if you are “spiritual enough,” you will agree and follow along. Simple truth is The Word with nothing added and nothing subtracted, which is sufficient in itself. When I asked Thomas if he was a Christian, he replied, “I am a Catholic Christian that loves Jesus.” My suggestion to him was to say, ‘I am a follower of Jesus first, and a Catholic second.” He agreed that this was a more accurate description, and seemed willing to adopt it as a future way of describing himself. Later on that evening, we had fellowship time over an evening meal and we learned quite a bit more about one another.
We had anticipated going to a church where we had met a man named Campbell, he was the choir director. The church was called CCAP, which stands for Church of Central Africa Presbyterian. This is a very large church with many locations in Malawi, possibly the largest church in Malawi. There were many locations in Blantyre alone. The notebook I had with the address written on mysteriously disappeared, so we went online and made the best estimation of where we should go. At this point Kelvin made a guess were we should go. Actually I believe God directed us to a church that was not exactly the one we intended to go to, yet it was a CCAP church. As it turns out, this was exactly where He wanted us to go. Remember now, Echo Africa’s mission is to train pastors and distribute Bibles.
The church that we attended had well over 1000 present that morning. Not only that, it was ordination Sunday. There were over 50 pastors in attendance for the ordination ceremony. Collectively, they represented somewhere between five and ten thousand people, I am estimating. I had this overwhelming sense that this was exactly where we were supposed to be. Kelvin, Tony, and my wife and I sat near the back. No one knew we were coming, even ourselves, until that morning. Keep in mind this was Ordination Sunday, and not a soul in the church knew us. None of this matters because God was in control and this is what He did...
Somebody came up to us and said “You need to follow me.” They took us outside the church and walked us to the other end of the large building. We then entered a side door and walked into the very front of the church and were asked to sit with all of the pastors. We all just looked at each other with great surprise and wondered what God was up to. All of a sudden, we went from the back few rows of the church to the front and center stage with all the dignitaries from around Africa. Later on, Tony reminded us that we had just experienced a situation similar to what Jesus talked about, even though we were not invited.
Luke 14;10-11 NIV; But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, friend, move up to a better place. Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all those humbled themselves will be exalted. Most of my life, I did not follow this pattern. Instead, I would try to draw attention to myself by a variety of senseless and useless tactics. Praise God that He has opened my eyes to His ways and they are far far better than mine. By the way, as I was sitting on the stage with the pastors, I looked inside of my backpack. A drawing my little friend Joe had made for me was sticking out of the elusive notebook. Several times, I had looked inside the bag trying to find it. I had written the name and address of the church we were supposed to attend. This notebook had been hidden from my view until we were on stage at one of the largest churches in Malawi. Here is just another reason, among countless others, why I follow Jesus.
The grows more exciting still. After we had been sitting with the other pastors for a few minutes, we were called up front and introduced to the entire congregation and all of the pastors! For whatever reason, God wanted many more people to know about Echo Africa on this Sunday. There is nothing more inspiring than to watch God unfold a situation for His glory. In time, we will understand why all of this happened. The service concluded around 1 PM. The second half of our day was equally impressive, if not more so. I had intended in writing about it in this report, but it deserves its own report. Martin and his family are an inspiration for all of those Jesus follower wannabes. You will not want to miss this story. Martin is a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar. He speaks ancient Arabic and the Babylonian language. He was a paid thug that has an unbelievable story to tell about the redemptive powers of Jesus Christ. Not only that, God has just introduced to us the newest soldier to join us in battle.