Week 4,5-Chinzakazi Village, Ntcheu, Malawi
Maria Salow, Active Duty for the Lord Jesus
Tuesday, July 9th began my fourth week of living, learning, and teaching in the Ntcheu village. However, I must share an amazing encounter from Monday of that week before I returned to the village. Through Martin and his family, I had the privilege of meeting a family who lives in Blantyre from Lebanon. They are Muslims, but as I came to find out, their family is open to Jesus! I met up with their two daughters, who are about my age, to get coffee together. We began talking about events happening in all of our lives, and of course, that conversation shifted to faith, as it matters to all of us. Interestingly enough, they shared that many principles they find in the Qur’Aan, and the Bible are similar. Even though their faith does not acknowledge Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life, they are open to talking about the Christian faith.
This experience goes to show me that many people may be open to Jesus Christ, even when we do not expect it. This amazed me, as I had always thought that Muslims were strict in their faith, and closed off to any other beliefs. I however was pleasantly surprised, and we had a wonderful conversation, encouraging each other to love others, and live lives honoring to God. As they were open to talking about the Bible, and Jesus, I hope that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I have also learned that coming to common beliefs within different faiths can help facilitate positive and encouraging conversation. For example, I compared the Meca, to the challenges of village life with America. Although I do not know many details about this religious journey, I do know that as time passed through life, people travel and may not have all of the physical needs met. They do this intentionally in order to grow closer to God, and turn away from the distractions of the world.
This accurately describes my time in the village. My goal for being in the village was first and foremost to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and love his people. However, it has also been a time for me to grow in my own relationship with God, and turn myself away from the distractions of the world. It is important for all believers to dedicate time to purposely get away from the world, have alone time, turn off distractions, and have complete focus on Jesus Christ. Without intentionally pursuing time with the Lord, how can we grow closer to Him and discover what His will is for our lives?
Tuesday morning, we started off for the village a bit later than usual. On the way, I was grateful to talk with my man of God for just a few minutes before I turned off my data. He was in the process of traveling from LA with his mom, back to his home in Honduras. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for the love he has given us, because even just a few seconds to see his face glowing with the joy of our Lord Jesus brightens up my day. In the car, I enjoyed many conversations with my brothers in the Lord. They encouraged me in my faith, and led me to view the world from a different perspective. It is healthy to be able to converse with other believers in order to challenge and expand our worldview. We talked about other denominations of Christianity, and what differs them from Biblical, and what made them similar. Ultimately, different denominations or titles do not matter, as long as we all realize that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As long as we follow everything that the Bible says, that is most important.
As Christ followers, we must believe and accept that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. In order to know this, we must study and understand God’s Word. That is my main goal with the children’s ministry-they would come to know Jesus, and desire to read His Word. I started sharing stories of Jesus’ life, as well as His healings from Matthew and Luke. I gave them several important facts about Jesus that we could discuss. I can see over time that the kids are getting more comfortable with our time together. Even though they do not always answer me, I can see that they are absorbing our discussions, and they are bright and excited to learn about our Savior Jesus Christ. That night, as I had dinner with my two brothers in Christ at the village, they admitted to me that they both needed to grow more in their desire and commitment to read God’s Word. I appreciate their honesty to share that with me, and as followers of Christ, it is important to share our struggles and triumphs. Reading God’s Word has to be one of the most important steps of living and growing in a relationship with our Lord God. On Thursday only I had the women’s Bible study, since we were still not in the village on Monday. I love getting to spend time with the women, since they are interested in growing in their relationship with God. Therefore, since I wanted them to understand the implications of being a Christ follower, we read and discussed Romans 5-8 together so we could learn about what our sinful nature, being restored in Christ, being dead to flash, a surrendered life, and living with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ really means. With the children, we continued talking about the life of Jesus, and it made my heart glad to see how they were interested in listening and learning about our Savior. In particular, one boy and his friends pay attention to many of the lessons, and I can see their desire to learn about God.
By Friday, it seems to me that the week has passed by quickly every time. The weekend is always exciting for me, and I can return to the city with my parents, and oftentimes, I enjoy time with friends. On Saturday, I met up with a fellow sister in the Lord, who described her relationship with Jesus Christ as “lukewarm.” I am grateful to God that my mom and I were able to enjoy some cherished time talking with her, speaking life and truth straight from God’s Word. I could see that she sincerely wanted to grow in her walk with God, and live a life surrendered in faith to Jesus Christ. This always encourages me to see people who realize they have strayed away to turn back to Jesus. God loves a heart who wants to turn toward him. After, I met up with a different sister in the Lord who is actually a part of Echo ministry. On Sundays, she teaches the soap making classes, so that is why I have not been able to see her, as I am in the city on Sundays. We strengthened each other as sisters in Christ, as we shared some of our favorite passages from God’s Word together. I was encouraged to hear about her life, and the sacrifices she made to provide for her family. Her generous heart encourages me to continue loving others and surrendering everything to God so He may use me.
Sundays are always encouraging, yet relaxing. My mom and I have been able to enjoy attending Blantyre Baptist Church together, and we always leave strengthened in the Lord, and the Word of God! This service reminded us that we cannot just trust in people, as our ultimate trust must come from our Heavenly Father. It is important to trust in each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, family members, friends, whatever it may be, but it becomes a downfall when we put our complete faith in another person. This is dangerous because people are imperfect, and we oftentimes let each other down. However, God is perfect, and full of love, and truth, so we can always trust in Him. His word is infallible and He is the ultimate source of help.
Monday, July 15 was a benchmark day, and it started my last full week in the village. Today was the day that six women who had faithfully been attending the Bible study recited Bible verses to me. I had assigned them to memorize Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, John 3:16-17, Galatians 2:20, and Proverbs 3:5-6. I believe these are just a few foundational Bible verses that all believers need to know. All of the ladies except for one successfully spoke them, so I proudly rewarded them their Bibles. On Tuesday, I had a wonderful time with the Lord Jesus Christ, resting in His presence. I will miss this the most from the village: spending quality uninterrupted time with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I also loved having the opportunity to share Jesus and His love with so many people.
Wednesday, July 17 was quite possibly one of the best days I had in the village. I praise the Lord for the many divine appointments that He set into motion, and the wonderful people that I met. Today, Steyn and I walked to an area called Chimvano, which I had previously visited with Lumbani. The children had all swarmed around me, and I thank God I had an opportunity to pray over them. Probably 40 or 50 children had gathered around us, so we shared the Gospel with them in a mix of English and Chichewa. Also, I was able to see a mother that I had met the first time I visited, who was joyful to see me again. She has a sincere heart for the Lord, although she did not have a Bible. I was glad to give her a Bible, and see her deep appreciation. Little did I know that God would still have divine appointments after visiting this woman and her family. On the way back, I met a young girl who said she also had faith in Jesus Christ, and upon the first time meeting me, she invited me and Steyn to her house! I do not know about you, but that probably would not happen in America… I will truly miss the loving culture of the people here in Malawi. After meeting the young girl, we came across another woman who actually lived close to us, and she shared that she had gone to the Echo Center, but was not able to receive the Bible at the time. I asked her what she would do if I were to give her a Bible at that very moment. She replied “I would pray and thank God for the blessing.” By having said that, we gave her a Bible, and she did that very thing… Got on her knees, lifted her hands, and thanked God for the blessing of having God’s Word for herself. It was a touching moment, and certainly encouraging me to me to see how people were so grateful to have a Bible.
Thursday was another day full of blessings from God, as well as heavenly ordained conversations. My Bible study women and I talked about the life of righteousness together, and one of the women correctly recited her final Bible verse to me, cyber so I gave her the Bible. I believe this is the day when they said to me their official congratulations by knowing their language! I can only thank God, because Chichewa is easily the hardest language I have ever tried learning as a linguistics student… God is good!
Friday was the day that Steyn and I got to visit the young girl’s house, who had invited us back on Wednesday. I must say, my day had started off much differently than I was expecting… I had gone to bed around 8:30 or 9 PM on Thursday night, and was abruptly woken up around midnight or 1 o’clock. It is hard to describe the sensation in my body, because it was an otherworldly experience. The demonic oppression I was sensing was intense, and I could hardly move my body, as I felt paralyzed. At that very moment, I knew I could not fall back asleep, as Satan was clearly testing me. I called on the Name of Jesus, because I know that there is power and freedom in Jesus’ Name! For the next couple hours, I prayed, listened, and sang to worship music, and continually rejected the attack of Satan on myself. I began slowly moving my toes to shake off the paralysis, and I began to experience true freedom once I got out of bed, and danced to the worship music. I believe in full faith, that I was literally shaking off the chains of Satan as I was dancing to Jesus music.
Back at my friends house, we had to wait for her for over an hour, to arrive at her own home, in accordance with typical African lifestyle. Little did I know that that was an exam day at school, and she would not be there at the time we planned. We did still share a wonderful conversation with her family, who happened to be believers in Jesus Christ. We shared some of our favorite Bible verses, and encouraged each other in the faith, and importance of reading God’s Word. When the girl arrived, we continued having amazing conversations, and were able to share a snack with her as well. I will miss feeling so welcomed into a family that I do not even know, and that is the beauty of the warm heart of Africa.
Quite honestly, this Saturday was the hardest day for me in the village. First of all, I usually leave the village late Friday morning, but this time, we were staying there until Saturday night. This was a soccer bonanza put on by Echo, with the intent of sharing the Gospel today for many spectators who would be present to enjoy the game. I was given the responsibility, and pleasure of taking pictures that day which could be used for the website or whatever other platforms available to us. I enjoyed walking around and taking pictures, as well as talking with people that I met. I must admit that I was quite exhausted by the end of the day, because people were constantly staring at me, even when I was not doing anything. Towards the later part of the day, I even had a swarm of 20+ children constantly around me, I wanted to share some pictures with them, but it is stressful to be sitting on the ground and have so many tiny humans surrounding you, nearly blocking you so you can hardly move. I know I cannot do this on my own and I needed to rely on the strength and help of the Holy Spirit in order not to lose my temper. By the end of the day, I was grateful that I had the opportunity to take pictures, and interact with so many people, and I was also relieved to enjoy my bed at home!
Sunday, July 21 was yet another excellent church service I enjoyed with my mom. Today’s message informed believers about the sneaky ways idolatry can creep into someone’s life. Really, having anything before God is committing spiritual prostitution, which is graphic, but true. I feel encouraged as I realize that God truly is all I need to live, and we must realize this so we do not have false aspirations which do not truly satisfy us. Realizing this truth ultimately keeps us focused on the Lord at all times, and we are less likely to be disappointed when people or events fail to meet our expectations. Monday, July 22 was my last day in the village. This was the only day I would be there that week, and I had a wonderful time sharing final moments with my Bible study ladies. The Lord pleasantly surprised me by bringing me two other ladies to recite Bible verses who were not attending the Bible studies. One of the ladies had actually come to me about a week ago requesting some Bible verses to recite in order to receive the Bible. Today, she had returned, and she even brought a friend! Both of them perfectly recited the Bible verses I had given, as well as two or three extras, which absolutely blew me away! This shows genuine commitment, and desire to study God’s word, so they can have their own Bibles. Without a doubt, I was encouraged by their decision to go the extra mile, and all of us should do the same. Because of the Holy Spirit within us, we are empowered to do what is pleasing to God, even in ways beyond our imagination. Going the extra mile is not by our strength, yet the strength of our Lord Jesus Christ.