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A Thousand Churches Without Bibles!

A small Victorian group recently headed to Malawi to encourage and minister to fellow Christians, and to participate in evangelistic efforts. God did some amazing things before their eyes. Just a few of them are included here.

Tuesday with the M’vano Women of Zomba
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
Two hundred and fifty women of faith – what a powerful force for the kingdom! CCAP (Presbyterian Church of Central Africa) Zomba Women’s Guild ushered me toward the heavens this afternoon with Spirit-led singing, urgent prayer and deep attentiveness to the Word of God. But I rush ahead. The M’vano women of Colin Mbawa’s church showed us through their sewing and knitting workshop where they use six sewing machines donated from a church in Melbourne to engage in acts of mercy for the Gospel’s sake. Boxes of cloth sent from Victorian churches are turned into dresses for sale and gifts for the poor. Boxes of wool, likewise donated from PCV, are turned into jumpers.

After inspecting the workshop and enjoying lunch together, the 250 women met for worship. Two hours later we emerged singing Amazing Grace. Again, I was taken unawares by the day – I thought Colin had said I was to ‘greet the women’ – but it dawned on me during lunch that I was to preach. So, for the next half hour I turned over in my mind that ‘glimpse of heaven’ that we find in Revelation 4. And so the Lord empowered me to preach for 40 minutes on those grand pictures of heaven that come through John’s vision.

Beer and spirits vs Bible and The Spirit!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

An amazing night… have I ever said that before? Yes, but this was truly amazing. But, as usual, I run ahead of the story.

These are truly beautiful people. About a hundred of us crammed into the CCAP building – a flimsy and airy structure that looks as though it could blow over in a windstorm. This is evangelism training. I extended my series on ‘What is the Gospel?’ while John and Sue repeated their sessions each for a different audience. Such attentiveness and joy. Their sing- ing is an inspiration to us.

Each of the Presbytery ministers participate and their response is to say that we must repeat these presentations before the whole Synod when they meet in General Assembly. In a way I am surprised by their reaction – all I do is present a theological explanation of the Gospel according to the Scriptures.

The theme of my presentation is ‘You don’t need me’. My purpose is to encourage these dear people that they can understand the Gospel by understanding the Scriptures themselves and that they can evangelise Zambia better than we can. It’s been a humbling experience.

Fireworks at night …

Have you ever preached against the music and noise of a sports club drinking bar? Picture this – on one side of the soccer arena, Christians from CCAP, on the other side, an open air sports club with amped-up music, drink- ing and lots of noise!

The choirs sang, the sun sank under the horizon, and the preachers preached. I sensed the distractions. The children were noisy and the crowd less attentive than the previous night. But I enjoyed preaching. I always enjoy preaching God’s gospel in a way that would honour him. The op- position from across the paddock was making it hard. But little did I know that God was going to have the last laugh!

About three quarters of the way through my address, fire broke out. At the corner of the sports complex, a power pole caught fire and spectacular fireworks were coming from it! Sparks were flying everywhere – the night sky was alight. I preached on, pleading with people to remain. I said something like: ‘This fire will only last a moment, but the love of God lasts an eternity’. Yes, it sounds corny, but it was the first thing that came to mind! I needed to keep the crowd. Then, the fuse blew, the lights went out, the music stopped, the whole place went dark… except our side of the stadium! Yes, by the work of God, our lights and power remained. All around us was dark. The community was blacked out. THIS IS A TRUE STORY… I have five hundred eye witnesses! I was floundering a bit by this stage, but I babbled on. My job was to save the occasion and call the people to stay.

The people came back. The stadium settled. I handed to John S who preached with the Holy Spirit’s power and with great conviction… in the quiet. No drinkers, no music. We had the night to our- selves. About one hundred people came forward for counselling. We have no idea why each person came forward, but the pastors are following them up. Some came to know the Lord tonight. We are hoping that one of them might be a future ‘Stephen Lungu’. Will you pray?

A thousand churches Friday 1st July 2011

This week, we visited a village church way off the beaten track. I can’t remember the name just now but it is a CCAP congregation that commenced in 1922 and has been faithful to the Gospel ever since. Access to it is via a series of rough tracks barely used by cars. But they spotted us coming – 60 women on the move toward us swaying and singing ‘you are welcome, you are welcome’. Dear faithful men and women of God: humble, devoted to God and… poor. So poor they do not know where their next meal is coming from.

We sat with them, hugged them and encouraged them. Then we conducted a short but very dignified service with sixty women from the village, twenty men, thirty children, the session clerk and the Village Chief! I preached an impromptu message from John 6 and they gave wrapt attentiveness to the Word of God (through an interpreter). They were so de- lighted to hear the message. Then, out of their poverty, they provided a gift to take home: some fresh muffins and the ever-present Coke for refreshments. I spoke to the Village Chief after the service and he said that his village totals 156 persons. I think I counted 110 of them at church! Then I spoke to the women and asked them their greatest need. I was thinking the reply was to be ‘to repair the roof’ or ‘food’ or ‘money’. Can you guess? Without racing ahead to the next paragraph? One by one these faithful women told me of their greatest need. Can you guess?

BIBLES! None of these men and women have a Bible. They are too poor to own a book! They can read, or, at least enough of them can read to share the knowledge around. They would give their right arm to own a Bible. We left with hearts aflame and decided there and then to give our immediate spare money and send them forty Bibles.

But what of the rest of Malawi? There would be at least one thousand villages in rural communities like this one. One thousand churches without Bibles – with at least a hundred people in each. And for ten dollars we can buy a Chichewa Bible.

That’s 10 X 100 X 1000 = $1 million dollars – that’s all it would take to give the most precious book in the world into the hands of every known church goer in rural Malawi.

There’s a challenge!

John Wilson, Victoria