Greetings from Kaunakakai, Hawaii, on the tiny island of Molokai, where the Lord is already moving powerfully among his people.
Thank you so much for your prayers and encouraging e-mails last month during my time of ministry in Africa. God moved in a supernatural way during the crusade in Uganda. I flew from there to Lilongwe, Malawi, to work with a village pastor whom I met just last year at a conference in Zambia. I was joined on this trip by two dear brothers – Paul, a Swiss part-time missionary to Uganda, and Chad, a passionate 19-year old from my hometown in Pennsylvania. This was our first time in Malawi, and none of us knew quite what to expect. The mission impacted each of us in a profound way.
This trip to Africa was my sixth one. Never in my life have I seen such poverty. In fact, Malawi is the poorest country on Earth. Recent statistics show that the average annual income in Malawi is just over $225 a year. I’ve been exposed to incredible poverty before in Africa, but it did not take long to realize that this poverty exceeded anything I had ever before seen. A bottle of soda can be purchased for a mere 30 or so cents. A good-sized portion of chicken and rice at a local shop will cost about $3. The total cost for a nice-sized hostel room with two beds, where we spent two nights, was around $8 a night. We watched mini-bus drivers angrily wrangling with customers over 500 Malawi Kwacha (the local currency), which is under 70 cents.
Even as I write this, the situation in this small sub-Saharan nation is very critical. Already an extremely poor country, Malawi is still reeling from a drought last year during what should have been it’s rain season, which produced very little harvest in the spring. Most likely, people are dying even on this very day in Malawi. It was announced on the radio one morning during our stay that three children had died of starvation in a town called Dedza. Thousands of people across the country are starving. Many families are struggling to provide even one meal a day for their children.
The good news is that it is now rain season of 2016, and by the grace of God, Malawi is getting rain. You’ll notice from the pictures attached that the land is looking quite lush and hopefully ripe for harvest in a few months. Still, it is a very tense time for many people, because they have been in such a dire situation for so long.
Pastor Harrison Kaligwenje
We worked with someone in Malawi who I esteem to be a hero in the faith. Thus, I want to share with you a little about this dear saint of God.
Last spring, while ministering at an evangelism conference in Zambia, a Malawian pastor named Harrison Kaligwenje, who attended the conference, invited me to minister in Malawi. I sensed from the little time we spent together that the need for training the body of Christ in his country was tremendous. I reached out to him last fall and told him I’d be happy to come to Malawi. We were both excited about the possibilities.
Pastor Harrison is the national overseer of the Wesleyan Church in Malawi. 22 years ago, in his early 20’s, he felt the call of God on his life to plant churches. His wife was apprehensive until one Sunday, while attending a church service, she was convicted by a sermon about faith and following Jesus all the way. Without even going home to get their belongings, Pastor Harrison and his wife left that meeting with nothing but the clothing on their backs and walked three days by foot to the area that the Lord was calling him, never looking back. 22 years later, he has planted fourteen village churches in Malawi, including his current church in the town of Dedza. The picture below shows just how modest this “building” is, made of nothing but sticks and straw. The roof is covered by a few white tarps when rain is in the forecast. His house, attached to the church, has one small light bulb in the sitting room, which is ordinarily not even a “sitting room,” because he does not own furniture. He borrowed a table and a few chairs from a neighbor during our stay. A father of seven, his remaining six children at home all sleep together in one tiny room. None of them have beds, or even mattresses. They sleep on bags that are used to package maize (corn). Simply put, these people have nothing. Two of his children were in need of money for their school fees when we arrived, and were in danger of not being allowed to attend. (Even most public schools in Africa carry fees.) By God’s grace, we were able to help Pastor Harrison and his family out financially in a number of areas.
A few weeks ago, I saw a secular magazine for sale at an airport in Newark, New Jersey. The magazine is called Success. Underneath the magazine’s title was a gigantic headshot of America’s most famous television preacher and mega-church pastor, smiling from ear-to-ear. The magazine article even describes “his eternally positive message. He’s often called “the smiling preacher,” and he intentionally avoids using words like Hell or sin. He never says “Satan” or “evil,” instead preferring expressions like “the enemy…”” With an international television ministry and the largest church in America, this man is a success in the eyes of the world.
Then, there is Pastor Harrison Kaligwenje.
He has no bank account. He wore the same shirt and socks (with holes in them) day after day during our stay, his black belt around his waist fraying and falling apart. His church is made of sticks and straw. He has not even a proper bed to sleep in or a chair to sit on in his tiny, four-room rented home, which costs less than $7 a month. Yet, in spite of his circumstances, not once did he ever complain or make his needs known to us. This humble man has planted fourteen village churches in his native country. He faithfully travels two hours almost monthly via public transportation on horrible dirt “roads” to visit the local pastors of some of these churches. He loves his wife and treats her with respect, while she submits to him and faithfully serves God and her family. His children honor him as their father. Probably most impacting of all, he is the first African pastor I’ve ever seen weep over a person while ministering.
At one point during my stay in Malawi, I remembered that magazine from the airport, and a question came to my mind: Would Pastor Harrison Kaligwenje ever appear on the cover of Success magazine?
Our ministry was primarily that of speaking and praying for people. The days and nights were long, with two to three sessions of training each day, and then a showing of the famous “Jesus Film” in the local language in a different village location each night, with the preaching of the gospel interjected during the film. We saw multitudes of people respond to the “Jesus Film.” Of course, we realize that not every person who raises his or her hand for salvation is genuinely being converted, but we believe that some people are. One night, about 25 people stayed after the film for personal prayer.
At the conference, many people were encouraged and built up through the teaching and preaching. Of note is the story of a young man pictured above with me and one of his goats. This man lived locally, housing us during the conference. One day, I was preaching about greed and materialism and the effect that these things have on the human heart. Some might say that is not a necessary message in a rural village in Africa, but I’ve learned over the years that the human heart is just as wicked in rural Africa as it is in the western world, and the word of God is equally as powerful there as it is anywhere else. That evening, this man and his wife met me privately. He confessed that he had been convicted of covetousness and greed during the preaching. His response was immediate. He owned five goats, and as an act of repentance, he said he wanted to give us a goat to eat during the conference. So, the next morning, he let his five goats out to walk and asked me to pick whichever one I wanted. Naturally, I picked the best one (pictured below and to the right), and that afternoon we had some amazing goat meat for lunch… and dinner, and lunch the next day. And man, was it ever good!
God is going to bless this man tremendously for his sacrifice, which was repentant action to the word of God. Truly, he was a doer of the word, and not just a hearer.
On our way to the airport, we stopped in a busy local market area to do some open-air preaching. The response was tremendous, as people were very eager and willing to hear the word of God. A 30-year old girl came up to us at the end seeking prayer, in front of dozens of people, confessing that she has been in fornication and wanted to recommit her life to Christ. It took tremendous courage for her to do this, especially with so many people watching. It was a very satisfying end to a long week of ministry, which included more demonic manifestations in a couple people, as well as a few others making first-time commitments to Christ in various meetings. During our conference in the village, we skipped one of the afternoon sessions to do evangelism locally on a Saturday, and twelve people came to the church the next day who were met during the evangelism.
There is more to tell, but hopefully this is a sufficient snapshot of ministry in Malawi and across the border in Mozambique. Thank you for all of your prayers. Would you continue to lift up my time of ministry in the south Pacific, where I’ll be most of this month, on multiple islands in Hawaii and also the Marshall Islands? God moved powerfully last weekend in the Houston area, where I spent a few days, and is already doing so here in the local church on Molokai.
Many blessings in Jesus,
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