The Lord Is Working in Malawi, 1996
Paul and Barnabas "gathered the church together, [and] they rehearsed
all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith
unto the Gentiles." (Acts 14:27)
On their return to Antioch from their first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas decided that it was important for the other Christians to know how the Gospel had been received. Wouldn't you have liked to be there and hear their report? That is not possible, but I can tell you something of my fourth and most recent trip to the African country of Malawi.
This is a part of Africa, between Kenya and South Africa, where David Livingstone labored so many years ago. In fact he helped bring the terrible slave trade to an end in that area. Some people have mistakenly concluded that he was more of an explorer than a missionary, but he always had uppermost in his mind the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of souls.
This was the fundamental concern on my recent trip. During the two weeks I was in Malawi many heard the Gospel and responded to Christ's invitation to come to Him for living water, the same invitation the Samaritan woman who had had five husbands received at Jacob's well from our Lord.
The schedule was a full one, with Rev. Peter K. Phiri planning services in a number of places and with various key groups in mind. One of these was young men and boys. Another was young women and girls. Still another was pastors, evangelists and deaconesses.
British Airways had taken me from Newark to London, and then on to Lilongwe, the capitol of Malawi, arriving on Saturday morning. Sunday morning when we reached the good-sized brick church near the town of Salima it was already filled to capacity, with people sitting on the ground in the middle aisle, and many unable to get inside. A number of choirs were on hand to take part in the worship of the Lord. The people of that area are great singers, and seem to have a talent for three- and four-part harmony. Some of the tunes they use are familiar ones to Christians in other lands, and some are original.
During the message I told of two recent funerals, one of an elderly Christian worker who had passed away after many years of faithful service to the Lord and His people. The other was that of a young girl who had come to Christ, along with a younger brother, in one of our Pillar of Fire Christian schools. After finding the Lord as her personal Saviour she had done her best to interest relatives and friends in the Christian life, and then suddenly, suffering from what did not seem to be a life-threatening illness, she went to be with the Lord.
In a church service packed with people of all ages I felt sure that there were some who had never surrendered their lives to the Lord, or who had cooled off in their Christian experience, and urged all to give heed to the loving invitation of Jesus Christ to come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing. At first there were a few men who came forward, but then, as Rev. Phiri took over the altar call and the singing many more men, and then women, and children, responded. It was a thrilling scene that will not soon be forgotten, and there was a promise of follow-up by some of the pastors that were present.
Some of the services held each day through the two weeks were held on our "campus" or headquarters, where Rev. Phiri and his wife make their home. Others were held in other localities. One of these was in a good-sized church built of native materials. I was reminded by Rev. Phiri that two years earlier, when Dr. Robert B. Dallenbach and I had been there, a large crowd had gathered, and there was no suitable structure to accommodate them all. As I recall, there had been an earthquake that had damaged the earlier church, so the service was held in the out-of-doors, some large trees providing partial shelter from the sun. At that service both Dr. Dallenbach and I had opportunity to bring the Good News to the people, and many responded to the invitation to receive the Lord as Saviour. Once again on the current occasion the people gave earnest attention to the Gospel, and then came forward to receive Christ or to renew their commitment to Him and His Way.
During a number of the services held "on campus" the people present, including pastors, deaconesses, evangelists, and others, gave testimonies to the transforming power of Jesus Christ in their lives. Some of them had been using alcoholic beverages or tobacco, or had been doing other things they knew were wrong. Under the preaching of the Gospel they had repented of their sins and had sought to begin to live a holy life and bring others to the Lord.
During the testimony of one of the pastors, who serves in a rural area not far from the capitol city, a touching account was given of what had happened while he and his wife were attending the meetings now going on. This pastor and his wife, who evidently do some farming to help support themselves, do not have any near neighbors living right up against their home, as some others have, and thieves took advantage of their absence to steal their clothing, household goods, and even the bicycle that the pastor had been furnished to use in his ministry in the community.
Of course I was much distressed to hear this sad news, and wondered just what I might be able to do to give a helping hand to this couple. After thought and prayer, and consultation with Rev. Phiri as to what might be needed and appropriate, I found that I was able to give some financial help that would replace some of their clothing and household necessities, and perhaps even a bicycle for his ministry.
Another testimony, given by one of the deaconesses, who is also wife of a talented pastor, told of the loss of a number of family members in recent weeks or months. She is sad because of these losses, but continues to carry on her labors for the Lord and be a helpmeet to her husband.
During some of these services I was happy to hear messages by some of the pastors, evangelists, or deaconesses. One of these was given by Rev. Peter K. Phiri himself, who did the interpreting into the local Chichewa language for my messages, and another was by the oldest of his three sons, Eleck, who was privileged to go with his wife several years ago to the Calvary College of Theology in Nigeria. Both graduated, as I recall, from their three-year program.
I was pleased with these Gospel messages, and also pleased to be able to visit the home of Eleck and his wife, Liness, who are both doing a good work for the Lord. Right across the street from their modest home is an open-air market that operates every day. Each morning at 5:30 Eleck holds a Bible study and prayer service for those who come to the market and those who have stalls there.
The second Sunday of my visit was a high point of the two weeks. For quite some time a need had been felt for a large brick church in an area where there are a number of villages with a considerable population. Faith and works in great quantities were evident in the results, and even though the structure is not fully completed, it was ready to be dedicated and suitably accommodate a large congregation. Also during the service, it was planned to ordain six pastors who had received training under Rev. Phiri's leadership.
As we reached the premises we could see that all was in readiness. Except for a small area that had evidently been reserved for some choirs who had not been able to come, the large building was filled, and soon that space was fully utilized as well. An estimated two thousand people were on hand for this interesting and impressive occasion that had been planned for many months.
After the several choirs had helped us lift our hearts in worship to the Lord, I gave the message of dedication, and pointed out that this was an important ceremony we were about to take part in, as would be the ordaining of the pastors that would soon follow. Nothing was so important to them as individuals, however, as the matter of their soul's salvation, and I urged them to come to the Lord and seek salvation. It was gratifying once again to see the response, first of a few, and then of a throng of men, women, and children. Follow-up on the part of pastors was also indicated, so that there would be continued growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord and His will on the part of those who had come to faith in Christ.
It was planned that the wives of the six pastors to be ordained would be on hand to participate in that ceremony. Unfortunately there was some sort of slip-up in regard to transportation, and two of the wives were not present. Later, on the campus, this defect was remedied, and we included them in appropriate prayer and encouragement for their important roles in the Lord's work.
From year to year for about a decade or so I have visited our missionary headquarters in London at least once a year. This time it was possible to include the annual meeting of our local Board with the trip to Malawi. British Airways allows a stopover in London at a very modest cost, even in connection with their very favorable missionary fare. During the visit I was able to tour the enlargement project recently completed by Brother Sherman Grove, with the help of Brother Lenny Mancino, and have conversation with such long-time workers as Sister Wilma Stolz, for many years a missionary in Liberia, and more recently in the former Yugoslavia.
Also, it was possible to go to Malaga, Spain, with Rev. and Mrs. Bernard Dawson, to be with Rev. and Mrs. Juan Vera Galeote and his wife and two daughters and a son. Rev. Steve Hight and his wife Kathy in earlier years served as missionaries in Central America, and are fluent in Spanish. For four nights Bro. Hight preached in our chapel in downtown Malaga, and a number of young people responded to the Gospel. On Sunday morning I gave a missionary message, with Rev. Hight serving admirably as interpreter. Although my late brother, Orland Wolfram, served as a missionary in Guatemala for about a quarter of a century, using the Spanish language, I have not acquired that skill.
We are deeply grateful for the contribution Brother and Sister Hight have made to the work in Spain. They also planned to spend a number of days at our London headquarters, and he planned to hold revival meetings in our chapel there.
Dear reader, have you put off the day of salvation, thinking that some
time in the future you would take care of that pressing question, "Where
will I spend eternity?" The Bible makes it clear that "Now is the
accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation." If the young
girl I mentioned had put off the day of salvation until the next school
year, where would she be now? Do not delay, do not put off this most important
question you will ever face: "What will I do with Jesus?" He is knocking
at your heart's door right now. He will not force open the door, but if
you will open it to Him, He will enter and give you forgiveness, salvation,
and eternal life. Do it now.