Newsletter – Malawi 2003
Muli bwanji? How are you? This is the language of the Chichewa people who we were sharing with. Each day we told the children, Yesu ama kukondani, Jesus loves you!
The children in Malawi are in a desperate situation. They suffer from neglect, abuse, and feelings of abandonment as many of their parents have died. The average life expectancy there is around 36 years of age. They are number 2 for AIDS in Africa and have many diseases that most of us in the West have never seen. The coffin makers are said to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week as they have also experienced famine. Many times we asked God for wisdom as we told the children that there is a Father who loves them. God graciously answered our prayers as heard hundreds and hundreds of children and teenagers praying out loud, asking Jesus to be their Savior.
African Bible College
It was a great privilege to work with the African Bible College. We trained young people there to use the equipment that we brought and took them with us to many shows. They loved doing the work and we are very confident that they will continue!
Our team really blessed many children as they shared with almost 10,000 children, teenagers, and adults how Jesus meets all needs. I am very grateful for Aaron Stewart, Stacey Parker, James Grant (South African Puppet Ministry Director), Sam Shaw (Northern Ireland Puppet Ministry Director), and David Thompson (England).
We all loved being in Africa. Most of us enjoyed ostrich meat and eating ensema, a maize product that you roll with your fingers and dip in different toppings. We were disappointed that we could find fried termites and mouse on a stick.
We presented a puppet show to the children who attend school on the campus of the African Bible College. All of the teachers and students at the college also attended. This was a great opportunity to introduce to the students the idea of puppet ministry.
In the afternoon, we taught a three-hour training session to twenty-four students who expressed an interest in this type of ministry. One young person met us at the door and said ‘I didn’t sign-up for this class. Is there room for me? All were very enthusiastic and these students were the fruit of your prayers. The training included balloon tying, storytelling, and working with puppets. This was only one of many training sessions.
One day, we attended a Children’s Evangelism class to share experiences with the students. We wanted to encourage them in their ministry and give them vision for what is possible, as you trust God to open doors.
At an evening Bible study for the missionaries who serve at the African Bible College, James Grant, our Puppet Director from South Africa, shared his testimony! It was incredible to hear the report of the tens of thousands of children that they have shared Christ with in the past three years. This summer James and his wife Lynne will join our mission board, Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship.
Death is common here
ABC has a free clinic where we shared with the patients who were waiting to see a doctor. On the same day, we shared at a school, talked with a fifth grade class, and did a puppet show for a Good News Club in a village. Sadly, we had the move the location of the program out of respect for a funeral taking place near by in a private home.
Death is common here. One missionary told us that she has been to more funerals here than most people would attend in four lifetimes. When someone who works for the college dies, they usually make their coffin here on the campus because all the of coffin makers have too much business. We passed several of these coffin-making shops as we traveled to shows.
God brought a verse to our hearts while ministering to the children. It says in Proverbs 13:7, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; AND one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” We worked with Christians in Malawi who were exceptionally poor according to the world’s standards, but in the eyes of God, extremely rich.
Street Children in Blantyre
David Livingston passed through this area and they named the town of Blantyre for his birthplace in Scotland to honor him. It was after dark in Blantyre when a young teenager appeared at the window of our car, begging for food. Someone had cut off both of his hands. He was one of the many street kids that walk the streets of this city. For 5 kwacha, about 5 cents, they can pay to sleep in a doorway. The City Pentecostal Church in Blantyre provides these street children with showers, food, and a place to wash their clothes. It is the only church in town that cares for them and many were very young. We presented an outside show for them. As we talked with them, we learned how the older ones sexually abuse the younger ones. Then, as they grow up, they do to the others what was done to them. Only Jesus can break this cycle of pain and despair. God gave us the opportunity to comfort one little boy who was only 7 years old who is a victim of the older boys. At the show, many of the children indicated that they had trusted Christ.
The street children were welcomed into the service Sunday morning in Blantyre and given front row seating with the other children in the church. When the invitation was given in our program, the street children began to pray out loud. People wept as they heard them call out to God and say, “I need a Father. I want God to be my Father.” They asked the Lord to forgive them and enthusiastically asked Jesus Christ to be their Savior. Please pray that these new young believers will be discipled and raised up to be Godly leaders among the street children.
While doing a program in a primary school, we heard the children singing praise songs with enthusiasm and joy for the Lord. They were anxious to share what they had learned, quoting many scripture verses. We also enjoyed the time we spent doing a program for a lunch service at the church, where 280 adults gathered to praise and worship God instead of eating during their lunch hour, They represented many churches. The pastor challenged all of them to begin strong programs to reach the children for Christ and many seemed interested. Please pray that God will raise up more workers in Malawi to minister to the children.
More street shows
We love to do street shows. Our friends arranged for us to do two programs in townships. The people here are desperately poor, living in one-room houses that are extremely poorly constructed. Many of the children suffered from malnutrition and many illnesses including Malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis. Still their greatest need is the hope in knowing Jesus Christ as their Savior.
I always struggle with trying to find a way to describe to you how terrible the conditions are that these children live in everyday. I can never find the words. I want you to see the faces. I wish you were with us to put your arms around these dear little ones that have less than nothing. They sit in the sun, on the ground in the dirt, just to hear the words of Jesus. They have a real hunger to know that someone loves them. Over 100 children gathered at the first show. At second show, David walked around the area with a balloon dog and gathered more than 250 children. Many, many children raised their hands and asked Christ to be their Savior. The Child Evangelism Fellowship leaders who meet with them on a weekly basis will follow up these children.
Betty Rogers is a lovely lady in her late 60s who blessed us with kindness, good food, and incredible hospitality in Blantyre. She has served in Africa for the last 12 years. This is an awesome way to spend your retirement years, in service to the Kingdom. Many parts of Malawi receive no mission teams and would really enjoy having some help from their brothers and sisters. The people are very warm and friendly, eager to have you come.
We heard high school students praying out loud to receive Jesus Christ as Savior. Though the program began with a lot of noise and distraction, we prayed, and God caused them to listen. You could hear a pin drop in a room of over 500 teenagers as the invitation was given. Earlier in the day, we had the same sweet experience at a primary school where many little children called on Jesus to be their Savior.
Pray for Stephen and Jean Mupata who were our translators and will continue this work after we leave. He is the national Director for Child Evangelism Fellowship. These people are faithful workers.
Children of the Nations
Children of the Nations have a feeding program in the village of Chimbalame. Each day, they provide 389 orphans with a meal. For some, this is their only meal. Over 400 people, including children, mothers, and teenagers, sat in the dirt or stood to see the puppets and hear the Bible story. For a little over one hour, these children smiled and laughed and were able to truly be children, separated for a small time from the tragedy that surrounds them. Four or more funerals a week take place there, as people die of AIDS. Please pray the Gospel will continue to be faithfully shared in a place that desperately needs hope.
Aaron delighted children with his small furry friend, Rocky. God blessed David as he challenged the children to arm wrestle, lost, and then explained how knowing Jesus is real strength. We all rejoiced with Stacey, as she was able to uniquely encourage a special little girl and give her skills to share her faith. We thanked God for James and the way he used balloons to sweetly explain the Gospel to hungry, sick children. All of us praised God for Sam’s juggling skills which pointedkids every day to Jesus.
More school programs
Imagine classrooms located in a large field under different trees, with each “room” framed by an outline of rocks. More than 2000 children gathered in this place to watch the puppet show and hear stories about Jesus. They listened with such intent and silence to the Bible story that we knew God’s Holy Spirit was at work. We had no problem with crowd control. This can only be explained as God’s work. We were awed as hundreds of voices prayed out loud, trusting Jesus as their Savior.
After one school program, a teacher spoke to me and said “Thank you so much for this beautiful program, for these words of encouragement.” Her face glowed, but she was really thanking each of you who supported this trip and all of you who continued to pray.
Three times, we did programs at playschools, which gave us an opportunity to share with the children of the international community. We shared with mothers, fathers, teachers, and children from two dozen countries through these shows.
Some places would not allow us to come because of their concern that our program would displease the Muslim community, and there were many mosques under construction in the area.One place invited us to come as long as we promised to only talk about the Old Testament and not mention Jesus Christ. We did not accept the invitation and trust God to open the right doors.Please ask God to make the Christians bold while they still have opportunity.
Years ago, when I was growing up, a pastor friend told me that I would end up in a mud hut in Africa. Well, his words came true. We drove through fields to reach the small village of Njawah, where I met my first chief. I sat down to rest in front of one of the homes in the village, a small round hut made of mud. This was an especially dear time, as the whole village seemed to come to the program, more than 150 people. ABC has an ongoing weekly ministry in this place. It was a wonderful privilege to share God’s hope with these people.
One little Girl
There are over one million orphans in Malawi and each day we spoke to children who have no parents. One afternoon, we shared at an orphanage where we heard the story of three brothers and a sister. The parents could not care for all of their children so they decided their daughter would have to die. They tied her to a tree and left her to starve to death. Her brothers secretly brought her food or she would not have survived. Now her parents are dead.
Imagine standing in front of these children and telling them about forgiveness. Imagine the joy of sharing with them that God loves them and that Jesus died for them. We rejoice in the great privilege that God gave us of telling the children that when you are forgiven, you can forgive anybody anything.
Thoughts of heaven are very real to these children. Every day, they see people die. Often, our schedule had to be changed to accommodate a funeral, which was taking place where we had planned to go. James told the children that in heaven there is no pain. In heaven, there is no hunger. These are real statements of hope for the children of Malawi.
Early on a Sunday morning, at around 7:00 AM our friend, Stephen Mupato, traveled to a small village. The night before, very late, our scheduled visit to another village had cancelled. He was determined to find another opportunity for us. More than 160 people gathered with the blessing of the chief to watch the program. More than half were adults; many were young men or young women carrying babies on their backs. As we gave the invitation, many voices prayed aloud, asking Jesus Christ to be their Savior.
Near the village, there was a grown up cemetery, full of trees and brush. The guli-wam-Kulu are local evil men who wear feathers and a mask, believing that once they adopt this costume, they will become an animal. They go around harassing the people, beating up children, stealing chickens, scaring people; all without being punished by the law. The people here believe that the animal did it, not the man, so they are not held responsible for their actions. Please pray for the people in these villages, that they will understand true spirituality, not the false religions that are preached everywhere.
One morning, Paul Chinchin spoke in chapel at the African Bible College. He asked a good question that I would like to ask you. What am I doing with my life that will have eternal consequences???
Each day was blessed, but one day seemed especially good. We presented three shows in Nekoma, a hundred plus year old Presbyterian mission at the base of a mountain. The drive down the dirt road took over one hour and covered all of our equipment with dirt, as well as David and Aaron, who were riding in the back of the truck. We passed many villages with thatched roofs. At each new village, the children waved at us and shouted greetings. The people here are especially friendly and we now understand why Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa.
Still more children
Our first show was at a primary school where over 1000 children gathered in a field to hear the story of Zacchaeus and watch the puppets. Their teachers released them to come to the show without any supervision and we were left to sort them out. This was no small feat since only one of us spoke their language. Sam said that he was amazed that out of such incredible disorder, God brought peace. They loved the puppets, listened in silence to the story, laughed at the balloons, enjoyed the testimonies, and hundreds prayed out loud, asking Jesus to be their Savior.
The second show was for 1500 primary and secondary students, but had to be cut short when we were literally overrun by the children who kept pressing closer. This frustrated all of us because we really wanted to share with the secondary young people who came to hear the program.
God sent us 2 teachers who asked us to come to the high school and organized 500 young men to hear the program. We told the story of 40 young men who lived and died for Christ during the Roman times. We challenged them to take a stand for Jesus. They responded with great enthusiasm at the presentation.
We spent the next few hours enjoying our Father’s creation, touring the mission and visiting a pottery shop. This time refreshed us and enabled us to prepare for the evening.
In the evening, we presented a show for a youth meeting of international students, about half of whom were not believers. We told the story of Adonai-Bezek, a king who loved power and conquest and who in the end was himself conquered and humbled. All of us were amazed at how well they received the puppets, story and testimonies. We also received a future contact to work with in East Germany.
God even opened a door for us to record for TV Malawi and do an interview for a show called “Spiritual Bag”.
As our trip ended, I sat down to write a final report on the trip to Malawi, but after I read Sam Shaw’s prayer letter, I realized that the final report had already been written. Sam, our Irish Puppet Ministry Director, said all that was on my heart. I am so grateful for the Malawi team members: Sam Shaw, James Grant, Aaron Stewart, David Thomson and Stacey Parker. Please read the following part of Sam’s Letter.
It “just doesn’t get much better than this” has been my thought on many occasions in these past few weeks. I have had the privilege of seeing the beauty of God’s creation that is Africa and the privilege of sharing the Gospel with 9,800 people, in two and a half weeks. It just doesn’t get much better than that.
Malawi was not on the list of countries I had wanted to do ministry in, but it is now on the list of those I want to return to.
I went to work with the Agape puppets from the USA, as they trained and equipped two puppet teams at the African Bible College. Our other main reason for going was to share with as many children and adults as we could in the time we were there. We succeeded on both counts, sharing in cities, townships, villages and a 100 year old mission station.
As well as myself joining the Agape puppets on the trip was James Grant from South Africa who like myself was trained and equipped by the Agape puppets and now heads up the work in South Africa.
We left behind two teams fully equipped to do puppet ministry. One team headed by Stephen and Jean Mupata, Stephen is head of CEF for Malawi. The other headed up by two students at the African Bible College, one a Pastor from Zimbabwe. We were able to give both teams a vision of what they could do with the tools we were giving them as we trained them and they worked alongside us a multi-national team with a passion for sharing the Gospel with children. These people we trained were the cream of their country, the brightest Christian young people in Malawi and the surrounding countries.
Never before have I shared with crowds like those we had in Malawi from the chaos of the townships to the sight of over two thousand sitting watching our program at one school. The response was quite amazing, many hundreds of young people made a commitment at the end of the programs. They heard how they could have hope. Many with no father heard how they could have a father that will love them, who will not let them down, who will not die of a disease.
The more I see, the more I learn and understand. There is such a need in so many countries, a need for food, for housing, for jobs but most of all for hope. It’s something that is often easier to see in other countries than in your own where we have all we need. We think that we don’t need God, but without God we are without hope.
Please continue to pray for the children of Malawi! Beg God to send workers into a very fertile, but difficult field.