Thursday, December 11, 2008

Will You Help Me?

Linda [1280x768] (2) How many times do you see a face that speaks louder than words themselves?  In Africa, you see one every day if you just open your eyes.

Her name is Linda, and her plea is the same as those that came before her, and it will remain the same as those who come after her - "Will you help me?"

It is easy to see the faces and hear the cries - then turn a deaf ear with our own words like: "Why can't they help themselves?" or "That is their problem, not mine." or "There is always somebody needing help; we can't do it all!"  I suppose these statements have a bit of truth to them, but then I read where Jesus said if someone asks you for your coat, you should give them your cloak also.  Or something about true religion is when you help the widows and orphans - the ones that really can't help themselves.  Or worse, the words that tell us that when we see someone in dire need and we refuse to help... well, you get the picture.

Linda lives in an orphanage with seven other children.  These children have lost their parents to the AIDS pandemic.  They have nowhere to go, no one to look after them.  If it weren't for the orphanage they live in, they might very well be living on the street, sleeping in a back ally somewhere, and begging on the street for their very existence.

This orphanage is struggling to put enough food on the table for these eight children, not to mention clothes, school fees, medical attention, and school supplies.  Life here is "back to basics", the extreme basic of enough food to live today.  This orphanage receives a small amount of financial assistance on a monthly basis, $300 USD.  This may sound like a lot, but it is the total monthly support for ten people, one house, utilities, food, clothes, school fees, uniforms, and supplies.  Three hundred dollars does not stretch nearly far enough.

The orphanage is fortunate in that they own about 5 hectares of land, which is more than enough land to raise food that will sustain their lives.  But they have not raised any kind of crop for the past 3 or 4 years because there was not enough money to buy the seed and fertilizer to plant.  Hopefully, this year there will be a turn-around for this orphanage because today they are planting enough maize to have food for the coming year, maybe even enough to sell some and thereby generate a small amount of income.Gama (2) [1280x768]

Maize is the staple food of Africa.  With it you can live; without it you will die.  If you miss one planting season, you go hungry all year long.  Thanks to the generosity of one person this orphanage is planting life in the ground today, and with God's blessings they will be filling their stomachs tomorrow!  Most people who are "down on their luck" will tell you, "All I need is a helping hand!"  God has answered their prayer with a "helping hand" today.



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With this garden these children have a good chance of not having to go to bed hungry this year.  The only problem is that this crop will not be harvested until sometime in April of 2009, so their struggle is not over yet.  Maybe you would like to help in some way.  Again, we can say that this story is repeated over and over again here in Malawi, and there is always a face that is speaking louder than words ever will!

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Love Sundays!

Each Sunday is like a new adventure for Fredna and me.  We have been in Malawi now for 31 Sundays, and I have preached on 21 of them.  The other Sundays were taken with guests from the USA (teams & individuals), making airport runs, building two churches, and visiting the General Superintendent's church.  Whew! I am tired just writing this!

We have discovered a few things about Sundays that I would like to share with you.

  1. There are FEW smooth roads in Malawi.
  2. According to Fredna, travel time to the church on Sunday is also her amusement park time (bouncing in the car).
  3. ALL Sunday School classes are in Chichewa.
  4. Announcements in church get equal time with the sermon.
  5. Visitors have to stand and give their name, where they are from, and the reason they are in attendance that morning.
  6. Tither's get a special prayer; then those who give in the offering are next.
  7. If you happen to go to sleep in church, someone might just walk up to you with a stick and hit you with it.
  8. If you preach, then you might get a coke or juice when you are finished.
  9. At the end of the service, you get to shake everyone's hand as they leave the church.
  10. People here are hungry for God.
  11. If you preach, they will treat you like a king.
  12. You get to go home with the pastor and his/her family for lunch.
  13. Malawi traditional food is some of the best food you will ever eat.
  14. Churches are so packed that you can hardly breathe or move about.
  15. Did I mention that there are FEW smooth roads in Malawi?

Yesterday we were blessed to minister in Gulliver Salvation Assembly of God Church (aka Gullisa).  Gibson & Irice Sambo are the pastors of this church.  These are three of their children enjoying ice cream after lunch!

Gulliver AG (6) Gulliver AG (5)

Fredna taught Sunday School, using an interpreter.

Gulliver AG

There were not many in the percussion section, but boy, do they have fun!

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Then it was time for preaching.

Gulliver AG (3)

Sundays are wonderful here; I can't wait until next week!  Buckle your seatbelt, Fredna - time for another ride.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Two New Churches

Two new churches have have been built in the Nkhotakota District of Malawi!  Lozi Assembly of God, and Sani Assembly of God.  Construction began about the middle of September and was complete last Friday.

Sani A/G is located on the south side of Nkhotakota in a small trading center by the same name.

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Lozi A/G is located on the north side of Nkhotakota in a small trading center by the same name.

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Each church will now place window and door frames as well as finishing the floor.  Their work will be difficult, but the greatest part is finished.  Each congregation is extremely proud of their new buildings!

How Hot Can It Get?

Okay, I am hollering, "Calf rope"!  As they say in Malawi, "It is too much hot".  Oh, the actual temperature is not that bad, less than 95 degrees.  But, the humidity has to be above 85 percent.  By the time you get dressed your clothes are sticking to you - EVERYWHERE!  Below is a picture of Pastor Ndovi and his wife of Dwangwa Assembly of God.

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Sunday we visited this church in Dwangwa, Malawi.  Dwangwa is a trading center located on the northwest shore of Lake Malawi.  The heat and humidity was absolutely oppressive!  If the heat was not bad enough by itself, the church is in the middle of a construction project.  The new building is being built around the old building.  Once complete, they will remove the old structure.  Do you get the picture?  The walls of the new structure are blocking any air that might be moving from entering into the old building.

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When we were escorted in the back door you could actually feel the body heat radiating from the already full house.  That was the coolest moment of the entire service.  Long before I took the pulpit for ministry my clothes were literally wringing wet!  There was not a dry spot on me.  My glasses would not stay in place, and all I could taste was salt from my own sweat running down my face.

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All of that said, it was an incredible time just being part of the service!  The people of this church were on fire (no pun intended) for God.  The building was totally packed, and at the end, when I gave the altar call, it was not possible to move beyond the platform.  Each one that came forward had a heart of anticipation, a heart that was yearning for God to work in their life.  They were not disappointed, for surely God was present to touch each of them!

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Please keep this church in your prayers.  They have struggled so much to get the building finished.  All they lack now is the rafters and roof sheets.  It always amazes me how far a group like this has come... but how much farther they still have to go!  Surely the Lord will help them to accomplish their dream.

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Under This Tree

In 1840 an Arabic trader named Jumbe Salim Bin Abdalla, established a post in Nkhotakota for the purpose of trading slaves. During the height of his power, Jumbe transported between 5,000 and 20,000 slaves through Nkhotakota annually. From Nkhotakota, the slaves were transported in caravans of no less than 500 slaves to the small island of Kilwa Kisiwani off the coast of modern-day Tanzania.  Nkhotakota, Malawi has been an area of strong Muslim influence for a very long time.  There is a national monument in Nkhotakota today - the tree under which David Livingston met with Chief Jumbe in an effort to get him to stop trading slaves.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Little Bit of East Texas

Lake Malawi is an interesting place.  The story is told that when Dr. David Livingstone saw Lake Malawi, he asked the local people what it was.  They told him that it was nyasa.  So he said, "I will call it Lake Nyasa"  What he didn't know was the word "nyasa" is the Chichewa word for "lake"!  Livingston had just named Lake Malawi, "Lake Lake".

Lake Malawi has literally thousands of species of cichlids that are indigenous to, and only found in, Lake Malawi.  People come from all over the world to snorkel and see the beautiful fish.  The water is VERY clear, and the fish are simply amazing.

Last week, while traveling in the lake area, I discovered a fish called "mlamba".  Mlamba looks like a Texas catfish - sort of.  I bought a dozen or so and brought them home for a mini-fish fry.  They were good but not catfish-good.  The meat was a bit mushy, if you know what I mean.

We visited a church today in the northern part of the country - the lake area.  On the way home we were able to purchase a few goodies.  First of all, we bought mangos.  Now, in Malawi you don't call them mangos, you call them "mahngos".  The a is not long.  The good thing about getting these mangos is that we were able to purchase them at a Malawi price rather than the azungu price.  You see there are two different prices for products in most of Malawi.  The Malawi price and the azungu price.  If your skin color is dark, you get the Malawi price.  If your skin color is white (azungu) you usually pay much more.  When shopping, I have learned to ask the question, "Is that the azungu price or the Malawi price?"  We are always told that we are getting the Malawi price - whether we are or not!

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We drove on down the road a bit, and I saw some mavwende at a roadside stand.  Yep, you are too smart - you guessed what mavwende are, didn't you?  They are watermelons!  Some people call them chimwela.  Whatever you call them, they are good!  Not quite as good as watermelons from Alvord or Sunset, Texas - but good.  Negotiations were held, a price agreed upon (Malawi, not azungu - yeah right!), and two big mavwende were loaded into the car, just beside the mounds of mangos.

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On the road again, we pass through the trading center known as Chia.  I chuckle almost every time I pass through Chia because I think of the chia pets that are so popular during the Christmas season back in the States.  The Chia trading center, located very close to the lake, is where you can buy fresh fish - all kinds of fresh and dried fish.  Chambo is the most popular fish.  As I was driving into the the village today, a guy stepped out from his stall holding up a stringer full of catfish, whoops I mean kampango!  Now these guys are not to be confused with the mlamba I bought last week.  Kampango are the real-meal deal!  Catfish - real to goodness catfish!  Yep, I stopped and bought two of these big boys!  Of course I didn't get them without the negotiations taking place.  You guessed it - azungu price in effect here!  Fortunately, one of our A/G pastors was with us, and she took my place at the negotiating table.  Even then the final price was somewhere between the Malawi and azungu price.  The deal was struck, and the fish were tied to the luggage rack of our trusty Toyota Land Cruiser (thank you Speed The Light!), and we were on the road again to finish two more hours of driving before arriving home.  Why yes, I did say tied to the luggage rack for the two-hour drive home.  No, you can't buy ice here to pack your fish.  No, they won't spoil - as long as you are driving, and the air hits them.  Yes, they do get a bit dry, but they don't spoil.

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While I was cleaning the fish, Fredna was preparing the side dishes and heating the oil for the fish.  Tonight, we had a little bit of East Texas - a catfish fry!

By the way, I learned something tonight - what I like may not be what you like.  One of our guards came by while I was cleaning the fish.  He looked in the bucket where I was throwing the heads, entrails, and bones.  He said, "Pastor, are you throwing these away?"  I looked at him and said that I was saving them for him if he wanted them.  He was so happy!  I can just imagine him thinking to himself... that crazy azungu is saving the fillets and throwing out the best part of the fish.

I love Malawi!

Monday, November 17, 2008

You Can Be An Overcomer!

Suya Church (2)

Overcomers Assembly of God - I like the name of this church - I think it says it all! 

What a wonderful Sunday.  It rained last night, it was hot and muggy, and there was no electricity - at least no electricity running through the electrical wires.  The atmosphere in this church was another story!  The spiritual electricity of over 700 hungry people seeking God is quite another story!

Suya Church (3)

During the service a special offering was taken for the building fund.  The church is slowly beginning to expand their facilities.  Offerings in Africa are a bit different than offerings in the USA.  If God really loves a cheerful giver like the Bible states in 2 Cor. 9:7, then there was a whole lot of love during the offering.  The Pastor announced the engagement of the young couple below.  He said they would do this for the next three weeks, and if anyone could give reason they should not marry, they had better speak now (within the next three weeks) or they should forever remain silent.

Suya Church (5) Suya Church (4)

Rev. John Hiamambo, General Superintendent of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God of Namibia, was our guest today.  Pastor John is attending the Master's program at ANTS (All Nations Theological Seminary) this month here in Lilongwe.  It is a pleasure to have him with us, and he enjoyed the day very much.  I asked him to interpret for me as I greeted the congregation in the Oshiwambo language of Namibia.  Everyone really enjoyed this!

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Declaration: "This is my Bible!" And this was the altar call; hundreds came forward!

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At the end of the service we were stationed outside the church.  EVERY person shakes your hand and thanks you for such a wonderful blessing of your presence.  All 700 of them!  This is not unusual; every church does the same thing.  The people feel that it is quite an honor to have guests, and they must express that feeling.  After this we were taken to the pastor's home for lunch and fellowship.  Have I ever told you that Malawi traditional food is wonderful?  It is!  In the picture below from left to right:  Myself & Fredna, John Hiamambo, Thoko & Christopher Suya (Pastor), and an elder in the church who served as my interpreter today.

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Rev 3:5  He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

International Cuisine

Eating away from home is always “interesting”, to say the least.  We have eaten in some of the finest establishments that can be found, and we have eaten what was cooked by the side of the road.  Fredna has even tried mouse-ka-bobs!  Really!!

We had lunch today in a newly-opened Chinese restaurant close to our house.  “Interesting” began when we walked into the spacious room that had been converted to a dining room from an old, large house.  The ceilings were very high, the floors were tile, and it seemed there was nothing between the two to catch sound.  The noise from the crowd that had gathered for lunch was almost deafening. 

“Interesting” kicked up a notch when they brought us one menu.  There were more, but I suppose they felt we could share the one - even though Fredna and I were sitting across from each other at a large table.  The waiter did bring me a separate menu when I asked for it.  The menu was written in  Chinese, but it did have the translation written below each menu item.  One line said, "The paint of a chicken".  Another said, "Warm balls of fish eyes, drain the grease".  Line after line was written as if someone was translating Chinese to English with a kindergarten education.  “Interesting” reached a whole new level when we asked the waiter to describe a certain item.  Now, you must understand that the waiter was Malawian with minimal English skills.  When he was unable to express himself properly, or maybe he just didn't know what the food item was, he called a Chinese person over to help out.  The Chinese person didn't speak Chichewa, and his English was nowhere near the level of the waiter.  But he did try to explain what we were interested in.  The funniest part was when they both were trying to make the other understand what they were saying.  In the midst of all this, I asked if they had fried green tomatoes.  Oh boy! 

After the adventure of this meal I can truly say that I am ready to stay home for a while and enjoy leftovers!  For those of you who know me, you know that I don't like leftovers.

So, what's for supper, Fredna? 

Leftover pizza - African style! 

Oh boy! (said in Hee Haw fashion!)  By the way, can anyone tell me what organ with two large vessels lies just under the skin of a chicken?  Maybe they just said it was a chicken!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tragedy - on the road!

A couple of days ago I posted a story about how dangerous it is to drive in Malawi.  This truth was brought home to us in a tragic way yesterday.  We received word that the wife of a church elder was killed in a traffic accident on Sunday evening.  This couple are members of one of the churches in Nkhotakota, where we are constructing two new churches. 

It seems that the wife was in Blantyre, the same city we were in on Sunday afternoon, for the weekend "marking exams".  Both she and her husband are school teachers in Nkhotakota.  She was traveling home on Sunday afternoon in a minibus.  The minibus pulled out to pass a truck and was struck head-on by another vehicle.  Four individuals instantly lost their lives - she was one of the four.  Catherine leaves behind a husband and four small children.

If you thought this story could not be any more tragic... it is.  Catherine's funeral was held on Tuesday in their home district and village.  Thirty minutes after the service the husband learned that one of his brothers, who was traveling to Blantyre on Sunday afternoon, was a passenger in the "other" vehicle of this accident.  He was also one of the four who lost their lives.  It would be difficult for me to explain to you why it took so long for the information of victims to be delivered.  Believe me, sometimes it just does!

Please pray for this family: Bosco Manyoni and his children, Miracle, Naomi, Promise, and Omega. 

We all desperately feel their tragedy!

Monday, October 13, 2008

On The Road

This weekend we traveled to the southern part of the country to minister in a church in Luchenza.  Luchenza is a trading center close to Mt. Mulanji.  We had a wonderful time in Luchenza.  The people were great, and the church was packed out.  I love preaching in Africa!


Luchenza Collage

Traveling in Malawi is somewhat of an experience - in many different ways!  First of all traveling is somewhat exhausting because you can NEVER just relax and drive because there are so many people walking, and riding bicycles on the road that it is really dangerous.  If this were not bad enough, there is always the broken-down vehicle sitting in the road.  Yes, sitting in the road, not off to the side.  It could be anything from a very tiny pick-up to a larger-than-life 18-wheeler or bus.


Sometimes, when there is a breakdown, they will put a warning out that lets you know something is going on up ahead - a tree limb!  No reflectors, no triangles, just a branch from a tree.  But wait, it might not indicate that something is broken down ahead.  It could mean that there is a funeral taking place on that side of the road, or it could mean that the turn-off for a wedding is up ahead.  It could just mean that there is a tree limb in the road.


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The roads here are about like old farm-to-market roads in the States - or at least in Texas, where I grew up.  There is NO shoulder and just barely enough room for two medium-sized vehicles.  It can get  very interesting when you are meeting a Greyhound-sized bus or truck, especially when there is someone on a bicycle at that exact meeting place.  Sometimes you just hold your breath but keep your eyes open!  It truly is VERY dangerous.


No matter how dangerous driving is, we love traveling in this country.  So we grab another cup of coffee and the road map and plan another trip.