Matumbi is nothing more than a fishing village on the shores of Lake Malawi. There are many villages just like this one. Villages filled with people that do not have the luxury of running water, electricity, sewer, or even a cold Coca Cola. This weekend I thought to myself that if any of the young people of this village ever went to town and drank an ice cold Coke, they probably would never return to the village! For three days I would have given just about anything for an ice cold Coke myself! The only relief from the heat of this dusty place was bottled water that was the same temperature as the outside air.
Matumbi Assembly of God church is pastored by Amaya Abusa Mayamiko Biza and her husband, Taza.
Abusa (Chichewa word for Pastor) Biza invited us to preach a crusade this past weekend at her church. As they say in South Africa, "At the end of the day" this had to be one of the most incredible weekends of our lives! I am not really sure what we anticipated, but it certainly was not what we experienced.
The program was to show the Jesus Film on Friday and Saturday nights, followed by preaching each night. There would also be teaching sessions on Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon. Then the Sunday morning service. We knew it would not be possible to show the film inside the church because of size limitations; we just didn't know how correct this thought would prove to be. Each night there were at least 2,000 people present for the film and the service!
It was absolutely astonishing to look out into the darkness. As far as you could see there were people standing watching the film. At the end of the film, when I stood to preach, there was hardly room for me and my interpreter to stand in the midst of the people. The only way I could give an altar call was by a simple show of hands because there were far too many people to be able to have them come forward.
Saturday morning I taught a session titled How To Keep Your Salvation. This session began about 9 AM, just after the church served breakfast to all who attended. This meal consisted of bananas and hot tea and was served without charge to hundreds of people. The lunch meal was the staple food of Malawi, nsima. Nsima is made from ground maize meal and water. This is a picture of plates of nsima prepared and awaiting distribution.
Saturday afternoon I taught a session on the Holy Spirit. The secretary of the church took an actual head count for this session - 1,860 people, not counting children! Each teaching session was at least 2 hours long. No one left, and all were very attentive. At the end of this teaching we prayed for people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Scores of them received the infilling of the Holy Spirit! While praying, I noticed that the local Baptist pastor, who had been present for each service, was also praying for people. This confused me a bit, knowing the doctrinal differences in Baptists and Pentecostals. I went over to him and asked if he had been filled with the Holy Spirit, to which he replied, "Yes, I have!" I asked if he had spoken in tongues, to which he replied, "Yes, I have and still do!" It reminded me of what a minister of another denomination told me when we first arrived in Africa. He said that denominational lines become blurred when you combat the forces of darkness that we face in Africa. I have grown to understand what he meant.
Offering time during these services is a very joyous time for all. They dance, they sing, and they give to the Lord. This is a picture of their joy. Some of the ladies took Fredna by the hand and included her in their dancing - what an experience!
If all this were not enough, the Lord added a truly great emphasis to this meeting. The village head man or chief attended every service. This is not unique in itself, except he is Muslim. The first night of the service he spoke to the group and told them that God had chosen to bless them beyond measure. That a white man would come all the way from America to the Matumbi village to preach the Gospel was truly a miracle. This meant that they must all change and begin going to church. The very next night, the chief came to me just before the film and asked me how to become born again. I had the privilege of leading this chief to the Lord!
He told the people the next day that he was no longer Muslim and that he and his family would begin going to the Assembly of God church next Sunday! Here is a picture of the chief, some of his family, and us.
Between sessions Fredna and I felt what Jesus must have felt when he walked among the people. Everywhere we went there was a huge throng of people, both children and adults, following us. It was even difficult to walk at times. Many of the small children could not keep from touching us! We were the first azungus (white people) that many of them had ever seen! Someone told us that some of them were afraid of us at first. They didn't know if we were humans or animals! By the last day they had grown accustomed to our presence, some of them even began to mock the way we speak.
I suppose only time and eternity will reveal how many people were saved by the power of God this past weekend. They told us they would never forget the day that the white man came to their village to preach about Jesus. I know we will never forget the day we went to Matumbi to preach about Jesus!