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May 3, 2023

May 3, 2023

I read from 2 Corinthians 10 this morning. Verses 3-4 struck me today. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Just wait until you hear how our day went and keep in mind that this verse stuck out to me before we started anything!

Ed talked to us this morning from Joshua 5 where Israel had just miraculously crossed the flooded Jordan River. They were staring down the great walled city of Jericho. Instead of making battle plans, God told Joshua that all the men needed to be circumcised. (Noone had been circumcised, per the law, while they wandered in the wilderness. Now that the generation who could not enter the promised land were gone, they needed to start over.) Now, to our fleshly thinking, this did not make much sense. None of the men of Israel were going to be in any condition to fight for a while—right under the nose of the enemy with a flooded river at their backs. They were sitting ducks. But God has His own plan and His own timing. He wanted them to obey Him. So they did.

It really seems like nothing this past week and a half has gone according to our plans, but they sure have gone according to God’s plans! We saw an amazing response at the camps and Bible clubs. We’ve been overwhelmed with demand for Bibles in the hospital, police station and a school. God is at work in Malawi and through Hope for the Future!

Now for today! First, Janine, who has been in bed for two days recovering from malaria was up and spunky (if tired) and said she was going with us. Ok. God gave her strength to stick with us all day and kept her tummy settled as well. He is a good and gracious God! We went to the village of Nasedegu and started at the pastor’s house. He took us to visit several people he felt could use some encouragement or the gospel. It was amazing! First we stopped at the home of a man who Pastor Jonah said needed to be saved. While we were sitting on his porch and the men were talking to him, we women were praying. We began to hear a sheep bleating some way away but coming closer. Nothing unusual in the village. But it was bleating loudly and insistently and was coming straight for us. We all just ignored it thinking it would pass on through. Again, nothing unusual, UNTIL, it stopped right in the middle of our group—about 5 feet away from us women. The only way I can explain this is that it began to scream directly at us! It was so freaky! We tried to wave it away but it wouldn’t go! Most of the animals in the village are pretty skittish so this was the weirdest thing any of us had seen! After a few moment, Pastor Jonah’s mother shooed it away but it kept bleating and trying to come back so she had to grab it by the legs and carry it away behind some houses. I have no idea what happened after that, but it did not come back. If you ever think that Satan will not stoop to any means to derail the gospel, you may not be trying very hard. Anyway, this man, Simon, said that he’d prayed for salvation last year and was going to do it again today, but we explained that he may need to learn a bit more first. (The culture here will say or do whatever they think a white person wants them to do so many will simply pray over and over, either to please us, hoping to get something from us, or trying to get rid of us.) We encouraged him to start going to church and listening and learning what it means to be saved. He said he would. Now it’s in the Lord’s hands.

Next we went to the home of a young lady, Rose, who was a member of the church but hadn’t been coming lately. The pastor said he’d heard she’d been getting into some bad things. When we arrived, she wasn’t there but her mom said she’d just left and went after her. She came back and reported that she didn’t want to come speak to us. We were a little disappointed but meanwhile the men had begun talking to her father. The parents were going to the Muslim church and the father said his ancestors had been Muslim from way back. So Ed began to question them about their faith through Samuel. We women sat and prayed. Then, Rose came around the corner. She’d changed her mind and came to speak to us! We were so happy! We went around the side of the house in the shade and sat down to talk to her through Misozi. Rose is 21 and has two children. Her husband left 6 months ago saying he was looking for work but she hasn’t seen or heard from him and he hasn’t sent her any money or help for the children. She said that she still believed in God but that she felt like He’d left her. Oh! How many times have we all felt this way? My heart went out to her right then. We were able to talk to her and she was very open with us telling us that she’d been drinking and smoking and she knew both were wrong. We explained that Scripture tells us Jesus will NEVER leave us! After a long and good conversation where all four of us women, Misozi included, shared with her times when we felt like God was very far away or when we had sinned and needed to ask His forgiveness and help to stop and start living for Him again, she said she wanted to repent and we were able to pray with her. While we’d been talking her younger sister, 17 years old, came and sat with us. She had been going to the Muslim church with her parents but told us she wanted to go to Hope with her sister because she didn’t really understand what the Muslim church was teaching. Leah talked to her about salvation and she prayed to be saved!

But wait! That’s not all!

Turns out that while we were talking to the girls, their mother accepted Christ talking with Ed. Unfortunately, the father still would not. It seems he knows he needs to and that it is the right thing to do, but he doesn’t want to offend his ancestors. While we are sad for this, we rejoice for the rest of his family and he gave permission for them to attend a different church. Jonah assured us he would keep going back and talking with him. I hope you’ll pray for this family to grow in God. They are Thomas, Katherine, Rose and Philistia.

From there we went to visit two other ladies who had been coming to church but either stopped altogether or had been hit or miss lately. The first lady, Loveness, has 5 children and admitted that she sometimes just doesn’t feel like going or has so much else to do that she feels like she cannot take the time. We reminded her of all that Jesus had done for her in dying on the cross and asked if her going to church was really such a big thing. We also gave her some practical ideas that might help, like making sure to work ahead on Saturday so Sunday morning doesn’t feel like such a chore. (This is a universal help, by the way! Works in every culture!) We prayed with her and she said she was happy we stopped by and that she would make more of an effort to be at church each week. Next was a young mother (I didn’t catch her name) who told us that her husband was making her go to a different church. I must admit, I had to pass this one off to Ed. It’s hard to tell a woman to go against her husband. So he asked if we could go talk to her husband. So we went to him. After talking to him for a while it appears they are going to another church that teaches the gospel as far as we could tell so Ed encouraged him, Peter, to continue to lead his wife and child in the right way, we prayed with them and off to lunch.

Jonah’s wife, Alena, had cooked us a traditional meal, rice, boiled eggs in a tomato soup type thing and pumpkin leaves. It was delicious and we ate it traditionally as well—with our fingers!

After lunch we went to the church. Someone had rung the bell and the men and women gathered for separate Bible studies. The men met inside the church and the women out in a little shelter they use for a Sunday school classroom. What we’d planned for about an hour and a half ended up being closer to 2 hours. Ha! Leah and I taught through most of Matthew 6 with Misozi translating and Janine piping up with a good and relevant comment or question now and again. (She was pretty tired by this point so she didn’t teach, but still wouldn’t have missed fellowshipping with these sweet women for anything.) It took the women a bit to warm up but the eventually began to answer questions and make comments. When we stopped thinking the men would be done anytime now, we told them they could ask anything. They had many good questions and seemed to be very interested in fasting. The asked some good questions to clarify what, how and why we should fast. At least one had the mistaken idea that it was some sort of self-punishment for when we sin. We assured them that Jesus has taken ALL the punishment for ALL our sin and that fasting was a way to show total reliance on God for one of our basic needs while taking the time to seek His direction and draw close to Him. At the end they promised to pray for us to remain faithful in serving the Lord and we promised to pray the same for them. One of their biggest requests, though was for Bibles in their language, Chichewa. They are very expensive and only three of the 20 women had one. This made me so sad to see women wanting to read God’s word but unable to get hold of it. They even meet every Thursday afternoon to have a Bible study! I will be praying and looking for a way to get Bibles to these women!

Today was just a wonderful way to finish off our planned ministry here. Tomorrow will be packing, cleaning and doing all the many other things that we need to do before we leave Friday. Naturally, we will try to be a witness as we do these things and as we travel as well. Please pray for us as we prepare and travel home. We are tired. Several of us are sick or sore and ALL of us have really itchy bug bites. But all of that is a small price to pay to see the Lord at work and allowing us to be a part of spreading the good news of His salvation.