One, Two, Many…
We are basking in the goodness of God, grateful that He has granted me a productive time of ministry in Malawi and brought me back safely to my beautiful wife.
Though I left home and embarked on this mission alone, I was blessed to have been joined in Malawi by my long-time friend, retired bishop Barnet Phiri, as my team mate, brother, and translator. I praise God for granting us a busy and effective time of Gospel ministry in Malawi.
And yet, even though we were only two, we were still more. There were many back home in South Africa and around the world joining us in prayer, encouragement, and financial support. This was the team that worked together to make a success of the September 2016 Mission to Malawi.
Blessings Multiplied and Shared
And with this in mind, the primary purpose of this report is to hopefully bless those whom God has used to make this mission possible, those who are part of the team. I have been blessed to participate in this mission trip and be the first-hand witness to the fruit of our labour and investment into God’s kingdom. I would like to share this blessing with the rest of my team.
“Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” Psalm 126:5-6
In this 17-day mission to Malawi I taught from Colossians chapter 1 & 2 in 8 village churches. I spent 9 days teaching from around 9am to 5pm, I preached at 3 Sunday worship services, and showed the Jesus film in 5 villages. We were able to distribute 59 Bibles and 4 Audio Bibles. I am also happy to report that we have effectively launched the Joseph Project by securing 10 bags of maize at a reasonable price which will be stored till the climax of the hunger season when it will be used to help desperately hungry people in the village to access affordable food.
I am awe-struck at the way that God works to provide for His work. I budgeted R23675 for this mission trip; the total income for this mission was R23680 (that is R5 more); the total spend on this mission trip was R23672 (that is R3 less).
Desperate Expectation for Rain
As our plane came in to land at Chileka Airport in Blantyre, my heart seemed to skip a beat as I saw the brown landscape of the barren earth. Malawi is very dry and dusty at this time of year. All the fields have been prepared for planting which will commence as soon as the first rains appear, but this is only expected in late November.
Warm Welcome at the Airport
It was an absolute joy for me see Barnet at the airport on Friday 16 September when he came to pick me up in Blantyre. He had come with his dear wife, Salome, and two other men whom I had not previously met. One of them, named Gift was the pastor of the church in Liwonde where I would be preaching on Sunday; the other man, a member in Gift’s church, retired Brigadier Ndere, was a very pleasant, light-hearted, fun-loving man; he and I immediately got on very well. He was the reason we had wheels to carry us the 3-hour ride from the airport to Liwonde, it was his car that we were using.
Tiny Transport in Time for Treasured Bibles
So the five of us all crammed into Brigadier Ndere’s tiny Toyota car which had such a small boot (trunk) that my luggage didn’t entirely fit so some bags were on laps. We went straight to the Bible Society in Blantyre to purchase 58 Chichewa Bibles. We got there just in time (actually, we were a few minutes late, but ‘African Time’ was in our favour on this occasion); we were helped by the very friendly and accommodating staff of this Bible Society. We are immensely grateful for those who contributed financially so that we had enough funds for this purchase.
Safari (Journey) at Sunset
Somehow, we found space in the tiny car for the extra precious cargo we had just picked up, and then headed out of the bustling traffic of the surging city of Blantyre. The sun was gloriously threatening to burn through the tranquil horizon which seemed oblivious to the sun’s rapid advance. As the sun and horizon figured out their impending encounter amid the silhouette of mosque minarets, there was a constant excited chatter in the car as we caught up with each other’s news.
The rising moon in the east as the sun set in the west created a magnificent picturesque moment which gave me a sense of God’s blessing and hand over this 21/2-week mission trip we were just embarking on.
A Feast, a Roof, and a Bed
Upon our arrival in Liwonde, there was a feast awaiting our attention which certainly satisfied our grumbling stomachs. I was shown to my room, which thankfully had four walls, a roof, a window, and a door. Oh, it also had a floor, but beyond that there was nothing in the room. I set my tent up to create a barrier between myself and the ravenous mosquitos and was grateful for the mattress that was provided.
Early Morning Bible Study Group
Early the next morning, I was woken by the sound of earnest praying by a group of about 12 local believers that had gathered to begin their day in prayer and Bible study. This really encouraged me to see the insatiable hunger that these believers have for God’s Word. Barnet and Salome had started this Bible study group in their home in July this year with just one woman who had been miraculously delivered from evil spirits that made her insane. As she found freedom in Christ, she went out and called others to come and meet the God who had made her whole.
I had the privilege of teaching this Bible study group on 4 occasions during this mission trip.
Breakfast and Preparations
After breakfast of rice, eggs, and green beans, Barnet and I spent time in earnest discussion making arrangements and preparing for the ministry ahead of us. I welcomed the sporadic pleasant ‘interruptions’ as friends came one-by-one to welcome me to Malawi. I really felt loved and at home.
I was most blessed by the visit of a pastor and dear old friend who travelled 50km from his village to come welcome me. He excitedly updated me on the church building project that their very young church has just begun. This church is being built on the very site where a mosque once stood but was demolished to make room for the church; the Imam of that mosque was his first convert. Now there are 24 believers from a Muslim background in his church. He excitedly told us that the church was ready and eagerly awaiting our arrival there.
He was so excited to see me his beaming face was filled with radiant joy and his infectious smile warmed my heart to the point of tears of joy as I reminisced about God’s grace in this man’s life who himself was a convert from Islam.
Sunday, a Day of Work
On Sunday, I had the privilege of encouraging the small house church that meets in Barnet’s home before I went out to preach at Ephrathah Blessings Church which turned out to be a 7-hour service!
The church is situated in Liwonde which is a bustling and fast-growing township. The grass structure didn’t speak of excellence and was somewhat out of place among the iron-roofed, brick-wall dwellings which surrounded it.
The church was full of dancing happy faces whose eyes seemed to light up as we walked in and were shown to our ‘special guest seats’. The sound of their singing, accompanied by the keyboard and guitar, to the tune of the traditional African-style praise and worship songs brought back many good memories of the countless churches I’ve visited in Africa. I smiled as I started to feel ‘settled in’ getting ready for my first sermon of this mission trip.
Christ is Enough!
I preached from Colossians 1, my topic was ‘Christ is Enough’. Our church back home in Cape Town had just been through a preaching series on the book of Colossians, we had studied this book at our weekly Bible studies, and I had spent much time in personal study of Colossians in preparation for this mission trip. I had learned so much from this book I felt ‘pregnant’ with so much to share with the folk here in Malawi.
The Interpreter Interrupts
However, I really struggled as I preached this sermon, it felt as though I couldn’t get through to the people and I tried all the harder to get my point across, but the faces still seemed dead and unresponsive. Afterward, I discussed this with Barnet who was exasperated and annoyed as he told me that my interpreter was at fault, “That man was not an interpreter, he was an interrupter!” Barnet asserted, “He was not translating accurately nor was he conveying your passion.” “From now on,” he continued, “I will interpret for you every time when you preach or teach.” For this I was very grateful.
Rural Outreach Begins
On Monday, early in the morning, we packed up our gear and set out to the east of Malawi to a very rural village in Migowi, Phalombe. This was one of the highlights of this mission. We spent four very productive days with the Evangelical Church of Malawi in Nambera Village teaching the Gospel to these attentive and responsive believers.
Missionary, Evangelist, Doctor
When I was first introduced to the congregation by the pastor of this church, he gave me the title “missionary” because that’s how I introduced myself to him. But after the first day of teaching, this pastor very excitedly announced that I am more accurately entitled “Evangelist” as I expounded the Gospel message very clearly and passionately. And yet, by the end of our time together on Thursday, he changed this title yet again, “You need to be called Dr. Michael Watson,” he said, “on behalf of the Evangelical Church of Malawi, I hereby give you an honorary doctorate!” Though I know that he spoke in jest, it encouraged me greatly to see that my time spent here in this village was meaningful and productive.
Witchdoctor Charms Powerless
Another powerful testimony that comes from our time in this village is about a man I will name Chembe-Gezo (means Hope). As Chembe-Gezo sat in the teaching each day it was evident that he was sincerely seeking the truth. One of the verses particularly jumped out at him was:
“For He [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14
Because of the poverty and hunger in the village Chembe-Gezo had gone to the witchdoctor to get some charms to make his business more productive, but even this wasn’t working. He went back repeatedly to get more powerful charms complaining to the witchdoctor that his charms weren’t effective. The witchdoctor gave him new charms and told him that if he wants these charms to work, he needs to do something radical to give them power; either he must sleep with his mother or kill a child! Chembe-Gezo went away reluctantly pondering which of the two he should choose to do.
Now, as Cheme-Gezo sat listening to God’s liberating Word, repentance and hope awakened in him and he came forward and asked for prayer. Confessing his sins, he trusted in Christ and brought the charms to be destroyed.
Praise God for His Word, for Jesus Christ, and for His perfect timing!
After saying our goodbyes to our new friends at Nambera Village, we spent two days at Chatama Village in Zomba. There is no church in this village. We spent our time going from ‘door’-to-‘door’ or tree-to-tree meeting with folk in the shade and discussing their hope for eternity. We helped them to see that they can have a hope in heaven because:
“But now He [God] has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” Colossians 1:22
On Sunday, we were back in Liwonde and I had the privilege of preaching at the Rehoboth Church that meets at Barnet’s home. I preached from Colossians 2, my topic was Fullness in Christ.
Hard Hearts Hear of Hope in Heaven
On Monday, we were up early again and headed out to another far-out deep-rural village called Mankhamba to the west of Ntaja. We travelled almost 3 hours to get there and the road was dusty, bumpy, and rough. The going got slower and slower as we approached our destination.
At this grass church there seemed to be a darkness clouding the minds and understanding of these people. Over the next 2 days, I painstakingly went over the clear, simple, and profound details of the Gospel yearning to help at least one come to understand the reason for the hope we have in heaven. The ‘pastor’ of this church has no training at all, but he has been elected as their leader because of his charisma/gifts. His knowledge of the Bible is very limited as he doesn’t even own one! Thankfully, I was able to give him a Bible and encourage him to teach from it. Oh how much work there is to be done for God’s kingdom here in Malawi!
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Matthew 9:37-38
The Blind Rejoice!
On our way back from Mankhamba we stopped at Nsanama to meet and encourage the church that meets in this Islamic region. One of their church members, Mr Fax Gamma, is blind and when I was here in March earlier this year, I had promised to bring him an audio Bible. “Oh! I am a rich man!” he exclaimed over and over again with a huge grin on his face after I gave him the MegaVoice Envoy.
In another village, there were two blind folk whom I had also met during my last mission trip here in March. Through his irresistible smile Abusa Charles said: “If you had given me an expensive car, it would not be greater than this Bible I have received today…”
Laughing, smiling from ear-to-ear, and bubbling over with joy, Amai Agnes said: “If you had built for me a big strong house with iron roof and many rooms, it would not be as precious to me as this Bible which you have given me… Thank you very much!”
These blind folk were incredibly happy and it blessed my heart to see their profound joy at receiving God’s Word packaged in this audio player. Delight and fascination seemed to overwhelm them as their fingers explored their new audio Bibles – a treasured gift beyond comparison.
Wrapping up in Malawi
The last four days of this Mission to Malawi I spent teaching God’s Word in 3 rural villages on the outskirts of Liwonde. We gathered in the church and had fruitful discussions about reason for the hope we have in heaven.
I have been so blessed to partake in the work of proclaiming the Gospel of God, helping ignorant people to know Jesus and what He has done for them. I thank God for the many happy faces I have seen reflecting joyful hearts that have encountered the Truth of God’s Love in His Word. I shall never forget those faces; they will forever be my reward.
Gratitude for Generous Gifts
Thank you for your involvement in this mission trip. Thank you for giving, for praying, and for encouraging. Thank you very much for your partnership in the work of proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Without your generous contributions, we would not have been able to help God’s people in this way.
May God richly bless you and those who are dear to you.
In His service and loving it!