Thursday 16th April 2014
Tired after a long day of visits we nevertheless stopped off at Namitete ZEC on our way to our guest house at Mchinji in the very west of Malawi, near the Zambia border. However our weariness quickly evaporated in the face of the cheerful enthusiasm of Pastor Masoamphambe, his wife, his family, and his leadership team.
They all joined in to eagerly show us the entrepreneurial steps that were underway to create an income for the church and the pastor. This is a recurring theme in a denomination determined to make and shape disciples in as self-sufficient a way as possible.
Indeed, ever since they started their work in Malawi in 1893 as the ‘Zambezi Industrial Mission’, ZM and ZEC have always followed a path similar to that of Henry Venn who famously called on the formation of indigenous churches that were self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating. While many of us will recognize that as the right way it is never the easy way. Practically speaking this results in ZM and ZEC focusing on projects that use capital and know-how to help people to help themselves through the development of sustainable long-term revenue generating schemes.
The ideas at Namitete ZEC were typical. The church has land and knows that it can build since it built the church and the pastor’s house. So they aim to build two guest houses on the compound to create a healthy revenue stream. The church knows how to farm. So they saved collectively to buy a couple of local pigs that are low maintenance in their native environment and will rapidly produce a herd that will raise the standard of living of the whole community.
As dusk fell it was also a real delight to meet the children and extended family of Pastor and Mrs Masoamphambe; children so full of care for each other, full of fun, and full of enthusiasm for their education.
But perhaps the most exciting part of the whole visit was the impromptu discussion around the blackboard where Pastor Masoamphambe showed us the simple graphics he used to disciple his people; explaining how new birth comes when an individual invites Jesus (‘Yesu’) into the house which is their heart, but that the real challenge of discipleship is to invite Yesu to take His rightful place on the ‘throne’ of our lives.
Suddenly all the differences evaporated and we were two practical theologians comparing notes on how best to open the Gospel to others. Together we laughed as we rediscovered that age old truth that – irrespective of skin colour or language or culture – mankind has the one universal need and there is one universal answer: Christ (the anointed of God come into the world) recognized as Jesus (our personal savior) and invited to take his rightful place as Lord (on the throne of our lives).
The metaphor became even more apt for me as I saw Mickey Mouse – who had in essence been my earthly master for over a decade during my time as a Vice President of The Walt Disney Company – staring out from the pastor’s chair. It re-enforced the importance of that most critical of questions in life: Is the Lord Jesus Christ truly on the throne of your heart?