Our latest ZM Pastors Bookset Conference was 27-31 July in Muloza (see the approx location on Google Maps here) in Mulanje district. After the event in Mchinji the team came together again like a well oiled machine, and we were pleased to be joined by the local ZEC pastor, Synoden Mulamba.
This time there was no slow start to the conference, with about 110 folk turning up on day one and staying consistently through the four days. A real benefit when several of us build on our topics across two or three days.
The most interesting part of these events for Myles is listening in (through an interpreter) to the sessions where the participants break up into groups to discuss key pastoral issues in the locality. It is a great way to get a better understanding of the impact that African Traditional Religions still have in rural areas on Malawi, and begin to understand the variation in culture from one part of Malawi to another.
However, the noisiest debates always seem to be those concerning marriage – perhaps because both pastors/elders and their wives are present at the events. Whether it was that the participants felt they could be particularly open in this forum, or whether the local culture in Mulanje is less sensitive about these matters, but I have never heard a more frank, open and heated discussion on ‘marital relations’ than the one in Muloza! It would have made even Marian blush! It would seem essential for the Church in Malawi to more effectively present the biblical principles on relationships and marriage if the Church is to counter the twin challenges of African Traditional Religion and Western secularism.
It was certainly another very encouraging time, with the cross-denominational fraternal that organised the event showing itself as having real potential to transform the work of the Gospel in that corner of Malawi.
However, perhaps the biggest encouragement to the team came from Mama Debra’s Take Away! As usual, the team was staying at a small local ‘rest house’ but this time there was no food available. So, each morning and evening the team walked across the beaten red earth road to a small 12’x12′ restaurant to be served some surprisingly tasty food by ‘Mama Debra’ who – despite the title – is a bright young woman. It turned out to be a lovely environment for ‘good craic’ (as the Irish say) and lively theological discussion over the evening meal, as we were ‘serenaded’ by competing PA systems blaring out from the neighbouring barbers. Certainly something attracted Mama Debra’s interest and on the last evening the senior pastor in the team had the privilege of leading Debra and the restaurant owner to the Lord.
God be praised! Despite all the challenges that the Gospel faces in this land (with its false teachers, nominalism, syncretism with traditional religions, and increasing pressure from Islam) it is clear that our Lord is still wonderfully at work through his remnant of faithful servants working among a people still so open to spiritual matters and receptive to the true Gospel when they hear it.