It does not seem that long ago that we were talking about being on the “back straight” of the running track of our time here in Malawi. We felt fully acclimatised and able to power along in our partnership with our Malawian brothers and sisters.
Now, seemingly so very soon, the finish of our personal 3 year circuit for the Lord here in Malawi is almost over and our minds are fully engaged with ensuring the various batons we have been carrying are firmly in the hands of our Malawian friends before we depart for the UK.
Myles felt this particularly acutely as late last month he sat watching his friend Pastor Aaron Sekeya do a great job leading Myles’ ‘baby’, Module 1 of Preach the Word, at the Mpala Prayer House of Mulanje ZEC.
There was a great turnout in this remote part of Malawi down by the Ruo river, and it was a great opportunity for Mike Beresford (Mission Director of ZM) and Waldemar Loewen (the Director of Disciple the Nations Malawi) to see how practical, quality preacher training can take place with appropriately minimal resources under a thatched roof, in a wood and tarpaulin structure, on a beaten earth floor, with no electricity and no running water.
The training emphasises the skills needed to faithfully communicate God’s message in Scripture in an oral culture, using the communication skills that come naturally in an oral culture, and preparation skills appropriate for preachers who may not be functionality literate. So it was a very satisfying moment for Myles when on the morning of the second day one of the women participants bravely went up to the front of the class to share the results of her overnight homework, explaining that she could not read but was encouraged by what she heard the previous day. So she had got her child to repeatedly read the bible passage to her and to write down her conclusions on the structure, message and purpose of the passage. There was real joy on her face.
Over the last year Aaron has been doing an amazing job translating as Myles trained grassroots preachers in ZEC stations across the country, and Aaron has also been instrumental in ensuring the training material Myles developed was translated well, and the approach to training was appropriately contextualised. More recently Myles has been coaching Aaron and his co-worker in Disciple the Nations, Pastor Amigu Amigu, on a weekly basis to help them develop a deeper familiarity with the principles involved, and begin to put it into practice in their own preaching ministry. But the event at Mpala really brought it home to Myles that in a few weeks he would be leaving Preach the Word behind – at least in Malawi – and passing on the baton to his faithful Malawi friends.
So, as he drove home through the beautiful countryside of Mulanje, mixed with a little sadness was a real thankfulness that God had brought such a FAT pair of co-workers along (Faithful, Available, Teachable) in Aaron and Amigu who he could trust to move this training on to greater and better things. For one thing we have learned in the last three years is that we truly are not the heroes in any of this – we have received far more than we have given. We are just the bit players and it is God who is in control. We can leave our ‘babies’ in no greater hands.
“So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Cor 3:7)