Our last meeting in Lilongwe on this busy day was with Pastor Rex Umali, who is the pastor of Area 23 ZEC. It was to be a perfect example of one of the most exciting things about these visits; their complete unpredictability. Your are just never sure what you will find and how God will use it to shape you. This time we were surprised and challenged to hear this faithful pastor’s wonderful testimony.
It reminded us a little of our time in Plano, Texas in the 90’s as we drove through the large flat plots of land on the outskirts of Lilongwe that were filling rapidly with expanding suburbia. And there, incongruously, in the corner of a giant building lot, sat the small “Gulliver Prayer House” of ZEC.
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.
What images will persist, I wonder, for Ruth and I as we leave Malawi and Africa? For sure there will be images of rolling seas of tea bushes, of bright lilac colored jacaranda trees, of vast planes of dusty bush, of proud exotic animals, of litter strewn slums, of mud floors and tin roofs.
However I am convinced that the truly persistent images of Malawi and of Africa will be of the faithful brothers and sisters we leave behind. Compared to our homeland we found friends materially poor, struggling with a lack of education, and adrift for the want of more of Christ’s shepherds. But we also found friends with faces shining with the love of Jesus, humble homes thrown open in wonderful hospitality, and lives where the little they did have was completely dedicated to the growth of God’s kingdom. Continue reading →
I wish I knew more about Jessie Rowland whose grave sits all alone at the top of a prominent hill that commands an amazing 360 degree view of a huge plain of African bush between Blantyre and Lake Malawi.
Monday in Blantyre was quiet but interesting as we met with Pastor Mvula J Mvula, the leader of the River of Life Evangelical Church that has recently become a partner of Zambezi Mission. Formed in 2001 ROLEC is an indigenous church that aims through the preachong of the Word of God to transform people’s lives and their communities both spiritually, socially and economically. In looks and in force of character there is something of Nelson Mandela about Pastor Mvula, and we had a fascinating time understanding his primary need to rapidly train ROLEC pastors to be better shepherds for their flocks. Continue reading →
In a country where Christian church buildings are so conspicuous, our time in Malawi is giving us a real insight into the ongoing need for the gospel in the country.
As you drive at night through the Malawi countryside you are immediately struck by the physical darkness of the place as so many struggle with the expense of providing lighting for their home, and the government struggles with the expense of lighting the streets. And certainly during our trip we also had to get used to repeated daily power outages that too often plunge everybody into deep black from 6 pm to 6 am.
However when you talk to the people of the countryside you understand – beyond their physical need for light – their far greater need for the spiritual light that only the Holy Spirit can bring. Continue reading →
Kondwani and Evet Kwerani epitomise what it means to be good and faithful servants of Christ whatever our culture. They live in a small rough brick house in rural Choda, south east of Blantyre, with their three children Hope, Paul, and Kondwani jr.
Kondwani was born in the country and, even with a time studying in the relative comfort of Blantyre, he says he is more able to cope with being back in the simple rural life than his wife who was born in the city.
I say “simple life”, but in an area where the church members are essentially struggling to survive – and although they would never say so themselves – it would be more accurate to talk about a life of material “survival”. Continue reading →
A change of plan meant that Ruth and I had the opportunity to travel with Michael Priestley and his ZM driver Anthony, to visit five ZEC churches in the Mulanje area east of Blantyre.
Michael is the sort of older Christian who is a challenging example to us all. He must be well into his seventies and he has been visiting Malawi from England for 23 years. Initially he came with his wife Joy, they fell in love with the people and the place, and even after her death eight years ago Michael has been coming back regularly to buy and distribute bibles in the local Chichewa language using money gifted by Christians in the UK. Continue reading →
Our escorts here in Malawi, David and Janet Brown, attend the same church as Ruth and I. We consulted them early on when considering a move into mission and they lovingly offered to escort us on this trip to a country that had been on my heart since my Scottish upbringing. David and Janet work for Zambezi Mission (ZM). ZM (originally Zambezi Industrial Mission) has served God since 1892 along the Zambezi river in Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) and more recently in northern Mozambique. It founded the Zambesi Evangelical Church (ZEC) in 1894. Simon Chikwana, the Director of ZM in Malawi, is hosting us at the ZM guest house and has helped develop a great itinerary that will give us insight into ZM, ZEC, and their various ministries. Continue reading →
The last two weeks have passed so very quickly and thanks to the gracious support of our hosts, Silas and Rahab, we have learned so much about Kenya, about its people, and about ourselves.
So it is only fitting that we have spent our last day in Kenya with our amazingly hospitable hosts; back again at their lively church, and then at home with them for a family meal around their big dining table.
It is an example of their open hearted character that “family” included us, a brother, a nephew, a missionary friend, his children, and our driver! Continue reading →
Ruth and I breakfasted in early morning sun with the sound of Thomson’s Falls in the background, baboons searched for food in the lawn outside, and a walk back to our rooms through blooming flowers. It was idyllic.
However, even though most of the guests were holidaying Kenyans, it was difficult not to feel awkward at the comfort we were living in, and difficult not to feel isolated from the real world that lay outside the gates. And certainly, as we passed through the guarded gate on our way to Nyahururu the manicured lawn was replaced by dusty packed earth, the smooth drive for potholed road, and the colonial lodge for wooden shacks.
Today Silas and I were scheduled to train pastors gathered in a Nyahururu church from the 33 churches overseen by Simon in this part of Kenya and from other churches in the region. But just getting to the church was an adventure as our van inched through the crowded marketplace of rough built stalls to a three story building that stood proud in the centre. The church was literally an “upper room” with a pub below and shops on the ground floor. Continue reading →
Our first Sunday in Kenya started much as our Sundays in England, with church. We had the privilege of attending Kilelesha Covenant Community Church (K3C) which is the suburban home church of our hosts Silas and Rahab. Both the well designed building, the smartly dressed, multi-generation congregation, and the well designed multi-media presentations, would not have been out of place in any major city in the UK and the US.
It was a special youth service and the excellent multi-lingual music ministry of the young praise band, the energy of the guest rap artist, and the culture of clapping God in praise, might have raised a few eyebrows in quiet rural Suffolk. However the clear bible teaching, the obvious love of the church for it’s youth and children, and the church’s dynamic focus on reaching out to make disciples, all made Ruth and I feel very at home. Even the report back from the teenagers about their summer camp showed the same breathless enthusiasm and energy of our own young people. Continue reading →
Lydia of the bible (Acts 16) was obviously a woman of strong character and good education. A dealer in purple cloth, she became a believer and invited Paul and his fellow travellers into her home. Today Ruth and I met another Lydia of strong character and good education who, on becoming a believer did the unthinkable in Kenya and gave up her safe and secure job with a bank to create a home for some 30 of the orphan street boys she saw every day at the street corners of her town.
It was a long drive north through coffee and tea plantations to reach a height of 6,000 feet and the El Shaddai boys home on the outskirts of Limuru. El Shaddai is an ancient name of God meaning “All Powerful One” or “All Sufficient One”. And as we stepped through the solid metal gates into the small grounds of the home we quickly realised that this home survived day to day only through faith that the God of the bible truly is all sufficient for all our needs. Continue reading →
We arrived! Ruth and I arrived early this morning in Nairobi without too much hassle – except I dropped and cracked the screen of my iPhone. Nor did we get much sleep on the plane.
But it is amazing how quickly the Kenyans have set up temporary workarounds at the airport, using big tents to get things moving despite the huge fire they had. It was still faster through immigration than Heathrow on a good day – but that is not saying much! Continue reading →
On this trip to Romania we were determined to see more of the reputedly beautiful Romanian countryside, and to get a taste of some of the wider Christian ministry in the country. So Ruth and I – accompanied by our daughter and church friend – headed off eastwards on a road trip that took us through the beautiful green pastureland of Transylvania to the Casa Harului (meaning “House of Grace”)Christian campsite near Deva.
On our January trip to Carand we had met Beni Medrea and we were keen to meet up with him and his wife, Maria, to check out the stories we had heard about their alpine campsite that provided holidays, good food and sound Christian teaching to children from a wide variety of backgrounds. With clear vision, starting with army tents, and through decades of hard effort and strong partnership from UK Christians, this very special place rose out of a pasture near their family hill farm. Today it serves the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of disadvantaged families, physically disabled children and children with learning disabilities from a wide area of Romania. Continue reading →
Pastors Daniel and Danny Ispas with family and visitors
21-24 June 2013
In June Ruth and I had the privilege of returning to Carand in Western Transylvania in Romania. This time we were joined by our daughter and a young woman from our parent church who has a heart for this lovely country and its people.
Last August I traveled to the global headquarters of One Mission Society (OMS) where I had an eye opening, and life challenging, introduction to their approach to church planting and multiplication. One of the biggest personal impacts came from being trained by an amazing group of humble, faithful, obedient disciples who had decades of real hard-won experience evangelizing and church planting around the world. The other big impact was the wonderful opportunity to meet with so many committed church planters from around the world, including the father/son pastor team of Daniel and Danny Ispas. Continue reading →
After the wonderful scenery, hospitality and fellowship in Midleton and in County Mayo, Ruth and I drove across Ireland’s green and pleasant countryside for our final stay, in Trim and County Meath.
Last August I had the privilege of being an “honorary Irishman” for two weeks when I sharing lodgings with a dynamic group of Irish church planters at a conference organised by One Mission Society in Greenwood, Indiana. In Trim I was looking forward to repeating the long evenings of practical theological discussions with Ciaran that I had enjoyed in Indiana, and to worshiping with the Living Hope Church that I had heard so much about. I was not disappointed on either front. Continue reading →
It is 2pm Sat 6th July. Ruth and I are sitting in the sun on the ferry in Fishguard harbour after a drive from the east to the west of mainland Britain on our way to Youghal, County Cork in Ireland.
This is the second part of our great adventure this summer as over the next few months we visit and share with Christian missionaries in Romania, Ireland, Kenya and Malawi. (Our second visit to Belgium has been postponed to October). It’s all part of our quest to understand God’s call for this next phase in our lives.
The first part of our summer adventure was a return visit last week to Daniel and Danny Ispas in Carand, western Transylvania, Romania. Over the coming weeks we will post more about that physical and spiritual journey as time (and internet connection) permits.
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The idea of the blog is to allow our friends to share in our thoughts and experiences as we spend time in so many different places. However, perhaps more importantly, it will give Ruth and I a mechanism with which to reflect on the experience and the lessons learned.
We hope you enjoy sharing in our great adventure this summer as we step out with God.