Random Thoughts

8 Dec

I thought I might write down a number of random thoughts and impressions of our recent trip to Malawi. I haven’t sat down and spent much time thinking these through, I just wanted to get them out before I lose them so that I can process them more thoroughly later.

10. When I lay down when I came home from Malawi, I thought about how much I loved sleeping in my own bed and that thought was genuine. It felt so comfortable. The funny thing is that we have been wanting to get a new bed for almost a year now because I had been complaining about it being uncomfortable. Sleeping on floors, sleeping outside, using your clothes for pillows, it can give a person perspective. I think that’s one of the best parts of going away, it helps you appreciate home.

9. We enjoyed primarily staying with native Malawians while we were in Malawi. Newton set up the trip for us and as a result we stayed with his family and friends. I thought this was pretty sweet because it helped us get a better idea of Malawi from a Malawian’s perspective. The hospitality was pretty amazing. I have in the past talked with people from a Western culture who complained because when they were visited by family members from a different culture those family members expected that the people from the Western culture would pretty much stop what they were doing when they visited and drive them places and spend all their time serving them. I can say now that the reason they expect that is because they do that. We were treated like kings when we were in Malawi. For example, there is a serious petrol shortage in the country right now. This means that you sometimes have to wait in line all night, literally sleep over at the gas station, in order to get gas and even when you do that, it is not guaranteed you will get gas when you finally make it to the pump. But you know what, these people, and for the most part they were actually unbelievers, they drove us wherever we wanted with a smile on their face and never even made a passing comment about how difficult it might be for them to get gas later. And that’s just a beginning to the way they stooped down to serve us.

8. I wonder if it is sometimes a little difficult for us from the West to get a proper perspective on Africa because we often have money as our god. When we see people who don’t have as many financial resources as we may have, it is easy for us to only see that. As a result, we may miss out on many of the advantages they do have. There is a whole lot that many Malawians are rich in where we in the West are experiencing a kind of poverty. I can give you a bunch of superficial observations of course, but there are certain advantages that come with not being dominated by a desire to have more money.

7. Missionaries are not usually financially rich people. They are living in places that are not their homes, reaching out to people who are different then them, loving Christ, loving their neighbor. They are giving up a lot of comfort to proclaim the gospel of Christ. I love being with missionaries. But, even though missionaries are not usually financially rich people it is amazing the difference between the way the average missionary is able to live and the way the average Malawian is able to live. I am not saying this as a right or wrong statement. It is just fascinating. When we went from where we were staying to visit the missionaries it was like going into a mansion. I am sure there are all kinds of factors that go into this, like the fact that we from the West tend to want to work hard on making our houses as comfortable as possible and have access to certain ideas for doing so.

6. It is remarkable how many churches there are in Malawi. There are still tribes and villages that are not reached, but still it is remarkable how widely Christianity has coated the culture. I wanted to start taking pictures of all the different shops with God in the title. One of the doctor’s offices was named, “God Help Me Doctors.” This makes getting into conversations with people about Christianity very easy. We had so many different opportunities to talk with individuals about Christ. While there are many church buildings and there is a lot of Christian talk, there is still a desperate need for discipleship and training. But it is amazing how much places like Malawi have changed in the past one hundred and fifty years. We were out in the middle of nowhere one day and we drove past a sign which was pointing to “missionary graves” and it made think and thank God for men and women who gave their lives back when there really weren’t any churches in Malawi and how God has used these men and women who people thought were crazy to make such an impact for Christ. It also makes me want to work to build on their foundation. They spread the word wide, now let’s by God’s grace, take the word deep.

5. When we were about to go to Malawi, there were so many people who had a warning for us. This is actually part of why Dad didn’t end up going, because of what people told him about mosquitos and Malaria and lack of hospitals and the danger to his health. I am usually mosquito heaven and I think maybe I got one bite. I have had many more mosquito bites since I got home than I had in Malawi. I think that so many of our fears aren’t really as scary as people make them out to be. There were a few times when I was wondering if I wasn’t a little too laid back, like for example when McKenna was so sick or when we were in the minibus flying across the country, but on the other hand, God did take care of us throughout our whole trip and the challenges were nothing in comparison to what others daily experience to make much of Christ.

4. After our bus trip, I can better understand why some from the West make money a god. When you have money, you really are able to make certain decisions and do certain things that do make life a whole lot more comfortable. If you are pursuing joy, there are three options, get rich, be godly or give up. Now, being godly is the better choice. Godliness with contentment is great gain because it enables you to experience true joy, it gives you strength in every circumstance, it never lets you down and on and on we can go. But and it is not really a but, it is just a thought, I can tell you that it really is difficult for a person who has financial resources to appreciate just how different it can be for those who don’t have access to those same resources – especially if you have expecations of a certain level of comfort. That is why I added give up as an option. Because if you are an unbeliever and you aren’t able to get rich, I can see how easy it would be just to give up all expectations of comfort or respect, because that way you aren’t nearly as disappointed when you don’t receive them.

3. Many of the believers in Malawi have a great desire to learn and grow. We did a pastor’s conference way out in the middle of Malawi, rural, long drop toilets, no electricity, killing goats for lunch kind of place; and there were pastors who bicycled for over 40 kilometers to get there and when they did make it, they were so eager to hear the Word of God preached and took notes and asked questions, and what’s even more amazing, after an entire day of classes, in a hot room, sitting on uncomfortable benches, they then had an all night prayer and these same pastors weren’t looking at their watches and thinking about how to get home or to bed but stayed up all night singing and praising and preaching and enjoying God. (I know because I could hear them from where I was trying to sleep!)

2. Slow is not bad. I wonder if sometimes we have had such an American idea of success that we have harmed our missionaries. We wanted them to send back all these exciting reports of buildings built and of all kinds of stuff happening, that we have made it more difficult for them to do the work well. Malawi is full of church buildings. Great. But how thrilling is that if the church buildings are filled with people who are not believers? We were with one missionary who has been reaching out to a previously unreached tribe for fifteen years and he just urged us to pursue a patient ministry. It’s not that we shouldn’t have big dreams, it is just that our dreams should be a little bigger than just having a lot of numbers and a lot of buildings. We should pursue making real disciples who make real disciples no matter how difficult, how slow and just be happy with whatever fruit God allows us to experience.

1. I am so excited about Newton and sending a Malawian missionary back to Malawi. What a difference when I preached and when he preached. The Word of God is not bound so I was confident as I preached God’s Word that it would make an impact. But when Newton preached, he could actually correct the translator, he was able to say us Malawians, he was able to take the Scriptures and apply it directly to his culture, he could have long conversations with the pastors afterwards, he was comfortable living like a Malawian and enjoyed it because he is a Malawian, oh man, I could go on and on! I was eager about this idea of our church helping Newton plant a church in Malawi before, of raising up African missionaries for Africa, but I am about a hundred times more excited about it now!

(One last one for free, corruption is real. I wondered crossing the borders if whether having a legitimate passport and visa actually made the crossings more difficult because the people didn’t have anything they could bribe you for. If you have fifty rands to slip into your passport, I am thinking you can get pretty much anywhere you want in Africa.)

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3 Responses to “Random Thoughts”

  1. Tommie December 8, 2011 at 9:34 am #

    Your enthusiasm is contagious.
    Very glad to have you back.

  2. Tommie December 8, 2011 at 9:37 am #

    I think the biggest problem is that most give up.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Josh Mack reflects on their Malawi trip « Faithful Discipleship - December 8, 2011

    […] Andre, Newton, Josh, and Josh’s two oldest girls (McKenna and Cambria) just got back from a trip to Malawi to scout out future church planting opportunities for Newton. Here’s a few of Josh’s reflections on the trip. […]

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