Our second day in Malawi began with an early wake-up call and a bathroom faucet that continues to mock me. In my previous post, I mentioned the trickle of water coming from the shower. Well, this morning it was the sink’s turn, except it wasn’t a trickle of water, it was a drip, drip, drip of water. Do you know how difficult it is to wash your hands and toothbrush handle in a sink of dripping water?
Undeterred by my less than stellar beginning of the day, I headed down to the lodge restaurant for a cup of hearty coffee and we were on our way to the training site. Our focus during this seminar is to help pastors understand their biblical roles as equippers, examples, and expositors. Today our lessons focused on being examples. Our pastors learned that character is more important than charisma, being a man of God is more important than being popular, and holiness is more important than happiness.
After our last session, Pastor Duncan Nyozi, our very first coordinator for Malawi asked us to visit some of the families left homeless by the recent cyclones to encourage and pray for them. As I mentioned in my previous post, there is a grave humanitarian crisis occurring here.
Having arrived at a school, we were ushered into a large meeting room where at least one hundred people were seated. We were told that these were the people who had been left homeless by the floods. They were being housed at the school because there were no other options. The families sleep on hard concrete without even the comfort of a mat. They have no food, there are no social safety nets, and there is not much hope things are going to change anytime soon.
When the second cyclone hit, ITEM sent disaster relief funds that provided food and necessary resources for the victims. Little did we know when we were asked to come and pray for the victims that the very people we had helped were sitting in this room and were gathered there to thank us. Having been asked to address the crowd, I wanted to say something profound, but all I could muster the strength to say was that God had not forgotten them and we must trust Him even in our suffering.
Where is God when we suffer? That is a question that man has asked since the beginning of time. It is a question that often drives people to question God’s existence, to become bitter towards Him, and for some to even abandon the faith. In fact, I recently read that the number one issue that keeps people from belief in God is the problem of suffering. While I have read thousands and thousands of pages on the theology of suffering and have preached many sermons on suffering, I am still haunted by it. Nevertheless, I know that God works all things together for our good and His glory. I don’t have to have all the answers, but I must, as the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.”
After we spoke to the families, we were then taken around the village to see house after house that had been destroyed by the cyclones. Some houses were still left standing with walls collapsed. Others were completely washed away from the foundation.
Having been confronted with about as much human suffering as we could take for one day, we then gathered with the victims for a final group photo and to say goodbye. While our team was overwhelmed with sadness, the victims were overwhelmed with gratitude. They wanted all our ITEM partners to know how grateful they are for your assistance in their time of need.
So, ITEM family, thank you! Your generosity is helping us not only to train pastors and transform churches, but to alleviate human suffering.