There is an African proverb that says every day a gazelle awakens and realizes that if he does not outrun the lion, he will not survive the day. Every day a lion awakens and realizes that if he does not outrun the gazelle, he will not survive the day. Therefore, every morning, whether you are a gazelle or a lion, you better be running.
After a much-needed good night’s sleep, we were up and running. Because we arrived after dark, we were not able to see the surroundings of our home-away-from home while we are in Malawi. However, the Gateway Lodge sits at the base of majestic Mount Mulanje, the third highest peak in Africa. It is truly a stunning vista. Everywhere one goes in the Phalombe district, the mountain dominates the scenery. With the verdant landscape, cool mountain breezes, palm trees, and mountain looming near and far, Malawi is a slice of paradise.
Upon eating a breakfast consisting of a Spanish Omelet, sweet potatoes, sausage, juice, and coffee, we headed out for the first day of our three-day seminar. One of our challenges in planning the seminar was logistics. When we started for the seminar, I understood why. We were told the venue for the seminar was only about 35 kilometers (20 miles) from the venue in Chiringa. However, it was more like 60 kilometers (36 miles). After driving for about an hour we finally turned off of the main highway and down the dirt road that would lead us to the venue.
But dirt roads in Africa are notoriously difficult to navigate due to potholes. Yet, I have never seen a dirt road quite as bad as this one. This road didn’t have potholes it had gaping chasms. Nevertheless, Nathan skillfully navigated the dangers and after about a 30-minute bumpy ride farther and farther into the bush, we finally arrived at Moving Waters Ministries Church, the host site of our seminar. Africans take hospitality very seriously, and our team was greeted by a line of distinguished pastors waiting to welcome us to Malawi.
This particular seminar marks a new day for ITEM, as Malawi makes the thirteenth country we are working in across the continent. As we made our way into the building, we were surprised to see the number of pastors in attendance. Even though this was a very rural location, Pastor Innocent Mogana, our seminar host, had managed to gather seventy pastors.
The first day’s teaching sessions were primarily focused on helping pastors to understand the foundational nature the Bible plays in their ministries. There was great energy and enthusiasm during the sessions the entire day. At several junctures, the pastors broke out in applause and shouting as they discovered certain truths for the first time about Scripture. A quite enthusiastic discussion broke out about the place of professed modern-day prophets in the church, as those in attendance confided that such were tearing apart the churches in Malawi. Understanding the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture helped them to see that these so-called prophets are in error.
One of the great joys of doing these pastor’s training seminars is to actually interact with the pastors. This particular seminar was a little more difficult because only about 20% of the pastors spoke English. The overwhelming majority spoke their native tongue, which is Chewa. Nevertheless, undaunted by the language barrier, I wanted to try to interact personally with as many pastors as I could. One pastor stands out in particular. His name is Kenneth Kalulu. Pastor Kenneth traveled the farthest to come to the seminar a total of 150 kilometers (90 miles). Pastor Kenneth was a former witchdoctor whom God gloriously saved and made a preacher of the gospel. His genuine desire for growth and infectious laugh was indicative of the entire group of pastors.
After a long day teaching, we headed back to the lodge grateful for the response of the pastors present and looking forward to dinner. I’ve often said that if you like rice, you can pretty much survive anywhere in the world. I love rice but I have also noticed that French fries have become very popular in Africa, or as the natives call them “chips,” thanks to the Brits. I’m not complaining, as French Fries is one of my favorite foods! However, at our hotel restaurant I was even more pleasantly surprised to find a T-bone steak with fries on the menu for a whopping $6. You read that right–$6. Africa still holds many surprises, though some are not as pleasant as others, as we would soon find out.
~Chris McMillan (ITEM COO)