Sports ministry vision sharing trip to Nsanje
Day 1: Friday March 2nd- The journey began with a change of plans. Originally we were planning on taking our car to make things easier for travel but that plan was thwarted because of our inability to find fuel anywhere…..for a month. Because of this troubling reality, Fostance and I hopped into a minibus to head about 100 miles south to the steaming hot region of Nsanje. After a rather painless 4 hour trip down, we arrived in the small village of Bangula where we grabbed a bite to eat (fried chicken neck and nsima) in the open market before meeting at the local church building for our sports ministry vision sharing meeting. Sweat poured constantly from our bodies as we chatted with 8 local youth leaders and pastors from the nearby villages. We had invited over 20 leaders so to have just 8 surprised us. But after asking them why there were only a few of them at the meeting and didn’t everyone get the letter of invitation, we found out why there were only 8. One of them said, “What letter of invitation?” Then the pastor who was supposed to deliver them to all the churches said, “Oh yea! Sorry. I forgot to deliver these!” He then pulled all the letters out of his bag. But somehow, 8 of them were still there and Fostance was quite happy because they were 8 of the most influential church leaders in the area. It was amazing to see their excitement about using sport as a platform for the Word in their villages. They said, “This will work!” After the three hour meeting and then a sweet time in prayer, they took us to meet the village chief and then we went to the market to sit down and have a coke. It was a really great time of fellowship and they continued to express how honored they were that we had made the effort to bring this ministry to the south.
Day 2: Saturday March 3rd- We rose to spend the morning with our dear friends before heading further south to the area called Tengani. This was the place where I went for the youth camp just after we arrived here in Malawi so I was excited to see the pastor and his family who had treated us with such love and hospitality. After about an hour minibus drive, we dropped off at a desolate spot with nothing around us but sand and a few trees. This area has experienced heavy crop failures due to spotty rains this season. Because of the lack of rain, many people are hungry in this area and we ask your continued prayer for the people of Tengani. From the point where we were left the minibus, we hired a few bicycle taxis (they are always fun) to take us a few miles into the village of Tengani. Finally, we arrived at the house of the pastor (Pastor Dinero) to see his smiling face beaming with the joy of the Lord. This man is a great blessing to the people of Tengani and he welcomed us like we were kings and then we found a spot under a nearby tree to have the next vision sharing meeting with all the pastors from the surrounding area. At 2pm we began the sports ministry vision sharing and by 5pm we were still going strong. It was super encouraging because all the letters were delivered to all the leaders in this region so everyone was there (17 in all). What blessed me most about this meeting was the enthusiasm of some of the older pastors. One of them stood up and said, “No one has cared for us like this before and I truly believe that God is going to use this ministry to transform Tengani and beyond!” Praise God! They got it and are now in the process of electing sports ministry leaders who can go into their communities to begin a small sports outreach.
|Fostance with his family|
Immediately after the meeting, Fostance and I jumped on a few bike taxis and went to visit his family. Thanks so many of your sacrificial gifts, we were able to help many in this area that is struggling so much. One of the families that we were able to help was Fostances. It was such a blessing for me to be able to meet them for the first time. Right away I knew which one was his mother. She got down on her knees to greet us and receive the food that we brought. After greeting his mother, grandmother, brother, and sister, his little niece ran out of the hut. She is 3 years old and has never seen a white person before. You should have seen her face when she looked at me! She turned 180 degrees and run away from me screaming like I was going to kill her. Everyone laughed including me so it was all good fun….except for his terrified little niece. I quickly realized why Fostance has been telling me that we have got to be praying for his family and those living near them. All the children’s bellies were bloated. The people were very hungry and my heart broke for them. I asked Fostance, “Is it gonna get any better?” He sadly responded, “No. The crops have failed and this is only the beginning. The worst will come in April after they’ve finished all their food. Now, they still are at least having a tiny bit to try to make their flour last as long as possible but soon it will run out and they will starve unless somebody steps in from the government or something.” Please pray for God to break through miraculously and to provide for these precious people.
After trying to sleep for 3 hours that night (it was over 100 degrees in our hut), we decided to just pray for the next day’s meeting. We prayed that God would really do something out of the box and surprise us. We finally fell asleep around 4 am before my alarm went off at 5:45. It was Sunday and we needed to travel 2 hours to the very southernmost region of Nsanje Boma to get to the church service on time.
Day 3: Sunday March 4th- So…..we walked two hours with pastor Dinero and his boys to the main road where we boarded another minibus that took us to where we needed to be. We arrive to the church building just as they were beginning. Perfect timing. Upon entering the service, we were blown away at how many believer there were singin praises at the top of their lungs to Jesus. It was beautiful….but HOT. The tin roof of the building attracted the heat of the sun. Fostance and I looked at each other and both realized our Sports Friends polo shirts were already soaked with sweat. I don’t think I’ve ever been as hot as I was in the church oven…I mean building J that day. I drink over a gallon of water just during the 3 hour service.
Finally, the service ended and we went outside where it was much cooler to have our final sports ministry vision-sharing meeting. We were amazed to find over 25 youth leaders and pastors from a 30-mile radius who had either rode their bikes or walked for this meeting.
This is an ULTRA poor and desolate region where a lot of people suffer, but Fostance really thinks that sports ministry will take off here more than anywhere else for the glory of Christ. The vision sharing meeting went really well and lasted about 3 hours. They had lots of comments and questions about how we might link up to preach Christ through sport in that region specifically. But, a few of the questions were asking how they could financially provide for even starting the ministry with one ball. Both Fostance and I kind of got the idea that they had a mindset of "we can't do anything by ourselves unless some big organization could hook us up with what we need."
Fostance and I were addressing the issue and stating how you don't need much at all to do effective sports ministry, when, all of the sudden one of the most influential, educated, and controversial pastors in Malawi stood up and asked if he could interject. We were a little hesitant but agreed to let him share what was on his mind. He said, "You know why nothing ever happens in this place? Do you know why we never do anything significant when it comes to reaching out to our villages with the Gospel?" All of us sat in silence under the Baobab tree. Then he continued, "It's because we have this mindset of poverty that cripples us and silences the people of God from what He has called and created us to do: make Christ's name known! I see the passion and desire in all of your eyes to do this but your faith is just too small in our mighty God! Organize yourselves to use sport as a means of strategic evangelism and discipleship to our people and WE as the church leaders will find a way to support you. That is why we are here! We are here to proclaim Christ and I could think of no better way of showing the people of Malawi Jesus Christ than this platform of sports. It's simple, you know it well, and we are behind you as the church. I honestly believe that God is going to transform this country through this ministry and I want it to start with us. Though we don't have a lot of stuff....we've got passion and God will use it if we just have more faith in Him. Go for it!" After he was done speaking, everyone started clapping and broke out in song! It was like they were broken free to do what God had called them to do. For the next 15 minutes we just praised Jesus through song under the tree together before closing the meeting.
We were speechless. Just the night before this meeting, it was over 100 degrees there were mosquitoes everywhere and Fostance and I were sleeping out under the stars in the village in the dirt unable to sleep. Our prayers were almost exactly word-for-word what this guy stood up and said. It was seriously one of the clearest answers to prayer I’ve ever had. The southern region of Malawi is ready and it was quite a moment, for me and Fostance, to see that God is in this. All praise be to the Lord!
Matt. 9:37-38: “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.”
Continue to join us in praying this verse for Malawi.