Colossians 3:4 "When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory."
Many of you prayed over the past few days for the ministry trip Fostance, our friend Shaddy, and I (Luke) went on. Multiple strategic planning meetings and focused times of prayer had preceded this trip so by 6 AM on Friday morning, the minibus was packed and we were ready to hit the villages again with the goal of effectively communicating the vision of this ministry with around 40 church leaders in the region of Chikwawa. We had three vision sharing meetings in three different locations planned in just two days. The schedule was packed and we’d be travelling a lot but I was not prepared for the way God would speak to me on this trip.
In order for any church to do sports ministry for the glory of Christ, they must understand what this ministry is and how it can effectively communicate the Gospel and transform lives for all of eternity. Otherwise, we can train leaders but if the church does not support the work in prayer and financially, the ministry is not self-sustainable non-reproducible and powerless. It is imperative that the pastoral leadership and church elders fully grasp the vision of sports friends and how we are here for the church. We are not an organization that does things outside the church because we know Christ uses His Body to reach the nations. We’ve got to be strengthening the Body of Christ. So that’s why we share the vision first with the church leaders.
Day 1: Friday March 22 – After a time of prayer, we left Blantyre at 6 AM to hopefully arrive at Ngabu Africa Evangelical Church by 9 for the meeting. By the grace of Christ, we arrived at 8:59 AM. God is so good and He protected us all the way down to Chikwawa. The meeting went very well with 12 church leaders representing churches from all over the area. They had travelled by foot and bike from their various churches scattered across the region and came ready to hear the vision of Sports Friends. Although the meeting took CONSIDERABLY longer than we thought it would take (nearly lasting 4 hours), it was an amazing Spirit-led time where we effectively casted the vision of Sports Friends, and informed them in detail what to do next and whom they need to look for in a local church sports minister. These men of God had many good questions and were thoroughly excited that we had finally come to their villages. They have heard much about sports ministry and almost every one expressed their thanks to God for the meeting. Praise the Lord.
After the meeting we drove to a nearby village to share the vision with 1 pastor (Ronald) and his family who was unable to attend the meeting that we had earlier because he was teaching. This was the first experience of the trip that God clearly spoke to me. We spent several hours chatting, laughing, eating a great dinner, and then began to wind down to get ready to sleep. Just before going to our room, Pastor Ronald and all his family grabbed their Bibles and began to sing. They invited us to join them and we happily agreed. It was their family devotion time. After singing 4 praise songs to the Lord, Pastor Ronald opened up the Word to Deuteronomy 30 and we read verses 15-20. The point he focused on and challenged us all was to love the Lord wholly with every moment because in Him, we find life (vs.20). Then, he told us to flip in our Bibles to Colossians 3 and read verses 1-4. Again, there it says to set our hearts on things above and not on earthly things. And that our life is God’s to spend because it’s in Christ that we have been made alive. Before Him we had nothing. Without Jesus we have nothing. But with Him, we have everything and we are gonna “appear with Him in glory” (vs.4). Something about these words spoken in a different language in a tiny house in the middle of the villages in Africa struck me. These people have everything.
The written Word of God says it clearly and I read it and believed it but now I was about to experience it on a whole new level.
After singing a few more songs, we closed in a sweet time of prayer. All of Pastor Ronald’s children were singing praises to a Lord they knew. Then when we prayed, I peeked and watched them pray. Their faces shined with satisfaction in God. From young to old, the people of this house loved God and experienced His goodness and fullness of life. As we went to bed, I asked the Pastor, “How often do you do this?” His response is what got me, he looked at me a bit surprised and said, “Every night of course.” This family makes time for worship on a daily basis and because of it, you can see the love and joy of the Lord in their home in such a real way. From that time, we went off to bed where Fostance and I talked deep into the night (we couldn’t sleep because it was so incredibly hot), about how we want to lead our families like this man does. Finally at 1 AM, we went to sleep with our hearts full of God and our room full mosquitos.
Day 2: March 23 - I awoke at 5 AM to the stench of the result of a sick chicken with a stomach problem and it’s whole family that lived under our bed. I was the lucky one! Fostance stepped in it in his bare feet as he was getting out of bed. Yuck! We took a nice bucket shower, packed up our things and said farewell to Pastor Ron and his precious family. He was a servant leader and a man I really would like to spend more time with.
The next place we were to share the vision was in the center of Chikwawa. We arrived to find no one at the pastor’s house except for him and his family. To our surprise, only 7 church leaders showed up to this meeting and after 2 hours, we finished up and were on our way. To be honest, we were a bit discouraged by the small turn up of church leaders at this meeting but we pray that God will fuel those who were there to tell others.
(Photo: Beautiful tree in the village)
Then, immediately from this meeting, we jumped in the minibus and headed 30 minutes up the road to a different location that is very rural. As we drove, God reminded me of the night before and the passage that impacted me, “Christ, who is our life.” I thought, “Hmm. Thanks for the reminder Lord.” But I had not clue what I was about to experience.
Hardly any outsiders visit the remote villages we were going to because of the horrible roads and extreme heat. But, we were determined to at least cast the vision and see what God would do. We had to stop the minibus about 3 miles from where we needed to be because the road was atrocious. From there, we hiked up into the rocky hills in the blistering heat to find 12 local church leaders with all their wives discussing ministry and church matters for the whole region. Fostance knew the one and only pastor in this region who looks after all 13 churches covering 50 square miles. The pastor had invited us to their all-area church council meeting with every key leader from all the churches present. This was a huge opportunity and we praise God that we were able to get there while they were still all together. After waiting about 30 minutes for them to finish up another topic, they invited us into the thatched-roof church building to cast the vision of Sports Friends. All three of us visitors (Shaddy, Fostance and myself) were deeply humbled by these godly people who live on so little material possessions but on so much of God. They knew the Lord and I could feel it the moment I stepped into the room with these men. The entire time we shared the vision, their wives were cooking and singing outside, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in all my life. Their joy was uncontainable.
God really led our time of vision sharing and we clearly felt His leading in the whole meeting. Next, we asked if there were any questions or comments and several of these men stood and testified about how people in the past came and shared a vision of a different ministry and then never returned. They said time and time again they and their churches have been let down but this time they knew something was different. Others stood up and said how effective they think this ministry can/will be in their local church. Their excitement was so refreshing to our hearts. They got it! As we were leaving, they came to us and insisted that we stay and eat the best food they had (goat and nsima). We happily ate the food they gave us and listened to them sing and dance. The pastor said, “We are so happy you are here. That is why the ladies are singing like this. We’ve heard about this ministry and never thought it would come to us but God has brought you today. Thank you. God is so good.”
After eating, with our hearts and stomachs full, we stepped out of the hut and began our way down the hills. And as we passed the wives who were singing, they all circled around us and were dancing and singing at the top of their lungs praises to God. They sang about how Satan has no power in their village anymore and how Jesus is better and sweeter than any other thing. This was one of the most humbling experiences in my whole life. Their joy was like nothing I’d ever seen. The Holy Spirit was so present and Fostance, Shaddy, and I could only smile and laugh at the goodness of Christ. Finally, they stopped their singing to greet us and sing a blessing over us. They didn’t know us but they loved us and respected us as if we were Christ Himself. Our hearts were so full from the joy and love they showed us. They took the Word of God seriously and treated their visitors like Abraham did the 3 visitors in Genesis 18. If there was ever a time that I wish I had a camera it was this time…but I didn’t have it with me. But I think it was for a reason because it was such an unforgettable moment that will forever be seared in my mind as a picture of love for God and His people. They had very little materially but had much more of the Lord and His Spirit than anyone i’ve ever met. They experienced and expressed what the verse means “Christ, who is our life.” They knew Christ and He knew them and because of that, their hearts were happy and they couldn’t contain their singing. It reminded me of John 10:10 and that abundant life that Jesus is talking about. It’s not this garbage prosperity Gospel that you see preached all over the TV, nope! This full Life is found in relationship with our Creator and you can have that and absolutely nothing else and have uncontainable joy. These people had it and as we walked away, I said, “This is why we do what we do.” Fostance just smiled and we praised God for the rest of the day and the whole trip home for allowing us to come in to contact with those people. Fostance said, “We are definitely coming back here! These people are gonna do great things with this ministry.” Praise God!
Sorry for the length of this update but I just wanted to pass on what I experienced over the past few days and encourage you that we serve a Living God who is powerful and mighty to save anyone and set them absolutely ablaze for Himself. Be encouraged because we serve an awesome God! And if you just read this and have not experienced the incredible Life that’s found in Jesus Christ, please stop what you are doing right now and give your whole self to Him to fill you up.
All that to say, we had a good vision sharing trip ;)
Love you guys.