Merry Christmas from Malawi! It has felt like a very different Christmas this year. Last year, we celebrated Christmas away from family as we are this year, but this year it feels very different. We are into the rainy season/summer here in Malawi. The maize crops were planted a few weeks ago and with all the rain we’ve had they are sprouting up. Nowhere in Malawi does it snow (though a local dollar-store-like shop was selling snow shovels). We have regular thunderstorms instead of regular snow storms.
Photo Credit: Rachel Floreen
Buying Christmas gifts when you know you will be returning with a limited carrying capacity makes things interesting. And listening to Christmas music when it’s summer-like weather just doesn’t quite have the same effect.
But the most important thing is the same: The Son of God still became the 100% God and 100% Man to sprinkle us clean from our infinite guilt and debt.
Behold! My servant shall have success. He shall become exalted and shall become lifted up and shall become very high. As many were horrified on account of you (his appearance had so much disfigurement more than man and his form more than mankind) so he was sprinkling many nations. On account of him, kings shall shut their mouth because what has not been reported to them they see and what they have not heard, they show themselves to have understanding.
Who has put trust in the report to us and the arm of Yahweh with regard to whom has been exposed? He sprung up as the shoot before Him and like the root from ground of a dry country. No form belonged to him and no splendor so that we should consider him and no appearance so that we should desire him. One despised and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and one acquainted with sickness and as one hiding face from us. One despised and we did not esteem him. Nevertheless, our sicknesses he himself carried and our pains, he bore them, but we esteemed him stricken, struck down of God, and humiliated. But he was being pierced because of our rebellion, being crushed because of our offences. The chastisement for our peace was against him and by his wound we were healed. Isaiah 52:13-53:6
I had my Hebrew Exegesis students at CAPA translate Isaiah 52:13-53:12 because I wanted them to see the glory of the Messiah’s propitiatory death predicted around 700 years before Jesus lay in the manger as the humble God-man-servant-Messiah-king. No majesty, no splendor as Isaiah predicted, but God in human flesh. What glory!
We have finished with the first semester at CAPA for this academic year. At semester’s end we had 18 third year MDiv students looking forward to graduation in April; 28 first year MDiv students looking forward to graduation in 2020; and 28 Diploma students looking to graduate this April as well. I had the privilege to teach all three classes in different subjects.
- Hebrew Exegesis to Third Year MDiv
- Introduction to Exegesis to 1st Year MDiv and Diploma (team-taught with Tony McCracken)
- Academic Writing to Diploma (team-taught with Matt Floreen)
- Beginning Greek 1 to 1st Year MDiv (covered for Jim Ayers for the last module)
Photo credit: Maya Kuthyola
In addition, I had the opportunity to serve CAPA in administrative tasks and help with IT work. Ashley and I have also had a chance to serve International Bible Fellowship (the church connected with CAPA) with youth ministry. Through youth ministry, we have gotten a chance to spend more time with one of CAPA’s students, Maya Kuthyola. Maya is a wonderful man pursuing full time pastoral ministry and we have come to be good friends.
At IBF, I also got to teach an adult Sunday school on how to study the Bible, and Ashley has been able to help with the accounting at the church a bit in addition to helping with some development work for CAPA.
Suffice it to say, we’ve been busy, and have had many adventures! We’ve (re)learned many lessons as well. Here are a few:
- God DOES give you more than you can handle (contrary to a popular notion) and asks us to do things that we can’t handle on our own to make us rely on Him and His power (2 Cor 12:9-10).
- A performance mentality versus a gospel mentality will make ministry an idol and rob it of its joy and make you ineffective in ministry. For that matter, this holds true for the whole Christian life.
- God’s qualifications for the leaders of his church are first and foremost about character and integrity, not skills, talents, or education (1 Tim 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9, 1 Pet 5:1-4).
- God uses pressure and trial to expose sin that you didn’t know you had in you. It is a painful display of His love and desire for the holiness of His children.
- It is the local church’s responsibility (not primarily a seminary’s) to train men for ministry. A seminary can come aside the church to help, but it must be the church that owns the responsibility of training men (2 Tim 2:2).
- The bond of salvation in Christ creates a family of faith that transcends nations, races, socio-economic status, distance, and denominations (Gal 3:27-29).
- There are many things that you think you need in life but don’t.
- Good friendships are forged through being in the trenches of ministry.
- Missions is not just for the theologically trained. It’s for faithful men and women (who do know their Bibles and have godly character) who are skilled in IT, mechanics, carpentry, etc. There are key and needed ways these folks can serve on “the field.”
One last lesson. Here it is: There is injustice and inequity in this world that will not be solved until Jesus establishes His earthly kingdom. This is an elephant in the room, but it is something that has been on my mind. Malawi is a very poor country. Even the poorest American has opportunities in the US that a Malawian could only dream of. What is the solution? We could talk about political and economic reforms and education and international aid, and while these things are not bad and can be helpful, they do not address the fundamental problem. From what we have heard, there are over 2000 aid agencies in Malawi. Some of these even compete with one another. And the country still has problems.
So, how can well-intentioned outsiders help? How can I help? My heart goes out to people I see in the streets, people I see in villages, and people I know personally. They don’t have the means that I do. They don’t have the opportunities that I have had. The reality is that as much as I want desperately to see that inequity erased, I cannot do it. Not if I gave away all the money I had 1,000 times over. Do not misunderstand me. There is a time and a place to give money. There are concrete ways to show compassion. There are good ways to pursue social justice that every Christian, including myself, should participate in. But I cannot erase the social injustice. Jesus didn’t do that during his first coming. He gave a taste of the healing and justice He would bring in His kingdom, but not the fulness. He dealt with the deeper problem of man’s broken relationship with God. He bought by His death the ability to escape from the corruption of sinful desire in ourselves that has ruined the world. There is great suffering here on this earth, yet it is finite. The suffering due to God’s wrath is eternal. Jesus dealt with the greater problem during His first coming. He will deal with the remaining problems during His second coming.
The church should show compassion in concrete ways to help alleviate suffering, but it cannot fully erase it. Yet it can faithfully preach the message of eternal comfort (its primary mission (Luke 24:45-47) )while not neglecting to show compassion in concrete, wise, and helpful ways. So, what Malawi needs is an army of preachers armed with the true good news of Jesus Christ to preach faithfully in local churches throughout Malawi. They need to offer the true hope that spans races, countries, and socio-economic statuses. The news that we all need to escape from God’s wrath and not the often repeated half-truths of prosperity gospel charlatanism that deceives Malawians and bilks them out of what meager means they have.
This is why I believe in what we do at CAPA as we seek to train faithful preachers of the gospel. It has been amazing to see how hungry the guys are for the truth and the means to preach it. There is nothing quite like being able to help someone to study and teach the Bible better, and to think of the impact that that can have under God’s blessing. Although we are already half way done with our time at CAPA in Malawi, it has increased my appetite to train men for ministry wherever God would have us in the future.
Please keep Malawi and CAPA in your prayers. If you are interested in giving to CAPA please follow this link and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Merry Christmas from Malawi,
Chris and Ashley Mullins