Our Country Coordinator in Malawi, Davidson Chifungo, is fond of saying, “If you want to know what God has done in your life, you cannot look at the road ahead, you must look through the rear view mirror.” It’s a true saying, there have been many occasions when I did not understand what God was doing in my life, but later, looking back, it all came into view and made sense.
2018 has been a roller coaster ride for Y-Malawi and for many of us. Yet, God continues to be with us, God continues to be for us, He has worked miracles that only He could do, even when we didn’t know He was doing it. Walk with me for a few minutes through 2018. Let’s look through the rear view mirror and see what God has been up to.
During the Fall of 2017 the Y-Malawi Board wrestled with our budget for 2018. We felt God calling us to expand the ministry into a new area known as Nkhotakota. It’s an area where some of the poorest people in the world live. It’s an area with a high concentration of people who follow Islam, and it’s an area without an abundance of other NGO assistance.
The problem was Y-Malawi did not have the money to expand. The Board discussed and prayed over options. From a practical and business perspective trying to expand was foolhardy, but Y-Malawi is not a business. The question we wrestled with was simple. If God was calling us to this work, wouldn’t He provide all that we need to get it done?
There were some sleepless nights. Once in prayer, I got more bold than usual. Seeking direction, I asked God for just one simple thing, “God if you want us to step out on this limb, please just make it perfectly clear to all of us.” I know some have heard the voice of God in an audible form. For me it wasn’t like that, yet I knew immediately God had answered, “I am not asking you to go out on a limb, I am asking you to stand on the Rock.”
Y-Malawi, and its Partners in Malawi, set out with a bold budget and a new area of ministry in January. It was difficult from the very beginning. Y-Malawi ending 2017 without much money in the bank. We knew that cash flow was going to be a challenge, but we moved forward in faith.
During the first quarter of the year one of our church partners provided a substantial gift that allowed us to make ends meet. The Partners in Malawi forged forward with ministry. 52 village churches agreed to become part of the new Church Network in Nkhotakota. Church leaders began coming together regardless of denomination to learn basic doctrinal and Biblical truth. Government, church leaders, and traditional authorities (Chiefs) in the Nkhotakota District met together and took the unprecedented action of publicly welcoming Y-Malawi and our Partners with open arms.
New Kids Clubs, Youth Clubs and Chiefs Bible Studies were started. A vocational training program was launched, a preschool was established, Fishing Clubs started, adult literacy programs were begun, and the new sponsorship program to empower women and girls became a reality. While all this was taking place in Nkhotakota, the original ministry in Nkhoma and Chilenje continued to grow also. A new worship center was completed near the Chilenje Maize Mill, new buildings were finished at the Malingunde Youth Camp, Ebenezer School grew to more than 300 students and Nkhoma Hospital continued to show amazing results in fighting malaria and maternity deaths.
More progress was made in Malawi during the second quarter. The programs to empower women and girls started to show impact. Almost 40 girls were rescued from early marriage. More than 500 attended campaigns to end child marriage. To help girls and others stay in and do well in school, a new Reading Corners program was born. Churches began doing “Seed Projects” in their own communities to reach out and share the gospel message. Almost 1,000 made professions of faith in this quarter and Y-Malawi was recognized by the government of Malawi as an official registered NGO.
At the same time this incredible progress was happening in Malawi, by the end of the second quarter Y-Malawi in the U.S. was struggling for cash. There was not enough money to pay staff, so they worked without pay. We got behind in support to a key Partner, but we kept moving forward.
A story from the chapter 18 of 1 Kings kept us going through this period. It’s the story of how the prophet Elijah challenges the prophets of baal and defeats them. Then he climbs up on a mountain, humbles himself before the Lord, and begins to pray for rain. It has not rained in the land for a long time. Six times he prays. Six times he has his servant look for the coming rain. Six times nothing happens. Then after the seventh prayer his servant reports seeing a small cloud the size of a mans hand beginning to form, and Elijah knows. The rain is coming. We continued to pray and felt our rain would soon be coming soon too.
During the third quarter of the year the progress in Malawi continued at a sprinters pace. By this time nearly 100 girls had been removed from early marriages. The new preschool was scheduled to double in size. More than 60 churches were now a part of the Church Network representing more than 6,000 attenders. Kids Clubs, Youth Clubs, Adult Literacy, Reading Corners, Fishing Clubs and all the others were experiencing tremendous growth. In addition, summer trips began with almost 60 Americans traveling to Malawi to walk with, encourage, and minister to those doing the work in Malawi. Lives on both sides of the ocean were being impacted in a big way. There could be no doubt now, God was up to something special.
But the third quarter was also the most painful. Staff continued to work without pay, and Y-Malawi got significantly behind in support payments to Partners. During a visit to the U.S. Davidson Chifungo and I shared with the Y-Malawi Board that our situation was something like what Moses and Israel must have faced after leaving Egypt. With the Red Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them, they are caught in the middle. They could not go back, but they did not know how to go forward.
Faced with this dilemma Moses tells the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still,” (Exodus 14:13-14). In the original language, the word used here and translated as still, means to stop worrying and trust God.
Then God basically tells Moses to get going, to move forward. We joked with the Board about what it must have been like for that first person stepping into what was the sea after God parted the waters. They must have been thinking, “Okay God, I’m into this now, I am trusting you, please don’t let this cave in on me.” Knowing how the story ends today, we know that God did see them through, but that’s what we felt like.
We continued to pray and trust God, we kept moving forward. As we began the fourth quarter we received some loans and gifts that allowed us to catch up in support to Partners. We had no cash in the bank, but we had just enough to make most ends meet.
Just this month, my wife and I had the privilege of traveling to Malawi to see the work first hand. We were stunned and completely overwhelmed with what is happening. We saw local churches reaching out to their communities. They have a newfound hope. On their own initiative they are making plans and finding ways to develop and aid the people in their communities. In the process people are gaining a new image of what it means to be a Christian. This is especially important because remember, this area has a high concentration of Muslim brothers and sisters.
We met a Muslim Chief who referred to my wife and I as family. He said we were welcome in his home anytime. He spoke about how his disabled granddaughter had been given care and love through the sponsorship program. He is now attending a Chiefs Bible Study to learn more about the Bible. He wants to take part in what is happening.
During an End Child Marriage rally, another Muslim Headman told a crowd of 1,000 that there would be no more child marriages in his district. We witnessed him tell the Chiefs in his district that if they allowed this, they would have to deal with him. We heard Chiefs testify to the difference that Jesus has made in their lives. We met teen mothers who are back in school or learning a trade. We talked with widows who now have a home to live in when they were once sleeping outside, in the dirt. We visited with Youth Clubs that are taking on projects to send others to school, and tutoring children to help them stay in school.
It’s not just the church, there is a new hope in these communities too. They have welcomed Y-Malawi with open arms and are excited about what their future can be like. God is on the move, He is impacting lives, it is extraordinary. You can sense it, and you can see it and everyone knows it.
As I am writing we are literally hours away from the end of 2018. The financial pain continues. Y-Malawi is behind in support by about $40,000. Many have sacrificed to get us to this point. We have stepped forward in faith, we have prayed, we have trusted. Now it is up to God. We don’t know how He is going to do it, just that He will.
As the people of Israel entered the promised land, they faced several obstacles including the walled city of Jericho. Joshua, their new leader, must have been a little nervous. God himself gives him encouragement in Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
When they get to Jericho, God gives Joshua specific instructions. They are to march around the walls of the city once each day for six days. Then on the seventh day they are to march around the walls seven times. On the six days they march without any fanfare, but on the seventh day they are to march with the priests blowing trumpets. At the end of the seventh time around all the people are to give a loud shout and the walls will fall.
Everyone knows what happened, but I wonder, what if they would have given up the fifth time around? What if on the sixth time around, or on that seventh day the people said, “I don’t see how this is going to work, this is pointless, it’s just not happening, we need to go home.” It must have taken a lot of courage, trust, faith, whatever you want to call it, to get up and march around those walls on day seven. By then I can imagine the people of Jericho must have been up on the walls shouting at Israel. “Hey you guys lost? You must feel foolish! How long are you going to trust in that God of yours?”
That’s where we are as Y-Malawi. We have stepped forward, we have been courageous, we have tried to be obedient. We have seen that God is with us. His work is being accomplished. Now we are finishing our seventh time around the walls, we are about to shout, and watch God fight for us.
As 2019 arrives we need your prayers. Please pray for the financial resources needed to continue. Pray for more sponsors for women and girls. Please pray for wisdom and guidance. Pray for our Partners in Malawi, for the physical strength to carry out this work. To the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms,” (Ephesians 6:12).
Surely, we are in a battle, yet we will not be afraid, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” (2 Kings 6:16).
God is for us. God is for you. Thank you for taking this journey with us. May He continue to bless as we continue to step forward in faith during 2019. We look forward to what God is going to do. It is going to be an exciting year! Keep looking forward with us, but don’t forget to occasionally glance into that rear view mirror.
Larry Hall, Executive Director