Back to Africa & Darkness in Malawi
“Hello Mzuzu! In just a minute we’re going to welcome the band you’ve all been waiting for…”
“Umm…” I felt an tap on my shoulder and turned from the crowd to face our beleaguered event organizer, “Actually, the band isn’t here yet…
“But…” I moved the microphone away from my mouth, “Weren’t they supposed to be here, like, three hours ago?”
“Yeah… but we’re gonna have to go with it – can you guys play right now?”
“Right now?” I looked out at the crowd of nearly 2000 waiting expectantly in the gathering Malawi dusk. The show was already behind schedule and we were losing daylight quickly.
“Ahh… sure, I guess. Have someone grab my guitar case…” I turned back to address the crowd, “Actually it looks like we’ll be playing next – give us a minute and we’ll do some music together – are you guys ready?”
There was a smattering of applause and the crowd shifted uncomfortably. This wasn’t off to a good start.We are currently preparing to head to Kenya with Keith Cook and On The Go Ministries in just a few weeks! We will be partnering with local churches to provide evangelism training, and to share the love of Jesus in festivals and schools. Please pray that many lives would be impacted by the life-giving message of Jesus, for the safety of all team members, and for provision for all remaining expenses. If you’d like to help financially, we are always grateful – simply click to partner with us in this mission – thank you, friends!
Someone handed me my guitar and I slung it recklessly over my head and shoulder, stretching to plug in cords before it was even in place. I ran my pick over the strings and craned my head to address the sound engineer.
“You getting a signal?”
“Ahh… Just a minute…”. He hunched over his dented soundboard and fiddled with sliders as the crowd continued to shift in place.
It felt like we were minutes from completely losing the crowd’s attention.
“Got it!” The engineer looked up and flashed a triumphant smile as the music rang through the system, only slightly distorted.
“Great! Are the mics on?”
He reached down and punched a few buttons. Feedback squealed and he quickly moved a slider. The feedback stopped and he looked up again.
“Yes! You are ready to go!”
I turned back to face the crowd, moving forward until I was standing directly in front of the microphone. I could feel thousands of pairs of eyes shift to follow me.
I took a deep breath, pausing for a moment to gather myself.
“Hello, friends! We’re so happy to be here in Malawi! Are you ready for some music?”
A little more applause this time…
“So we have a song in English about God’s faithfulness… It goes like this ‘I don’t walk alone – I don’t walk alone no more.’”
Our translator repeated our words in Chichewa, the local dialect, and several heads nodded in understanding.
“But we’re not in America anymore and we wanted to try to sing in your language, so I asked my friend how to say this in Chichewa, and he said I could say ‘Sin-dee-leen-day-kah.’ Does that make sense?”
This time we were greeted with serious applause, and no small amount of laughter at my pronunciation.
“Well let’s try singing that together, okay? Can we do that?
I punched a floor pedal and the beat started, effectively filling the festival grounds with sound. Thousands of hands began to clap along with the beat as my daughter Kailah began to sing in English. Skeptical stares were slowly giving way to smiles.
And then we began to sing in Chichewa.
And the entire atmosphere changed.
The people began to sing out with us, and some began to dance, many waving their hands with obvious surprise and real joy.
Three songs later, our short set was over, and we introduced our mentor, Evangelist Keith Cook, and left the stage to a sea of smiles and real applause.
Largely because we had interacted with them in their language.
A masterful communicator, Keith shared clearly about the life-changing love of Jesus, using illustrations they could relate to.
Again, speaking to them in a language they could understand.
By the time he had finished, it was almost completely dark, but the people were still listening in rapt attention.
And when Keith invited people to respond – to say “Yes” to Jesus and receive forgiveness and freedom – hundreds of hands rose into the air.
Several of us had been concerned that because of the darkness our trained local counselors would be unable to connect with those who had responded to Jesus. In spite of our concerns, though, our counselors did an amazing job, tracking people down in the dark and praying with them lovingly and sincerely.
And that night, hundreds of lives were changed forever.
And this is why we do what we do.
The depth of Jesus’ love for people is beyond our ability to comprehend, and it is interesting to note that when He communicates with people in the Bible, He uses a language that they can understand and relate to – when He speaks to fishermen and farmers, for example, He often uses fishing and farming analogies. In the present day, when we hear people tell stories about the way God has reached out to them, we often hear them say things like “It felt like the preacher was talking directly to me.”
It is a wonderful challenge and continual privilege for us to watch the way God continues to draw people and speak to them using a language they can understand – this MESSAGE is life-changing, and it is wonderful to watch the way God continually inspires creative ways to share this message across multiple cultures and languages.
This event was one small part of the 2016 Andrew Palau “LOVE MALAWI” campaign. Several Next Generation Alliance evangelists, including Keith Cook and Reid Saunders, partnered with the three week campaign, which reached cities from North to South Malawi, and was reported to be “the largest Christian gathering in the history of the nation.” (Breaking Christian News) More than 20,000 people made commitments or recommitments to Jesus, and more than 900 local churches partnered together to organize the events and facilitate follow-up discipleship for those who said “yes” to Jesus. We are humbled and honored to have been part of this incredible work of God. You can view the festival report HERE.
Over the next few months, we’re scheduled to share the love of Jesus in Kenya, Belize, and across the United States – we’re serious about reaching as many people as possible in every country with the message of Jesus, and we’re so thankful for your love, prayer and support.