Jayne and Sam in Malawi!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It All Starts With God!

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Yesterday was the 16th October and I have been in Malawi exactly three months. I took the opportunity to read through my previous blog entries because I wanted to remind myself of all the things that I have told you about. As you know, the purpose of the blog is to keep you updated with all of our news and to hopefully paint an accurate picture of what life in Malawi is like. I really want to share this amazing experience with you and I hope that the site is fulfilling its aims. However, in looking back at my previous entries, I have been struck by something, namely, that so much of our ‘news’ seems to read like a great big pat on the back! It has left me feeling very uncomfortable because as a Christian, I know that daily living is about banishing the ‘self’ life (self obsession, self interest, self centeredness, self righteousness, self pity etc. etc) in favour of living for God. In other words, as Christians, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves, but about Jesus Christ. There is a gaping hole in my blog entries to date and it is important to rectify this; it is important to situate all of our news into its proper (Christian) context. So I’d like to take a step back and to start shovelling; I need to fill in the hole!

So firstly – why are we even here in Malawi? Well quite simply because I have been called to be here – called by God. I received a God given opportunity to come here to work with the Christian charity ‘Joy to the World Ministries’ and to begin a new ministry here, in the town of Kasungu – The Lighthouse. If you are reading this and are a Christian, you will have no difficulty in understanding such a statement about being ‘called’. We know that God leads his people; He calls them to do His work. If you are a non Christian however, you may find this truth very difficult to grasp. I guess then, that this particular blog entry is primarily for you. When I say that I feel blessed to be here, I truly mean it – I have been blessed by God and know that our ministry is equally blessed. Yet the last three months have been a rollercoaster ride (as I’ve previously described) – a combination of great highs and great lows - successes and failures. There have been many, many challenges, difficulties and setbacks along the way and this fact begs the following question: “If God has called me to be here in Malawi, why have things been so tough at times?” It is a pertinent question and one that strikes at the heart of a key Christian conundrum, namely, why do Christians suffer – why doesn’t God give us charmed, carefree, trouble free lives? Quite simply because suffering is good for us; it makes us stronger.

"We rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope." Romans 5:3-5

Suffering also equips us to help others; when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we are in a position where we can pass on to them the same help that we have received for God. This is something that should be at the heart of every Christian’s life. So far from being something to avoid then, suffering is actually to be cherished because if we use it properly, it helps us to grow spiritually. And of course, God never leaves us to suffer alone - He is with us always. Sometimes when the going gets tough it is easy to forget this, which is why we need discipline in our pain. We need to commit ourselves fully to God and if we do so, He will always give us the strength to endure. Christians have their struggles and their failures just like everyone else – we get knocked down just like everyone else, but crucially, we know that these things have a purpose – we know that God is there, training us to become stronger, wiser and more compassionate. We know that in God we have a Father who gives us everything we need; our theology determines our psychology, which is why we are not defeated. Rather, we have the inner strength to get back up again and to keep going.

And we have kept going. The Lighthouse is open – we are doing business and we are slowly and steadily building our customer base and our reputation in Kasungu. Each day brings new wonders as we reach out to our customers and serve them in so many different ways. Yet we know that in our daily dealings, we depend on the Lord for his help; we know that we cannot achieve anything without it. I work with a remarkable group of people – Christians who have felt God’s call to come and work for Joy to the World Ministries. JTW was formed in 2006 and over the last three years these people have achieved a staggering amount for other people; each one of them has their own special talents and gifts and together they make a formidable team. I know how fortunate I am to be working as a member of this team; it is a team that embodies honesty, integrity, selflessness, humility, commitment and great, great humour. I like to think that I have added my own qualities, talents and gifts to the mix; in doing so, I sincerely hope that I have made the team richer. I think I have. Yet for all this talk of ‘qualities’, ‘talents’ and ‘gifts’, we all know who we have to thank. When I look at The Lighthouse I am aware that we have achieved nothing; any success that we have is as a direct result of God’s grace to us. What we know absolutely is that He is using us to reach out to others to further His Kingdom. At The Lighthouse and in our daily lives, we are striving to be His ambassadors. We are His servants. God works though us to do His work. Living a Christ centred life isn’t always easy and yet it brings with it the most wonderful sense of purpose. It also prepares us for eternity.

“The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever”
1 John 2:17

Life is not all there is. It is not the end; our bodies are merely a temporary residence – our real home awaits us in Heaven. But not everyone will receive their keys! Our relationship to God on earth will ultimately determine our relationship to him in eternity. If you are a non Christian reading this, I would like to ask you a question - "Where would you like to spend your eternity?" You need to make a choice because death is heading your way! It may not arrive today, tomorrow or even next week – it may be years away – but it’s coming. As Rick Warren says in his thought provoking book ‘The Purpose Driven Life’, only a fool would go through life unprepared for what we all know will eventually happen. On that day, all of us will be required to stand before Christ to be judged; make no mistake, at that moment, our lives will be laid bare before us. The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next. If you suddenly found yourself standing face to face with Jesus – RIGHT NOW – what would he say to you? Would he say “well done”? At this point, you may be thinking that you are safe, but even if you are sticking to the Ten Commandments religiously each day, you will not be saved. You won’t. Being a good person simply isn’t enough; you need to be a Christian. Living a Christian style life is a great thing to do and the world would certainly be a better place if more people did it. However, on its own it doesn't offer people a meaningful relationship with God; only being a Christian does that. Only by putting your trust in Jesus Christ - by welcoming him into your life and by making a commitment to serving him, will you be reconciled to God. You will also start to experience an entirely new kind of living; things that you previously thought were important (earthly things), will suddenly seem trivial and petty – your whole value system will change and your priorities will be rearranged. You will know that your sins have been forgiven by the blood that was shed for you on the cross by Christ. It’s amazing and I would challenge you to stop and think about such a possibility and then to act. If you fail to do so – if you reject his love, forgiveness and salvation - you will spend eternity apart from Him – forever. But for those who live in Christ, there is the sure knowledge that death will be a gateway to Heaven and you will be home at last.

Does this all sound a bit extreme? A bit scary? A bit 'full on'? A bit melodramatic? Or maybe you think I've spent too much time in the Malawi sun and have gone a bit loopy! I promise you that I haven't and that all I've just said is the truth. It would therefore be wonderful if you could take the next step - to get a Bible and spend some time exploring these issues a bit futher. The following are key Christian beliefs:

1. We all need a Saviour. Read Romans 3:23 and Exekiel 18:20

2. We can’t save ourselves. Read 1 Timothy 2:5 and John 14:16

3. God wants to save the world. Read John 3:16-17

4. God sent his son Jesus to save us. Christ suffered on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. All who believe in Him will be saved. Read Galatians 4:4-5 and 1 Peter 3:18

5. The Bible is our blueprint for successful living; it teaches us how to grow in the Christian life. Read John 10:10 and Peter 3:18

6. Each of us has the power to decide our eternal destiny. Read Luke 13: 1-5 and Matthew 10: 32-33

Once you have done this, seek out someone who can take you further on your exploration of the Christian faith - a Christian friend, a local Minister, a Christian website (and of course you are welcome to email me) - let them help you to reach a decision about this man called Jesus. Do you believe him to be the son of God or do you simply see him as a blasphemous lunatic? Some people take the easy option and don't think about it too greatly. Unfortunately, this approach is a bit of a luxury because the clock is ticking for all of us. Eventually we all have to make up ours minds about God and that decision will determine where we spend eternity.

There is a wonderful quote by CS Lewis that I would love to share with you;

"Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance and if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important"

And that’s it; here we are in Malawi and it isn’t always easy; in fact it is very hard at times. Yet in the last three months I have learnt so much about myself and also so much more about God and His purpose for me. I know that this is where He wants us to be right now and that’s good enough for me.

As always, we thank you for your support, news, good wishes and prayers. It makes such a difference. God Bless