Merry Christmas from Malawi

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.

Snow Shovel in Malawi Around Christmas Time

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)

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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.

Kuthyola, Mayamiko

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

Trip to Green Pastures and Still Waters

 

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Chris has had this hat since before we started dating (ask us sometime for some good stories about it when we first started dating) but this is probably the best use of the hat ever!

Chris’ birthday was a few weeks ago. I love buying gifts but without malls, Amazon and easy ways to take things home in a few months, a regular gift didn’t seem like the best idea. And after all, Chris isn’t really a “gift” guy and would prefer an experience to a new “thing” (unless, of course, that “thing” is a  Logos lexicon or commentary… he doesn’t seem to dislike those at all!). So I decided to plan for a vacation for his birthday (ok… and our Christmas presents to each other, it was a splurge trip!)! After planning and researching a different trip, another missionary wife let me know about a special offer available at a place called Chelinda Lodge in Nyika National Park and we decided to go!

The drive to Nyika is about 10 hours, 3-4 of them over poorly maintained dirt roads. We split the drive there into two days and stayed in Mzuzu (which, interestingly, is named after a white person’s mispronunciation of the Chichewa word for mosquito). It was still a long drive but, oh my, the drive was so worth it.

After entering the park (2-3 hours from the lodge), we saw an elephant from a distance! It was so cool! And then about 30 minute from the lodge, this herd was in the road.

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Interspersed with the zebra were roan antelope which are almost cooler than the zebra, I think. We found one on a later drive… I love their black & white faces!

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We stayed at Chelinda Lodge for three nights. We went on three game drives and saw more roan, bushbuck, eland, reedbuck, duiker (all different species of antelope – and so beautiful), zebra, warthog, hyena, an owl, other cool birds, wildflowers (like orchids, lupine, gladiolas and iris all growing in the wild) and such breathtaking scenery and sunsets! We went on a few walks as well but really enjoyed the amazing quite and solitude (we were the only ones staying at the lodge) and getting to rest and read by the fire in the evenings and spend time together.

We really needed that time. The semester (4 modules) finished on November 30 and we were both really tired, disconnected and distracted. We needed to see a beautiful side of Malawi and get away from the noise and interruptions of the city. We needed time to spend together and be refreshed.

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This was our view when we arrived at the lodge for the first time. It reminded us of Psalm 23 (Chris’ translation):

A Psalm of David

Yahweh is my shepherd

I shall never become needful

In pastures of green grass, He causes me to lie down

Beside waters of resting places, He escorts me

My soul He restores.

He leads me in firm paths of correctness for the sake of His name

Even when I should walk in a valley of impenetrable gloom,

I shall never be fearing harm because You are with me

Your rod and Your staff, they are comforting me.

You set and order before me a table prominently before my attackers

You refresh with the oil my head, superabundance is my cup.

Surely good and steadfast love shall pursue me all the days of my life

And I shall return into the house of Yahweh for length of days.

God is so faithful to give us what we need and we are really grateful to have been allowed the resources to be able to take this trip. He used it to refresh us in so many ways, mostly in Him!

Here are a few more pictures from our trip!

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Our chalet and the “donkey boiler” they use to heat water
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Sunset on the first night

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Shadows and the Land Cruiser we took out on our game drives
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There is a pine tree forest behind the lodge. The British planted it for a paper mill before they realized the roads are impassable in rainy season!
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The dam that is visible from the lodge (you can also see the lodge and a handsome man here)
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Roan and sunshine and green grass and artsy lens flare
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Bushbuck. They are smaller and have spots and stripes on the legs. Such cool animals!
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The view from the Northern Loop! From here you can see into Zambia!
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Another view from the Northern Loop
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Roan and hills. Can you tell we’re a little obsessed?
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If you don’t take a selfie on vacation, you probably didn’t go on vacation…

Last one, I promise! A normal sight in Malawi…

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A busy village market on the roadside as we drove up to Mzuzu

Thank you for taking time to read about our trip and keep up with us!