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Baptismal

The day before we left, Pastor emailed a request for $400 in order to build a baptismal. It seemed like a reasonable request and we felt like our supporters would want to help in a project like this. Pastor Chilemba told us that they can no longer baptize in the river because of the crocodiles! We immediately wired the money. On the first day of class, the baptismal looked like this:

The first day of school.

We found out later that so many parents have been killed by crocodiles that there is a whole group of children referred to as ‘croc orphans.’

The church conference was starting on Friday night, and the baptisms were planned for Saturday. We wondered how on earth they would get it done by then. Not only that, with such high temperatures and high humidity, would the concrete get dry?

Starting to lay the brick foundation.

By the middle of the week the baptism looked like this. Would it be ready in time?

Midweek the baptism looks good, but time is passing quickly.

Thursday morning all the brick was in place. Pastor Chilemba found that the contractor had failed to install a drain! He hired a new contractor, they fixed the problem, and progress continued. Would be done by Saturday?

It’s Thursday and it looks like they are ready to apply the finishing concrete.

A quick prayer shot up to the Lord every time I walked by. Please, Lord, let it be ready! Many pastors were bringing new believers to be baptized here because they can no longer use the river.

Friday afternoon! Baptisms take place on Saturday afternoon.

God answers prayer! It’s Friday evening and the baptismal is looking good! It’s beautiful and I can’t wait to be part of Saturday afternoon’s baptismal service. But before that, we have a date with 150 women to tell them how God has adorned them! I will share pictures and comments from the time with the women! After the women, we had the baptismal service. The next two posts will have pictures and comments from that time.

Lunchtime in Nsanje

Food wan’t an issue when I agreed to go to Nsanje. Charleeda described the one meal a day that we would be served. Lunch. Pastor Chilemba would pick us up and drive us to his home. There Mama Chilemba met us and led us into a sitting room with a covered table. She would pour water over our hands and leave us to uncover and enjoy the feast.

Vicki and Charleeda with Mama Chilemba presenting a lunch feast!

Under cover we found chicken quarters, potatoes, rice, vegetables, and a delicious tomato sauce. Only minutes before, the women had been in back of the house preparing our feast.

Mama Chilemba and helpers cooking lunch.

A closeup!

In the meantime the pastors were also getting lunch. Women start the fires just outside the church building.

Getting ready to cook for the pastors.

The pastors were served a large portion of maize, some vegetables, and goat. This is the same meal that is being feed to two hundred orphans at the feeding center once a day.

Serving sixty-five pastors on the step outside of the first year classroom.

Other than lunch, I lived on protein bars. Charleeda and Mary Beth ate camping meals purchased at Walmart in Colorado. There were no options in Africa, so anything other than lunch we needed to bring.

To be continued . . .

Okay. No day was the same, so the title of the blog is misleading. There were no typical days. That being the case, I invite you to come along and see what happened one day at Bible School. After our general session in the morning, we split into 1st year and 2nd year classes. The first year class was heavily in session with our new translator (Joseph) when a big beautiful black rooster walked in like he owned the place! After looking around to see that we were about our own business, and that there were no chickens there, he walked out the door. This shot barely caught him.

Impostor crashes class, loses interest, and leaves.

After telling the Bible story, pastors went outside to study the pictures and tell the story to each other. They worked in groups of two or more. Every day we taught two Bible sessions in the morning after the opening general session and two in the afternoon before the closing general session.

Pastors reviewing class story. A pile of bricks behind them is for the new church building. The pastors are sitting on the new baptismal.

Second year students reviewing in front of wall of new church.

In the closing general session, Charleeda brought olive oil from Jerusalem and led the session by anointing each pastor and teaching the passage in James 5:13-16, “Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Each pastor was presented with a small bottle of anointing oil. After class, the pastors began anointing each other. Precious time.

Precious time after class time in Nsanje. No typical days here.

Working with Translators

Teaching Bible school in Nsanje required working with translators. Our team was graced with three pastors who were not only very good at English translation, but very knowledgeable about the Bible – the perfect combination. Pastor Samuel gave energetic translations! He pastors a church down the road from where we were teaching. His wife came to the conference and I was privileged to meet her. They have five children.

Pastor Samuel and his wife

It seems Chichewa is a busy language, in that short English phrases seem much longer in Chichewa! One time, after waiting for what seemed an inordinate amount of time for a translation, I asked the translator what he said. “I told them the story.” I was teaching Creation that day so I asked him what part of the story and he said, “the whole story.” I couldn’t help but laugh! Finally, I recovered and answered, “Okay, let’s back up for a minute. I have a few points to make.”


Charleeda with Pastor Julius translating.

The translators helped us not only with the language barrier, but with cultural differences. Only a few times did we need to stop and struggle with word meanings. I do remember one time when we couldn’t settle on how to translate the word ‘intention’ to Chichewa (as in “His [God’s] intentions were good”).

Mary Beth with Pastors Webster and Samuel, two of our translators.

Because all of our translators were students in the second year class, they would miss class when they had to translate for the first year class. To remedy that, we found a first year student and drafted him. He is not yet a pastor, but he translated very well!

Our first year translator, Joseph.

On the day we taught the women, Fiona translated for us. She only translated that day and during a church service. Another very capable translator.

Fiona and I at the baptismal service.

To be continued . . .

Bible School in Nsanje

1st Year students teaching Bible stories to each other

Every morning Mary Beth and I would meet with Charleeda to take communion. We prayed for the pastors, for the coming events of the day, and for His guidance. At times the Lord would help us pray, as we could not know the future. Turns out, teaching Bible School in Nsanje, Malawi, Africa offered many rewards.

Mary Beth leading an opening session. Notice the fan. It is nine o’clock!

Each day the students began at eight o’clock with praise and prayer. We arrived at nine o’clock and led the general session in a daily affirmation reinforcing the power of the Word, a short message, and then split into 1st and 2nd year classes.

Drawing of the story of Elisha and the woman with only a small amount of oil.

We taught Bible stories by drawing pictures on a white board. Translators retold the story in Chichewa. Afterward we sent the pastors outside to tell each other the story. They worked in groups of two or more. In fifteen or twenty minutes they would come in and tell us the story. Each class had time for question and answers at the end. Some of the questions surprised us.

Suit coats in this weather. It’s hot in Africa!

Attending Bible School carries a certain amount of prestige in Nsanje. Many of the pastors dressed in their very best suits and jackets. With temperatures in the 90’s and humidity somewhere at 50% or more (we were blessed with electricity most days) the fan helped. However, I wore 100% cotton and by ten in the morning was soaked with perspiration through and through!

To be continued . . .

Church In Nsanje

First Sunday in Nsanje.

Sunday morning I was assigned to speak to the congregation. Pastor Chilemba drove us the short distance to the church. We could hear the music as we entered. The song leader smiled as he lead the singing, “I surrender all”, in English. Some of the people danced with hands raised, praising the Lord. It was quite obvious the people were doing everything to make us feel welcome. When the music stopped, plastic chairs and wooden benches held adults while children made places on the floor. The pastor’s son, John, would be my interpreter. In Nsanje, the people speak Chichewa. At Bible School about one-third of the students spoke some English, probably because Malawi was a British territory until 1964.

Even before I spoke, I felt like family. That’s what is so wonderful about being in the family of God. You have family everywhere! At the time it did not even occurred to me that three white women had come to teach the love of God to people that may have never been up close to a white person. Never did I feel ill at ease.

The blue dishpan on the table is for offerings. Ten minutes of worship music accompanied by dancing! Glorious!!

Sweet children bringing offerings.

After church Pastor Chilemba and Mama Chilemba treated us to Sunday lunch at the local restaurant. It was the only meal not eaten either in our hotel room or at Pastor Chilemba’s home. We ate fried chicken with fries. The fries were delicious and tasted like real potatoes. I’m not sure how they made them, but they weren’t greasy. We learned the tradition of the hostess pouring water over your hands before and after you eat. Soon Pastor returned us to our hotel. More about the hotel next time . . .

Arriving in Nsanje

A very large preying mantis greeted me at the hotel!

Smells of burning wood filled a starless night sky as we pulled into our hotel in Nsanje. Fires flickered far in the distance. They were cooking fires. The smoke keeps the mosquitoes away. I’m sure there were stars, but a curtain of haze covered them. It was pitch black because there was no electricity. I searched my bag for a tiny light attached to the zipper (which I was warned to bring). It is very dark in deepest, darkest, Africa!

Found the light and made my way up the step to find a biggest preying mantis I have ever seen. I hoped he was praying for me, but probably preying for one of those dreaded mosquitoes for his dinner.

I convinced the pastor’s son to stand beside just to be sure you get the correct perspective!

After getting into my room, I had time to sift through my largest bag to find my lantern. The room came alive when I turned it up. Time to unpack and get ready for tomorrow. Charleeda had assigned me to give the morning message and I had yet to settle in, figure out how to get the mosquito net over the bed, and try to sleep.

Settling in by the light of my trusty lantern!

Soon it was time for lights out! Good night! To be continued . . .

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