(Editor’s note: Last month we posted A very good Christmas gift for Malawians which told about the recent completion and launch of the Chichewa (national language of Malawi) edition of What are Christmas and Easter All About? This is a first-hand report from Rodrick, the translator and Bible teacher who is using this resource to equip Pastors and young people alike to clearly understand the gospel and share it with their own people.)
A brief report from Malawi on the Christmas & Easter Booklet launch
Some years ago, I read a very interesting statement. It said something like this:
“Zeal without knowledge is dangerous, and knowledge without zeal is disastrous.”
What a true statement!
It’s a quote that came alive to me recently while teaching the message of the Christmas and Easter Booklet (C&E) and interacting with the people. My heart leaped with joy, realizing that using C&E as our resource in our training sessions would bring a balance between peoples’ zeal and knowledge. In short, using C&E as a teaching and learning tool is proving to be instrumental in correcting the wrong perspective that people have on salvation and Christian growth. The following is a brief report on the two training sessions that have been conducted since the completion and launch of the Chichewa version of C&E here in Malawi.
The first leadership training session was conducted in December 2013 for a church in Dezda, Central Malawi. There were a total of 61 church leaders in attendance. Although a few topics on leadership were discussed, the majority of the time was given to teaching from C&E. The primary focus was on evangelism and discipleship—explaining in a simple way God’s way of salvation as exemplified by C&E. It was discovered—or rather confirmed—that many Christians do not have a clear understanding of Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross. It seems that we are not taking the necessary time in explaining this to people, especially when we are presenting the gospel for the first time. The result is that we have converts who have not understood God’s plan of redemption. Hence, Malawian converts are zealous to preach Christ, yet they do not fully understand the fact that His death on the cross was substitutionary—He died in our place so that by believing in Him we may be saved. Christmas and Easter are celebrated almost without appreciating their true meaning.
Through reading C&E, discussing its contents, and preparing and administering Bible studies based on C&E, participants learned a lot. It was interesting to see that, while all the participants had initially indicated they were born again, 15 gave their lives to the Lord by the final day. Asked what this meant to them, the following were some of the responses I received:
“Now that I have understood what really happened, that I deserved death as a result of my sin, and that Christ died on my behalf so that I may have life; I have no choice but to give my life to Him. I never thought about it this way, my eyes have been opened! Today, I have the assurance of salvation…” — Church Elder
“I wish I could go back to the people to whom I preached and taught the Word of God before. I confess that I did not help them. I was wondering, having presented the gospel message to the best of my ability, my hearers seemed not to appreciate God’s love for them. And there was no growth! But how could they grow when I was not experiencing any growth myself? How could they understand something that I did not understand? So, God came down to us, and died in our place for our salvation! It is hard to believe, but I will take it that way…” — Participant
“Once upon a time there was a preacher who did not preach the whole Gospel because he thought he knew, yet he did not know. That’s me. May God forgive me for teaching people the philosophies of man and not His truth. Please, come back and tell us more. This book [C&E] has simplified it all.” — Participant
Over the New Year, I was with 96 youths from Kapita Church. The plan was for 150 youths to attend but many could not afford the fees (about $10 USD) that they were supposed to pay for transport, food and accommodation.
After listening to a message on “Behold, the Lamb of God that takes the sin of the world,” we read C&E in its entirety. The young people were divided into 12 groups of eight, each to discuss the comprehension questions from the book. In addition, we used this book for our Bible study sessions. What a blessing this was! Twenty-one youths committed their lives to the Lord. Just as it was with the previous training, much was said—approving the way C&E has been written and supporting the chronological teaching of the gospel. The following are some of the comments the youth made:
“The graphic demonstration of how God made Adam and Eve to see the first death made a lot of sense to me. Now I understand salvation. I desire to grow in my faith, and please, make such resources available to others. I really wish the whole church listened to this message…” — Youth
“From here on I will read and re-read the Old Testament stories about sacrifices. I never understood them and could not see any relationship between those sacrifices and Jesus Christ. Now that it makes sense to me that Christ is the Lamb of God, I will be able to explain this to my friends. All my zeal for evangelism was without knowledge, yet I did not realize this. I hope this is not the only book that you will bring to us.” — Participant
Follow-up visits have been planned. In the New Year, I will go back to Dedza to conduct more training and counselling. I want to see how the believers are faring. Since Kapita is within the city in which I live, we have agreed that I should meet with them to plan a practical schedule. Please pray that nothing will stop this.
The plan is to establish a centre in Lilongwe where Christians will be able to go to be discipled. The starting point will be training based on C&E planned for mid-January. Later, further meetings will be taking place three evenings a week. People from other groups will also be welcome. We are praying that from these meetings a team will be identified, trained and equipped to go out for evangelism and discipleship. Please pray for us.
General sales of C&E have been deliberately undertaken at a slow pace because we do not want to sell the book to someone who will just put it on a shelf without reading it or sharing it with others. Two hundred books have been placed at Kapita for sale and 300 books at Dedza… I am very positive that every book will be sold.
I am grateful to GoodSeed International for the provision of this resource. Good Christian literature is one of the scarcest resources in the church in Malawi. Even as many people are being helped through your books, I think I have benefitted more—having read through it a number of times during the translation processes and having received training on the same—I am grateful to your work. The church in Malawi will not remain the same.
Please continue to pray for the Church in Malawi.
[Report compiled and submitted by Rodrick, Translator | Lilongwe, Malawi, Africa | 9th January, 2014]