Thursday, October 25, 2007

VAN TIL, PRISON STYLE

I’ve just returned from Kachere Prison, a federal prison for boys in Lilongwe. Now, please understand, when I say federal prison you must abandon all visual images to which you’ve been exposed. What I mean is a 1,000 square foot cement courtyard surrounded by stone walls and prison doors hijacked from the set of the old Steve McQueen movie Papillon, wreaking of the smell of bodily waste, no shade, packed full of teenage boys from destitute backgrounds who’ve been incarcerated for stealing, vandalism, or violence. There was even a skirmish today in the courtyard among a few of the inmates while we carried on prayers.

Today was special, though, because we took Bibles to put in their hands to read with us. Understand if you have a Bible in Malawi, you belonged to a most privileged group. So, today’s moral is, “How does one do apologetics in Malawi?” The answer: “Open the Bible!” Two weeks ago, we opened the floor for questions regarding any topics. Expecting things like, “Did Adam have a belly button?” we were immediately tossed, “How can Jesus be the Son of God and the Son of Mary?” and “How can God be one and three?” Simple stuff, you know. The kinds of questions that earned B.B. Warfield his stripes and Cornelius Van Til his gray hair.

This week, unlike the last, we took numbers of copies of the Bible, opened Matthew and had them read how the Holy Spirit came over Mary to carry out this miraculous birth. Then we turned to a few passages which spoke of the Trinity. Now this is why I love Africa – Those who questioned last time simply said, “Oh, I see!” Africans, refreshingly, accept mystery, authority, and plain language. No deeper explanations were required. Of course, more questions will come and we will pray for God’s wisdom in handling those. So pray for us, please.

The young men are very excited that we even allow questions. They are accustomed to teachers who pretend to know all and so can become quite easily frustrated. I reminded them today (because many are from Muslim backgrounds) that Christianity is the only religion that allows itself to be questioned. I assured them we too grappled, as did all of Jesus’ closest friends and family, with His claims. But I assured them that all other faiths would use fear and intimidation to cover up their untruth. I told them that Truth is never easy, because it’s true. I think I lifted that one from Lewis.

Our brightest attendee is from a Muslim background. I haven’t had the heart to tell him what little hope he would have as a criminal in the scheme his parent’s religion offers. But he is the most curious, maybe for that very reason. He has asked questions about Abraham, the Trinity, the presence of the Spirit, the central questions of the humanity and the deity of Christ and I am convinced that the Lord is converting him through these discussions, exposure to the Bible, and our willingness to stand exposed. His name is Alfred. Pray for him and these other young men. And especially pray for our students who prepare and endure these questions. And you might give me a nod. When they can’t answer something they lean over to me for an answer. “Gulp!” is always my response. Thank you friends for your faithful concern and stalwart faithfulness.
Sam

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Video of ABC Christian Academy

Please check out this video of the ABC Christian Academy. Either click on the link or copy and paste it in the address bar.

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3775214202663584994

This video tells a little about the school as well as a little about Malawi.

Reading Day


Friday was reading day at the ABC Christian Academy where I teach 5th grade. I am posting a picture of my class. The students (and teachers) were suppose to dress up as any book character. There are always a few ,though, who will do a movie or TV show character. I had pirates, princesses, Mickey Mouse, Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, an old lady, a World War II soldier, somebody from Star Trek, and some I couldn't figure out. I was suppose to be Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

I have eighteen countries represented this year in my class alone. Granted some of them are two or even three different nationalities. They are America, Malawi, Canada, England, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Kenya, Lebanon, Italy, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Holland, Wales, Australia, Mozambique, India, Philippines, and Portugal. I even have a little boy whose parents are from Jackson, Mississippi. It really is a small world.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Kachere Prison Preaching

I’ve just returned from Kachere prison where I was privileged to preach through a student-interpreter. The boys that gather for the “service” are all between 13 and 20, most incarcerated for theft, burglary, vandalism, etc. It always amazes me how these hardened teenagers who’ve given up hope gather to sing songs about Jesus and dance in praise. I’m not convinced by any stretch that their faith is sincere, only the Lord knows, but it always amazes me how they do sing anyway – a cultural thing I suppose.

I read from the Chichewa Bible Romans 5:8 but then relied on my translator for the rest. I told the story of a village many years ago which was plagued by a pesky monitor lizard fond of eating the eggs and maize of the people. The lizard was troublesome to the villagers and was blamed for the drought also plaguing the land.

The men decided to raise a war party to go into the fields to kill the lizard. As they departed in song holding spears, the lizard dropped from a nearby tree and scurried toward the hut of the chief, who unusually, had not joined the war party. The lizard, finding the chief, informed him that the men would never be able to kill him. He would not allow that. Only one thing could get rid of the lizard. “Only if you, the chief, will agree to swallow me,” the lizard said.

When the men returned from hunting, they were tired, angry, and disappointed having not found the lizard. A little boy informed them that the lizard had gone into the chief’s hut. Sensing the chief was “in on it” the men angrily burst into his hut. Seeing no lizard they questioned the chief as to its whereabouts. Then, the men noticed that the stomach of the chief was moving back and forth; something was alive in his stomach. Without hesitation, the men thrust their spears into the chief, killing the lizard and the chief. The next day, the clouds came, rains followed, and the people feasted like never before. The chief was forever memorialized in the mind of the people.

The story is a Chewa legend describing “why the Chief is the Chief and no one else is,” giving emphasis on his willingness to sacrifice for his people. Of course, it is also a small, yet wonderful picture of what God in Christ has done for his people, giving life eternal and opening the way to the New Tribe. The boys seemed to get it! Thanks for your many prayers as we continue this outreach.
Sam

Monday, October 1, 2007

DOES ANYTHING GOOD COME OUT OF ANTHROPOLOGY?

When I was a sophomore at USM (THE University of Southern Mississippi for those who do not know), I was forced to take Anthropology. “What use is that?” I remember asking in my utilitarian, critical voice. “How will hearing about bones, clicking languages, and people with discs in their lips help me?” Well, that partly turned out to be true. But you can understand that when I was asked to teach Cultural Anthropology at ABC, I was tossed between excitement and fear. That’s always a good combo! But would it be any use. Well, under our rubric, we teach it with a purpose, to use the subject to inform our role in the Great Commission. So, it gets a little more interesting than discs, clicks, and Lucy the She-Ape. Seniors at ABC take this course. As seniors, they are usually worn from the academic journey and ready to transition into various ministries and callings away from the classroom. So, I thought I would try and address both problems. So, I am able to teach an academic principle once a week in a classroom setting. Since anthropology is a course of study which “reads men, culture, and behaviors” we study topics like communication (verbal and non-verbal), values and development of those values, social stratification, kinship systems, marriage, etc. Then I purposefully impose the topics into a “missions” framework, encouraging students to always pretend they are missionaries and to ask, “How would this knowledge assist in furthering Christ’s kingdom?” Since subject is humanity, the answers are always positive. In addition, I am able to create ‘field projects’ useful to the context for research; you know, to give food for thought regarding research that might benefit these men and women as they serve the church here someday. Right now, I’m developing two projects which we will take our skills from the classroom into the field. The one I’d like to share with you involves Partners in Hope, an AIDS ministry in Malawi which provides care, education, and comfort to those afflicted with this dreaded disease (and to their suffering families as well). Since we know the founders and many of the workers at this ministry are ABC grads, I’ve developed a project that will benefit both my students and their work. Partners in Hope is currently developing plans to begin a work in a village with which they have had no contact. Thus, they do not know the attitudes of the people toward Christianity or AIDS. It will be the project of my class to develop a ‘survey field project’ which will collect this information for use in developing an adequate strategy to develop this work. So, we are excited to actually be able to “use” our classroom instruction for something more practical.
Sam
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