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.