Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Talking with Samuel Shaba

Last Friday afternoon, while I was working on lesson plans, Samuel Shaba came into my office to sit down and drink some coffee with me. Samuel is a first year student at African Bible College. We met sometime in August or September and have had many brief conversations around campus. Right before the Easter Break he told me about going up to his home village with Dr. Larry Brown--one of the professors at the college--and two other students to show the Jesus movie and preach on Good Friday, Saturday and Easter. I told him that I would be praying for the time and would like to hear how it went.

Well, we finally had the chance to talk. They were able to show the Jesus film and preach numerous times and he said that the people were hungry. Mzimba is the area Samuel grew up in. He has been wanting to go back to his village and preach for awhile. He says that there is such a need to have Gospel preaching in his area. There are churches, but there is not much sound teaching/preaching in the churches. On Easter morning he had the opportunity to preach to over 1,000 people without any amplification. 

It was great to hear his passion and desire to reach the people in his home area. Samuel already has one Bible College degree and has been a pastor, but the training he is receiving at ABC is far above what he has already had. We talked and drank coffee for about 2 hours. We also talked about cultural differences and similarities. We--Scharlie and I--have not had that many opportunities to get to know the college students. I am glad that Samuel is a first year student and that I am a first year headmaster. I think we will have many more conversations in the future. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Malawi Update Vol. 3

May, 2011

Dear Family and Friends,

Our Easter Break is almost over. It has been nice. We have had a chance to talk to a few people on skype, which is good. It is not until you get to talk to a few folks from home that you realize how much you miss people. This has been the busiest second semester we have every experienced! And we have not yet made it to the last month of school! While you are in the work mode, here as anywhere, it is easy to get consumed with the day-to-day and neglect less pressing but more important matters. Some of those matters are taking enough time for family and individual “rest”--rest of course comes in various forms--time with God, physical rest, seeking out new relationships and keeping in touch with friends and family back home.

There have been some moments of repose. I (Brian) get to come home for lunch each day for an hour. (I usually make it home on time). This has been a tremendous blessing. We eat and then usually get to read something together and then put Gwen and Samuel down for their naps. We finished the Chronicles of Narnia, which was wonderful.

Another set of books that we have read together this year is called the Sprit Flyer Series. Our friend, Chris McCartney, gave us the first one in the series years ago. We were able to borrow the others from some neighbors and read them all to the children. They were a fun read, but a little intense at times for small children. The books talk about being able to see the “deeper world.” By this is meant the spiritual world. The way the author talks about and illustrates the effects of sin on believers and unbelievers alike, made for many good talks afterwards with Gwen and Samuel. The “deeper world” is all around us, whether we are back home in the States or here in Lilongwe. It seems though, that the “deeper world” is less subtle here in some ways. There have been a number of deaths from malaria that have touched the ABC community since January.

Death is a very real and very common visitor here. It is the last enemy to be conquered. As we have just celebrated Easter, it has been a good reminder to me that death is real, but it is not the end. Christ’s death opened the way for his resurrection and it is through his resurrection that we know his death was sufficient! In a recent conversation with Mwizaso Khonje--Middle School Bible teacher--about her grandmother’s funeral that she had just returned from, we talked about Christianity in Africa. The following is the gist of what she said.

“There is a frequently repeated phrase that, ‘In Africa, Christianity is a mile wide and an inch deep.’ There is some truth to this statement. BUT all we have is Christ! When the rains do not come on time and the harvest does not come in, there is no one to give us food. The government cannot help us. Our families are poor and in the same shape as we are. When our loved ones are sick and do not have access to medical care or cannot afford it we pray and that is all we can do. We are dependent on Christ for everything. So maybe Christianity in Africa is shallow in some respects, but I am afraid of what will happen if we continue to experience ‘progress’ in the form of Westernization and higher standards of living. What will become of our dependence on Christ? Will that understanding of dependence decrease and be replaced by dependency on self, the economy or some other god?”

We have definitely been reminded more frequently that there are many things that are not in our hands. That’s not a comfortable thing to remember at times, and yet ultimately it is the greatest comfort. Nothing happens without purpose. God is always working, even when I’m frightened for a student who has malaria, or I have to wait in line for “petrol” for an hour, someone mentions that the pharmacies are “out” of various medicines, or even just begin to think about the amount of need that is here that I cannot touch. He is at work when all the things we typically lean on or take for granted are gone or fail. He is reminding us that He is all-sufficient. We may lean on lots of things, but we must not depend on them. At the end of the day, we like African Christians, must say, “All we have is Christ!” But we can’t say that as if it means that we have something very small. Having Christ, our greatest need is met, along with many others. Praise God for this great truth and for the many joys he gives us along the way.

Since the last letter we sent, we have been having, as mentioned before, a very busy semester. It has not been a bad semester, though it has been stressful. Some of the highlights of the semester were Spiritual Emphasis Week at the College and Gospel Emphasis Week at the Academy. We were able to host the college’s speaker, Rev. Vince Woods, and his family for a meal and attend one of the worship services. During the Gospel Emphasis week at the Academy, we focused on Christ’s work for us. Some of the college students came and taught lessons and songs. We talk about the gospel in class all the time, but we were really taking time for more discussion and trying to communicate it in various ways.

On a family note, Gwen is reading more and more. She is getting ridiculously tall (it seems to us) and has decided she likes her hair long. She is improving her bike-riding skills and perfecting her tree-climbing skills. She would rather play outside with her friends than eat (though she’s doing plenty of that as well, growing all the time). Samuel has learned to write “SAM.” He is looking like a boy who will soon be four! (How DID that happen so fast)? He is developing a good sense of humor and also improving his tree-climbing skills. Our neighbor calls them her monkeys because they spend so much time in her trees. (Her trees are taller than ours).☺ The two of them play at being animals frequently. Any morning you might be greeted with, “I’m a rabbit today,” or some variation on that. Their funny thing right now is for one of them to say to the other, “Pretend I am a baby (elephant, hippo, rabbit, dog, etc.) and you found me. I have a broken foot (leg, arm, etc.) and no home or family. Ask your mom and dad if I can stay with you.” Then one of them will come with this story, begging to keep the poor lost, lame creature. We always consent, very glad that so far there have been no scenarios with real animals. They continue to be good friends, for which we are very thankful.

We are fine. Neither Brian nor I have grown any bigger, thankfully. ☺ The four of us were able to take a little trip over the break, finally seeing “the other Africa” as Samuel says. He means Africa as he expected it to be from the pictures we showed him when we were talking about coming--wild and full of animals. Poor kid, he didn’t know we would live on a campus in a city. (We should have shown different pictures). We had a nice time and got to hear elephants eating the trees outside our door at 2:00am! We also saw more stars than we have ever seen--really beautiful. (Look for a future blog post about our trip).

Please pray:
-for our family: continued health; spiritual growth and maturity; time together
-for Brian’s mom, Clara Carlisle, to have safe travels as she is coming to visit us for the month of June.
-that we can finish our first school year strong
-for the work of the Gospel in the lives of our students
-that the Academy will have the teachers needed for next year (any third or fifth grade (or other) teachers available for a year or two)???
-for Brian as his responsibilities change slightly next year with the Superintendent and Assistant Headmaster will be on furlough for a year.
-for Scharlie, as she will be making a change from teaching kindergarten to teaching 7th, 8th, and 9th grade Math.
-for all the new teachers coming and people returning from furlough to have a smooth transition
-for College and Academy graduates
-continued prayer and financial support
-courage and opportunity to share the Gospel

It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for nine months and are about to finish our first school year. We give thanks to God for the work He has called us to here and for the provision He has made for us. Thanks for being a part of that!


Brian, Scharlie, Gwen and Samuel

Financial Support may be sent to:
African Bible Colleges OR Online at:
P. O. Box 103
Clinton, MS 39060

Please put Carlisles in memo of check