I mean as Christians, of course, but as a minister Lewis’ actual job is to love and care for people. We were (quite happily) serving in the northern Alabama area under the excellent instruction of David and Denise Dobson, when in July of 2016 we received a call from Victor Kubik. They were considering transferring us (to Africa no less) for a short-term assignment. We moved to Lilongwe, Malawi, just five months later.
So why us? Why us might better be answered by Mr. Kubik and Ministerial and Member Services, but our guess is being childless and still just getting started in the ministry we’re relatively mobile. We’re also generally up for adventure; we love to travel and to experience different parts of the world, so in some ways we might seem an obvious choice.
So why here? The congregation in Lilongwe has been guided by the steady hand of Gracious Mpilangwe for the past few years, but being 250 (African) miles away in Blantyre, there’s only so much involvement he could have; and even less so further north in Mzuzu where we have another small congregation. Though Malawi is a small country, travel can be difficult, and making even shorter trips is long and arduous. Mr. Mpilangwe and all the congregations in Malawi needed the help of another elder.
So now what? So here we are living in Malawi, trying our best to love God and love His people, but we do have a purpose beyond being a warm body. The Lilongwe congregation is filled with wonderful people trying their best to follow God. There are some long-time members, but the congregation has grown in the past few years, so we have quite a number of newer folks just learning God’s truth. Like all congregations they need a shepherd and some stability to guide them to self-sufficiency. You see, we’re not actually the answer to that need in the long-term; we’re more like a placeholder. We’re here to offer stability and love so that the local leadership can be developed to carry on in caring for the congregation.
So what? What are the take-aways at this halfway point of our time here? First, we recognize that we are gaining so much by being here; more than we could ever hope to give back. For me this has been one of the biggest reminders of how desperately we need God’s Kingdom to come. It’s easy to lose sight of that when we live in a time of relative ease: cell phones, running water, electricity and plenty of food. We might not even realize we’re thinking, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” When things are good it can be easy to forget that we are actually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17 Revelation 3:17Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
American King James Version×). Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world (anywhere from the poorest to the seventh poorest depending on the source and the measure used). Nothing is a given here; electricity is unreliable, running water comes and goes, the food supply is reliant completely on whether the rains come and whether they come at the right time. Life is just plain hard here. And yet, in the midst of all of this, we have faithful brethren who pray for God’s Kingdom to come and thankfully praise Him for providing another day. Lest anyone fear we’re languishing away here in Africa, gladly, we are not. Unlike many here, we have the means to purchase food when the growing season is bad, we have a generator for when the power goes out for hours (or days) at a time, and we can purchase drinking water when our faucet goes dry.
Second, we have a duty as Christians to serve others and obey God regardless of our circumstances; it doesn’t matter if we have a little or we have much. God expects us to serve Him and to serve others. Over and over again we see the faith of the widow’s mite played out before our eyes (Luke 21:1-4 Luke 21:1-4  And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
 And he said, Of a truth I say to you, that this poor widow has cast in more than they all:
 For all these have of their abundance cast in to the offerings of God: but she of her penury has cast in all the living that she had.
American King James Version×). There is the member that earns the equivalent of $70 a month and the first thing he does is pay his first tithe and save his second tithe. And he does it joyfully. He is one of the most upbeat and joyful people I’ve met despite his difficult circumstances. There is also the member who was diagnosed with throat cancer earlier this year; he’s in treatment (when the hospital has the medicine he needs), but it has weakened him. He is further weakened by the fact that he can only eat rice porridge for nourishment. He works when he can, and each week he comes to services and works with the young people, encouraging them to serve God, serve the Church and serve their communities (Galatians 6:10 Galatians 6:10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially to them who are of the household of faith.
American King James Version×).
So then what? Then we leave knowing that our brethren in Malawi are strengthened, bound to each other in love and in a common goal: to serve God and enter His Kingdom.