Trials and Triumphs

January, 2021

Dear Friends of Malawi,

Undoubtedly, like us, the current situation with the lockdown and the COVID19 restrictions have you wondering about how to handle each day as it comes.  I can’t help but think of the verses in Phil. 4:4-7 which have been such an encouragement to me during these times.  We may not know exactly how all these things will play out, but we know who holds the future in his hands!  

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

During 2020 we have seen some significant changes to the way things are done. The training is left up to the leaders that our team has trained, and our team now focuses on follow up which is so necessary to keep the vision of the one-to-one discipleship going strong. COVID19 is threatening another (partial?) lockdown coming up in Malawi.  We praise God for good reports and that He has raised up leaders in the communities.  This work will continue because it has become a local practice. Multiplication is effective, as per 2 Tim. 2:2.

I’m going to include a portion of the report we recently got from John Singinie regarding the work in Baula (leaders pictured in the photo), which was one of the first villages where Life Groups were started in 2012 and leaders trained in discipleship.   This follow up trip to Baula was the first trip of 2021.  This will give you an insight into the culture of the Malawian people as well as the evil that is so prevalent.  

“The first day we had a poor attendance due to a funeral that happened around Baula.  A young man died mysteriously in South Africa.  When the body was sent back to Malawi, people started to organise the ceremony, but after the grave had been dug, the message came from SA that the ceremony should be cancelled. They were saying they must first visit the witch doctor so that they can find out what killed this 22-year-old man. He was married and had a baby. This was the situation we found at Baula. And the day we arrived happened to be the day the assigned people came back from the witch doctor who authorised them to bury the dead.  So according to the traditional practices of Baula, when there is a funeral, every program is cancelled and all the people are requested to attend the burial.   If you do not attend, you invite punishment from the chief.   For example, you may have to pay a goat or a number of chickens as punishment for not attending the funeral.  This is what made most of the leaders in Baula Centre fail to attend the trainings.

However, we proceeded with the conference because one of the Chiefs is the leader of one of the LGs and he said if there will be any accusation, he will be the one to answer.  He did this because of the other leaders and us who came from far places.  The burial did not end well.  People were saying the father of the dead man was responsible for the death of his son (for various reasons…)  When we left, the people were planning to kill the father, but the chief said no, they should wait for the final word from the witchdoctor who said he will reveal what happened after the burial. This also showed us that the gospel still needs to be preached, there are still some people out there who do not know about Christ, they are ruled by the forces of darkness. 

We were encouraged, however, to see how this other chief has been transformed by the gospel, through one-to-one discipleship.  He risked his position as chief by refusing to go to the burial and attending the conference instead.  He also was against the idea of going to the witchdoctor.   He continues to share the Word with other chiefs. We hope the gospel will keep spreading through Baula to other places.”
-John Singinie

WOW!  Not quite like here, is it?? Can you imagine the change that takes place in a person’s heart when he accepts the free gift of forgiveness from God?  Suddenly, this person understands that God is greater than the evil one.  One of their favourite verses is “ …. the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4b).  They know this by their own personal experience. 

We thank God for another year of fruitful ministry in Malawi.  The year 2020 has certainly seen its trials, but the Team perseveres under the power of the Holy Spirit!  Please continue to pray for them, John, George, and Caleb.  Your prayers are a vital part of this work.  

As you probably know from previous newsletters, we are in the process of raising funds for a newer, more reliable, vehicle for the Team to travel with.  So far, we have raised approx. $15,000.  One third of the way!!  It is expensive to import a vehicle to Malawi.  The duty and taxes double the cost of the vehicle.  Thank you to all who have helped with this.  We look forward to what God is going to do. 

 Caleb is hoping to move into his home very soon.  This is what he writes: “…but now we need to move to our house because everyday I visit the place, I find children playing with the doors and even on the sand.  So if we can move in, it will be part of securing our place and property…” He hopes to be able to start building a latrine and outdoor kitchen soon after moving in. 

On a personal level, we are settling into our home in Sarnia.  With COVID19, things are not as we would have hoped; but then, it’s the same everywhere in Ontario.  We are trying to make the best of it and still be a light in our community.  Sovereign Grace Community Church has become our home church, although services are reduced to a maximum of 10 people in person at the moment and the rest is live streamed online 
We are so thankful for each of you.  Your prayers and regular donations are such a vital part of this work.   

May God bless you for your commitment to Him.  
Hans and Elly Timmermans