It was late July 2007 and I found myself lying in a bed in a foreign place. A constant daze brought on by a high fever lingered in the air of my adopted room. My wife or father would come in every few hours to check on my condition, and then join the rest of our team. We weren’t sure how I got sick. Was it something I ate? Breathed in? Maybe drank? Did an odd bug bite me? After a few days rest, and a dose of strong drugs, I was myself again; ready to continue my first Malawian adventure.
About a year later, in 2008, I found myself in a similar position—this time without my wife and father. Something about my first trip to the country compelled me to come again. I was sure I wouldn’t get sick this time, but then the all-too-familiar late night sweats and nausea returned. Yet it was different this time, a little less foreign and a lot more comfortable.
Though the times I spent being sick in Malawi were far from the highlights of my time in the beautiful country, you can imagine that when 2009 came around and my church decided to invite our Malawian mission partners to the U.S. instead of sending a team there, I was quite relieved. Well sort of. Despite the miserable sick days and nights, there was a tiny part of me that longed to return to the place where the church loves with deep passion, serves with fervor and is thirsty for growth. Maybe I would someday, but not in the near future—I had other plans.
When Vasco, Davidson, Amos and Louis visited L.J.P.C. and other Y-Malawi? churches and American partners in March of 2009, all who were involved got to experience a small part of Malawi. Our friends preached with power, spoke with grace and loved their American brethren in a way that is largely unknown in the western world. On the last day of their adventure to the U.S. Vasco and Davidson mentioned that they had the perfect church for me in Malawi. I laughed. Knowing I would be graduating from Fuller Seminary the following June, they persisted. I continued to laugh. Thoughts of night sweats and nausea blotted out their continued efforts.
It was easy to say no. I had zero desire to live in another country, let alone in Africa. My plans involved being a pastor in an American church, having a couple kids and enjoying life—Yes, that was the map of my future. I graduated from seminary and emails came from Malawi. I interviewed with churches in the PCUSA, not finding the right fit, the emails continued to come. Hailey mentioned the church in Malawi and I still said no. I got bogged down in the depths of unemployment. My plan was failing. Pictures of a church in Malawi lingered in the back of my head. I saw smiles, people in need and a challenge that I could never take on with my abilities alone. I began to listen.
Was God really calling me to Africa? Malawi, really? It didn’t fit in my plan! I might get sick. I might be uncomfortable. I might…the thoughts consumed me. And as they overpowered my small brain it hit me: I have always lived my life safe, comfortable and full of worry. Everything I had read and studied had called followers of Christ to lay down their will in order that God’s will would be done. I’d said it in conversation, preached it many times, but never done it. As Christians most of us pray, “thy will be done,” but live seeking my will. Well, at least I know I have. And, it’s time for me to listen. Malawi.