I’ve spent much of my ministry career working with youth in one capacity or another. For this reason, it made sense that one of my three main roles in Malawi would be to work with the Youth Department of Nkohma Synod.
In Malawi, people remain as youths until they are married. It isn’t simply the culture of the church; it is deeply ingrained in the society. I was listening to the radio a while ago and the host was talking about a member of parliament that still claims he is a youth because he isn’t married—the man turns forty this year.
Sadly, I haven’t had much time at all to spend with the “kids” of the Nkhoma Synod. I have been to a joint meeting (the monthly synod meeting where thousands gather for a day of prayer), spent some time with Tad Juma (the Synod Youth Director) and gotten to know many of the youth at Lingadzi. Fortunately, I will be preaching at a few youth events in the near future and will be working with the youth department during La Jolla Presbyterian Church’s trip in June.
The worship team at Lingadzi is 90% youth and someone from the youth guild preaches every three months. These youth are secondary students, university students, engineers, doctors, lawyers, aid workers, business professionals, cooks and teachers. The impact they have on the Malawian society is immense. If you didn’t have to be married to be an elder, deacon or pastor they would be running the church even more than they do now.
Rocky is an engineer during the week, but is the first person you notice when stepping into the church. He is the enthusiastic worship leader, who also works with the children’s ministry. Jason is the first person you will hear when you walk into the building on Sunday. He plays drums and is in charge of setting up the p.a. every week for church. He is also a gifted translator. On top of his Sunday morning responsibilities, Jason is in charge of the daily morning prayer service schedule. Jesse teaches one of the Sunday school classes; she just started her residency at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
Amos graduated from secondary school two years ago. He volunteered with Fishers, Trainers and Senders before getting a job with a microfinance company. He had to move to a village in the southern part of Malawi that is predominantly Muslim. On his first Sunday in the village he walked into a church and was asked if he could preach…he’s been preaching there ever since.
I could go on and on about the character, abilities and passion of these individuals. I firmly believe that they are one of the main reasons the church is growing at such an alarming rate in this country. They believe that Jesus is at the center of the change needed in this place—it is evident in everything they do.
Most of them are at the age where western kids fall away from their faith (18-23, the statistics are shocking). I can’t imagine what the church in the U.S. would look like if we figured out how to do “youth ministry” as well as it is done here.