These days, too many people are trying to take religion out of the Christmas season. It sometimes makes me think, “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do…or what they’re missing.” Maybe this letter will make it clear.
A Reverend wrote to me from Malawi:
“After having been raised up in urban North American culture, it was refreshing, but also a bit disorientating, to spend my first Christmas in Africa in 2009. There was a Baptist Church of course, but no Christmas Trees and no caroling in the streets, and no mad dash to the Mall to buy presents. The mixed congregation of ex-pats and nationals who attended the Christmas Sunday service sang the carols we were accustomed to, but there appeared to be far less excitement…
This is the ‘Hungry Times’ when most folks, aside from us ex-pats, are living off of the stored up remnants of last year’s harvest, with an eye to how little there is left and how long until the next harvest comes in. Nevertheless, on the morning after Christmas, we were all called to return to the Church and bring food and clothing and the Word of God and prepare to visit Zomba Central Prison to distribute some hope and good cheer.
This Prison is a daunting facility built by Colonialists in the 1930's that, today, houses twice as many inmates as it was designed for. We shared the goods and the Gospel with inmates, in both men's wing and women's wing. And so, for me, began a ministry of Prison Chaplaincy in the Prisons of southern Malawi.
…It’s ‘Hungry Time" again, but I thank God that the inmates are hungry for the Gospel. In the six Prisons and Prison Farms where we work, we have seen over 240 decisions to accept Christ (including many from Muslim backgrounds) and 160 inmates Baptized and inmates are being transformed by the power of God. Some of those counseled before release are eager to return to their villages and tell others of the one who came as our Savior that first Christmas morning. And for that, I'll forever enjoy a different kind of Christmas.”
Thank you, Reverend, for sharing your unique Christmas experience with us. If you’d like to learn more about the fine work done by Emmanuel International Mission in Malawi and elsewhere, you can read about it online at www.EIM-US.org