4. Our God Has Prepared the Harvest
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
The moment of greatest impact during my trip, a memory that will forever be engrained in my mind and etched on my heart, was our visit to Maula Prison. It is a prison of infamously poor conditions: there is only one holding cell where thousands of men are forced to stay for their crimes, many of them petty infractions. The trip to Maula was part of African Bible College’s (ABC) weekly outreach ministry, and our team decided to tag-along with them–little did we know that we would soon be preaching in front of convicted criminals.
As we entered the prison’s outer gates, we passed by crowds of people sitting and waiting at the guard post; the crowds consisted of friends and family members waiting to give their loved ones clothes and food. You see, the prison only provided one meal per day for the inmates, a meal that consisted of nsima (see-ma), which is a tasteless maize porridge. Families are forced to provide for the needs of each prisoner. When we parked on a dirt path within the prison, I looked out to see a large fenced-off area with hundreds of men wandering about, some shirtless amidst the scorching heat–no wonder their families were so eager to get to them. The image seemed eerily similar to what I imagine a refugee camp to look like.
Our guides split us up into two groups, one group would preach to those who were still awaiting trial on the other side of the prison, while I was picked to go with the group heading into the convicted criminals’ pen. So the four of us, three Americans (dressed in collared shirts) and one Malawian, headed straight towards the mass of prisoners. I prayed like there would be no tomorrow.
We walked in to much fanfare. The stench made me cringe at certain points during the walk to the back of the fenced off area. Some men followed us, but most shrugged us off. We finally got to a shaded area where our guide shooed away sleeping prisoners and called others to gather around. After a while 50-60 men were gathered around, looking at the strange foreigners. But then something incredible happened: our guide led the men in a worship song. Prisoners who had once looked mischievous and hardened brightened up as they sang. The rhythm of their worship was beautiful and unique, their united voices raised seemed to give many of them hope and a joy that was seemingly lost before that.
We were able to preach through a translator that day, sharing with them God’s word and the hope we have in Christ. But it wasn’t until our Malawian guide, Charles, stood up to preach that I saw firsthand what Christ meant in Matthew 9:37-38. Charles was in his mid-forties and had once resided in Maula Prison. Though he is now a student at ABC, he had spent 12 years in the prison system in Malawi, suffering the way those men suffered that day. He was saved by one of the professors at ABC, an American who committed himself to preaching the gospel at Maula Prison every week, regardless of his reservations. Charles was one of the 50-60 men who sat and listened to that man preach every week until his heart was given over completely to the grace found only in Christ, in the gospel. And that day, I witnessed God’s sovereign plan come full circle: Charles stood up and preached as the men listened with a focus that only one of their own could command. His gospel presentation was perfect and brought me to tears knowing what I knew about his life. God is good, truly, his plans are always perfect.
Looking at Matthew 9:37-38, I realized that the workers are indeed few and hesitant, just as I was hesitant that very day. I stood outside those gates with my own reservations, not knowing how plentiful the harvest is, how ready people are to receive the gospel into their hearts. Even more, people need the gospel of Christ now more than ever. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that the era of reaping God’s harvest is over or that evangelizing the world is a fruitless activity; no, the harvest is plentiful and each of the few workers is charged to share the gospel, to greatly impact this world for God’s glory. We are called to be confident and bold laborers for the kingdom of God, slaves of Christ among the nations. And when we hesitate, just like the disciples did in Matthew 28, we hear the echo of Jesus’ words to his disciples and take heart in the comforting words of our Savior: “Behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.”
These were just a few snapshots of my time in Malawi (I didn’t even talk about our visit to two villages and the “interesting” college fellowship that we preached at!). But I wanted to just give you all a glimpse of what ministry was like there and a look at what God is doing in other parts of the world. Thank you all for praying and supporting me on this trip (and yes, even those of you who didn’t even know I was gone). Your prayers were instrumental in keeping the team and me safe from physical dangers and disease. Thank you all for being faithful stewards of God’s blessings as well. I am continually reminded of how blessed I am to have the love and support of a faithful church family, and my short experience overseas has made me extremely excited for those people who have committed themselves to missionary work.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay,
to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
(2 Corinthians 4:7)
I leave you all with a video of the senior class men from African Bible College, singing praises to the Lord. Enjoy!