Missionary Mark Panning, serving the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA)-Malawi, writes about severe damages from recent flooding, and the people who continue trusting in a loving God who will see them through. To support our brothers and sisters of the LCCA-Malawi, donate online A gift designated to Flood Disaster Relief will help make sure members of our sister church receive care.
Greetings from Lilongwe, Malawi!
Things have been a bit unsettled since I wrote my last Malawi Update. Our Missionary of Education and Publication, Rev. Peter Martin, has taken a call to serve as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Radcliff, KY. He and his family left Malawi in the beginning of December. In addition to this, another of our missionaries, Rev. Stephen Lawrenz, will be returning to the United States by the end of March. Rev. Lawrenz will not be replaced. We are still waiting to see if there will be a replacement for Rev. Martin. So temporarily, at least, the number of missionaries in Malawi has been reduced from six to four. That hurts.
The Malawi Mission Council has been meeting with the leaders of the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) to develop a strategic plan for ministry in Malawi. To be sure, it is a wonderful thing that the LCCA is undertaking this important work. More than that, it’s a great opportunity to structure the work in Malawi in the very best possible way so that the preaching of the gospel can go forward. At the same time, however, it also involves a lot of very weighty questions, and creates a good bit of uncertainty. How many missionaries will be serving in Malawi in the future? Will even some of the remaining four end up going home? If they remain in Malawi, what specific jobs will they be asked to do? Is the national church happy and content with what missionaries have been doing in the past? These are questions that weigh heavily on the minds of world missionaries. It is not a lot of fun when you are the one who needs to wade through them.
If I am tempted to feel sorry for myself, swamped as I am beneath the “grievous burdens” of my supposedly miserable condition, recent events in Malawi have taught me to count my blessings. There are a lot of people in Malawi who are wading through much deeper water than I am. In the past few days, Malawi has been hit with very severe flooding. No one can know at this time the full extent of the damages or loss of life. At the time of writing, at least 176 people are confirmed dead, and perhaps a quarter of a million no longer have a house in which to sleep. The damage to buildings, bridges, roads and crops is immense. Nevertheless, Malawi is still filled with people like those pictured above – people who just can’t help but smile, even as their strong-armed sons or brothers tow them by the hand through waist-deep rushing water. How stupid and arrogant of me to think that MY life was so difficult!
Whatever manner of “deep water” you might be in, we have a powerful and loving God who promises to see us through. He has shown his infinite love for sinners like you and me by sacrificing his only Son to pay for our transgressions. He has shown his almighty power by raising Jesus from the dead and seating him at his right hand. This is the God who says to us:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).
Perhaps some of those smiling people in Malawi have put their trust in Christ, and appreciate God’s promise even better than I do. I hope so, because for many of them, the waters have just gotten that much deeper.
Sadly, disasters such as this are not limited to Malawi. They happen all around the world and affect many different people. The Wisconsin Synod provides disaster relief assistance through the WELS Christian Aid and Relief Committee. We thank God for all who offer their prayers and support to help suffering people all around the world.
Mulungu akudaletseni nonce,
(God bless you all)
Missionary Mark Panning
Pictures of Lutheran members houses
On Friday, January 16, WELS Missionary Robert Wendland visited members of the St. Nathanael’s Lutheran Church in Mpemba Beni, Malawi. This is one of the areas that has been hit especially hard by the flooding. Although only a few pictures are shown here, Rev. Wendland has about 100 more that show essentially the same story repeated over and over. And this is only one small village in Malawi.
At least one LCCA member has received his eternal crown of glory as a result of the flooding.
The house below collapsed on him.
An injured woman stands in front of the wall that fell on her.