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“Thus far has the Lord helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12)

October 2017.

Early in September representatives from zambesi mission (zm) joined the Zambezi Evangelical Church (ZEC) for their 125th celebrations of the foundation of Zambesi Industrial Mission. The following text is based largely on the article written by zm’sChurch Development Partners Myles and Ruth MacBean for their blog website, stepping out with God

It was a typically Malawian celebration: a riot of joyous colour and song combined with heartfelt praise, thanksgiving and worship. The celebration had really started during the week preceding the event, as Mike Beresford, the Mission Director of zm, joined with ZEC pastors and members to cycle on single gear ‘pastors bicycles’ from Nsiyaludzu in Ntcheu district to ZEC’s Mitsidi headquarters near Blantyre. Mike was joined for part of the way by Colin Stonelake, the zm Treasurer.The last leg of this marathon ride was a procession for the few miles from Limbe to Mitsidi that turned into a very Malawian cavalcade of police cars, cyclists, runners and trucks full of bands and singers. It certainly got the first day of the celebration off to a joyous (and noisy) start!

Although zm had a relatively minor role in the celebrations, Myles and Ruth MacBean were involved in the ZEC Celebration Choir supporting Pastor Victor Zuze. The choir performed two Chichewa language songs on the Saturday and one English language song on the Sunday. Ruth doubled as pianist and choir master and Myles as stumbling tenor! Victor wanted a choir singing in the ZEC style of generations past and that certainly seems to have been successful given the enthusiastic reaction of most of the elderly pastors. The Celebration Choir nicely complimented the more traditional African styles of the church choirs and the upbeat gospel sound of the youngsters in the very polished Celebration Praise Band.

While Saturday had more of a festival atmosphere, there was still powerful preaching from the Chairman of the Synod, Pastor Joe Tsokalida. He based his message on Psalm 124, reminding the assembled congregations that “if the Lord had not been on our sidethe hazards and difficulties would surely “have swept us away” (Psalm 124: 1-5). In meetings and one-to-one situations Pastor Tsokalida can be deceptively quiet but once he is preaching he is a different man! He held enthralled the thousands that sat in a dusty natural amphitheatre.

Pastor Joe Tsokalida

Sunday marked the culmination of the celebration and was a more formal affair than Saturday, but still full of colour and joy. The guest of honour was the Hon. Kondwani Nankhumwa, MP , Minister of Local Government and Rural Development who represented His Excellency the State President Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika. It involved a service of thanksgiving to God for his work in Malawi and elsewhere through ZEC. Choirs sang wonderfully, the congregation sang with gusto, and the word of God was proclaimed forcefully as is the trademark of ZEC.

Abraham and Ruth Folayan

The high spot for most ZEC members seemed to be the return for the event of former zm mission workers Abraham and Ruth Folayan from Nigeria. They served for many years in Malawi; just to mention Abraham and Ruth’s name to ZEC folk is to hear tales that radiate love and respect for the couple. Abraham’s much anticipated message was a great encouragement to the gathered masses as he focussed on the importance of the gospel in our lives as individuals, and in the message proclaimed by us collectively as a church; he reminded us that we have the treasure of the gospel in jars of clay. It came originally to Malawi in European jars of clay, but now must be handed on by Malawian jars of clay to their fellow jars of clay. He also challenged today’s church, stressing to them that this treasure of the gospel should be communicated through both their words and their actions.

The service was marked by prayers in different languages: Chichewa, Chitumbuka, Portuguese and isiZulu; to reflect the presence at the event of ZEC members from all corners of Malawi, and from Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

As the MP Hon. Nankhumwa drew the celebration towards a close, he caught the mood of us all so very well when he chose to read from 1 Samuel 7:12. For surely it was an “Ebenezer” moment for both ZEC and us as together we looked back to say “Thus far has the Lord helped us”, and then we look forward in faith.

Praise be to the Lord. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”.
Psalm 124: 6 & 8.

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