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Embracing Togetherness

Editorial by Randy Friesen

I recently returned from a trip to Malawi where we have been walking alongside the leadership of a dynamic church-planting movement. On this trip, I had the privilege of sitting down with two key leaders named Safari and Gilbert. These two men work closely together, despite the fact that they were formerly enemies. In fact, only two years earlier, back in their homeland of Congo, Gilbert murdered Safari’s parents. 

The Gospel has the power to bring people together in ways that are truly amazing, to make friends out of enemies, and to transform conflict-ridden refugee camps into beacons of peace and blessing. 

I was amazed again to hear Safari’s personal story of faith and courage. He fled from the civil war in Congo and walked for four months before he finally arrived in the Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi. When he arrived, he found the same ethnic tensions within the camp and yet, as he cried out to the Lord for direction, he sensed a call to plant a church there in the midst of the turmoil. Safari believed that the Gospel of reconciliation was enough to transform even the most bitter and wounded lives.  

Safari believed that the Gospel of reconciliation was enough to transform even the most bitter and wounded lives.

Then, two years after Safari had planted that church, Gilbert arrived at the camp, no longer as a militia leader but now as a refugee himself. Instead of ignoring him or seeking revenge, Safari chose to engage Gilbert. In fact, he invited him to his home for dinner and then gave him a place to sleep that night. Gilbert gratefully received Safari’s acts of kindness. For the next three years, he stayed in Safari’s home, experiencing the Gospel in action, until he finally gave his life to Christ. Gilbert was discipled and trained, and now serves as a pastor alongside Safari within a network of thirty-six churches with 11,000 baptized believers. It all began in the darkness and desolation of a refugee camp!

As I sat with these two men of God, I was astounded by the power of the Gospel to transform how we see ourselves and others. Receiving God’s incredible grace, mercy and forgiveness requires that we also understand our incredible value to God. Receiving God’s love for us then prepares us to see the value in every other human being that he has created. The Gospel transforms relationships and communities. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds even more” (Romans 5:20). The heart of reconciliation is God’s mercy to us in Christ. When we respond personally to this good news, it opens us up to a ministry of reconciliation with others.

Safari and his fellow church planters in the refugee camp see themselves not primarily as refugees but as ambassadors of Christ! They have witnessed transformation not only in the camp but in the surrounding Malawian communities. In addition to churches, they have been involved in starting elementary schools, agricultural projects, clean water systems and many other holistic expressions of the love of God. This network of churches has acted as a catalyst to bring Malawians together to pool their resources, serve their communities and reach their people with the Gospel. These churches are embracing togetherness in a way that is centered on Christ and reflects the values of God’s kingdom. Leaders like Safari and Gilbert have been examples of humility, unity and vision.  

In recent years, Safari has been offered emigration
visas to both Australia and the US, but he has graciously
turned them down. Why? Because he sees himself as
an ambassador of the kingdom of God and he is intent on receiving his spiritual inheritance that the Lord Jesus Christ has promised him, which includes Malawi and beyond. 

Where is the Lord inviting us to experience the Gospel of reconciliation at a deeper level in our hearts, in our relationships and in our perspective of the world? In this issue of Witness, we will be exploring what togetherness looks like when we receive and share God’s reconciling love in deeper ways. I’m grateful for how our churches worldwide are providing examples of this Gospel of reconciliation and, as a result, are living on a mission of multiplication.

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