I could not get this out of my mind. I had never had people come to me begging me for a Bible before. My heart ached for them as I had none to give.
I brought their cries before the Lord and I knew right there and then that the Lord wanted me to go back to bring them the Bibles for which they hungered. Once I decided to do that, I had peace. I shared my burden with my dear friends who suggested I approach ShareWord Global.
I did not hear back from them right away. Since I had to place the order before mid-December in order to have them printed and shipped to Malawi from China by the end of May, I decided to place an order—by faith—for 7,000 Tumbuka New Testaments.
The very next day, Paul Mercer called me to say, “We are very interested in your project. Would it be possible to meet with you?”
The plan was that I would go for three days ahead of the Bibles’ arrival to let the people in 16 villages know that we would be coming so they could be prepared for our arrival. They call them villages but they are actually more like districts since 90 per cent of the people live scattered around the countryside.
But we had a problem. The New Testaments were just not coming. May became June, June became July, July became August.”
“Lord,” I prayed, “I know it is Your will that these people receive your Word. You know that Thursday is the day I must leave to go into the villages if we are going to distribute them. I leave it all up to You.”
On Monday, August 15 I received a call that the New Testaments had arrived in Malawi but customs still has to clear them. Then they still had to be transported to Mzuzu, another 10 hours farther north.
On Wednesday afternoon, the last possible day, the New Testaments finally arrived. By evening we had them loaded onto a truck that we had hired to bring the borehole parts and the New Testaments to the villages for distribution by the team starting the following Monday.
I left early Thursday morning with Sam and Winter, two Tumbuka people who were part of our distribution team of seven.
The routine was the same at each village we visited. When we arrived, Sam would signal some children to get the chief for us.
In time, the chief and other curious people would come. I told them that our gift to them was to fix their broken wells, as well as show the Jesus film, hold a medical clinic and sell Tumbuka New Testaments.
I know it is not the custom for ShareWord to sell Bibles, especially to these extremely poor people. Malawi, after all, is the third poorest country in the world. But I didn’t want to just give them away…for several reasons: I wanted them to value their new Bible, I wanted to only give to those who really wanted one, and I wanted to only place one copy per household.
The Lord told me to sell them for whatever the chief thought the people could pay, whether with maize (corn), eggs or money.
But how could we make sure that only one copy would go per household? I asked that all the chiefs of each tribe in that district be present (one tribe being one extended family). As the people came, they would first go up to their chief, he would then nod his head yes or no, indicating whether or not that family had been there before.
Afterward, we decided to divide up the payments of maize, eggs and money according to the number of poor, older widow ladies who were raising orphans.
Once, a witch doctor came to us asking us to give him medicine for his sick son. He had tried everything but nothing worked. We gave him some vitamins and prayed the Lord would use this for His glory. It wasn’t long before the man witch doctor came back and said, “My son is healed. What is this medicine? Who is this Jesus you are talking about?” By the end of the day, this witch doctor gave his life to the Lord and promised to never practice witchcraft again.
Each evening we showed the Jesus film. Each evening, 400 to 1,500 people would come. Many stayed behind who were then formed into a Bible study group and were given literature so they could study the Bible together.
Before we left each village the chiefs would come with their “Yewo chomeni!" (Thank you very much!) for the Bibles. "We were so hungry for the Bibles. No one has ever done anything like this for us before.”