Easter weekend was celebrated in so many different ways around the world this past April. With an estimated 37 million churches globally, one can safely assume that the individual stories of celebration would far surpass that number. Sitting in each of those church groups are people with their own personal stories of celebration and triumph because of our risen Savior. I want to share one church’s story with you that took place more than 9,000 miles from my office in Oklahoma City, yet I am personally connected to that story. I have chosen to use a unique approach and let the walls of a certain church building tell the story for me. So here we go!
You will have to travel to Lilongwe, Malawi, to find me. I sit on a side road off one of the main highways in this capital city. I am made of concrete walls and floors, and I’m larger than you might expect to find in this area. I love it when they hold church services and special events here. The people who come through my doors know that they are entering a safe place– a place of hope. Easter weekend of 2019 was a very special time, and history was made here as the first IPHC Girls Conference in Malawi convened. The theme of the event was “Girls Destined for Greatness,” and over 200 girls gathered inside my walls that weekend. However, the story actually started a year earlier with another event for women. Let me give you a brief glimpse into that story first.
In April of 2018, ladies traveled here from all over Malawi to be part of a special event. They spent multiple nights sleeping on my floors and in other areas on the grounds that surround me. They cooked their meals over outdoor fires and pumped water from the on-site well. The sounds of their infants and small children that had to travel with their mothers made me keenly aware of the importance of this event. These ladies were willing to make great sacrifices to attend this first ever Girls’ Ministries training with the IPHC Girls’ Ministries director all the way from the United States. I wish you could have seen her face when she walked through my doors and saw the sight of more than 200 ladies gathered for the training. I saw tears streaming down her face as she took in the magnitude of the commitment of these ladies. They were eager to receive the training that she and IPHC missionary, Summer Sneed, would be leading. I watched over the course of the next three days as these ladies worshipped together, trained together, and shared together. I was overwhelmed at their love and level of commitment to reach the girls of Malawi.
Fast forward now to Easter weekend of 2019 when the plans of Malawi’s Girls’ Ministries director, Doreen Chilonga, and her team culminated in the event that brought all of these girls together in Lilongwe. My walls were reverberating this time with the voices of girls singing praises to God. In one session, the girls sang “Every day and every hour you are faithful, Oh Lord.” It was a powerful and breathtaking moment to witness most of the girls sing those words as they bowed on my concrete floors. If I had eyes, I would have been weeping at that powerful moment. You see, I am quite sure that most of these girls have endured some painful days and hours in their lives. They could each, no doubt, share some heart-wrenching stories. Yet, here they were on bended knees giving praise to God.
The IPHC missionary from Kenya, Summer Sneed, returned and spoke in three sessions on that Good Friday. She emphasized to the girls that to be destined for greatness, they must foster a relationship with Christ, surrender everything (even the broken places) to Him, and find their identity in Him alone. At the end of the day, I watched as the girls participated in a very moving communion service. Some of them were most likely taking communion for the very first time, because children in Africa are often excluded from partaking in communion.
During the prayer times at the altar, it was evident that Jesus was close as I watched girls respond to His call and release their burdens to Him. Several girls wept bitterly in the arms of caring, compassionate leaders. I was so proud to host such an incredible weekend. If I could have spoken that day, I would have shouted out praises to all the ladies who went home a year ago and put their training into action in their own local churches. I would have told Doreen and her team of leaders what an excellent job they are doing for Girls’ Ministries in Malawi. It was evident that they have been proactive in their planning and organization. Even when so many girls attended that extra mattresses and food were required; I heard that the missionary was able to cover that cost with donations that had come into the East Africa Girls’ Ministries account. That gesture ensured that every girl who attended had a place to sleep and food to eat during the conference. Every dollar that has been given into that account comes with its own unique story. The love of supporters over 9,000 miles away from my walls fed into the story that happened here on Easter weekend. Because of this girls conference, the walls of IPHC churches across Malawi are now reaping the benefit of girls and leaders who were empowered by the worship, sermons, and friendships that they experienced here. If walls could talk, the stories they would tell would be as heartwarming as the story I have just shared. I can’t wait for the next girls’ event!