Hands in his pockets, and with nothing to do on a Wednesday evening, Shadrick saunters alongside Lake Malawi, kicking at the sand. The 21-year-old is growing tired of the young prostitutes, drug dealers and homemade beer purveyors encroaching upon his neighborhood in Nkhata Bay, a resort and port city of about 15,000 people in northeast Malawi.
All of a sudden, clapping and singing arrest Shadrick’s attention. He looks to his right and spots dozens of people walking along the potholed dirt road leading back to his neighborhood. Curious, Shadrick follows the crowd.
The crowd stops in a small dusty field. About 120 people in all are watching a Christian program being cast onto the side of a concrete cell block house by a small battery-operated projector. Why are they singing about Jesus? Shadrick wonders. He stays to listen to the sermon by Billy Graham, interpreted into Chichewa, a main local language.
For the first time, Shadrick hears that God loves him, that Jesus Christ died on a cross for him and that he can be forgiven and develop a personal relationship with God if he turns from his sins and by faith commits his life to Christ.
After the 30-minute program–part of My Hope Malawi–Pastor Arnold Phiri extends an invitation for people to surrender their hearts to Jesus. Shadrick is among the 53 who receive Christ as their Savior that night.
Looking down, his voice barely audible, Shadrick acknowledges, “I used to have sexual relations with many girls.” Then in a stronger voice, he quickly adds, “I want to follow Jesus. By God’s help, I want to be free of all the evil things normally happening around here. I want to live a life that pleases Him!”
Shadrick was one of thousands of men, women and children who came to Christ during the nationwide My Hope Malawi outreach in early November. Malawi is the first country to introduce the My Hope Project to the African continent.
Following the invitation that Wednesday night, a beaming Pastor Phiri declared, “Billy Graham’s Gospel message is powerful and has touched the world. And now in Malawi, our country!”
My Hope Malawi was a collaborative effort between the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Evangelical Association of Malawi. More than 5,000 churches participated and nearly 50,000 homes across the country hosted evangelistic presentations attracting friends, relatives and neighbors. Programs featuring music, testimonies and compelling messages by Billy Graham and Franklin Graham were broadcast on national television and could be heard on radio. DVDs of the same programs were also shown, and in remote communities like Shadrick’s where electricity is non-existent, battery-operated projectors were used.
“It was a huge, huge honor for Malawi to launch My Hope in Africa,” said Patrick Semphere, national coordinator.
The Reverend Francis Mkandawire, general secretary of the Evangelical Association of Malawi, explained that My Hope helped “kick start” the process for the whole church to be mobilized for mission.
“My Hope has pushed the church in Malawi,” he said. “It’s like the whistle has blown for us to begin. This is exactly what we needed. Evangelism is alive!”
Proclaiming the Gospel was the focus of the project, especially out in the countryside, since 75 percent of Malawi is rural.
At one projector showing in Chiwoko Village, about 50 kilometers from Lilongwe, 78 people assembled, with 69 giving their lives to Christ–including two chiefs–one from the area and the other from the next village. The chief of Chiwoko Village invited Pastor Majomeka, the host for the showing, to plant a church in this area and help teach these new believers to grow in faith.
Children were not forgotten. Three hundred kids packed into a small church in Vitundu Village, 30 kilometers outside Lilongwe, to watch “The Greatest Gift of All,” a children’s DVD program that’s part of My Hope. The church was completely full, but children kept arriving. They crowded around the entrance and the windows, trying to get a glimpse of the program.
Soon they were crammed so tightly that they were preventing air from being circulated through the already sweltering church. Patricia, the pastor’s wife who organized the event, decided to take the most recent arrivals to the back of the church to await a second showing. In the end, both groups totaled about 600 children. Nearly 300 of them raised their hands to accept Christ.
In Kavuzi, an isolated hilly subsistence farming village of about 3,000 people outside of Nkhata Bay, 22-year-old Aleeny had no intention of attending the Thursday night My Hope television showing. Often displaying her tough demeanor, she was determined to stay home.
But as the 6:30 p.m. start time approached, Aleeny strongly sensed in her spirit someone urging her to be there. “You need to go, you need to go,” the voice said. “There will be something there for you.”
Aleeny quickly walked to the pastor’s house and was one of 18 people who crammed into the small living room to watch the telecast. She listened intently as Billy Graham preached about Jesus Christ’s death for the sins of the whole world. Aleeny wiped away tears as she for the first time considered the depth of God’s love for her. Aleeny received eternal forgiveness that night by surrendering her life to the Lord–as did 12 others.
“I used to fight with everyone, including my teachers, so I was expelled in secondary school,” Aleeny said. “Now I testify that after watching this program, my life has actually changed. I want to become more like Jesus and to live a godly life.”