Early on Monday morning James and Brenda Nyondo rose, and washed. Brenda woke their infant son, and fed him while James loaded the ancient Land Rover. Gently she strapped him into his car seat before she and James took their seats for the long drive on treacherous roads into the mountains of Malawi.
As they drove past the hospital Brenda sighed. “James. Look. The nurses are still cooking outside. When will the kitchen be built?”
“Soon, my wife.”
James’ round dark face creased with concern as he noticed a witchdoctor hovering across the road from the hospital. Was he waiting for James to pass before venturing in?
James cast his mind back to his own childhood when his father, Mwenecheni, literally Chief of the Land, took him to worship the spirit of his people. It was his family’s duty to console bereaved families in their many villages. It always concerned young James that his father and all the elders would speak to the dead as if they were still alive. His father would tell the dead he had brought his son to mourn their passing. He would plead with them to welcome and acknowledge him. Then his father would address all the spirits of the dead grandparents in general and ask them to be with James.
“Amazimu gagalame,” James whispered, unthinkingly.
“What did you say?” asked Brenda — his Sotho speaking South African bride.
“Oh, it was something my father used to say. I hate it. It means, ‘the spirits should lie on their backs for me’. He used to tell me it was the most important Lambya prayer.”
Brenda reached over to touch James’ knee, “But you know that’s not true.”
Gratefully James squeezed her small brown hand with his, and briefly glanced over at his lovely wife. “No. I know better. I know Jesus is Lord and today we get to tell even more people the truth.”
Brenda put her head back on the headrest, praying that the jolting on the badly paved roads would lull her son into sleep. The dazzling African sun beat down, and the Land Rover kicked up red dust devils. Barefoot children on the way to their schools ran behind the Land Rover crying, “Mwenecheni, Mwenecheni!” They all recognized James as their leader. Brenda smiled to see their small faces radiate joy as they saw the man who brought hope — both immediate and eternal.
Slowly the town’s shanties fell away replaced by small clusters of villages and herds of cattle ushered by young men. Women looked up from their cooking and waved wildly. Brenda waved back because James was intent on keeping the Land Rover steady on the rutted road.
Finally, close to noon, the Nyondo’s pulled into a small kraal. From experience Brenda stayed in the vehicle, while James greeted the waiting tribal chief. “A good day to you Mwenecheni,” the chief greeted James.
“Good day to you. You are well?” James inquired, going through the required formalities.
“Yes,” responded the chief. “We heard you were coming. The drums informed us last night. Welcome to our village.”
James gestured to Brenda to bring little Mulisya and join him.
The chief led the Nyondo family to his hut where his first wife brought in ubughali, a thick maize porridge for his honored guests to enjoy. After the Nyondo’s ate their fill James spoke. “My fellow chief. I come to ask permission to speak to the village. We have brought gifts. We have food, clothing, books and a message.”
The chief leaned back in his chair, “Yes. I have heard of this message. It is of the white man’s God, Jesus. Why do you want to bring that racist to our people?”
Earnestly James leaned forward and explained how he had hated white people and their God until meeting a white couple who changed his life, and his focus. How he’d moved to South Africa to escape all that he’d learnt in Malawi, to escape his tribal duties. “But God brought me back for such a time as this.”
The chief nodded slowly. “Yes. You have permission to speak. I know you of old. I trust you and your wife to do right by your people. Wait here. I will call you when the villagers are assembled.”
The Nyondo’s clasped hands as they sat together in the empty hut. Quietly Brenda prayed before giving James’ hand one final squeeze. “Go and minister to your people.”
James Nyondo became a Christian after meeting a white couple in Johannesburg South Africa. He has preached the gospel all over Malawi, and he is a ‘king of the people’ by birth but also because he has personally ministered to many thousands. He has brought investors into this impoverished country and is supervising the reconstruction of schools and hospitals.
James Nyondo will take on the highest political office in Malawi in May 2009 when he becomes the prime minister. God pulled this young king from tribal worship to Him — to change the face of a nation.
You can read more about James at http://www.servantsofthenation.com/
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