Snapshots of Malawi #8 – “…but he’s a friend.”

July 29, 2021

One of the sweetest people we met in Malawi was an old man in his eighties, living by himself. When we visited, he was surrounded by local children who clearly loved him. I don’t know how to spell his name, so we’ll call him M.

As it turns out, M is pretty popular. He’s an imam at the local mosque. (The Muslim population in Malawi is relatively low, but there is a concentrated population near Zomba.) M also happens to be one of James’s good friends.

M’s house collapsed last year. He has no family and he’s 84, so he couldn’t rebuild it himself. The first person he went to for help was James—because they’re friends, and because James is safe and kind.

James hired someone to rebuild M’s house for free. He didn’t attach strings. He didn’t add caveats. He had the resources and the capability, so he acted.

When we visited M’s house to see the progress, James asked M if we could pray over his home. M had no grasp of English—but he knew enough about James to know we were praying to a God who wasn’t Allah. And still, he invited us in. He stood with us while we prayed over his home. He thanked us profusely.

James shared a bit about his friendship with M, saying they’ve known each other for years. “He is a Muslim,” James said, “…but he is a friend.”

Surprisingly enough, James also told us that he’s seen M at evening church services. “He sneaks in sometimes,” James said. “He listens to our prayers.”

Can you imagine people who don’t agree with us actually wanting to know the Jesus we follow? That’s the impact we should be having. People on the other side of the globe do it as naturally as breathing. We’d do well to learn it.

I wish I could tell you I remember M’s full name. But I do remember his smile and his twinkling eyes—and the way he kept saying, over and over again, “Zikomo, zikomo, zikomo.” Thank you, thank you, thank you.

James serves others lavishly, indiscriminately. It is counterintuitive to the polarization that has become so commonplace in the U.S. It felt like fresh air. It looked like Christ’s love.

He is a Muslim… but he is a friend. How often do we see people by their identifiers, rather than their humanity? Why is it so easy to classify people at face value instead of pursuing understanding?

What does it say about us—that we’re more willing to talk at people than we are to talk to them, to be with them? I keep coming back to it, all these weeks later.

What if we chose to be friends first? Wouldn’t it be spectacular?

(Choose friendship this week, this month, this year. Maybe it looks like child sponsorship for a kid you’ve never met. Maybe it looks like packing clothes with someone who voted differently than you. Or, it might just look like making cookies for your neighbor. If it makes our world better—not just your world—it’s a good thing.)

Grace & peace, all. Thanks for walking through these reflections with me.


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