About Yohane Mwandwanga
I was born in 1977 and was the youngest and only son in a family of five kids. My parents were devout Catholics and very poor. My father was an alcoholic and squandered his income on liquor. My mother brewed beer to try to support our family. She managed to send my eldest sister to school. Unfortunately, the year she finished college my mother died of cancer; I was six years old. My second born sister went mad and died as well. The following year my sister became a teacher, and married a God fearing husband. This eldest sister took care of us all. My third born sister then died of cancer. She was followed by my father and my fourth born sister who died of AIDS. My eldest sister and I are the only two remaining in our family.
My sister received Christ when she was at college and she liked telling me Bible stories. I developed a zeal for reading God’s word. I grew up as a quiet and shy guy and I cannot believe myself that I can stand before people now and talk. I repeated 8th grade 3 times because there are very few high schools and it is competitive to get in. After my 3rd attempt I was finally accepted.
My sister had nine children, and she had adopted me, and the son of my sister who died of AIDS. She received a very small salary and it was nearly impossible to support us all. I was now 17 years old. I begged my sister to provide me with a small amount of money so that I could start a business to raise enough money to pay for high school. I bought vegetables 17 km (10.5 miles) away on foot. I didn’t have time to be tired from the walk. I went from house to house selling vegetables, and by God’s grace I raised enough money this way to support myself through high school. I hardly went to school with any pocket money. I had enough to buy soap for the entire semester, and sometimes the soap ended before the end of the semester and I would bathe without soap and put on dirty clothes. I was too shy to beg from friends. Some gave me soap when they saw me with dirty clothes, but others hurled all sorts of silly jokes at me that my mouth and body stunk, which was sometimes true. It was during this time, at high school, when I received Christ as my Lord and Savior. A certain guy, who was a committed Christian, got interested in me, and encouraged me to become born again. He assured me that head knowledge of the scripture without Christ would never get me closer to God. He took me to his pastor to pray, and the pastor counseled me a lot and I grew strong in my faith in Christ Jesus. By God’s grace I finished my high school at the age of 21, but I didn’t qualify for University of Malawi; I missed two points to qualify. I qualified for African Bible College, but I didn’t have enough money to attend. About this same time I was robbed by a thief at knifepoint who stole all of my grocery money. I started to ask “Why me, Lord?”
The more I faced insurmountable mountains, the more I depended on God and called on the name of Jesus in my prayers. Some people, including relatives, encouraged me to see traditional doctors-sorcerers- to cast out the curse. This is a problem Malawians have; they depend on sorcerers when they have problems. These sorcerers provide charms, which they think will give them opportunities. But I stood my ground. My faith was absolutely immunized with the blood of Jesus and Word of God. The more they preached about their philosophies to me, the more I preached the Gospel to them, which was useless to them because they did not see any breakthroughs in my life which could act as a testimony. I assured them that if I failed to meet my needs on this planet, I had a hope that I would enjoy in heaven with the Lord Jesus who had granted the gift of salvation in my life, free of charge, and that I was rich in Him. Some mocked me, others understood me, and a few were saved.
I tried to search for jobs in town but it was in vain. I begged my sister the capital to start a business. She gave me K5000($28), and I went to the lake area in Salima. I didn’t know anyone there; I just went by faith. The first day I arrived I hardly understood the language of the people, because they speak Yao instead of Chichewa. The villages consist of mud and grass thatched houses, and everyone is Muslim. There were no churches around apart from the mosques. The world seemed to collapse around me, but I prayed for boldness. I sold fish but I never made very much money; but I refused to give up. I attended the ABC entrance exam for the second time, and I was picked by God’s grace, but I still did not have the money to pay the fees. I encouraged myself that what God had started He would bring into completion. I worked hard selling fish, and the harder it got, the more I depended on the Lord. One day I was cutting firewood from the bush, which was very far from shore and carrying it on my head to sell to the fishmongers who used it for drying fish. After I finished gathering firewood I said a prayer, and a huge, fierce looking man came out of the bushes at me with a dagger in his hand and threatened to kill me because I was on his turf. I begged for my life and he let me go.
I stopped going to the bush and ventured into another business of buying rice, pounding it with mortar and pestle, and cooking porridge to sell. My hands were full of blisters, but I persevered until I raised enough money for buying fish. I then decided to go to an island in Lake Malawi where the fishing is really good. I got to the dock and just missed the only boat that was going there. I was disappointed, but I prayed and read my Bible and felt peace in my heart. I slept at the dock that night and in the morning found out that the boat the night before had capsized. Many lost their lives, goods, and money. Had I been on board I would have died. The next day I went to the island and found a job cooking and carrying fish for the fishermen. It was really hard work but I used God’s Word to keep going. I did this for a few months and finally earned enough money for the 1st semester of African Bible College (which is $267). It had been 6 years since I graduated high school.
When school started, I got a job as a night guard. Sometimes I worked 4 nights in a row, but amazingly I never slept in class. God gave me the strength to stay awake. There was a certain professor whom students hated, because he treated the students unfairly. But to my surprise he got interested in me and asked me to do yardwork and guard his house. Whenever he saw me he would give me a drink or something to eat. He was really excellent to me and the other students were really surprised. When they asked me why he loved me like that, I just answered them that ‘God knows why.’ But after my 1st year he returned to the US. I started growing anxious, wondering how I was going to pay for school, and started praying. Right after that I ran into a friend who linked me up with someone from the US who offered to sponsor me to finish college. Shortly after that I heard they were looking for interpreters for people visiting from the US. It was my first time to be with a group of white people and I was nervous. But I had faith that God would help me to do His work and bring glory to Himself. That was how I came to meet you and I can see that it was by God’s grace that we met.
God does not make mistakes; He sent me to the lake for a purpose. When I was at the lake He protected me, empowered me with His word, filled me with Holy Spirit, and used me as a vessel to share the gospel with others. My church was the bush along the shore, where I could pray and read the Bible, since there were no churches apart from the mosques. The majority of the Yao people had nothing to do with worshipping God because they spent most of their time fishing, and used their money on alcohol and womanizing. Some Moslems gave their lives to Jesus after sharing the Gospel with them; I encouraged them to stay in the Lord, but I haven’t seen them since I left. They are like sheep without the Shepherd (Mat 9:36). Many churches in Malawi concentrate in towns, just preaching “give and you will get rich” gospels, and driving posh cars. My heart is grieved to see that no church is interested in reaching out to those Moslems with the Gospel. I believe that the fire goes where there is bush. I believe that my humble duty Jesus entrusted me with is simple: to preach the message of salvation. Whether the person gets converted or not it’s not my concern, because it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to convert people.
Nineteenth-century English preacher Charles H. Spurgeon said that we might preach until our tongues rotted, until we exhaust our lung and die – but never a soul would be converted unless the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convert it. Many people give up when they do not see any instant positive response from the lost souls. William Carey who saw a single convert after he stayed in India for seven years as a missionary always encourages me. He said, “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God”. I am ready to seize any opportunities to serve the Lord. I am hungry and starving to death to evangelize along the lakeshore, and set the lakeshore on fire with the power of the Gospel in Jesus name, making Jesus known to the Moslems as King and Savor. I wish I could plant a church there and be part of the team of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt 24:14; 28:18-20 & Acts 1:8). I need your prayers for this to come to pass.