Serving pastors in the midst of destruction

Tropical Storm Ana destroyed many homes and church buildings. Pastors and students need encouragement right now.

I started this prayer update a couple of weeks ago. The first draft was very different from what you will read below. The reason for this change was Tropical Storm Ana, which hit Malawi and Mozambique on January 24–25. After hitting Madagascar and crossing the Mozambican Channel, Ana pounded us with 48 hours of heavy rain followed by strong winds.

Many houses and church buildings were destroyed in the combination of flooding and wind, and it will be some time before we evaluate the full extent of the damages since parts of the country remain cut off due to washed out roads and continued flooding.

Below is a picture shared with me from the Lower Shire region. It is the wife and children of one of our Shepherds Academy students, Stewart. While Stewart was studying here in Zomba, one side of his family’s home collapsed. They were able to seek shelter in a neighbors home, but then that home collapsed as well.

While the government and large aid organizations are setting up camps and providing for large-scale needs, we plan on responding to some of the specific needs of the pastors and students that we serve.

During the month of February, we will host our first modular pastor training of the year. We hope to meet with the pastors of the Lower Shire during February 13–17, and the pastors near Zomba during February 20–24. We plan on giving each pastor a bucket containing gifts like rolls of plastic for the temporary repair of homes, soap to help with sanitary issues, as well as replacement Bibles and songbooks since many lost theirs in the flooding. We hope that these gift buckets will be a tangible symbol of our love for them.

If you’d like to support this project, you can give to our pastor training fund. $20 will fund a gift bucket for one pastor, and we expect to serve around 170 pastors.

Preparing students for trials

While being concerned about many of their families, Shepherds Academy students remained in Zomba to complete their January term, in part because it has not yet become safe for them to travel home.

During this term, Isaac continued his Bible survey course through the prophets. I taught Preaching and Inductive Bible Study of 1 Peter. First Peter, especially, prepared students for the trials that many are now facing, reminding us not to be surprised when trials come (1 Pet 4:12).

One highlight of the term was that we added a recent graduate to our team for the first time: Patrick Matope. Patrick graduated with distinction in June. He was already serving as a pastor and church planter before ever starting at Shepherds Academy. With his excellent experience as both a student and a pastor, we asked him to serve our current students as Director of Student Discipleship. Patrick shepherds the students during their study and chore times in the afternoon, but more importantly he seeks to help each student grow deeper in their relationship with Christ.

When God first burdened me with a vision for Shepherds Academy, it was always for something that would be more than a school. It would be a place for true discipleship. We aren’t merely concerned with our student’s grades, but with their character and walk with Christ. Patrick is helping us to strive toward that ideal, and the fact that we have a graduate of Shepherds Academy able to fill this position now is even more encouraging.

Preparing our family for visiting the US

In other news, in June this year we will, Lord willing, go on our first furlough (also called stateside assignment). We will be in the US for seven months to visit our supporters and make up for some lost time with family. Earlier this month, the Lord provided us with a home to live in during our time in the US, as well as a car for me to drive. Nevertheless, there are still several necessary expenses that need to be covered, from travel expenses to a minivan for the family. 

If you or your church are interested in meeting some of these specific needs, you can email me for an overview. If you’d like to give toward our furlough needs, you can now do so by giving toward the furlough fund either online or through the mail.

God has also prepared the way for me to speak at many of your churches while we are in the US. You can now view my schedule online. While I only have 1 Sunday morning still available, you can still contact me about speaking at one of your evening services or other meetings. Stacy is available too, especially for women’s groups.

Please pray for our family during what can be a very stressful but also very important time.

Picture of Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens

Joshua Hutchens (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the president of Gospel Life as well as Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Missions at Overland Church in Fort Collins, Colorado. With a heart devoted to spreading the gospel, Joshua, alongside his wife Stacy Leigh and their five children, dedicated six years to serving in Malawi before returning to the United States, where he continues to lead Gospel Life.

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