Focus Article: BRAZIL MINISTERS WITH MUSIC IN AFRICA (Sabbath Recorder, June 2018)

Two Brazilian musicians were confronted with the prospect of going to Africa to share their talents with SDB young people in Malawi while waiting for flights leaving the Seventh Day Baptist World Federation meetings in January of 2017 . The Miranda family had just finished serving as musical worship leaders for WF at Quatro Barras—but the father, Luis, and daughter, Cristiane, were both excited by the prospect of going and sharing their gifts to train others in music so that those young adults might have skills and confidence to lead the worship of African congregations.

When their relatives and church brethren in Brazil found out about the opportunity the Mirandas were offering to partner, they began praying and generously providing support for the mission. The Missionary Society came alongside giving advice and promoted the mission in other countries, providing additional prayer and financial support from around the world.

Cristiana wrote the following in her report after the 50-day mission in August and September of 2017:

There is a Malawian slogan that states they are “the warm heart of Africa.” This is how the country presents itself. I have always thought that slogans are, mostly, just empty words. Beautiful words, I recognize, but empty when they do not reflect reality and are nothing more than an expression of desire.

However, this is not the case of Malawi. The welcoming Malawian heart is real, it beats strongly, and it was felt intensely from the moment of our arrival at the Chileka airport in Blantyre, where SDB brothers and sisters welcomed us with such sincere enthusiasm and overflowing joy that it felt as if we were returning home.

Our apprehensive but confident hearts joyfully joined in with theirs, and that same joy was experienced throughout the 50 days in which we shared—and realized—the difficult dream they dared to dream.

Malawi is considered to be the sixth poorest country in the world. In Malawi, you can get very ill from simply drinking a glass of water from the tap—not to mention the many houses that do not even have a tap, forcing many women and children to set out on long journeys on foot and to carry back buckets of polluted water over their heads.

Generally speaking, Malawians have little money to buy food and even less money for the luxury of bottled water. The majority of Malawi’s population suffers from thirst, hunger, and lack of medical attention. They also lack the basic guidance and instruction that teaches simple things like boiling water before drinking.

What they do not lack, and actually have in abundance, is joy and gratitude. For those who think that the people of Malawi have nothing to offer have not had the opportunity to be greeted by them at an airport and live with their smiles for a few days. “The warm heart of Africa” is not just a catchphrase—it is word made flesh.

The challenge of being in a faraway country, using a foreign language to teach music in such a short time to thirty young people that had never had contact with instruments before, may seem folly—and maybe it is for those of little faith.

We were, on the other hand, confident the mission would be positive. However, what we experienced with them, through the harsh reality of their everyday lives, from north to south in their mountainous territory—in the only mode of transport that the church has in the entire country and which must have seen better days—being witness to the huge and heart-touching effort of the SDB members with those youngsters, who tirelessly strove to learn, was much more intense and profound than my father and I could have ever imagined—and way beyond positive.

Today, these 30 SDB youngsters are trained in musical theory and singing techniques; some playing the flute, others percussion instruments, guitar, keyboard, electric bass, trumpet, and violin. They are also equipped and, for the most part, motivated to worship the Lord and spread the word of God through music and through teaching what they have learned to more and more brothers and sisters.

I believe that music does not get people together, but it fills spaces between them, regardless of distance. For those who have God in their hearts, this closeness is not measured, it is felt.

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!”Psalm 95:1

By Clinton R. Brown and Cristiane Miranda

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