More than a million Yao live at the southern tip of Lake Malawi and along its eastern shoreline. My heart is burdened for the advance of the gospel among this primarily Islamic tribe.

I learned their language, lived in the Yao homeland and preached the good news to them for 6 ½ years. Churches were planted, pastors trained and Yao literature developed. Currently about 80 percent of the Yao are Muslims. New mosques are being built as aggressive Islamic people seek to make converts from among Malawi’s highly Christianized society.

One day I was visiting a Muslim youth at his compound. He showed me his room, and on his bed were a number of Christian books. When I inquired concerning his interest in Christianity, he responded, “I borrowed these books from the library at our mosque. I’m studying them in order to be more effective at converting Christians to Islam.”

Encouraging Muslim men to marry Christian women and providing funds for business ventures are among the most widely used Islamic evangelism methods among the Yao. The Quran has been translated into Yao—a rather new adventure for Islam—in an effort to present Islamic doctrine at the heart level.

Learning to speak the Yao language was a definite advantage in introducing many to Jesus, the Savior. Reading from the Yao Bible and distributing Yao literature are effective tools in sharing one’s faith. 

Contextualizing the worship service (shoes off, women and men separated, sitting on the floor, using the Yao Bible, conducting all aspects of the meeting in the Yao language) was very helpful in discipling new converts but didn’t draw Muslims to our services. A Muslim once told me, “Attending your church is to me what committing adultery is to you.”

The best opportunities to share the gospel came when visiting the sick, praying for their healing and often watching God work a miracle. When death took a loved one, I often walked with the family to the cemetery, sat on the ground for a time of mourning and took my turn shoveling dirt to fill the grave. After seeing my concern, the family was willing to listen.

Frequently it was my privilege to relate events in my spiritual pilgrimage: background, accepting Jesus as Savior, seeing God perform miracles, receiving a call from Him for ministry in Africa, etc. I used this approach when meeting village chiefs as well as with families or individuals. Afterward, they in turn shared their own spiritual pilgrimage. This setting provided a clear contrast between the two faiths and stimulated a desire for change.