Warm hearts: Jim Petik shares Bibles with children in Africa
for Tri-State Livestock News
On September 26, Jim Petik, a rancher from Keldron S.D., traveled to Malawi, Africa to hand out Bibles through Gideons International, a worldwide Christian organization whose mission is to win souls for Jesus Christ through gathering together in service and prayer, sharing personal testimonies and providing Scriptures to people throughout the world.
Jim became involved with the Gideons organization 20 years ago after his cousin asked him to join the organization. He had always been an avid church member throughout his life and it seemed a natural thing to give more of himself to the Lord. Part of his work with the local Gideons is trying to develop local members through speaking and presentations as well as distributing Bibles locally and worldwide.
Jim traveled to Ecuador in 2008 and Venezuela in 2010 distributing Bibles and he explained that the international blitzes put on by Gideons International are a type of saturation distribution where Gideons from around the world are sent to countries where the local Gideons do not have the resources to distribute the scriptures.
“The way it works is that you put your name on the list,” explains Jim. “And when they need someone for a distribution they call you. You don’t get to pick where you go and you usually go with a team of eight to ten other Gideons from around the world which can be a very eye opening experience.”
From Sept. 26 to Oct. 7, Jim was away from his home and ranch. He traveled Malawi, a small landlocked country in southeastern Africa and one of the poorest nations in the world. “I was pretty shocked having been to Ecuador and Venezuela,” states Jim. “I thought I was kind of prepared. However nothing prepared me for the type of poverty I would experience there.”
Malawi has a population of 18.6 million people in an area roughly the size of Pennsylvania. Jim’s home base was Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi with just over 1 million people. For the distributions they would usually travel an hour and half out into the country, near the Mozambique border and Mt. Mulanje, the third highest peak in Africa.
“We would drive down these little dirt roads, on what we would call a section line, and go by these little brick houses with three or four walls and a tin roof,” explains Jim. “We would then round a corner and see a school with 1,500 or 2,000 kids. Each of these classrooms would have 200 children in them with no lights or books and sitting on a cracked cement floor.”
The landscape of Malawi is dry and desolate with generations of slash and burn practises leaving the soil barren. “Good” farmground is scarce, and is used mostly in tea plantations that provide some jobs to the locals. “It’s heartbreaking to see people trying to survive on the land that is devoid of topsoil,” states Jim. “You can see that they just don’t have the luxury of a longer term plan because they are trying to survive day to day.”
Jim also saw livestock on his travels throughout Malawi. There were chickens that ran free, in the doorways of the school rooms and houses, and goats which made up a large portion of the people’s subsistence. “We did see a few livestock and any herd larger than 25 or 30 cows usually had a herder,” explains Jim. “I couldn’t see much of a feed source and the animals just kind of scavenged. Many locals would eat a type of root and sugar cane and you would see people on bicycles with large bags of grain on the way to a market.”
Yet through it all, Malawi has been known as the Warm Heart of Africa. Jim recalls how happy and joyous the people were and how welcoming they were to receive the scriptures. “The teachers and students were all so thrilled to have a testament and something that they could all have in common in which to read and teach out of,” states Jim. “The Bible was something of their own that they can write their name in and own which for someone who doesn’t have anything is really amazing.”
The country has never had a civil war and the people are known for being happy and welcoming despite the fact that many live in poverty. Jim explains how materially the people may be wanting but spiritually they are brimming with grace. “I even get choked up now thinking about it,” states Jim. “When you see the poverty that people have and then go to church and see how happy they are, the peace that they have and the way they support each other it is just amazing. God’s spirit is there administering to them and that is something we can learn from them.”
Traveling to Malawi and getting the chance to see the culture and experience the people was quite an incredible and unforgettable opportunity for a seasoned rancher from South Dakota. By traveling to a poverty stricken country and helping others find Jesus, Jim was given the opportunity to experience the wonderful and joyful people who make up the Warm Heart of Africa.
During Jim’s trip to Malawi, Gideons International distributed more than 30,000 scriptures. Since their inception, they have distributed more than 2 billion scriptures in more than 95 languages to 200 countries and territories around the world. For more information about Gideons International visit there website at http://www.gideons.org or contact Jim Petik at 605-374-5836.