Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Tracie Mitchell
Staff Writer 

Malawi mission changes Cowboy Preacher forever


July 20, 2018

COURTESY/James Scott

James Scott, the cowboy preacher, talks to a group of children during his mission to Malawi, Africa June 13.

WORLAND – When Shell Cowboy Church pastor James Scott, known as the Cowboy Preacher, left on June 13 to go on a three week mission trip to Malawi, Africa, he knew that he would be going to a poor country. What he didn't realize was that the people he was going to share the Gospel with were struggling to survive with next to nothing, yet were still happy.

About six years ago Scott met a man named Jimmy May in Sturgis, South Dakota. "He's asked me to go to Africa for the last four years. This is their 15th year of going, which will be their final year. It's always kind of been overlapping one of our other ministries but this year the junior high national finals is going to be in South Dakota and I have a guy who is going to run that, so that alleviates me from having to go over there. That was in the same timeframe, so I told Jimmy I might make it to Malawi. Once we started looking into it, the Lord opened up the doors and it just really seemed like that's where I was supposed to go for those three weeks," Scott said. "The people I went with, they have seen over 200,000 salvations in 14 years. They are reaching the lost. These people are so hungry for the word [of God]," he added.

"If you are a born again believer, I believe God is calling each one of us to go and share the good news. To a cowboy from Wyoming, I felt like I was at the end of the earth, even though I wasn't. I got to see things I've never seen before. I got to see what it looks like to have nothing but to still enjoy life at such a simple pace. They do the same things every day, they go down to the lake, wash their dishes, wash their clothes, take a bath, go back and feed their family. It's the same routine every day. Go to market, they try to make things and sell things. They are just trying to survive," Scott said. "We were able to give them what they need to experience salvation, which is by far the most important aspect in life that they need," he added.

Knowing that the people were poor, Scott brought a lot of things to give away to the people. He stated that his suitcase contained 51.5 pounds of stuff and, when he left to return home he only had the clothes on his back. He even gave away his cowboy hat to his interpreter.

"Someone asked me why I gave all my stuff away and I said, "You know, I don't care who you are, if you live in America, you can go and replace anything and everything you brought over there, stuff wise and they don't have anything. It was a lot of fun to be able to give a lot of stuff away. We gave away a lot of hats, we gave away crosses, we gave away jewelry, reading material, clothes. A lot of them don't have very good stuff, a lot of ratty, holey kind of stuff. To be able to give someone stuff like that, they feel like you're giving them a million dollars and you it's just like I will go buy another pair of pants when I get home, you take this," Scott explained. "If I could have come back with less, I would have but they would kick you off the airlines," he added.

Scott explained that one of the ladies in his group told him how her heart was broken during an exchange with one of the Malawi women. She said that one of the African women asked her, "Do all Americans have more than one set of clothes?" She replied, "Well, yeah." The African women asked, "Do all Americans have more than two sets of clothes?" She replied, "Well, yeah." The African woman stated, "Most of us only have one set of clothes."

Scott stated, "It really makes us realize how much stuff we have. We have more stuff than we will ever need. You can take the brokest person in Worland and they have 100 times more than what somebody over there would have. Most of those people over there live on less than a dollar a day. Less than a dollar a day, it blows your mind."

The huts that the people live in are very sparse and are used mainly for sleeping. "Most of the huts had a bamboo ceiling; some of them had a tin roof. Some had a concrete floor, others just had dirt floors . Not much in it, two to three rooms. Goats walked in and out, chickens walked in and out, ducks walked in and out. They basically just sleep in there, they don't do anything else. All the cooking is done outside. The women cook typically about two meals a day. The men, they pretty much got it made; they fish, that is their job. That is really the only thing that the men do," Scott said.

Proper etiquette in Malawi is much different than in America when it comes to visiting someone in their home. "It's kind of funny they don't walk up to a hut and just knock on the door, they stand outside and the say 'odee,' I don't know what it means but I'm guessing hello, and that's how they communicate. You don't just walk up to someone's door, you stand out in their dirt yard and they ask if we could come talk to them. Most of the time, only one time did someone say no, they find a chair or stool and they bring it from inside and they find you a piece of shade somewhere and they sit down and you sit down with them. The interpreter tells them, that we want to tell them about God and they are just like 'tell me,'" Scott explained.

Scott found himself surrounded with children who wanted nothing more than to hold his hand and walk with him and hear about Jesus. "I absolutely loved the kids. You can't imagine walking down the street in Worland and have a group of kids come up and grab your hands and just walk with you. It happened all the time. The first time these two little girls just grabbed my hand and just walked with me and we walked about 100 yards or 200 yards maybe and I am like, ' Don't they need to go back?' My interpreter said, 'They will go back when they want to go back.' They just walk with you, it was amazing, they were so warm. The thing about where we were at; they have nothing, but they were so content with what they had," Scott said. "They weren't worried about the everyday stuff, they were very content people and then they got to add joy on top of that when they accepted Jesus," he added.

The relationships between men and women in Malawi are much different than in America. Scott stated that for the most part the men stay with the men, the women stay with the women and the children stay with the children. "I saw almost zero affection between a man and a woman," Scott said.

For example in church the women sit together on one side, the men sit together on the other and the children sit together in-between. "When you are up there preaching it is kind of odd seeing they are all kind of segregated by themselves. It's not unusual for church services to last three to four hours long. I have never worshipped like how they worshipped. They sing like we have never sung. They pray wonderful, their offering, I tell you what. I'm going to try it someday. We pass a plate or have a plate in the back and that's not the way they do it there. One person gets up and stands where the preacher would preach and they get up and joyfully bring down their penny, nickel or quarter or whatever it might be and they put it into the plate. I'm not talking for, five or 10 of them, I'm talking 200, 300, 400 of them. It was unbelievable. They are giving back something and they don't have much and yet each person is walking down that aisle and giving something," Scott said.

Scott feels blessed to have been able to go on the mission even though the trip to Malawi required 21 hours on a plane, nine hours in a van and eight hours in a small boat. Scott stated that the missionary team was blessed but God gets all the glory.

This is part 1 of a two-part series on James Scott's mission trip. See Saturday's Northern Wyoming Daily news for part 2.


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