Mennonite Brethren Church in Malawi

AROUND THE WORLD: Getting to know the Mennonite Brethren Family

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MB Malawi has grown from a church planted at a refugee camp to a conference of 69 churches, including Malovu Mission. Photo: MB Malawi

 

In March 2023, the International Community of Mennonite Brethren (ICOMB) called the global community to support and pray for those affected by Cyclone Freddy. This exceptionally long-lived, powerful and deadly storm travelled the southern Indian Ocean for more than five weeks in February and March, killing at least 1,434 people, with 1,200 deaths recorded in Malawi.

Shadreck Kwendanyama, chair of the Mennonite Brethren Church in Malawi (MB Malawi) says people were left without daily essentials—food and clothing as well as houses, crops and animals. Infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, was destroyed by the devastating floods.

In an email to the CL, Kwendanyama reports that 3.74 million people will be affected by hunger in the coming year due to Cyclone Freddy. “Everything was washed away, and there is also an inadequate harvest in most parts of the country,” he says. “In the north there were dry spells due to climate change. The whole church in Malawi is affected.”

Kwendanyama sent two videos that offer a first-hand glimpse of the destruction Cyclone Freddy caused. Links are found at the bottom of this post.

Kwendanyama thanks God for disaster relief aid from the government and others. “But it is not enough,” he says. “Our sister churches were completely affected and as a country it has affected us directly and indirectly, especially economically. It has affected children’s education as well as family businesses. People will need short- and long-term intervention to survive. This is our daily prayer.”

MB Malawi hosts regular training sessions for pastors so that in three years, pastors can complete the 18-module courses facilitated by ICOMB. Photo: MB Malawi

MB Malawi Conference goals

MB Malawi, which currently numbers 69 churches and 19,945 members, was born in 2009 when Safari Bahati Mutabesha from DR Congo began a church in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Today, MB Malawi has grown beyond the refugee camp to 10 additional districts in Malawi.

MB Malawi seeks to plant holistic churches that transform people into followers of Jesus Christ through the power of Holy Ghost and that grow as a community of grace, joy and peace so that healing and hope will flow to the world

Church planting is done through door to door evangelism, open air meetings, Bible study groups, discipleship trainings and by sending missionaries locally and internationally, currently to DR Congo and Mozambique.

The main objective is to develop and provide counseling and conflict resolution in the community, services and activities that address and alienate the affects and poverty utilizing creativity, mentoring and entrepreneurship as tools to engage and empower disadvantaged people and communities.

Kwendanyama lists five goals for MB Malawi and offers additional information on efforts to meet these goals.

  • Capacity building of 100 leaders in the next three years who will be trusted to plant vibrant holistic churches in all areas we are operating inside and outside Malawi.
  • Establish a full-time Bible college, a good primary school and high school in the next 10 years.
  • Ensure that there is food security through irrigation and rain-fed farming for church farmers
  • Promote health, sanitation and hygiene through Eyeglass MENNO Clinic and hygiene and sanitation activities.
  • Peace building and gender-based violence prevention.
Pastor Safari, front, leads a recent training session. Photo: MB Malawi

Leadership training

Ongoing leadership training for church leaders is a priority. MB Malawi wants to be strategic as a Bible college because many pastors do not have Bible school training. Twice a year, MB Malawi conducts mission leadership training in different aspects of life. It is a three-year program. Pastor Safari and other leaders from Canada provide the training.

MB Malawi also educates women and the youth to carry on other duties of the church.

Children at one of the refugee camp schools with their relief kits of school supplies. Photo: MB Malawi

Nursery and primary schools

Currently MB Malawi operates two primary schools outside Dzaleka camp. One is for grades one and two and the second for grades one to seven. In the area of early childhood development, churches are encouraged to have one nursery school. This makes a total of around 2,000 learners in both primary and nursery schools.

Food security

MB Malawi is promoting drip irrigation technology through demonstration gardens where farmers are trained so that they can replicate what they have learned into backyard gardens for individual families through a pail kit system of irrigation. Using three demonstration gardens, more than 300 farmers have been trained in pail kit farming. Only 45 farmers, including the farmer pictured above, have received pail kits. Through a food security program, MB Malawi is also providing safe portable water.

Village Savings and Loans (VSL) is a concept that promotes a culture of saving while also encouraging members to develop a small business as part of food security. Ten women who have VSL training established seven village savings groups with a membership of 105. They have saved a total of $1,456 within six months.

 Health, water and sanitation

MB Malawi is promoting hygiene and sanitation activities through capacity building of village health committees, water points committees and volunteers. Currently the project is serving over 1,800 households from three boreholes drilled in demonstration gardens in an effort to reduce water borne diseases. Each household contributes $0.50 a month to sustain the water project.

MB Malawi also provides essential drugs, when available, to mothers and children under five.

For four years, MB Malawi has been operating MENNO Eyeglass Clinic, a fully licensed clinic currently selling eyeglasses for $6. This raises a maximum revenue of $40,500 which helps MB Malawi run the day-to-day affairs of the denomination’s different projects.

This clinic opened incredible doors with One Sight, which runs projects in the refugee camp with MB Malawi as their principal partner.

“This not only brings in an income, it also gets our church people free access to medical eye care,” Kwendanyama says. “We were the first clinic in the world run under this system that has now seen over 300,000 eyeglasses be distributed, all done by local workers for the local population. It enables us to sustainably help our community, create jobs and bring much needed health care to our community.”

Kwendanyama reports the exact same glasses they sell are sold in the capital for over $120 a pair, not including the eye exam.

 

A Sunday school choir at Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Photo: MB Malawi

Prayer requests:

  • Pray for the grace to plant vibrant churches and for more open doors, especially to unreached groups in Islam-dominated areas.
  • Pray for transportation. Their van was involved in a fatal accident, and ministry without a vehicle is very hard.
  • The conference lacks a public address system which is needed in evangelism efforts to plant more churches.
  • MB Malawi has grown very fast because of mission leadership training. Leaders want to build a guest house to accommodate short term students who currently sometimes sleep on a bare church floor for the one- to two-week training sessions.

Did you know?

    • Malawi is 1,000 years old. Present-day Malawi was initially inhibited by the migrating Bantu group in the 10th century. In 1891, the British colonized the region and it became a British protectorate with the name Nyasaland. In 1953, it became a semi-independent protectorate in the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. However, the Federation was dissolved after just a decade. The protectorate ended in 1964, and Nyasaland became an independent nation under Queen Elizabeth II. It was renamed Malawi and became a republic two years later. 
    • Around 85 percent of the Malawian population live in rural areas, with tobacco and tea among the top exports. While tobacco sales account for half of its total exports, Malawi is also famous for its tea production. Only Kenya produces more tea than Malawi. There is a wide variety of tea in Malawi including white, black, green and special hand-made teas unique to the country.

      Photo: Getty Images
    • How often do you see a landlocked country with plenty of water? Lake Malawi accounts for one-fifth of the country’s total area. Lake Malawi contains the largest number of fish species in any lake in the world, including a vast array of Cichlids, virtually all of which are endemic to the lake. These Cichlids are globally popular as aquarium fish, because of their bright colors. Lake Malawi is nicknamed Calendar Lake because it is 356 miles long and 52 miles wide. Also, 12 major rivers flow into this lake. 
    • Malawi is one of the 50-plus countries to never win an Olympic medal.
    • The official language in Malawi is English. Malawian languages are also spoken, including Yao, Elomwe, Chewa and Tonga.
    • In Malawi, you cannot only spot The Big Five large game animals (the African lion, African leopard, African elephant, white or black rhino and cape buffalo), but you also get to see The Little Five. These little creatures include Leopard Tortoise, Buffalo Weaver, Rhino Beetle, Ant Lion and Elephant Shrew.

Videos of Cyclone Freddy destruction

 

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