What sharing the gospel looks like in Malawi
To an outsider, Malawi seems like a country full of opportunities to serve. It regularly ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world by gross domestic product. HIV/AIDS, malaria, and poor access to clean drinking water all contribute to an average life expectancy of just over 60 years.*
But Malawi is also a place of unparalleled beauty. The people are welcoming and kind. Their history is mostly peaceful. And 77% of Malawians are Christian.
Combine all these factors and you’ll find no shortage of non-governmental organizations (NGO) working in Malawi. In fact, there are over 500 registered NGOs in the whole country. From nonprofits focusing on agricultural aid to religious organizations caring for orphaned children, there’s no shortage of “help.”
Which then begs the questions:
- What does effective help really look like?
- Who gets to decide what help is actually needed?
- And how can we help share the gospel if so many people already know Jesus?
What does effective help look like?
We at Kingdom Workers choose to work alongside locals already doing great things in their community. Together we determine what kind of help is needed and how we can best use the resources in the area to create sustainable solutions.
We never arrive at a village and assume we know best. We listen and seek to understand the concerns, challenges, and dreams of the people who live there.
We do this because the people who face challenges know what is needed to overcome them. God has given each and every one of us a unique skillset to help build His kingdom here on earth. By working alongside each other, communities are blessed physically and spiritually.
When people are first introduced to Kingdom Workers they come with questions and expectations about the way we operate. Accustomed to “handouts,” they sometimes think our volunteers are withholding resources from them. But over time, their distrust fades as they witness Kingdom Workers Malawi volunteers work tirelessly to help people and share the word of Jesus across communities. Trust replaces skepticism as local community members recommend our programs to their friends and family.
Kingdom Workers volunteers provide home-based care to children with disabilities while teaching parents how to continue therapy during the week.
Take Idah and Chrisy. Idah lost use of one of her legs due to polio as a child. And Chrisy lost both of her legs because of burns from a fire. The chief of their village realized that Idah and Chrisy would benefit from the disability ministry, so he connected them to two Kingdom Workers volunteers, Tsanzo and Billy.
This connection happened because of the good reputation the Lutheran Church of Central Africa (LCCA) and Kingdom Workers have for bringing lasting help to communities.
So, what does effective help look like?
It’s help for the long-term. Help that improves a physical challenge. Help that sparks the confidence that was hiding in the person the whole time. Help that educates and delegates, so that people have the tools and boldness to continue on their own. Help that shows and tells someone how valuable they are.
Who gets to decide what help is needed?
Local volunteers are truly the reason the disability ministry is able to have the reach that it has. Without local knowledge and relationships, Kingdom Workers would have no way of knowing what the physical and spiritual needs of people are.
In Salima at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, local volunteers met Andrew Chimbowa who had a referral from the local hospital to receive a wheelchair in Lilongwe.
Wanting to help, local volunteers asked Kingdom Workers to assist in funding the family’s transportation and we gladly helped. Local volunteers then checked in with Andrew to see how he was growing and how his skills were developing. As friendships were formed, the gospel message was shared naturally.
Eventually, Andrew and his parents joined the Lutheran church. And Andrew was baptized by Pastor Magombo in 2020.
In another instance, volunteers helped connect us to a young child named Cynthia. Cynthia had been living in a locked room, hidden away by her parents for fear of what the community might do if they discovered her. Kingdom Workers volunteers showed up at Cynthia’s home and offered to help Cynthia and introduced the family to Jesus.
Shortly after volunteers began working with Cynthia, the Holy Spirit moved her parents to enroll the whole family in confirmation classes and Cynthia was baptized. Sadly, Cynthia passed away, but she had been given the gift of knowing Jesus and knowing human compassion. We rejoice that she is in heaven with her Savior!
On our own, Kingdom Workers wouldn’t have known to reach out to Cynthia’s family and we wouldn't have heard that Andrew was in need of transportation assistance. We are grateful for all of the connections we have through the work of our local volunteers.
A group of Kingdom Workers local volunteers from Holy Trinity Lutheran church in Malawi. Second in from the left is Chifuniro Fanuel and fourth in from the left is Mr. Tsanzo.
How can we share the gospel if so many people already know Jesus?
If you are not actively moving forward in your faith, then you’re moving backwards. There is no such thing as a stagnant faith.
With 77% of Malawians identifying as Christian, that still means we have over 20% of people who don’t know Jesus and 77% to continually encourage and support. And many of those people who need support also live with disabilities.
A sad fact is that people with disabilities in Malawi are often overlooked by churches and communities in their area. Sometimes this is because of the stigmas that surround their condition, and other times it’s because it is difficult to provide adequate care. We do whatever we can to reach these individuals with God’s love.
Through Worship at the Cross, we make it easy for people of all ability levels to connect with Jesus. Diligent volunteers travel from village to village to conduct worship and witness their faith to waiting ears. And program participants are given a spiritual support system and an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work in their hearts, be it strengthening or creating faith.
Wondering what happened with Idah and Chrisy after they joined the disability ministry? Both women had been going to church but stopped because they couldn’t make the more than four-mile round trip. They hadn’t been to church in years.
Volunteers Tsanzo and Billy offered to take them to worship services using bikes provided by Kingdom Workers donors. Idah has now finished adult instruction courses and Chrisy will finish hers soon.
It’s not just the stories of redemption that keep us working, but also the rekindled and reunion stories.
One of the greatest blessings of working alongside local community members is seeing how they uplift and encourage one another in the Spirit. We share the gospel all day long, but to see locals preaching to their neighbors about who God is and what Jesus has done for them is incredible. This is what makes it possible for our work to be sustainable. When local people are committed to the work we are doing and enthusiastically participate in leadership and volunteer roles, more people are impacted by God's love for generations to come.
And we need that same kind of energetic commitment to sharing God's love to happen all around the world, even where you live. No matter what your job is, where you go to school, or what stage of life you are in, you can be a blessing to your neighbors through acts of kindness and by speaking God's love and truth.
Dan Tyrrell is the Africa Field Manager for Kingdom Workers and has lived in Malawi for the past five years. Dan and his wife have a passion for ministry and greatly enjoy the opportunity to work alongside the amazing team of local staff and volunteers in Malawi. When not working, the family of five enjoys exploring Malawi and coming back to the United States to visit with friends and family.