Jon Witt talks about his recent venture into Malawi.
On this trip, I met several different people. One was a pastor called Asaph in Mzuzu, a large town in mid-Malawi. I also met with a guy called Joseph who had signed up for Journey. He lives in a place called Chilumba, which is on the side of Lake Malawi, about 150 kilometres north of Mzuzu - so in northern Malawi. I met some individuals up on the plateau in a place called Livingstonia, too.
With each person in the north, my aim was to introduce what we do and to help them think about reaching into the villages and the rural areas around them.
In some ways, it was about helping them establish a small, people-based mission to those parts. We do that by assisting locals to use the Journey resource and to run a ‘school’ with it in the different villages. In this way, the villagers then become missionaries themselves.
The Mzuzu meetings happened when I was on the way north, and that has worked out well. The discussion with our connections took place in a cafe in a little shopping mall and as a result Asaph has signed up again. With Joseph up in Chilumba, the discussions were at his house in a place called Uwelu, a very densely populated area up next to the lake.
To get up on the plateau, you climb 1,000 metres in just a few kilometres. It’s a death-defying drive. Up there, I picked up a guy called Mordecai, a friend of Joseph's, and it was he who introduced me to a man called Davies.
Also in the north, in a place called Karonga, I met a guy called Collex who's involved with an agricultural cooperative. He's a Christian who very much wants to try to use that network to lead people to know Jesus more and to deepen their relationship with God.
The work in Malawi links to what we’ve been doing in Zambia through language. In many areas of Malawi people speak Chewa, which is similar to some of the languages in Zambia. In northern Malawi, we are going to have to look at translating into Tumbuka.
The links I’m talking about here have come through Jen and Nick Riches, who are working as medical research doctors in Malongwe, at a research base near Colombo. Nick was staying there when I visited, and he was able to open up a couple of other things. The idea of going to Chilumba in the first place came from Jen and Nick’s relationships there, which partly came out of Nick’s work but also as a result of his uncle. This uncle, John, helps a village by assisting a rice-growing cooperative, and that existing structure has helped us to think about introducing Life Groups to the people there.
In terms of geography, the work we've done with people in Tanzania is happening only about 80 miles north and the work in northern Zambia isn't that far away either. In terms of logistics, north Malawi is further than those mileages would suggest, though.
Another area Jude and I met people in was Dzaleka refugee camp. We met a guy called Tresor and his wife Falon, and they lead the YWAM base there. There are 56,000 refugees. YWAM operates by people coming into their base whom they are able to have an effect on. What we were talking about with Tresor and Falon and their staff was establishing Life Groups in the camp and how these might have the ability to replicate.
Dzaleka camp isn’t a long way from the capitol, so it's in the centre, and I suppose the difference between the north and the centre is that the north was more about contacting people directly, whereas the centre is very much about connecting with a ministry like YWAM. So, the approach is different.
What we're saying to people in the north is “Why don't you and your friends do this?” And I suppose what we're saying to the people in the centre is “Look, you guys could make this happen. You know people who could be the ones who are going to reach out. Could you gather them together?”
So in the centre, it's slightly at one step removed, because we're trying to work with YWAM rather than directly with the people in that area. But what we're saying to people in both areas, whether they’re with an organisation or locals there on the ground is, “Can you reach out to the people around you and let us help you do that?”
I haven't heard back from Collex in the north yet, but he promised me he could try and get people together and run what's known as a Journey School, using the Journey resource, gathering people together to go through it for two or three months and train them to be missionaries in their own area.
Joseph has started that down at the lakeside in Chilumba. Connected with them are the guys up on the plateau, so there are some relationships there. Asaph in Mzuzu has a group of people who are starting to meet, and the guys at YWAM are considering how they may initiate things, too.
One of the things I'm trying to do in the next couple of weeks is to set up a WhatsApp call with all of these people and have a conversation about how they move forward and how they can help one another - just to see what works.
What I hope will happen there is that they will do the Journey course and that some of them will go onto plant Life Groups in their own locale, because the aim is that people are reached for Jesus in a way that's close to them and is community-led, but also that people are given practical help by their neighbours. These things can happen through people having Life Groups as well as some resources in order to be able to make a practical difference.
That's what I hope for eventually, but the next step will be that people will begin to run Journey Schools in different places. It would be brilliant, for example, if things could start up and grow in the refugee camp. The situation in it is very interesting. There are people from different nations who have been there for several years. There are churches in the refugee camp, but a lot of them have started up because people need employment, so believe it or not the churches in the camp are a form of employment. It's not particularly dynamic, though, so maybe we can try to introduce something there that is. The worry for me, the thing that always hampers initiatives, is people being distracted or not being able to plant something that’s going to directly benefit them. I hope they will be able to overcome that in Dzaleka.