New contexts - New challenges


Bob and JoAnn Burdette

The shores of Lake Malawi and the mountains between it and neighbouring Mozambique are home to the Yawo people group. Some live in towns such as Salima and Mangochi, but many live in diverse small villages where they eke out a subsistence living.

The mountains above Mangochi will soon be home to an Ethiopian couple who are coming to SIM Malawi to work as church planters to the Yawo in a village in that area, under the ‘Missionaries from New Contexts’ project. They will be looked after by Bob and JoAnn Burdette who are on their second term in Mangochi.

Liaison work

Bob and JoAnn returned to Mangochi in January 2014 after an absence of several years; they have come back as Church Planting Supporters. Their priority at present is to help prepare the ground for the Ethiopians who are due to arrive in Malawi in October.

“There is a lot of work to do, liaising with SIM Malawi, SIM East Africa, the sending church in Ethiopia, the local village ‘Chief’ and the Traditional Authority (TA)* and making sure that we are able to meet everyone’s requirements,” said Bob.

Entrance to a typical Yao village, similar to that in which our new colleagues will livein 

Exciting times

It is an exciting time as this will be the first time that SIM Malawi has accepted missionaries from within the African continent to come and work in the country.

As they prepare to welcome their new colleagues, Bob and JoAnn are getting used, once again, to life back in Malawi in general and Mangochi in particular. So what is the biggest difference they have found this time round compared with their first time in Malawi? JoAnn sums this up in one word: “unity”.

“There are a number of people and organisations working in and around Mangochi with the Yawo people,” she said.

Unity and support

“What we have found since we came back is that there is a real unity between all of them to make sure we bring God’s word and God’s love to this people group. This was not necessarily the case when we were here first time round.

Access to the remote areas can be a problem!

“We have a fellowship group that regularly meets and this is a great encouragement for all. We are able to share problems and joys, to pray for each other and just to be a support as the areas we are working in can be isolated and difficult – even Mangochi Township itself.”

Looking ahead to the immediate future, Bob and JoAnn are looking forward to the arrival of their new colleagues and to time back in the USA in early 2015. They are also looking and praying for someone to come in and take over their work.

Mangochi base

“Our aim is to be able to get things set up but then to be able to hand the work over to someone who is younger!” said Bob.

“The work needs someone based in Mangochi for many reasons; not least, the village our colleagues are going to be working in is over an hour’s drive from Mangochi Township. So if, for example, there is a medical problem we need someone ‘on hand’ to be able to help out.

The view back to Mangochi

Pass the baton

“We are sure that someone is being prepared by God to come and pick up the baton from us and we are encouraged to know that SIM will never leave its missionaries out on their own, no matter where they are, and that is so important in this context.”

The new SIM Malawi project ‘Missionaries from New Contexts’ is an exciting development and the work among the Yawo people promises to be a vital part of the work of the organisation. We will update through Malawi Amoto as the project develops.

SIM Malawi’s work with the Yawo people is supported by:

roject  MW 96755 Missionaries from New Contexts










* The position of ‘Chief’ is more like a village head man or woman. Above them is a group head man or woman who oversees a group of village heads. Above the group head is the Traditional Authority (TA) who oversees a grouping of groups.


The TA is appointed from within the tribal groupings and, while not a direct government appointee, does work with the Government on matters affecting the area over which s/he has authority.



Volume 2: Issue 2
Webpage icon Malawi Amoto Editorial
Webpage icon Go and make disciples of all nations
Webpage icon ‘The challenges and rewards of missionary life’
Webpage icon Preparation for new challenges