Silver Service!


Silver Service:  Megumi and Helen Fazakerley who are celebrating 25 years of service with AEF/SIM Malawi this year

100 years after the Three Pioneers first arrived in Nigeria, two new missionaries arrived in Lilongwe! 29 May marked 25 years since Helen and Megumi Fazakerley came to Malawi to start their service for God in this country.

In the 20th Century, 29 May has had some notable events attached to it. In 1903, Igor Stravinsky’s ballet ‘The Rite of Spring’ was premiered in Paris and sparked a riot!

In 1942, Bing Crosby recorded ‘White Christmas’ which went on to be the best-selling Christmas single in history.

In 1953, [Sir] Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing became the first people to conquer Mount Everest.

In 1982, Pope John Paul II became the first Pontiff to visit Canterbury Cathedral.

And on 29 May 1993, Helen and Megumi Fazakerley came to Malawi to start what, until now, has been 25 years of faithful service to God and the people of this country.

For Helen, it was a return to her beginnings. For Megumi, it was an unexpected journey into the unknown.

“I was born in Malawi and lived here until I was five years old,” said Helen.

“My parents were living here at the time, so I was coming back to my roots. When I left Malawi with my parents, I returned to the UK where I did all my schooling and nursing training. But I always felt God was calling me back to serve Him in Malawi.”

Helen and Megumi met at Redcliffe College, a missionary training college which then was based in London. Helen had moved from Jersey where she had been working for six years as a nurse, and Megumi came from his home in Japan, first at Redcliffe to study a two-year course in the Bible and cross-cultural mission before going on to study for a Theology Degree at the London Bible College.

“I had always assumed that after the Bible college training, God would want me to serve Him in my home country of Japan,” he said.

“But then I met Helen. I knew that the call for her to return to Malawi was strong and so it became apparent to me that that was where I should be as well.”

When they arrived in Malawi in 1993, Helen and Megumi started work as church planters in Lilongwe. Their first assignment was to help develop the AEC Kawale which, since then, has been a centre for SIM Malawi missionaries.  But a meeting with the then General Secretary of AEC and Paul Barr, Team Leader for Africa Evangelical Fellowship (predecessor of SIM Malawi), led to a change in work.

“The GS and Paul both knew I had a Theology Degree, and the GS asked why I was not interested in teaching at Likubula Bible Institute (LBI, now known as Evangelical Bible College of Malawi or EBCoM),” Megumi remembers.

“I said I was very interested in that but had been told by the UK office of AEF that I would need a Master’s Degree which I did not have. Paul and the GS assured me that was not the case, so that led to my joining LBI.”

Growing family: Helen and Megumi’s first prayer card in 1993 (top) and one from 2008 now with all the family!

The change was not immediate, as they had not long since started their work in Church Planting and felt they needed to do more at Kawale. In the final year of that first term in Malawi, Megumi started to commute once a week to Blantyre to test the waters by teaching part-time at LBI.

Helen also got involved in LBI/EBCoM’s life. As she still had the youngest of their three children as a pre-schooler, she set up the nursery at the College for young children whose mothers were attending classes.

But when her children were finally all at school, she used her nursing skills to become a Nurse Provider working with the HOPE for AIDS programme. More recently, she has been working as the Member Care and Health Co-ordinator for SIM Malawi.

In many ways, Helen and Megumi’s 25 years in Malawi can be summed up by the 19th Century French proverb ‘plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose’ – ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’! For Helen the changes have been on a very practical, everyday level.

“Starting out, when I used to make a grocery list, I would put maybe 20 items on it and I would have to go to several shops in town and to the local market; even so I would only be able to get maybe a quarter or a third of the ingredients or the produce that I needed and that would be very frustrating,” she said.

“I had to learn to shop in a different way, buy what you are able to get. But now, when I make my grocery list I can get almost everything, so that has really changed.”

But for Megumi, apparent changes in Malawian life hide problems below the surface.

“In a town setting, there are more flashy things; cars, cell phones, computers, laptops and tablets and all kinds of things,” he said.

“So, on the surface those things are very visibly different from a long time ago; therefore, people’s aspirations for life seem to have risen. People want more things and they aspire to more things and higher.

“But below that, under the skin of those changes, basic life for the people is totally the same. Unchanged from 25 years ago. We still have the same problem of health, the problem of lack of education ,and still have the problem of the Church not meeting the needs of the people. So, underneath not much has changed really.”

Despite all of this, Helen and Megumi would do it all over again if they had their time over. Well, almost!

“I hope I would not have to do it again because I am tired! But I can say we have no regrets in what we have done so, yes, we would do it again, I would think,” said Megumi.

Helen echoed those sentiments: “For me, it has been a wonderful place to raise children. It is so diverse and international and, being in a cross-cultural relationship ourselves, it has just felt like a place where we could be at home and belong.

“So yes, no regrets,” she said.

As we in Malawi prepare to celebrate 125 years since the founding of SIM, we locally celebrate the Silver Jubilee of two valued members of the team and their work for AEF and SIM Malawi. Congratulations to the Fazakerleys, and here’s to the next 25 years!