Hills of the North rejoice!


The In-Depth Training Course is supported by SIM Malawi project #MW96653 *Mthenga Wabwino (*Good Messenger)

In this, the first of two articles about the work of Mthenga bwino, we look back to the successful completion of the first In-Depth Course to be held in the Northern Region of Malawi and forward to some of the early plans for 2019

November 2018 saw the successful completion of Mthenga Wabwino’s first In-Depth Course to be held in the North of Malawi. All previous courses had taken place in Blantyre, which meant delegates from the North had a significant journey to undertake to take part in the training.

Record number of women:  Revd Grey Mwalabu, Deputy General Secretary of the Evangelical Association of Malawi presents a certificate to Revd Margaret Kalimanjira, one of seven female graduates from this In-Depth Course

Requests were made by church leaders in the North, almost from day one of the first course, to hold it in the North, and in March 2018 that request became a reality when the course opened its doors in space near Mzuzu, provided by the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP).

The course came to an end in November, with 37 students out of the 40 who originally enrolled, graduating at a ceremony attended by senior staff from three mission agencies and leaders from almost 20 denominations of Churches across Malawi.

What is also significant about this course is that it saw the greatest number of women, so far – seven – enrolled on the course, and all seven of them graduated.

“We made a conscious effort when setting up the course to encourage church leaders to send women to it,” said Yunusu Mataka, Mthenga Wabwino’s National Co-ordinator

Transport issues: Yunusu Mataka, red helmet and his successor as Northern Region Co-ordinator prepare to travel to part of the region by motorcycle taxi

“When it comes to our outreach work, we think it is vital that a woman should talk to a woman and a man to a man. This is especially true in a Muslim context as it is impossible, for example, for a man to talk on a one-to-one basis with a Muslim woman.

“I was very encouraged to see so many women on this course, but I am also hoping that more will join when we run further courses this year.”

Yunusu spoke of two female pastors who took part in the course and about how the training has impacted their lives and ministry.

“One of the women talked about  how she is going to apply what she has learned at the In-Depth Course and take it back to the church where she is based to share it with the women, to enthuse them into wanting to get involved with reaching other women.

“Another told about how she goes into an ante-natal clinic and prays for people. When she first started doing this she only prayed for the Christians in the clinic. During the training, a Muslim woman came to her and asked for prayer for her daughter who was some days late in delivering her baby. When she told the woman she was a Christian, the Muslim said she believed that if the pastor prayed then the baby would be delivered. She prayed and later that night a healthy baby was born.

“But the story does not end there, A few days later the family brought the baby to the pastor’s house and asked her to give the baby a name!”

For Yunusu it was a return to his roots as he is from the Northern Region of Malawi and used to be the Northern Co-ordinator for Mthenga Wabwino before becoming National Team Leader towards the end of 2018. He was a participant on the first ever In-Depth Course and made the 1,264-kilometre round trip from his home to Blantyre twice a month. Last year he reversed that journey, travelling from Blantyre to Mzuzu for each session.

The completion of the course by the students was not the only reason for celebration in November. A new multi-denominational grouping has been set up to look at how Churches can better work together in their outreach and mission.

In the second article, we will look at visits Yunusu Mataka, Mthenga Wabwino National Team Leader, made to Kenya and the Netherlands to share about the work of  the organisation

We had a consultative meeting during the course, at which we challenged students to go out in the Rumphi area, in the far north Malawi, to look at the situation Christians were facing there with the increasing influence of Islam. When they came back, we had a meeting with the students and Church Leaders from across the North to discuss what they had found out.

“The result of this was the setting up of the ‘Church in Mission and Evangelism Group’, the purpose of which will be to work alongside Mthenga Wabwino to help encourage and resource the Church in mission and outreach.

“A committee has been set up to run the group, and it is already looking at how it can engage with the Malawian Government, with local Chiefs and Head Men, Church Leaders, and other church organisations to help develop its work and create an outreach and evangelism programme,” he said.

So 2018 ended with great celebrations, and 2019 started with Mthenga Wabwino hitting the road running and looking how best it can take its work even further forward.

A meeting was held, in Mangochi, of the Mthenga Wabwino leadership, board members and Regional Co-ordinators, to look at the work load for 2019.

One of the hoped-for outcomes of the meeting was to give the Regional Co-ordinators, one each in the Northern, Central and Southern regions as well as a newly appointed Yao Co-ordinator, a better strategic understanding of what is expected of them. Certainly there will be a lot of meetings with church leaders, denominational leaders and pastors’ fraternals so that they can better understand the work of Mthenga Wabwino and how they can get more involved in outreach and evangelism.

The meeting also looked at some of the practical problems faced by the Regional Co-ordinators, such as finance for hosting meetings and also just how best they can get around the region they cover.

Then there is another In-Depth Course being planned, or possibly two, for 2019!

“We had already started to look at running in a course in the Central Region but we had a significant request to run a second course in the North,” said Yunusu.

“At present we are looking at the logistics and resource implications of running two courses this year. What may happen is that we might travel to the Central Region, deliver a day of training there and then go to the North to deliver the same teaching in the same week. It will take a lot of work, but we think it is worth looking at.”

Strategic meeting: Mthenga Wabwino Regional Co-ordinators with National Team Leader Revd Yunusu Mataka (far right) at their meeting in Mangochi

Then there is also the possibility of the In-Depth Course being delivered as part of the curriculum of Bible Colleges. This is still in the early stages of planning, but it is certainly on the table.

If all this was not enough, Yunusu has also been invited to a consultative meeting hosted by the Life Challenge Africa organisation to be held in Kenya, and also by the Dutch mission organisation, GZB - which partners with SIM Malawi and the Mthenga Wabwino ministry -  to a conference in Holland. At both of these events, he will have the opportunity to speak to an international audience about the work of Mthenga Wabwino and how it is developing its plans for outreach.

“2018 was an exciting year with my taking over as National Co-ordinator and also running the In-Depth Course in the Northern Region. Already, 2019 is looking like it will be every bit as busy and exciting,” he said.

“I am starting to sit back a little and let God show me what He wants me and Mthenga Wabwino to be involved in and how to develop. This is a big change for me as I used to try and force things to happen.

“Seeing God at work in this way has really helped and encouraged me in my work as National Team Leader and I look forward to where He will lead me, and the whole Mthenga Wabwino team, in 2019 and beyond.”