AMalawian pastor recently remarked: ‘The problem here, as in much of Africa, is that the body often does not get the balanced, nourishing diet it needs to grow properly’. He was not referring to their physical needs but to the development of the church.
He continued: ‘Although the Evangelical church is growing rapidly in both urban and rural areas in Malawi, the majority of believers can never hope to afford a Bible and most pastors have to manage with few, if any, study resources’.
He was one of nearly 100 pastors and evangelists meeting together just before Easter with this need in mind. They had come from Evangelical church groups across the country to benefit from the teaching of Timothy Alford, visiting from the UK.
As well as biblical guidance on church and pastoral issues, they received advice on how to make the best use of the set of Bible study and devotional books, which each participant received during the closing session of the Refresher Conference.
‘Many of these pastors will never have seen sixteen new books together before!’ observed Abraham Folayan, Principal of the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi, which hosted the week-long event.
Nearly 90% of Malawians still live in desperately poor rural areas far away from the few Christian bookshops — whose meagre book stocks suffer from poor presentation and the inevitable effects of dust and heat.
It is not only food that is scarce in Malawi!
Timothy Alford, former director of the Africa Inland Mission, was sponsored by the people of Buckingham Chapel, Bristol. The books were purchased by UK Christians and sent via Christian Books for Africa (pioneered by Robin Bird), and the event was arranged by the Zambesi Mission, which has worked in Malawi for 111 years.
The mission’s policy is not to build a big mission, but a strong church — believing it more important to invest in the people the Lord already has in Malawi than to send out ‘Westerners’ who lack vital knowledge of the country.
It is a salutary fact that 40 or more national Christians can be sponsored for the average cost of sending one person from the UK!
The mission supports the Evangelical church in a variety of other ministries, but considers nothing more crucial than getting Bible teaching resources into the hands of pastors and church leaders.
There are still many without such books, and many more whose lack of adequate English means they need literature translated into the national Chichewa language.
There is a refreshing appetite for the Word of God in Malawi, with people willing to walk for miles and sit for hours to listen to preaching and teaching. We must take every opportunity to equip church leaders to satisfy the need.