April 2020 Southern Malawi Ministry Centre Update

It is amazing how a few days can eclipse six months. What were we doing before coronavirus hit the world? We have spent the last few days preparing by setting up hand-washing stations at the gate and at strategic locations around the base. The children are washing their hands like never before. We have also given up shaking hands in favour of foot tapping or elbow knocking. It is hard to imagine how an intensely interactive community such as ours will be able to distance themselves from each other. Daily food is purchased at the market; all water must be fetched from the village pump; houses are built for sleeping; life happens outside and together. We pray for protection and for wisdom.

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[Children in the village of Tengani.] 

In the months preceding coronavirus, we have been working our way towards sustainability. This starts at home in the family. We celebrated our second Iris wedding in October as Agness and Moses were married here on the base. They have been together for a while and there was great delight in blessing their union. As we nurture children to value faithfulness in marriage, we are attaining our goal of ‘building families.’ Agness dreams of having an Iris house of her own where she can care for orphans.  

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[Agness and Moses celebrating their marriage with wedding photos in the Iris mango orchard.]

Teaching women to value their role as mother is an important part of our work. At our weekly women’s meeting, and women’s weekends, I teach women to raise children who love God and serve others. In a nation where many fathers are absent, mothers are consumed with survival: fetching firewood and water, finding food, and looking after the sick. There is little time for teaching, unless we go back to Deut.4:  ‘Teach your children as you sit by your house, when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,’ to which I add, ‘while you sift your flour, while you walk to the garden, while you hoe and weed, while you stir your ‘nsima.’ Teaching our children must become part of our everyday life.

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[Joanna teaching women leaders at the bible school.]

In October, we flew to Johannesburg with 3 of our national leaders to join Iris leaders from all over Africa for a week of worship and teaching. We had a fantastic week, meeting new friends, and catching up with some we have known for years. Heidi Baker taught about ‘unsanctified mercy,’ those many times where we give what God has not asked. In a world where need meets us at every turn, it is easy to fall into a saviour mentality, wanting to solve every problem. God has asked us to listen to him first and give as he directs. 'There is no lack for that which God calls us to do.’  

Supresa Sithole taught: ‘Every promise comes in seed form. It has to be received with the feet as you walk it out.’ We can testify that this is true. Our work in Malawi involves a lot of walking, believing that God will provide as he has promised. As we send kids off to secondary and post-secondary school, we have faith that God will provide. As we give away the food we have in house, we have faith that more will be given. As we distribute a little, we expect a lot, always asking God to multiply the basin of flour, or the sack of beans. In the hunger which followed the March 2019 flood, we were able to supply many families with food support.

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[Over the past several months we have been identifying vulnerable households in the villages and stepping in to help them through the hunger season. This family lives in a village within Bangula. Here we have elderly grandparents caring for their orphaned grandchildren.] 

Rolland challenged us to be so in love with Jesus that nothing else competes, not family, not money, not success, not missions, only Jesus. Everything must be secondary, and then we will have joy. ‘If you have joy, nothing is work.’ I have yet to live this one out, to find joy in Jesus which will carry us through the ordinary stuff of life.

Our ‘ordinary’ might be a bit different than yours. We held two four-week Bible school courses for women and then for young men. Both groups were new to Bible school and arrived hungry to learn and to grow. Courses included: Healthy Living, Children’s Ministry, Prayer, Money Management, and Bible Study. I particularly enjoyed teaching the women about the journey of a baby from conception to birth. Videos and photographs provided a glimpse into what was a complete mystery. We are also involved in our local prisons in partnership with Prison Fellowship International. Our team goes out to teach ‘The Prisoner’s Journey’ once a week. We have had two graduating classes from this program, and there is always lots of music and joy.

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[The director of Prison Fellowship Malawi together with our Iris ministry team at Nsanje Prison congratulating the inmates who completed the Prisoner’s Journey 12 week Bible study course. They received a certificate, a Bible, and soap.] 

We are so thankful for visitors God sends our way to assist us. Andrew came for a month and stayed for three. He fixed everything including cars, lawnmowers, and generators. More importantly, he taught our team at the shop as he fixed things. He also set up guidelines for maintaining our vehicles. This is such important work, and we are so thankful for Andrew. It is a relief to know that our vehicles, that make possible a lot of ministry and distribution, are safe to drive.

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[Andrew together with his class of Iris Malawi maintenance staff and apprentices.]

Christmas came at the usual time and we were able to find gifts mostly in the storage container. It always amazes me how God provides at just the right time. This most recent container came from China and there were amazing treasures hidden away which made perfect Christmas presents for Iris kids and staff. One of my favourite gifts to give this year was a journal which had sat on my shelf for some time, and which brought great joy to one of our Iris girls.