February 2011 Extensive Update on Ministry in Malawi
What’s Happening at Iris Africa in Malawi?
Written by: David Morrison
"The Iris Africa Malawi property has grown significantly over the past eight years. We began developing in 2003 and we are thankful for the countless number of people who have contributed so generously with their prayers, counsel, finances, and labour. This past year we have been blessed with additional land adjacent to the west side of the existing property in order to facilitate the development arm of the ministry. This new 10 hectares will assist us in developing the vision to increase food security in the region.
"Many people hear about the disaster stories but are unaware of the day to day ministry and developments that have taken place. It is my hope that this overview will help you to have a better understanding of what’s happening at Iris Africa in Malawi.
"One thing is for sure, there are always challenges. It seems as if we have faced a never-ending stream of challenges here in Bangula. We have learned, and are still learning, to keep looking up, just as desperate as those who suffer around us, to the unlimited, resourceful, compassionate and faithful Father in Heaven who hears our cry. Faithfully, each time, God graciously provides, pouring out his blessing on the poorest of the poor, and draws many into His family.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21
"I hope you will be encouraged, and join us in giving praise to God.
Bible School: Since 2003
"The development of Christian leadership is one of our prime objectives. We train 150 pastor students each year. They come from all over the country, they are very poor subsistent farmers, and only have had up to a 5th or 6th grade education. We provide each pastor student with transport as well as money to supplement their family’s needs during the time the pastor is at school, otherwise, they would not be able to attend. They come with very little – some arriving with only the clothes they are wearing. We provide them with basic needs such as soap, bed sheet, bug net, toothbrushes, as well as bibles, notebooks and course materials. When available we give clothing and shoes from containers that have come from donors. There are dormitories for the students to live in. Each term is 12 weeks in length and if successful after three terms, they graduate and give pastoral leadership in their home church and village.
"Our prayer is that the student pastors are transformed by God, developing into a Christian leader with integrity and faithfulness. It is our hope that many will have the faith and desire to begin caring for orphans and vulnerable people in their own villages.
"Pastor students help offset school costs by serving around the base in the mornings and on Saturdays with general labour and practice what they are taught with 'Farming God’s Way', producing food in the gardens.
"Since the beginning in 2003 we have now taught 1,180 students.
[Pastor Mesheck teaches first year bible school students]
Children’s Homes: Since September 2005
"We now have 60 precious children residing in our care (the oldest is 18 and the youngest is 1 year of age). We have established five homes on the ministry base with 12 children in each. Malawians have been recruited and trained to serve as parents and care for the children in each home. We only accept children who are most desperate, meaning, both parents have died and there are no relatives or neighbours able to care for them. Our model nurtures family, rather than institution. Each child has a valuable place in their ‘home’ and look to their care givers as their new mother and father. We don’t refer to the children as orphans, because they are no longer alone, but children adopted into a new family.
[David (Mo) with Yohanne and Paulo]
"We have recently completed a sixth children’s home and will soon be bringing home more desperate children. A seventh home has just begun its construction. We would like to accommodate 100 children on the base.
"We also support 60 orphans in the community by providing monthly food support, clothes, medical help, and for some, secondary school fees.
"According to the Department of Social Welfare, there are over 40,000 orphaned or vulnerable children in our district that need help. That’s a shocking number in a district with a population of only 250,000 people.
[Hungry Iris kids line up for their dinner meal]
"Twice a week there are programs for children from the local community. 100 children spend the afternoon with us playing games, doing crafts, listening to bible stories and then enjoy a meal before going home. Many receive first aid treatment for wounds or sickness.
Children’s School: Since January 2007
"Iris Africa Primary School trains learners from pre-school to standard 8. There are now three school buildings facilitating nine classrooms and teachers offices. There is a library, resource room and computer lab. The school serves the children who live on the base as well as 30+ others from the area villages.
[Standard 3 class at Iris Africa Primary School]
Church Ministry: Since 1999
"Iris Africa has planted over 400 Partners In Harvest churches in rural villages with a combined membership of approximately 25,000 people. Our ministry team travels throughout the country encouraging the churches with bible teaching as well as weekly evangelistic outreaches in the villages. Several times a year we host large meetings that are attended by thousands of people. They camp out under the stars for three or four days worshipping, receive bible teaching and prayer ministry. Overseers are appointed in each district of Malawi to provide leadership and accountability to area pastors and churches.
[Joanna teaches a crowd at the Iris conference ground in Bangula]
Food Distribution Program: Since 2003
"There are over 3,000 families registered in our monthly feeding program – approximately 8,500 people (5,000 of whom are under the age of 12). The Lord has faithfully provided food each and every month for the past eight years. Beneficiaries are registered and then reviewed annually. They are the most vulnerable in the villages – widows with orphaned grandchildren, the elderly, crippled, blind and those suffering with HIV/AIDs. On the 15th of each month people gather at our food distribution site in Bangula to receive food. We usually distribute maize and beans but as well, over the years we have been fortunate to receive containers filled with rice/soya meals, pasta, canned beef, energy bars, fruit cups, and cookies.
[Orphan girls in Chikanzi Village receive rice meals]
Farming: Since 2007
"Food security in southern Malawi is a real problem and most people suffer annually with hunger. Sporadic rains, droughts during planting seasons, and poor farming practices all contribute to low yields.
"The Iris farming program provides demonstration gardens which model ‘Farming God’s Way’ (www.farming-gods-way.org) and are used to train local subsistent farmers so that their yields increase, and at the same time, increases the production capacity of food at Iris Africa in order to sustain the ministry.
"It is our objective to become more sustainable here in Malawi. One of the ways to do this is through aggressive farming. At Chipita Village, in the highlands, 15 km from the Iris base, we have planted 2 hectares of maize. The new property in Bangula will also serve to increase our crop production.
We also have a small jatropha plantation with the aim that this will provide the needed glycerine for making soap. This is an experiment that we hope will lead to a profitable sustainable program for our Iris children in the future.
[Missionary David Walker points to the healthy cow peas at Iris Africa demonstration garden]
Aquaponic Fish Farm: Since November 2009
"Aquaponics is a system that integrates aquaculture with hydroponics, the soil-free cultivation of plants. This exciting program is being led by Kelvin Sitati, a Malawian who was trained at Morningstar Fisheries in Florida, USA. Jeff Hageman and a team from Men For Missions International spent six weeks on base constructing this project which was funded by Canadian donors.
"Now 14 months into this program we are starting to see results. After an extensive period of learning, with lots of experimenting and fortitude, the breeding tanks are producing fry and the tanks are filling up with fish. Determination continues to be the theme in trying to be successful growing vegetables in this system. We have discovered that the high PH level in the bore hole water is discouraging positive results with the hydroponics and are now seeking a solution to champion this dilemma.
[Andrew and Kelvin show off some of their home grown fish]
"Iris Africa has responded in the past bringing disaster relief to victims of famine, floods and drought. In 2005 we provided food during a famine. In 2007 and 2008 we responded with food and water treatment to displaced flood victims living in refugee camps in Malawi and Mozambique. In 2010 we responded by providing seed to households who suffered complete crop failure due to the rainy season drought.
"We have been blessed with strong equipment such as Steyr and Pinzgauer trucks that are built tough to carry a load through challenging terrain. We also have two 16’ aluminum motor boats to assist during times of flooding and a portable 22 Kva generator.
[Family receives a water purification system from Iris Africa in Goba Village]
Facilities & Staff:
"We have over 50 full time Malawian employees serving in the ministry and 10 long term missionaries. Missionaries include, Matt Smith (Canadian) who is a builder and helps oversee our construction and maintenance projects. Sue Silva (Canadian) is trained in early childhood education and helps supervise our primary school as well as providing care and programs for our Iris children, and children in the community, prison ministry and care of widows. Alison & David Walker (Australians) provide leadership for the Iris Primary School and community development projects such as sustainable farming. Rebekah and Daryl Martin with their two boys (American) give leadership in hospitality, teach at the bible school, and initiate community development such as clean water projects. Emily Burger (American) has recently joined us and is involved with teaching at the primary school. Sarah Masson (Canadian) is also a new member of the team and is involved with children’s program, community development and administration. David and Joanna Morrison (Canadians) with their three children Patrick, Daniel & Kalina, are the directors of Iris Africa ministry in Malawi.
[Our deputy head security guard on patrol at the main gate]
Developments and Infrastructure on the Iris Africa Ministry Base Since 2003
o 17 hectares of property owned by Iris Africa in Bangula.
o 3 bore holes with 20,000 litre water reserve capacity
o Electricity including 200 Kva transformer and 45 Kva back up generator power.
o 3 dormitories for pastor students (including 1 women’s dormitory)
o 2 classrooms for Bible school students
o Pit toilets with showers and clothes washing station for pastor students
o 6 homes for children with 2 central kitchens – one for each group of 4 homes.
o Morrison’s house with small garage for vehicle maintenance
o Missionary house (4 individual apartments for missionaries)
o Guard house and brick security wall around property
o Container storage (6 x 20’ containers and 4 x 40’ containers) with loading dock and lift crane
o 3 Primary school buildings for classes pre-school to grade 8, teachers offices, library, resource room and computer lab.
o Administrative office (for director, operations manager and administrator)
o Satellite internet
o Kitchen, eating area, and large hall for church services and assemblies
o 2 playing fields with soccer goal posts
o Demonstration fields growing maize, vegetables, and fruits
o Vehicles: 4 Pinzgauer trucks, 2 Steyr 4 Ton trucks, 1 Toyota Dyna lorry truck, 5 Yamaha 200cc motorcycles, 1 Toyota Surf, 1 Toyota Prado, 1 John Deere tractor, and 1 Pinzgauer ambulance.
o Irrigation pond (also used to ‘cool off’ and for children’s swimming lessons)
o Iris Africa has provided metal roofing for 34 Partners In Harvest churches throughout Malawi.
o Iris Africa Malawi also owns land near Lilongwe (central region) and in Chilumba (northern region). In Chilumba there is a pastor’s office and meeting room, and church.
o Bore hole on Lilongwe property.
o Visitor accommodation at Iris base (sleeps up to 20 people)
o Staff house for Timothy Makwalo and his family (director of Bible school)
o Electricity sub station (for directing electricity to developments on extended property)
o Aquaponic Fish Farm (with breeding tanks, grow out tanks, and vegetable growing tanks)
o Missionary Housing – house for Daryl & Rebekah Martin and their family.
o Distribution base with storage facility, drop toilets, church shelter, and conference stage.
o Outdoor children’s playground.
[Arial view of the Iris base in Bangula (photograph taken June 2009)]
Developments Currently Under Construction: (Iris Africa base in Bangula) o Children home #7.
[The new Primary school tutoring hut. The coolest place on the base!]
Planned Developments For The Future: (Iris Africa base in Bangula)
o Agricultural development involving irrigation
o Maintenance garage for servicing vehicles and carpentry shop to train people in community
o Warehouse for short term storage of relief food for distribution.
o Pastors’ office and meeting room on Iris property near Lilongwe for central region ministries
o Soap making factory/facility
o Basketball and netball courts
Greatest challenges faced on a daily basis:
"Enduring high temperatures, dust, sickness, poverty and hunger continue to plague the southern district of Malawi. Poverty holds people captive when they continue practicing witchcraft, promiscuity and drunkenness. People are very open to Christianity, quick to respond to the Gospel of Jesus, but slow to change their traditional ways and beliefs which hinders maturing in Christ. The majority of believers in the church have a very shallow faith. Much discipleship is needed.
"Finding trustworthy leaders with integrity and faithfulness is another challenge. However, we are encouraged by the growth we have experienced after years equipping and training the nationals. There are many Malawi nationals now in senior positions.
Here are a few examples:
Peter Nkhoma (Operations Manager at Iris Africa)
Timothy Makwalo (Director of Iris Africa Bible School)
Manuel Ali (Manager of the food distribution program)
Chenella Mkandawire (Administrator)
Lameck & Ziwone Peters (Iris Children’s Homes senior parents - Village 1)
Hedson & Fanny Nsitu (Iris Children’s Homes senior parents - Village 2)
Henry Kenanson (Bible school teacher and church overseer)
Kelvin Sitati (Fish Farm manager)
Yours Kainga (Vehicle manager)
"Change is happening one person at a time. We recognize that transformation of character is a slow process. We continually depend on God to sanctify us all by the power of the Holy Spirit through and through.
[Chenela Mkandawire, Iris Africa Administrator, at his desk in the Iris office]
To be continued as the Lord leads.