October 2019 Southern Malawi Ministry Centre Update
In March of this year Malawi’s President declared a state of emergency, after a powerful tropical storm settled over the region unleashing torrential rains that caused substantial flooding. This resulted in 56 deaths, 577 injured, and 83,000 people displaced by flash floods, swollen rivers, or collapsing infrastructures. The storm system then moved east out to sea where it gained strength, forming into Tropical Cyclone Idai that headed back to shore making landfall near Beira, Mozambique causing further devastation. The Iris Malawi team were among the first responders supporting the relief effort with trucks and boats, distributing food to flood victims.
[Children (part of the crowd) waiting for food at a camp for the displaced near Bangula.]
It is the poorest of the poor who suffer the brunt of these violent storms. Many have no choice but to settle in low lying areas prone to flooding. Most victims here are subsistence farmers, who lost 90% of their crops planted along the fertile banks of the Shire River. Their months of hard work cultivating, planting, and weeding in what was an extraordinarily good rainy season, certain to produce a promising harvest, was washed away.
187 camps were established in the affected districts of southern Malawi, where distraught and hungry people resided in tents or grass huts for up to 8 weeks while floods receded and the land dried out. The government, together with NGO’s, joined forces to bring needed aid to the flood victims.
[Mother grateful for maize flour, beans and rice in the aftermath of the flood disaster.]
[Temporary housing for the displaced near Bangula.]
At times of disaster key concerns for victims include providing emergency shelter, food assistance, clean water, protection of children, adolescent girls, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, prevention of diseases, access to essential health services, as well as protection against potentially increased risk of gender based violence and human rights abuses. The vastness of the need is overwhelming yet encouraging when different organizations team up and contribute the resources and skills that they each have.
Through our network of church leaders throughout the region, Iris Malawi identified the most vulnerable and needy. During the first emergency phase of this crisis we distributed food to people displaced and living at the appointed camps. After the camps closed in May we focused on 1,400 households that were in desperate need of further assistance. Thanks to the response of donors, Iris purchased large quantities of maize flour and beans.
We also rebuilt houses for three displaced families who suffered the loss of their homes (one of our long term pastors who hosts the monthly food distribution program, a grandmother who cares for grandchildren and other family members, and an impoverished single mother of 5 children who survive on selling firewood).
[Joyce and her children in front of their dilapidated home.]
[Iris building a new home for Joyce and her five children beside her current home.]
May 14-17 we held a Church Overseers retreat for about 50 people, representing over 400 churches throughout the country. We took our focus from 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, the comfort of God. Senior Malawian leaders, together with missionaries, participated in the teaching.
A national election in May resulted in a narrow margin win for the ruling party, provoking a series of demonstrations amidst allegations of election fraud. The case is currently before the Malawi High Court. As the High Court hearings proceed, civil society groups are leading peaceful demonstrations in the towns and cities, unfortunately accompanied by people inciting violence, looting and damage to buildings. The country remains unsettled.
Appropriately, our August conference theme came from Micah 6:8, which reads: “Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.” Our maturing church was evident in the 3,000+ members who pooled money and organized their own transportation to and from the conference, as well as providing sufficient food for all during the four-day meetings. Rolland Baker and Surprise Stihole (two of Iris Global’s international leaders) accompanied by a team of missionaries and national leaders from Iris bases in Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa, arrived to participate in the conference.
[Worshipping the Lord at the Iris church conference in Bangula, August 1-4.]
[Rolland Baker preaching and sharing the joy of the Lord!]
When the conference drew to a close, we began our school holiday tutoring schedule. In years past, Joanna has tutored 30 or more students single-handedly. This year our graduating class took over the tutoring! They provided tutoring in all grades, finely tuned to their own recent experience writing their final national exams. It was exhilarating to see these students pour themselves out for their Iris brothers and sisters. Students came on time and were motivated to participate fully in the classes.
[Owen, an Iris Childrens Home secondary school graduate, teaching his fellow Iris brothers and sisters a lesson in biology.]
[Iris Childrens Home secondary school students getting some extra tutoring during the August school holidays.]
When they were not tutoring, this same group of graduates put on a sports camp,which has always been led by a visitor from England. They met to plan a program, set up teams comprised of Iris children, house parents and missionaries, gather equipment, and execute a fantastic week of sports. Teams competed for points through games such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, and other sports such as 400m race, tug-of-war, and a 20 km bicycle race. Each day began with devotions led by our graduating class.
[School holiday Iris sports camp led by the older Iris secondary school graduates.]
[Eliza, enjoying play with some of her younger Iris siblings.]
Eight Iris students graduated from secondary school this July and have received their results. For some with qualifying grades, post-secondary education may be pursued. Others will look for a job, and some will be employed at the Iris data business. Much encouragement and mentoring is needed to help them find their way forward, with the confidence to leave the Iris basem, and stand on their own feet in the community. We are very excited that Martha has qualified for a Bachelor of Science program at Chancellor College.
[Martha, beginning her degree program at Chancellor College.]
We had the joy of celebrating the first of many Iris weddings. Chiku and Stella were married in March, and we are very proud of the good decisions Chiku is making after reintegrating into the Bangula community.
[Chiku, together with his bride, after celebrating their marriage at Iris on March 30th, 2019.]