7th September 2013
Kondwani and Evet Kwerani epitomise what it means to be good and faithful servants of Christ whatever our culture. They live in a small rough brick house in rural Choda, south east of Blantyre, with their three children Hope, Paul, and Kondwani jr.
Kondwani was born in the country and, even with a time studying in the relative comfort of Blantyre, he says he is more able to cope with being back in the simple rural life than his wife who was born in the city.
I say “simple life”, but in an area where the church members are essentially struggling to survive – and although they would never say so themselves – it would be more accurate to talk about a life of material “survival”.
Kondwani came to Christ in 2002 when “his heart was filled with joy” and he found Christ gave him a contentment he had never known. He continued to grow through meeting with others for prayer and bible study and eventually he started being asked to preach. Perhaps then it is not surprising that in 2004 he felt called to the ministry. But it was by no means an easy call, and it was not easy for him to say yes. He had just got married, and his small business selling cooking oil was going well. He knew that it was like two worlds between city and rural life in Malawi. He had just escaped poverty and he wanted to focus on providing for his wife and the expected family. He knew that serving as a pastor – particularly in the rural areas – would mean being poor himself. He was clear with God: I don’t want this!
However, struggle as he might, God kept knocking at his heart saying “young man I need you” and in 2005 Kondwani and Evet recommitted themselves to God’s service wherever and whatever He asked them to do, and finally – in 2007 – Kondwani entered EBCOM (Evangelical Bible College of Malawi) fully convinced of God’s calling to Christian ministry.
It was Jan 2011 that Kondwani was commissioned as Pastor of the Zambezi Evangelical church at Choda. He and Evet openly admit it would not have been their choice. It had very few Christians when they arrived, they were living in a rented house with a thatched roof and sacks for windows, and a life struggling to make ends meet rather than running a prosperous business. “I told you this is what it would be like!” Kondwani told God in an echo of Jonah’s complaint.
Their lot is still not a great one. In a church where members are stricken by hunger, their family survives through subsistence farming of gifted land, and the house beside the church that Kondwani and his family now live in is still very basic by Malawi standards let alone UK standards. Yes, there is tin on the roof, there is glass in the windows, and there is now a drop toilet that can survive the rainy season. But the internal walls are incomplete, the floor is only of packed earth, sacking acts as a door, and furniture is almost non existent.
Nevertheless, with eyes misting over with emotion, Kondwani and Evet confidently say that they would not be anywhere else in the world because they know they are where God wants them to be. What is more, they see God beginning to bless their faithfulness as Kondwani sees new spiritual life in his flock, and the partnership of a bigger city church brings some welcome support.
There is much still to be done to disciple his flock, grow church leaders, and complete the church building. But Kondwani is clear: “I know this is what God wants me to do – to concentrate on these people – and I am committed to do so whatever. Quitters never won and winners never quit. We lack many things but God gives us a way through.”
At that moment my heart went out to Kondwani and Evet, and my heart was convicted by God. As westerners we so often condescendingly focus on what we might be giving up to serve God in a foreign land while living in our secure, snug compounds. However, here was a young couple who had truly obeyed their call, and had courageously given up all their worldly aspirations to serve the Jesus whom they so completely loved and the people he so clearly wanted them to shepherd.
Our experience this week is that Kondwani and Evet are by no means unique. Time and again we are humbled as we witness so many, with so little, giving so much for their Lord.
May God bless these shepherds and their families. With their example may God convict us in the west. May God stir us to similar devotion and obedience, that we too might hear those wonderful words: “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25:21)