This week Ruth had the exciting opportunity of starting to work alongside Joseph and Elevate of “Children For Christ Ministries” (CFCM). Their focus is training people across Malawi to lead Bible Clubs and Sunday Schools but this week their emphasis was on re-starting the clubs they run themselves in the Blantyre area. Ruth immediately got a sense of the breadth of their work, the challenges they face, and the privilege that is theirs of being able to run and support weekly Bible Clubs.
One of the Bible Clubs that CFCM run is in a reformatory centre at Mpemba for children who have been in trouble with the law (although some of the children are there for other reasons). This was a memorable experience for Ruth on many counts!
The journey there involved a half-hour trip in a minibus – the public transport of Malawi. Suffice to say the minibuses would not pass an MOT test in the UK – bodywork-wise or mechanically! Starting the engine typically involves rolling forwards or backwards to make it jump-start. None of the doors seem to shut properly – and padding to your seat or a back to your seat is a bonus! Many more people are packed in than the minibuses were designed to carry – with all their belongings (the lady next to Ruth had several poly-bags of raw meat at her feet – from her stall at the market!). Arriving at the village of Mpemba, there was then a 20 minute walk cross-country to the reformatory centre. This week it wasn’t raining, and the temperature was quite moderate – but the team makes this journey every week, all weathers.
Arriving at the centre, several children started to appear carrying Bibles – a much prized Christmas gift from a Christian in Blantyre. And during the club it became clear that they knew their way around the Bible, as they looked up verses. About 20 children attended, between 7-18 years in age, and listened intently, sang enthusiastically, and recited verses they have memorised. Some stayed behind at the end to talk and pray with the team. It was wonderful to have this opportunity to share the Gospel with these young people who have been going off the rails in their young lives, and hopefully to lead them to God, who can truly and completely reform their lives.
Later in the week Ruth joined the team to run a Bible Club at a home for vulnerable children. STEKA children’s home was set up in 2007 by Godknows, an inspirational gentleman who described himself as the father of 49 children – the total number at the home, aged between 2-20 years. (See more about Godknows faith story here.)
Some of these children are orphans, some are abused step-kids, some were once street-kids, some have been abandoned, some are very young teenage girls escaping from forced marriages – a microcosm of the many tragic social problems that are typical in Malawi. Yet despite the terrible things these children have experienced in their young lives, there was a wonderful family atmosphere at this home, the love of Godknows and his wife and volunteer team having made remarkable progress in healing horrific wounds. Again, it was an amazing privilege to be able to talk to the children (Ruth did the talk, with Joseph translating) about God’s love and the gift of his Son at Christmas, and to remind them of his love for them, and their responsibility to claim that gift for themselves. 35 of the 49 residents were there, the club obviously being an important event in their week, and the rapport that Joseph and Elevate have already built up with them being very tangible.
Jesus famously exorted his disciples: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these“. Not all the children are so little, but Ruth finished the week humbled by the way some of Christ’s disciples in Malawi – those like Joseph, Elevate and Godknows – are trully obeying Jesus’ command against all the odds.