The Easter school holidays continue here in Malawi, as in schools back home, and every year CFCM organise a Five-Day Club during this holiday period. This year they chose a rural location, some 20km outside of Blantyre, a village called Maliya, where there is a primary school for almost 700 children from the surrounding area, an AquaAid orphanage, a ZEC church, but no regular children’s Bible Club. Maliya can’t be reached by public transport – even the ubiquitous minibuses can’t make it down the bumpy road, and for people to go up to town (and it is uphill all the way) involves a 2-hour hike, or a motor-bike taxi if you can afford it.Ruth has regularly been helping Joseph and Elevate with weekly Bible Clubs around Blantyre since she started working with them in January, but this was her first Five-Day Club experience in Malawi. Our new 4×4 saved the team a lot of walking over the week – though it has to be said that Joseph and Elevate are so committed to children’s work that they would have walked there and back every day if a car hadn’t been available.
The club ran from 8.30 – 11.00 every morning, the first children having already arrived before we drove up. Thereafter there was a constant trickle of children coming from all directions all morning. Many had walked a long way, some bare-foot, some carrying younger brothers and sisters on their backs, many wearing their school uniforms – because it’s the only clothes they have. Most days we had around 500 children by the end of the morning, and about half that on 2 cloudier days.
We had brought a couple of footballs with us, and a few smaller balls and skipping ropes. Such sparse equipment was eagerly awaited – the children are not used to having access to proper balls to play with. They have few games or toys, and the school cannot afford books, let alone sports equipment. So for the first half hour, while waiting for more children to arrive, they were content to play football, netball (with no nets), catch, or skipping.
Then it was time to sit them all down in a shaded area of the school playing field, and have a time of singing and teaching. Every day the children learnt 2 Scripture verses from memory, and the story of Jesus from His entry into Jerusalem on a donkey, through His crucifixion, resurrection, and up to His ascension, was told in 5 instalments over the week. Many would have been hearing these stories for the first time, and they listened with rapt attention.
Besides teaching the children, another strategic bit of training was going on. Four ladies from the village and the pastor’s wife were keenly observing and helping out all week, and learning much from the modelling of the CFCM leaders. It was a joy, after the end of the 4th day, to help facilitate a meeting between these women and the head-master to organize a day for continuing the work that has been started, on a weekly basis. Going forward, these ladies will be running a club every Monday for these children – an excellent outcome.
Every morning ended with more games, quite a challenge with so many children, so few leaders, and so little equipment. Bean-bags, hastily made one evening and stuffed with maize popcorn, came in useful for some activities.
As we packed up for the last time, the children still eagerly hanging on to the car and peering through the windows until the last moment, we trust the preparation, the effort, the early mornings, the long journeys, will have made a difference in hundreds of children’s lives – that the message they heard will have gone deep, that the new children’s work that has just started in Maliya will be long lasting and will have a big impact on the community as that generation grow up.
We made the return journey one last time – and dropped Joseph and Elevate off in the centre of Blantyre – not to go home, but to catch the bus to Ntcheu because tomorrow morning, at 8am, they have 40 ZEC Sunday School teachers to train. It is just as well they are passionate about what they do! As a result of their tireless work, hundreds of children every week, either in Sunday School or in week-day Bible Clubs, are hearing the Gospel through teachers they have trained and equipped for children’s ministry.
To find out more about CFCM, or to support their work financially, contact Zambesi Mission.