It is generally accepted that prospective settlers who leave permanent employment in Great Britain or South Africa for outposts of the Empire do not want glowing accounts but reliable facts.
(“Notes for Intended Settlers”,Department of Agriculture’s Nyasaland Protectorate, 1916)
One hundred years on, Lee Furney (our friend, and pastor of Blantyre Community Church) recently set out a short, starkly honest, synopsis of modern “reliable facts” for those intending to settle and sow the seed of the gospel in Malawi. It is the best short summary we have seen and we thought it would help you, our friends and partners, understand the context that we all serve in here.
So, with Lee’s permission:
Recent statistics suggest that, despite the nation’s magnificent mountains, glorious lake, agreeable climate and often friendly people, Malawi is on the brink of a severe famine. The country has experienced its second successive harvest failure, with maize production (the staple food) down 42% on two years ago. Last year’s severe cyclone, devastating flooding and state of disaster have disappeared, only to be replaced by this year’s state of emergency.
The current El Niño-induced drought, the worst for 35 years, means that the number of people needing humanitarian aid has risen from 1.5 to 6.5 million, some 38% of the population. All this, placed alongside the associated chronic power and water shortages, means that Malawi remains a wonderful place to come as a tourist, but is a difficult and often dysfunctional context in which to make and grow disciples.
Though some send glowing reports of impressive numbers turning to Christ, the unfortunate reality is that many of those doing the writing and ‘turning’ are merely nominal Christians chasing handouts in what has increasingly become a donor-dependent culture. Despite in excess of 70% of the population professing to be Christian, the culture is far from godly and the country is in great need of re-evangelization.
Physical poverty is exacerbated by poor governance and endemic corruption – a shocking 47% of children under five display inhibited growth – whilst the Church has been similarly stunted by untrained, and often unsuitable, leadership. Some Malawians come to authentic gospel ministries with all the wrong motives. Countless others are looking in all the wrong places for hope that doesn’t disappoint.
Lee goes on to point out that a recent survey declared Blantyre to have the slowest average walking speed in the world. And for sure nothing happens fast here in Malawi! So thank God for folk like Lee and Fai Furney who are willing to settle for the long hall for the sake of the gospel in Malawi.