“Teach them to your children and to their children after them”
While we were back in the UK, we mentioned our plans for when we return to the UK at the end of November. For Myles, the next step is still to be discovered, but Ruth is looking forward to working in the UK with Zambesi Mission, especially to promote the work of their partners, Children for Christ Ministry (CFCM), with whom she has been working closely. Our latest tour of the Northern Region was really a CFCM tour, where Ruth, Elevate and Joseph carried out 5 Sunday School teacher training seminars in 5 centres in the North. The tour has really helped affirm to Ruth why she wants to help spread the news of the work of CFCM in the UK. It has highlighted the vital work and the dedication of the Malawi team.
This trip re-emphasized the need for Sunday School teacher training across Malawi. Without the heritage of hundreds of years of Sunday School that we benefit from in the UK, many of those teaching children have never seen good practice, and see their role as little more than keeping the children occupied while church is going on. In many churches, children’s ministry is given lowest priority, and the teachers receive no encouragement or help. It is pleasing to see this trend changing, through CFCM’s meetings with pastors’ fraternals, and helped by a new generation of pastors coming through bible college, receiving CFCM training.
We’ve heard it before – comments from pastors and teachers saying this was the first time any organization has come to their area to offer this kind of training, and it certainly appears that CFCM reaches parts of Malawi where others don’t reach. There are others offering teacher training in the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, but they do not venture hundreds of km to the remote parts of the northern region, or to those villages and towns that can only be reached by dusty and pot-hole ridden dirt roads. The pastor whose church was hosting the seminar in rural Rumphi said, “The door is always open for CFCM” – and other pastors were quick to make sure CFCM understood that the same went for their church’s doors! In Mzuzu the organizing pastor stressed the fact that “This is an on-going programme” – not just for the benefit of the participants, but to make sure that CFCM heard that they were expected to return again – and again!
It will be a pleasure to return again – and again. The team took great encouragement from seeing the number of people who gave up their Saturday, Bank holiday Monday, and even more so those who gave up working-week days, to attend a day of training to be equipped as Sunday School teachers. Their comments afterwards revealed how helpful and inspiring the training had been.
But the trip, and the intense schedule of seminars in such a short space of time, also served to impress on Ruth the passion, skill and commitment of the CFCM team. Elevate and Joseph never turn down the opportunity to train Sunday School teachers, putting up with the discomfort of Malawi public transport, cheap motel accommodation, and weekends away from their spouses and young families. (Next Saturday will be their first Saturday at home for 6 weeks) It is always a delight to watch Joseph demonstrate the telling of the story of blind Bartimeaus, captivating the adult audience every bit as much as when he teaches children, and Elevate’s skill in managing discussions that arise. Their truthfulness and accountability over the handling and spending of the CFCM budget is also commendable.
It was a tiring 10 days, a round trip of almost 2000km door to door. With over 250 teachers trained, we can only imagine the impact this will have on the children in Mzimba, Mzuzu, Rumphi, Karonga and Nkhata Bay. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Over the next 6 months, Ruth will continue to work with CFCM in exploring how best to carry out Training of Trainers so this vital work can grow, and develop more Chichewa resources to offer Sunday School teachers – as well as ways in which to involve people in the UK in helping with the work of Children for Christ Ministry in reaching the children of Malawi with the Gospel.