Malawi – Mission integration works
In 1968, Salvationists in Malawi began to gather together for fellowship, then organized themselves into societies and corps. The work was officially recognized and incorporated in January 1979.
The region now has 33 officers and 15 envoys. There are 23 corps and 20 outposts. It is a part of the Zambia and Malawi Territory.
(l-r): Captains Ted and Debbie Horwood, Major Valerie Forster, Commissioners Doreen and David Edwards, and Major Malcolm Forster join officers in Malawi at the dedication of the new regional headquarters.
Western officers Captains Ted and Debbie Horwood with children Micah and Jessica, have made Malawi their home since February 1997. Now starting their second term, they find their responsibilities and ministryTed as regional training and development officer and extension officer, and Debbie as regional youth officer to be complementary and rewarding.
“Lots of our ministry overlaps,” says Debbie, “I work with youth and he works with projects. I’m in charge of candidates and he does ongoing training.” It’s a partnership that works well. “We are very happy here,” she says with a smile.
Both have taken extensive language courses and speak the Chichewa language.
Life is challenging in Malawi. The average annual income is $220 U.S.; a significant number of people earn less than $50 per year. Inflation is at 75%, and since 1996, the Kwatcha has devalued 300%. A lieutenant’s pay is $17 per month.
In a country facing overwhelming needs, The Salvation Army provides community based programs that make a difference in lives. Ted is responsible for a number of them, including HIV/AIDS education, orphan care, and adult literacy.
The orphan project, now in its fourth year, supports 250 orphans–most of whose parents died of an AIDS related illness. “We encourage community based care,” Ted says. “The children stay in their village, with guardians caring for them. The Army provides quarterly assistance in the form of clothes, maize, or goats, and helps with school fees.” At least 50 percent of the guardians have some connection to the Army. The program is funded by a private grant of $6,000 from a trust in the United Kingdom.
More than half of the women in Malawi are illiterate. “I think many cultural issues stem from the fact that women haven’t been seen as a valuable part of the community,” says Horwood. The Army is helping women by establishing reading and writing classes in villages. The program currently has a coordinator and five teachers. The impact, he reports, is enormous. “When you start seeing women who have had no understanding of reading or the Bible start reading Scripture in a service, it’s remarkable…it is tangible ministry.” Reading classes often take on the flavor of a Home League. Funded in part by a grant from a local tea company, Horwood reports it is hard to keep the program going financially, even though $1,000 would last a year.
Work with HIV/AIDS education is a significant part of his responsibilities. A $12,000 grant from SAWSO is funding a series of workshops to sensitize officers who then educate soldiers regarding AIDS and its transmission. Eight corps are actively participating. Community members participate in sharing information and behavior change issues: thousands of people are involved, including 82 primary and eight secondary schools. This approach has become a benchmark method of working in the community
Ted values a mission integration approach to programs, where the corps and community work together. “I frame programs in intentional evangelism. Programs relating to HIV/AIDS, and orphans, for example, are an intentional way to touch lives and share the gospel at a low point in people’s lives.”
Captain Debbie Horwood’s work with youth involves responsibility for all candidate’s work and all basic youth ministries. To date, she has 30 prospective candidates for the next session of cadets, who will attend the training college in Zambia.
Since becoming regional youth officer, a corps cadets program has been initiated; 11 corps now have the program. A boy’s fellowship (Adventure Corps) program has also been started. “The Western Territory has been very helpful,” she says, noting that Kevin White, Western Territorial programming and creative ministries director, sent books, badges and t-shirts.
The Army in Malawi is a young one, she explains, due to AIDS, illness, and poverty. Sixty-four percent of the population is under 18. That is reflected in the Army, as well, where 60% of attendees are youth age 25 and under.
Youth evangelism teams have been a valuable tool in spreading the gospel. All members are Malawians, and they minister through drama, open air meetings, door to door ministry, and visiting schools. Their ministry is twofold: to encourage peers to live responsible lives (including practicing abstinence) and to know Jesus Christ.
Her approach to cultural practices is straightforward: “I believe the Word of God identifies what behavior is sinful–as opposed to cultural practices. Sinful behavior includes polygamy, adultery, and witchcraft. She recalls times when parents who follow ‘African medicine,’ or witchcraft practices have placed a charm around their baby’s neck. “I won’t dedicate a baby who wears a charm,” she says. “It means they aren’t trusting in God.”
African medicine isn’t the only threat to Christianity. While Christianity is the country’s official religion, the Muslim religion is gaining strength. Malawi is the only country in sub-Sahara Africa with a president and majority of the members of parliament who are Muslim. This has opened doors to trading with Muslim countries, such as Libya.
In the midst of the differences and difficulties, the Horwoods are drawn to the work. “We have a desire to learn other cultures and help people learn about God in the way we have,” Debbie says. “We are very happy here. We have been able to give something and receive something for ourselves. Mission work does more for us than for those we serve.”