‘Nothing’ in the hand yields more – Malawi Churches

Church leaders meeting in Mangochi last week discovered that even where one has nothing to look up to as a resource, there is still more that can be done with the little within their surrounding. They were discussing the concept of ‘Umodzi’ or as it is internationally known after a Swahili word, Umoja.

Drawn together by the Malawi Council of Churches (MCC), the meeting facilitated by Tearfund Malawi and Tanzania also charted a way forward on how communities can empower themselves to realize great wealth and livelihoods.

“In a country like Malawi where the economy is not that good, and where donors may use resources to propagate their line of thinking against that what is Malawian, there is need for us to realize our God-given potential to empower ourselves with the little that we already have,” said newly elected MCC vice chairperson, Bishop Fanuel Magangani at Sun n’ Sand.

An Umoja key facilitator from Tanzania, Rev. Emmanuel Isaya, also gave a moving example of how he now has over 10 heads of cattle from a mere she-dog.

Church leaders pose for Nyasa Times after their meeting in Mangochi
Church leaders pose for Nyasa Times after their meeting in Mangochi

“Due to hyenas causing havoc around my house, I purchased the remaining she-dog that was up for sale to beef up security. From that dog, we realized eight puppies, seven that were sold keeping one male,” he explained.

The same hyena problem in the area caused other community dwellers to purchase the seven dogs exchanging with two chicken for each, making fourteen chickens. Within a period of one year the dog had another set of puppies and the chickens had matured to hatch more than twenty-four others.

“It is within this cycle of reproduction that other villagers came to us and proposed to exchange the chickens, which were now many, four for a goat and we now have forty goats and some were exchange for cows, which we have now. From almost nothing or the little we had, a she-dog, we now proudly own dogs, chickens, goats and cattle,” he shared.

Rev. Isaya added that what was lacking in most communities was the realization that God gave man all He could to survive.

“We need to empower our communities by opening their eyes. By showing and leading them that what they have, anything , is an important resource and it can lead to a wealthier and happy life. As church leaders we should not only concentrate on the spiritual, but as God created man in His own image and gave him all to take care of, we should live a Christ-like life by empowering our people spiritually, physically and mentally,” he said.

Jesus’ mission as demonstrated in Mathews 9: 35, he argued, taught the mind; preached to cleanse the soul; and healed the body..

“This is why everywhere missionaries went they built schools, churches and health facilities. Poverty is therefore caused by both internal and external reasons that can all be removed with the above three approaches,” said Rev. Isaya, who was supported by Tearfund Tanzania country coordinator, Justin Nyamuga.

The Umodzi or Community Church Mobilisation Process (CCMP) is meant to benefit the community with self-reliance; self-esteem; sustainable change; improved community relationships; and physical changes such as better health, sanitation, food security and incomes.

A local facilitator, youth Pastor Cuthbert Gondwe of Eagles, testified that after training churches in other development approaches his organisation employed church and community envisioning.

He said the community wondered: “Why didn’t you start with this? This is what we want to do. By showing us how to work with the whole community, you are showing us how to share our burden’!”

The Umodzi/Umoja concept, however, is different from most non-governmental approaches to local or community development, expressed Tearfund Malawi country representative, Vincent Moyo.

“In Umoja we do not disburse funds or give our loans, we provide skills to integral mission through church leadership which is found in every corner of the world. With the skills our facilitators are able to turn around the lives of the communities with great self-sustainable,” he said.

Adding: “We empower churches to learn not to tell communities what they (church leaders) think will work for the communities, but we help church leaders realize that communities have the potential to identify social issues that will work for their community development.”

Under the program, the local church benefits as they become a positive influence in community life; build relationships with people outside the church; identify and utilize their own resources more effectively; become an attractive and growing community; empower their church ministers by giving them vision and inspiration, and strengthening their skills, knowledge and confidence; and increase income as church members become wealthier and give more money.

The program, which has been embraced by the MCC leadership who have drawn plans towards its implementation, is also implemented in Malawi through the Evangelical Association of Malawi (EAM); in neighboring Tanzania, Uganda, and other European countries.

It is about churches mobilising and transforming communities livelihoods. Participants to the three-day long workshop came from all the twenty-four member churches of the MCC, which is Malawi’s largest ecumenical body.

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