The warm heart of Africa: a nickname fitting for the friendly people and gorgeous landscapes of Malawi. A long, narrow strip of land astride the Great Rift Valley, Malawi (formerly Nyasaland) neighbours Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique. From major cities to scattered mud hut villages, the country is punctuated with mountain ranges, beautiful plains, and the sparkle of Lake Malawi. It’s also home to both people passionate about Christ and those who have yet to hear his good news.
By faith we see:
- the unreached of Malawi authentically responding to the gospel and established into vibrant, God-fearing, biblically-based churches
- a mature, dynamic, relevant church dependent on God and intentionally reaching others with the Gospel
- children and youth receiving Christ’s forgiveness on the cross, growing in their faith, reflecting Jesus’ character, and becoming committed disciples of Christ who are active in church and society
- people living with HIV & AIDS understanding the love of Christ as they receive holistic care and hope. Lower HIV and AIDS infection rates as Malawians practice, preach, and teach purity and faithfulness in marriage
- a team of missionaries who are motivated, capable, and enabled by the Holy Spirit. They understand the local language and culture, share the Gospel, and disciple others through their words and Christ-like example.
Current SIM Ministry
SIM (through its predecessors in southern Africa) entered Malawi in 1900. They formed the Africa Evangelical Church (AEC), with whom many of the present missionaries work closely. In recent years, the church and mission have begun to move to new areas in the north and east, including church planting among the animistic Gule Wamkulu. SIM missionaries are also seeking to reach the million-plus Muslim Yao people through the translation of the Yao Bible, skills training, ministry with children and youth, and partnering with other organizations working to evangelize this group. Training of church leaders to evangelize Muslims is being facilitated through the ministry of Mthenga Wabwino (“Good Messenger”).
Mission and church are providing leadership training, both at the Evangelical Bible College of Malawi, and in Bible study groups. Bible study books are being written in the national language and made available to study groups throughout Malawi. Missionaries focused on children and youth ministry are training Sunday school teachers and youth workers to minister among this large part of the population. Health ministries are relieving human suffering and opening doors for effective witness. At the African Bible College (ABC), missionaries minister to human need through the medical clinic and provide Christian education at the Academy. SIM is ministering in the context of HIV & AIDS through HOPE for AIDS. This project involves Home-based care, Orphan care, Prevention, and Enabling the church to minister to those affected by and infected with HIV & AIDS. Partners in Hope is seeking to provide care for those suffering from HIV & AIDS through medical care and low cost anti-retroviral medications. SIM is working to assist the church in Malawi to cross cultural boundaries and develop a vision and means for sending Malawians as missionaries.
SIM’s Partner Church
The Africa Evangelical Church (AEC) began from churches developed through the work of the Africa Evangelical Fellowship (now SIM). Today, this includes 70 organized churches and 50 developing ones. Mission and church together share a vision for bringing the Gospel to yet unreached areas. SIM supports the church through leadership training, Bible school, extension courses, and Bible study groups.
There are many people groups in Malawi, including the Yao (Muslim), Ngonde, Ngoni, Sena, Lomwe, Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, and Tonga.With a strong and growing Malawian church, some consider this nation most open to the Gospel in central Africa. The Yao, who traditionally practice Islam, are now receptive to other ideas and are a focus for new mission outreach.
History of Christianity
The first missionary outreach in Malawi began with the arrival of Dr. David Livingstone in 1859. His efforts were strengthened by the work of missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) in 1875 and The Church of Scotland in 1876. The former focused on Livingstonia station in the north, and the latter on Blantyre station in the south.The following decades saw the additions of Dutch Reformed (South Africa), Seventh-Day Adventists, Church of Christ (U.S.), Church of Christ (UK), Anglican Church, and several charismatic and Pentecostal groups. Other groups working in Malawi include Zambezi Evangelical Mission, Mission to the World (PCA), Navigators, and Southern Baptists.
Although the Portuguese made contact with Nyasaland in the sixteenth century, they did not remain or send permanent Catholic missionaries. The White Fathers who arrived in 1889 were the first permanent Catholic presence. Catholic churches have grown throughout the country, and schools and hospitals are an important part of the church’s work.
Mission work in the nineteenth century concentrated in Malawi because David Livingstone and others emphasized its needs. The majority of the people now claim to be Christians, though revival is needed among many whose faith is nominal. The church in Malawi continues to grow, creating a vital need for leadership training for Malawians.
The Growth of Islam
Islam has been a dominant force in Malawi, especially among the Yao people. The Yao and Swahili speakers associated with the slave trade brought Islam to Malawi in 1870. The expansion of Islam is also attributed to the trading caravans, which usually had Muslim teachers. Being educated, these teachers joined the nomadic caravans as secretaries to the heads of the caravans, but also helped convey messages that local chiefs might wish to send to each other or to their contacts on the coast.The Muslim Association of Malawi, headquartered in Blantyre, evolved out of a central board for Muslim education, which was set up in the 1950s to coordinate the work and represent the interests of the Muslim community as a whole. The Association has received financial help from Kuwait and other Muslim sources to fund radio programs, women’s conferences, and youth camps.
The National Church
No official state church is named in Malawi. However, several groups have strong national affiliations. The largest church groupings in Malawi are the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP), Seventh Day Adventists, Anglican and Roman Catholic. There are also a number of significant evangelical denominations such as the Evangelical Church of Malawi, Zambezi Evangelical Church and Africa Evangelical Church.