‘Unity…not uniformity’ in action

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The work of KINDLE Orphan Outreach is supported by SIM Malawi project MW#96758 Outreach and Development in Nanjoka

 ‘Unity not uniformity’ is something of a ‘buzz-phrase’ in Christian circles. In this, the final in our series of articles on KINDLE Orphan Outreach, we look at how they are putting this into practice through their work in Spiritual Development.

Throughout our series of articles about KINDLE Orphan Outreach, we have seen how they are working with the community to help developments in health, education and the community. Work in the area of spiritual development is no different.

After a difficult start, Revd Thomas Mbereko, KINDLE’s chaplain and an AEC Pastor, has begun bringing other church groups together not just to impact the local community they all serve but also to curb the influence of the Animist Gule Wamkulu (‘Big Dance’) sect.

“When I started in 2005 it was a challenge to bring other churches together because people were a little suspicious of my motives,” he said.

“At first, they just thought: ‘Ah, this man is from the AEC and just wants to set up another AEC church and to bring everyone into that church away from our own.’ Soon, however, they realised this was not my aim, and slowly I started to talk to the pastors and we began to bring our Family Life and Youth Groups together.”

There are around 100 Family Life Groups and 24 Youth Groups within the KINDLE catchment area.

Unity not uniformity: (left to right) Revd Richman Mtengachombe of Assemblies of God Church, Revd Thomas Mbereko, KINDLE’s chaplain, and Revd Frederick Mwantisi from the Grace Church, Elias village

“Family Life Groups allow us the chance to go and meet with people in the community to offer Bible Study and also counselling for family matters,” said Pastor Rhoda Nyirongo, KINDLE’s Family Life Group Co-ordinator.

“I think the families are generally happy to see us when we go to run the groups. Sometimes, if they have problems, we can talk to them and pray with them to try and sort out what is wrong. We have seen families who might have split up stay together because of our input.”

After that difficult start, a measure of trust built up, and the churches have come together to provide a more united front to the people of Nanjoka. But how do other church leaders react to having, for example, their own church’s youth and family life groups coming under this united banner?

“Working together in this way is a good thing for the church and for the people,” said Revd Richman Mtengachombe of the Assemblies of God Church.

“Unity is good because the people in the communities see that the Children of God all have one thing in common; they all want to praise one God and they all want to work towards bringing their neighbours into the love of Christ. They see that in this place we all speak one language about Christ.”

Pastor Richman’s sentiments were echoed by Revd Frederick Mwantisi from the Grace Church in nearby Elias village.

“KINDLE is a unifying influence on this community,” he said.

“There is no way that you can say that the Children of God will be together in heaven and yet be so divided here on earth! We need to bring people together now, to work together, to speak with one voice if we are going to combat other faiths and Gule Wamkulu. KINDLE is helping us all to do this in our communities around Nanjoka.”

When Revd Mbereko first came to KINDLE, Gule Wamkulu was very active in the area, especially amongst the youth. Slowly, as he has pulled people together, and work has developed, its influence has reduced.

Youth and Family Life: Petro Ledson Youth  Co-ordinator Pastor Rhoda Nyirongo, Family Life Group Co-ordinator

Gule Wamkulu is still active in the community but has much less of an influence than it used to,” said Petro Ledson, KINDLE’s Youth   Co-ordinator.

“We have developed a programme to reach out to the youth who were coming under its influence, and have started winning them back. We are also working with the youth to bring them into a relationship with Christ and we are starting to see good results from this.”

So, whether it is bringing churches together, showing a united face and voice or taking on a cult that has its roots in the Chewa people of the Central Region of Malawi in which Nanjoka is located, KINDLE is having a significant impact on the spiritual development of the area in which it serves. But what of the future? How does Revd Mbereko see things developing?

“My prayer and my vision are that, as the churches in this area work more closely together, the work of Christ will increase,” he said.

“There is great potential for spiritual growth in the area if we continue to work together and preach the same Word of God to our congregations.

“We have come a long way since the suspicions of 2005 to 2007 but there is still a long way to go. I am confident that strong foundations have been laid for us to build on and that spiritual growth will increase and deepen in this area if we continue working together in unity.”

 

Coming together: Children and young people coming together for a youth event in Nanjoka

 

 


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